Being the Best YOU For Your Kids

Unless you live under a rock, I have no doubt you have heard something about the civil unrest worldwide. People Of Colour, specifically Black people have had enough. After centuries of abuse by those in position of power, hiding behind the guise of Justice, they have drawn a line in the sand and people world round have thrown up their fist in support.

For those of you reading this rolling your eyes and murmuring something about finding a political post on a parenting page, let me stop you right there. This will in fact be a parenting post, but I think it’s more important for you to take a step back and question your reaction to having this difficult discussion.

Human Rights is not political.

It’s a question of morals and maybe along the way you have found a way to hide confronting your morals by labeling human issues as political. To that, I would simply say; you need to stop being so self involved and ignorant and educate yourself. The world doesn’t stop and end at your front door and this is the world you will be leaving behind for you children to live in, for a lot of us, especially People of Colour and Black people, to fight in.

Do better.

The key right now to some type of resolution is of course keeping the conversation going. It’s a difficult conversation to have, as I know first hand, because it’s one where it seems People of Colour and Black people are defending their stance to white people, more specifically white westerners.

It’s a you vs. us conversation.

Why?

This is a very loaded topic to unpack but realistically it boils down to advancements through history by white europeans have often come at a cost for the people of colour around them. If you want to dive into this more you can educate yourself on Indigenous People and their plight. The information is out there, and it’s a lot for me to get into in a single blog post.

Black people are not asking to take anything away from white people. We are simply asking for EQUALITY. If in some way you believe equality will take away from your comfort of privilege than you are part of the problem. Plain and simple. I am sorry if that rubs you the wrong way, but treating people less than you because of the colour of your skin should never be okay.

As a human being and a parent, that should be obvious to you.

We live in an age of technology. It’s at the point now where if you had the urge, you could learn more sitting on your couch with your phone in your hand than you could in a classroom. Crazy right? Is that true? Absolutely, because with the phone in your hand you control your education and your intake instead of the government deciding what you need to know and which narrative to push.

So why, when we could make the decision to fully educate ourselves and dive into this human rights issue head first, are so many bulking at educated conversations?

It’s quite simple: the narrative of the world is the one pushed onto them by their parent’s view from a very young age, and they struggle to move away from them and find their own views and morals that may contradict a lifetime of teaching.

See, this is a parenting issue.

We have all read the articles, heard the doctor’s speeches at conferences go on about how the mind of a child is a sponge and they suck up knowledge and views at such a young age. Well, what happens when that sponge lives in a house of hate and bigotry? Where they push a racial superiority dialogue onto their child, no matter how subtle?

Well, in a lot of cases, you are creating a very close minded individual who will look at what is happening in the world today and scoff at people’s struggles with some racial comment about ‘Those people’ causing trouble for no reason.

This is why it’s so important to always question yourself. Question your views, your morals, your behaviour and ask a very important question: Why?

Why do you think the way you do? Why do you believe in the things you believe? Does what you beliefs oppress anyone or any specific group of people?

Question your humanity.

Why?

Because when you decided to become a parent, you decided to take on this enormous responsibility of being the absolute best version of yourself for your child. That means questioning who you are as a person every chance you get to be sure you are not unintentionally putting up road blocks for them as they go through life.

Your ignorance can hinder your child in ways you can’t even imagine. Trust me, I know. I’ve been out there, I’ve been having the tough conversations with people before making the decision to cut people out of my life. I have been utterly shocked and surprised at their ignorance about so many issues and so many races.

Even when we get down to it and remove racial issues from this world, the world is still a very dark and difficult place right now. Our children will have to fight their way through life. Don’t you want to make that fight a little bit easier for them? Wouldn’t you rather fight tooth and nail now, against racial and gender inequalities, against a broken educational and judicial system, against hate and bigotry, and even against your own broken and blinded beliefs and morals, so they don’t have to fight as hard later?

Isn’t that good parenting?

Your job is to make sure your child has their best chance at life. Right now, especially for Black people, their job is just to keep their children alive.

Imagine.

Just for a second, look over at your child and forget about their expenses, forget about the plans and dreams you have for them and imagine the only thought you have when you look at them isn’t about what job they will fall into or their success, but simply that they will be alive past their teen years, into their twenties. Your only hope for them is that they get to live, and then ask yourself if that question and hope is fair.

If you shrug and try to rationalize the hard question so many Black parents and parents of children of colour have to ask themselves every day by spouting some biased crime stats or generalization about that race of people, then I am sorry, but you are failing your child as their parent.

Be better. Do better, if not for yourself, for your children.

Find your humanity.

The Day Of A Mother

Every day I fail.

I fail to take enough pictures, yet somehow I also fail to be present enough. I fail to see things outside the lens of a camera, or without the screen of my phone. I fail to feed my daughter enough fruits and vegetables, I fail to give her enough water, I fail to give her enough exercise, I fail to make enough fun.

Some days I fail to comfort her. I fail to realize she is her own person, with her own wants and needs and feelings that need just as much validation as my own. I fail to understand her the first time, and sometimes I don’t even understand the second, or third.

I fail to give her enough time, enough lessons, enough patience.

Every single day I fail.

I fail to smile enough, I fail to laugh enough, I fail to keep my eyes open long enough to see exactly what it is she so desperately wants me to see.

Every day I fail to be enough for her.

Yet, every day she loves me anyway.

Every day I fail to see why.

Why does she love me when I am not enough? Why does she cling to me so desperately when all I can seem to do, is fail her?

What is it like to be a mother?

It’s to have someone love you with the intensity of the sun, when you feel as though all you can do right, is fail.

It’s to be more than enough to someone else, when you don’t feel like you’ve any worth. It’s to give when your cup is empty, and somehow have your cup filled by this little person without even noticing.

And, most days, it’s failing.

Reconnecting…

Oh boy, where to even begin?

I guess I’ll start with a warning that this blog post will likely be all over the map. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything and my mind is just rife with all this stuff I want to get out.

2020 has most definitely been a year that has come with a side of a lot of blows, and because of that, I stepped away from blogging for awhile. I think during this time, a lot of people seized the opportunity to really tackle their online presence. That, of course, was really smart because a good many of us were home and looking for some way to fill the day. As smart as it would have been to be constantly blogging and connecting, mentally I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

There are so many blogs out there right now, so many different social media sites to reach out and grab hold of an audience; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok etc. and a great deal of people have been using all this free time to motivate other’s to do the things we have been putting off.

Now is the time! You are home, you have an abundance of time as most of the world is at home, stores are closed! Get in shape! Find inner peace! Organize your home! Get your office space in tip top shape! Downsize! Get in touch with yourself! Work at your relationship!

Wherever I looked, there was someone who seemed to have all their shit together, trying to tell me how to get my shit together.

As helpful as these people may be for some, can we all just take a moment and admit the bulk of us are emotionally and mentally hanging on by a thread and the idea of trying to accomplish anything right now, regardless of how much time we’ve had, was extremely overwhelming? Stuck inside, completely isolated from most of the people in our lives for months before the social circles were safe, I think it’s safe a lot of us used that time to try and cope with the insane changes that were taking place in the world.

Change is hard, no matter the age. For us moms with kids were were school or daycare age, there was a day when we picked our children up from school. They maybe took a little too long to get the the car, laughing and messing around with their friends as you maybe lost patience, reminding them you had things to do that day. They said goodbye to their friends, not realizing that goodbye would be for the rest of the school year. That unexpected change hit some of our kids really hard. As a pillar of strength in our kid’s lives, I think a lot of us were reluctant to admit it hit a lot of us just as hard.

For a lot of people, they were suddenly alone all day with their kids. What felt difficult at times before was suddenly this feeling of being out at sea in the middle of a storm with no navigation. It’s okay to admit, a lot of us were in over our heads. We were suddenly teachers, we were their friends, we were their one-stop shop for everything in their lives. Their activity programs, their socialization, their education. we were suddenly in these 24/7 parenting positions with absolutely no relief team, and I will be the first to admit, there were times when I was sinking, barely keeping my head above water.

Even for stay at home parents, everything changed. We had these relief points in place during the day. Parks, libraries, playdates, and other outings that would give us this opportunity to come up for air when the day got a little too hard, or the moods of our kids got difficult to contain or guide. Suddenly everything was off the table and we were it.

If I am being completely honest, my mental and emotional wellbeing had hit an all time low. Past traumas pushed under the rug, I don’t think I have ever been in this constant mode of survival.

Someone had commented to another mom in a similar situation that people who don’t have the strength to be parents shouldn’t be. Can you imagine being so high up on your soap box that you could say that to another person, especially someone who is struggling? I think everyone worldwide right now will admit that right now, in the midst of a pandemic where our norms are being redefined and every day we are hit with new changes and restrictions to our way of living, that we are all grasping for strength.

We have a global pandemic and a global civil rights movement happening right now, I don’t really think now is the time to judge parents who feel overwhelmed, especially if you are not a parent yourself.

If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that right now is the time to exercise kindness. We are all going through something, and your judgemental comments really are an added weight on the shoulders of someone who is likely breaking their back to carry what they already are.

I guess the whole of this post is just my way of reconnecting after losing touch with my those of you who have been on this journey with me since it began and letting you know, I’m struggling too, so don’t take that hit so hard.

We’re all in this together.

Black Lives Matter: How To Navigate Parenting During A Crisis

I have fallen out of writing the past few months for a number of reasons. Mostly, mentally I am exhausted which has had a major effect on my creativity and my will to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys, as it were). However, in a time so rife with high tensions, waves of emotions, and a feeling of chaos, I felt it was due time for me to write something.

I am a mixed-race woman who identifies as Black. Some people may read that and wonder ‘What does that even mean?’ To simplify, I have one parent who is white and one who is black. However, due to having a single mother and being raised in a low-income neighbourhood (insert any article here about systematic oppression and how it fuels the divide in race and benefits the idea of white supremacy, honestly, any article will do) especially a neighbourhood that for many years was heavily policed due to the placement of a police station right at the heart of our neighbourhood, my white side was ignored. It was invisible. To all those involved, (police, anybody in positions of authority, store clerks) I was a little black kid. End of story. So naturally, during this time, during this period of civil unrest, I am very heavily plagued.

Even here in Canada, I have experienced racism on a spectrum of degrees. Sure, some have been very subtle, so subtle in fact that it made those around me question whether or not I was being oversensitive or overreacting. On the other hand, I have also been called racial slurs and the “N” word has been thrown at me with the intention of harming me. If there is one thing that is indisputable, no matter how much people yell and scream otherwise, it is that in the year 2020 racism is alive and well, and yes… this is a huge issue that impacts so many of us.

As a parent during these times, it’s so important to do two very big things. The first and most important thing we can do is educate ourselves on the issue. It isn’t enough anymore to rely on people handing us information. We are no longer children and the answers to any questions you may have are right at your fingertips. Don’t fall on ignorance or use poor upbringing as an excuse to continue a cycle of racism. If you are a parent in Canada, I urge you to educate yourself on the First Nation Canadians, Reservation Schools, and the role the RCMP has had with them. If you have any false belief that systematic oppression or racism isn’t alive and well here, diving into these topics should be enough to prove otherwise and educating yourself is the first step towards real change.

The second thing you can do is look inward. Ask yourself if you have a part to play in racism, no matter how small. Be honest with yourself, don’t hide behind excuses as to why you may do the things you do. Your children don’t see the excuses, they see what you do and what you say. Be someone your children would be proud of.

This generation is the most accepting I’ve seen thus far. If you do feel the need to cling to your hate, it’s important to be realistic with yourself. In a day and age where everyone is free to be who they want to be and our children accept that easier and easier, just know that your children “outgrowing you” because of your views is a very real possibility. I know more people in these past weeks, while the protests for Black Lives Matter have been going strong, a lot of children have stepped away from parents who cling to outdated ideas about race.

Love your children more than yourself. Love your children enough to change for them, no matter how difficult that is for you.

A conversation I have had a lot in the past weeks has started with “Why is this your problem?” Or “Why are you letting this get to you the way you are?”

The answer to that is so simple; this should be everyone’s problem, and when you sit there in the safety of your home and watch a video where a man is held on the ground, handcuffed with a knee to his neck for just under 9 minutes calling for his mama, you should feel that in the very depths of your soul. It should sicken you, it should break you, and at the forefront of your mind, you should be asking yourself how you can stop this cycle. How can you prevent another George Floyd or Trayvon Martin? What can you do right now, to protect someone else’s baby from calling out to them moments before they are murdered in the street while the world watches?

We are humanity. Asking why we should care instead of what we should do means somewhere along the way, you’ve lost your sense of humanity.

The most important thing I can teach my daughter is how to be a good person and how to be kind. The world is full of people with different skin colours, different religious beliefs, different lifestyles and sexualities. Teaching your child kindness and acceptance is giving your child the tools they need to get a jump start on life. As important as it is to teach children kindness, it’s equally important to teach them to speak out when they witness injustice.

If these protests have taught us anything, it’s that there is unity here. The humanity we thought was withering away has been brought to the forefront as people from every walk of life march together, chant together, cry together.

An open dialogue is so important for those of you with children old enough to understand. Explain to them what is happening, do not ignore their feelings of fear and unrest. Yes, right now is a little scary but it is important. Try to limit their TV time when the news is on so you as a parent can control the dialogue. This is another time when research is really important. Spend some time, find the facts, share them with your child in a way they can understand. Protests are how the people show those in power that something is broken, and something is very broken in the world which is evident in just how many countries have stood beneath signs that scream for justice.

In an age where information is plentiful and the media is often spreading a false narrative, it’s up to you to not only uncover the truth but to share it with your children. Knowledge is so important and I think in trying to shield our children from the worries of the world, we often don’t realize we are robbing them. Yes, our children are innocent and we want them to be innocent for as long as they can, but they are smart and they are resilient and they see far more than we think they do. They can maintain their innocence as they learn if you teach them the right way.

Don’t shy away because it’s uncomfortable. This is your job as a parent, make sure you do it well.

As scary as it is for a lot of you, parents of children of colour have been forced, through systematic racism and oppression, to have these uncomfortable conversations with our children for far too long. We’ve had to explain to them how although they are beautiful and precious, the colour of their skin also makes them a target for police brutality, may prevent them from getting to love the people they want, or cost them the job they’ve earned. We’ve had to keep them indoors when it’s dark, told them games like “Cops and robbers” are off-limits in public, and that they have to have a firm grip on their temper because a raised voice has consequences for a black person. These are conversations parents have black children have had to have, so even though it’s uncomfortable, educate your children on race.

This world is scary, don’t add to the fear and don’t be a part of the problem.

Parents have this power that is unmeasured. We are moulding the minds of the future. If we do this correctly, we can ensure our children walk out of the warm embrace of our arms and change the world.

Isn’t it time for a change?

 

Let’s Spread Kindness

Where in the world do I start?

The last month or so, we have gone from making light of a serious situation that the Western Hemisphere was too privileged and naive to take seriously, to realizing first hand how serious all the warnings were from countries from the east. Those of us who are immuno-compromised, have underlying respiratory issues, or are older are really feeling the heat when it comes to this virus.

Saying tensions are high, is putting it lightly.

Here in Ontario, schools and childcare programs have closed down, government buildings. A lot of other businesses have closed or are limiting how many customers can be allowed through the doors. Precautions are being taken to ensure we flatten the curve and don’t over-stress the hospitals.

For parents, even though they don’t put children in the high-risk margins, that doesn’t keep the stress or anxiety low.

I came on here not really sure what this post would be. Would it be something that just outlines exactly how crazy this all is, let you know my anxiety is at an all-time high and allow my readers that breath of relief in knowing they are not in this alone? Would it be light-hearted, a reminder that no struggles last forever? A coping post?

Now, I am sitting here while my daughter naps finally getting a moment to breathe on my own and realizing I don’t really know where I am going with this, but I just felt the need to reach out. Write something in the hopes of connecting with anyone out there who really feels the weight of this isolation.

This is a very trying time, you never quite know if what you say is going to rub someone the wrong way because we are all coping with this the best we can, and no two people cope in identical ways.

You may be stuck at home, but at this age, there are so many other ways to reach out to someone. Make a video call, make a video blog, do something to make you feel like the world is bigger than the walls of your home.

It was brought to my attention recently just how much there is for us online. Did you know most zoos and aquariums offer live streams on their websites? Here in Toronto, we can watch the sharks at Ripley’s aquarium or the animals in different enclosures at the zoo all without getting out of our PJs. This is amazing for parents because what child doesn’t love animals? My daughter and I watched the sharks for around thirty minutes today before she passed out.

Jump on your favourite search engines and see just what there is out there to help keep your kids busy. With my daughter being too young for most crafts and at the age where she is getting into everything, something like that was really a lifesaver.

Have realistic expectations of how human the people in your life are, and don’t try to tackle big conversations or issues right now. 

Let’s be honest, communication is a weak point in the make-up of a lot of people. As much as we would love to say communication comes easily to us, especially knowing how healthy communication is for all relationships, for most people that really isn’t true. Right now may not be the best time to address the shortcomings of a loved one, or try and push your views on them. Keep conversations light and positive, it will be easier on everyone involved.

Practice being kind, compassionate, and empathetic.

It’s so easy to forget that just because people are a big part of your life, they aren’t you and don’t think as you do. Sure, you may not be stressed about a certain aspect of his, but don’t invalidate anyone else’s anxieties about this. Everyone’s feelings are valid at this time, and kindness will really make the biggest difference at a time like this.

Just because you’re young and healthy, doesn’t mean you won’t get sick and are not a carrier.

I could go into this one, but really, it should just be common sense at this point.

Mostly, just be kind. Be kind to as many people as you can online, as so many people have flocked to social outlets to feel less alone. Tell that girl doing the beauty tutorials that she is beautiful and killing it. Comment on that adorable baby or pet. Say hello to someone who few comments on their posts. Like the new post with no likes. The smallest thing could make someone smile, and right now, we need that more than ever.

For people battling mental illnesses, this time is especially hard. Most mental illnesses already make you feel so isolated, physically being isolated (even if this is something you did before the pandemic) only amplifies that. Choosing to be alone and being told you have to be alone definitely have different weights. Take the time to be kind, it costs you nothing and can really change how people react to this very difficult time.

Hold the people in your life a little closer. Appreciate moments.

Nothing lasts forever.

We can get through this!

Tantrums and Terrible Twos

For those of you who have followed my blog since my Little Bean was in the oven, you’ll know she is 17 months now. One month shy of being a year and a half. So many of you are thinking, well, she has got about 6 months until she gets thrown onto the emotional rollercoaster of her toddler, feels completely overwhelmed, and becomes a patient at a facility to overcome everything that takes place during the Terrible Twos. 

Well,  buckle up people, have I got some terrifying news for you.

The Terrible Twos don’t always happen when they’re two!

Apparently, children don’t give two flying fluffy ducks about milestones and schedules. They do what they want when they want and you just have to deal with it as their parents. All those timelines and studies they’ve done to give you a rough idea of when things with happen? Just chuck those right on out the window, you’re in Crazy Town now and there are no maps. Up is down, and up, and sideways, and backwards, and down is anything is wants to be but always stops at a screaming toddler who bites when they are frustrated despite your best efforts.

I started to notice my daughter had a bit of an attitude to her as soon as she started walking which was around her 1st birthday. I remember sitting there thinking “This is way too much attitude for this tiny little person”. 

Every day she gets a little more and with that, takes a little bit more of my sanity away.

The word ‘No!’ is a bullet in my house, laced with hormones that explode and go all through her body every time I have the audacity to say it. Once those hormones have reached every corner of her body, she screams, turns red, throws herself on the floor and just goes haywire.

In the beginning, I found myself stepping in right away, trying to soothe her and talk her through it. After a bit of time I noticed the more I did this, the more often those tantrums happened. I found myself stepping back, letting the tantrums run their course and telling her I would talk to her again when she was done.

Some days, she just isn’t done.

*SIGH*

I think the most frustrating thing for a parent is trying to figure out if this is right? Am I doing the right thing? In the back of your mind and in the depths of your heart you tell yourself that if you were, it would be easier, and that thought alone plagues you with a pang of guilt that some days is crippling. There are days when the tantrums are constant and as a parent, especially if you are home with your little all by yourself, you just feel like a failure.

Then you go to bed, wake up, and for whatever reason, your child decides to skip the tantrums all together that day and you fond yourself wondering what went wrong the day before.

Children have very little logic. What is fun to them one day may drive them to hysterics the next. What they refuse to eat becomes a favourite food overnight and those moods are just as unpredictable. The lack of communication between you and your toddler never feels too obvious as when they are just flipping their noodle and you are sitting there begging them to give you some sign of what is wrong.

What does this mean for us logical adults trying to parent to the best of our abilities? It means sometimes we have to bend a little for our sanity. I think people try and make parents out to be martyrs. You’re either doing it exactly like all the studies say, to hell with your own health, or you’re a bad parent.

To those people, I have a very special finger on each hand.

Maybe step away from the 100% organic, homegrown, ethical treats and give them a goldfish cracker if it means it gives you the time you need to regroup and catch your breath. Ignore that article about how screen time is no good for our kids (even though every kid from like the 50s was raised in front of the TV and are completely functional), and put on a movie you know will keep them entertained enough for you to wash your face, brush your teeth, and do whatever you need to do. Even if it is just to sit in silence without a clingy baby clawing at you and screaming.

DO IT FOR YOU!

A happy parent, is a happy kid and it is going to take a lot of effort to remain even functional, let alone happy when the waves of tantrums start to roll in… trust me, I have a new patch of grey hairs that will attest to this.

Comparison is a one way street to depression. Please, please, please, don’t look at the woman at the park with the kid the same age who is playing happily, grinning ear-to-ear while yours lashes out and kicks you while you try and load them back into the stroller. They have been there, or they are going to be. Just because they are not going through it right now, in front of your eyes, doesn’t mean they are a better parent than you.

We are all great mothers (and fathers)!

When the junky snacks, mindless programming, and bargaining doesn’t work just remember, THIS IS ONLY TEMPORARY! 

However wrong they may have been by calling them Terrible Twos the one thing they did get right was that it isn’t going to last forever. Once your child is better able to communicate their needs with you and understand your responses to their requests (AHEM DEMANDS) it will get easier.

Hang in! Binge-watch shows while you are going to bed while cramming junk food in your mouth for your sanity, and maybe have a little cry every now and then. You just have to run out the clock…

YOU CAN DO THIS!

Toddler Mom Winter Blues

This is my second winter as a mommy, and I would have to say this winter has been tougher than the first.

Why?

My daughter was a September baby, which meant the first winter she wasn’t very mobile. I was still recovering from giving birth, so it’s not like I had any plans to do anything. Spending the whole winter in High Top Hanes Her Ways, with thick reading socks on and a shirt that was always either wet or stained from breastmilk while I binge-watched all the shows I had never gotten around to while working was the perfect way to pass the winter.

All her cries could be easily soothed with breastmilk or a diaper change. She was asleep more than she was awake and if I’m being honest, so was I.

This winter, she is big, she is mobile, and she is her own little person. The amount of attitude and sass is immeasurable and just like you or me, she gets bored on days when we are stuck inside. Typically, no matter how busy I keep her through the day, at around 3:00 pm, she is just over being inside and that is when her tantrums begin.

I have dealt with a lot of children in my time, and tantrums usually go hand-in-hand with children this age. That being said, the intensity of her tantrums still surprise me! (I will likely do a whole post just on tantrums later.)

She screams until she is beet red, pulls her hair, hits. This kind of tantrum was something I wasn’t expecting so soon and had thought would come more around the age of 2.

Lucky me, the Terrible Twos have come early and with an unrivalled intensity. YAY!

On a good day, 4:00 pm is her nap time. So typically, I let her ride the waves of her emotions and tantrums until she has tired herself out, sneak in with a bottle and she will pass out. However, sometimes this just doesn’t happen.

With staying indoors, it’s hard to really tire them out. There is so much unspent energy, sometimes she doesn’t go down for a nap at all.

One these days, the Winter Blues kick in super hard for me. My emotions are spent, my nerves are wound to the point of breaking, and that weight of parenting guilt so many of us feels becomes just too heavy to manage. I feel exhausted, worn down, and just so spent that each moment feels like an hour. My eyes are constantly glasses over, the threat of tears constantly there as I just try to make it through the day.

Parenting is HARD!

Parenting through the winter when you have a rowdy toddler who wants nothing more than to run around and play outside, is even harder.

My suggestion for any moms who are going through what I am going through is to reach out. Find moms in your area that can come over with their little for an hour or two and just lessen the weight for both of you. Go for a walk, even if the weather is awful and it’s just to the corner to get a coffee. Set play areas for you and your little that are inside, but close to the window on days when you can’t get out.

Making it through the winter in places with four seasons is tough. A lot of days the weather just doesn’t permit being outside with a child under 2. The past few days we have had winds so strong, they have blown her over when we ventured out to walk the dog. Nothing like a child turned into the wind, gasping for air as it blows into their face that ends up on their back to really improve both your moods. (Insert dramatic sigh here.)

Really, I am just trying to hold onto my sanity until Spring decides to make its appearance. With how the weather is here in Canada, Spring is almost never on time and we always have a teaser of Spring before we backslide back into Winter for another month or so.

*SIGH*

I got this. I can do it.

Helo!

The Stressful Search For A Daycare In the GTA

The longer I’ve been a parent, the more obvious to me it becomes that stress is endless. From the moment of conception, your mind is constantly racing. Can I eat this? Can I drink this? Can I do this? Can I lift this? Every moment you are constantly second-guessing everything decision you make.

I told myself once she arrived, it would get easier on me mentally. Sure, I would be tired, I would be breastfeeding, but I would have a little more control and that in itself would be freeing.

Boy, was I wrong.

The biggest stress in my life right now is daycare. Apparently, it is well-known to most moms, or at least all the daycares speak to you as though you should know, that you should have your child on the waiting list for daycares the moment you conceive. Before that little bean matures enough for you to even feel safe telling people about your pregnancy, you should be adding Little Baby Unknown to every daycare waiting list in your area to ensure when your child is 18 months (which is the youngest admitting age for most daycares) your child is close to having a spot there.

It’s even worse if you have this ridiculous idea of getting your child into a city-run daycare instead of a private one.

Late to the party, of course, I managed to put little ReeRo on waiting lists when she was a year. I know, I know… what was I thinking?

If I am telling the honest to goodness truth, I wasn’t. My train of thought at the time was that I knew for sure she would be staying home with me for a year, I had a hope she would be home with me until 18 months because I knew she would be my only child and wanted to spend as much time with her as I possibly could. That being said, I thought right before a year would be the right time to look through the options and see what I was looking at in my area and in my price range.

Well, I was pretty much floored as I looked. All the ones in my area with openings are private daycares in which we will be handing out as much as we pay for our 2 bedrooms + Den apartment with our utilities and parking. I was just sitting there looking at website after website not only wondering who the hell was paying this, but how in the world people could afford it.

A lot of people like to sit back and complain about Millenials, but Jesus, the cost of living for us, especially in a city like Toronto, Canada, is INSANE!

If your maternity leave has run out and you are trying to get your child into an affordable daycare spot relatively quickly so you can start working, you’ll quickly realize just how ridiculous it all is.

First; this information isn’t readily available to everyone. When I tell moms who are still in the early stages of their leave about my struggles finding a placement for her, they are in disbelief. A lot of moms who are going about this for the first time are completely blindsided by the cost and waitlists involved in childcare.

Second; if you are a parent who qualifies for subsidized child care, you should know there is a waitlist for approval for that as well. What does that mean? Well, it means that before you even think about getting a place for your child in a subsidy approved daycare (with waitlists that probably triple the length of any other daycare you’ll be looking at), you’ll have to not only apply for subsidy in your district, but also go to an interview, and get approved.

Third; if you are going the route of subsidy, THERE IS A TIMELINE! Once your interview is booked with subsidy, you have to go and be approved. Once approved you have somewhere between 30-90 days to find your child a spot in a subsidy approved daycare or you will be moved back to the bottom of the waiting list!

You’re probably reading this thinking: That seems like a lot of time. 

Let me put my timeline out here for you guys so you can see if it really is enough time (if you were unaware of how long the waitlist was and put your child on those lists late).

I applied for Toronto Child Subsidy at the end of August right before my daughter’s first birthday. At the same time, I applied for Subsidy, I made about 30 calls and put my daughter’s name on waiting lists for daycares in my area. Every daycare that had a waiting list I put her on, this worked out to be 23 daycares of the 30 I called.

I heard back from Toronto Childcare Subsidy in December letting me know I needed to go to an interview in January. Just applying to subsidy took just about 4 months, and that was without even being approved. It’s important to note, that from August to December when I received the letter I hadn’t heard from a single daycare letting me know there was an opening.

The second week of January I called every daycare she was on a waitlist back to see if maybe there was an opening and I just hadn’t heard from them, I also called 15 more daycares, branching out to the point where we would need to travel to get her to daycare and it would no longer be an easy pick-up/drop-off situation. The 14th place I called told me I needed to recall Toronto Childcare Subsidy and go through them in order to put my daughter on the waitlist at that location. It was only at this point I was informed that once I attended my scheduled interview and got approved for Subsidy, I would potentially lose my spot if I couldn’t find her a daycare in time.

This is when the panic began to set in. It had already been five months and I hadn’t heard from a single daycare. That meant I would need to hear back from them relatively quickly after getting approved. I didn’t want to lose my spot and then have to wait another 4 months to once again reach the top of the list.

I called 10 MORE DAYCARES going as far East as Bay St (I live completely WEST and getting there would be a hassle and a half, but I was desperate).

If you weren’t keeping track, that is a total of 55 different GTA daycares called and not a single opening. It definitely has me asking the question if there are enough subsidy approved daycares in the GTA. There is a population of roughly over 5.2 million in the GTA, a good number of those families would require Toronto Child Subsidy for daycare and would be looking in the same places I was for child care. Just how many calls do you have to make before you find that opening, if ever?

How can there possibly be enough daycares for that many children? How can they expect parents to afford to become a single income household when you can’t find childcare for your child to return to work? Is it any question why debt is becoming such a huge issue for Millenials in the GTA and why mental health issues are on the rise?

Personally, I can’t even express to you the added stress and anxiety this search has added to my already stressful day to day life of being a stay at home mom to a very moody toddler. When I am not pulling my hair out, or prying her off of my, I am struggling to try and figure out what the hell is going to become of my life. No matter how much I prepared, I didn’t prepare for this.

The cost of living is constantly rising, being a single income family in Toronto in 2020 just doesn’t even seem possible.

For any parent who has a baby on the way and is reading this, the time to start looking into daycares was a month or two before you read this… definitely get on it before your little bean makes its entrance into the world. Waiting until you’re ready like a lot of first time parents think is the best thing to do, is definitely not the best thing to do.

Travelling With A Baby Or Toddler

The stress, anxiety, and just basic wear-me-down of parenting gets to you in the first year, which was why we thought going on a family vacation with my mom and siblings was something we both wanted to do. We worked the cost into our budget and decided it was worth the money to escape the daily routine of parenting.

Sometimes for your mental health and overall wellbeing, it’s important to step out of the rat-race of your life and have someone else cook your meals, lay on a beach, and not have to think about every little thing and moment of your day.

This was not our first trip with our daughter, we had taken ReeRo on a plane when she was barely two months old so we could go and visit my husband’s family in Nova Scotia. This vacation was very different. When we went to the East Coast to see his family, there was little stress around the packing process, because we knew that if we forgot anything, we could always run to the store and pick it up.

This destination was different. We were going to Santa Maria, Cuba and I would be able to run to the store and grab diapers, wipes, and other baby necessities if I had been so careless as to forget.

Packing, to say the very least, was quite stressful. She basically has a small carryon case and half of a larger suitcase all to herself. It was packed with diapers, wipes, baby wash, teething medication, bug sprays, lotions, toiletries, snacks, toys, I had to anticipate her every need for the upcoming week and make sure we were prepared for it. A destination like Cuba meant I knew she couldn’t eat a lot of their food options that had come in contact with their water, and she also couldn’t have any of their dairy. Goldfish crackers, Gerber Puffs and Cheesies, and breastmilk were her main diet for the week, despite me trying to get her to eat things there, she just wasn’t having it.

One thing I will say is I did anticipate her diet when travelling. Cuba is a bright and colourful place and I knew she would be overwhelmed with it all. She left our Canadian winter and was suddenly in the sun, free to explore the entirety of our resort on foot. Usually, when something changes in our routine, she gives me a hard time when it comes to eating, so I did arrive there knowing full well she would want to breastfeed more than anything else. I wasn’t prepared for her to not want any other food.

The only thing she would ever eat was their pancakes and bread.

What also made this trip very different is my baby girl was no longer the baby she was. She was this little person who got bored and had her own routine she liked to stick to. She was stubborn, and she more often than not, let you know if something wasn’t exactly how she wanted it.

She started to walk around the beginning of November, thank goodness. Her finally walking meant that there was no need to pack a stroller, and it also meant that a sense of independence would result in less tantrum and more exploration.

The fact that she was walking made the airport a breeze. She wanted to walk the length of the big windows, watching all the planes and other vehicles on the tarmac. With her new explorative side, I was worried she wouldn’t want to sit still on the actual flight.

Our last flight she was so small, she breastfed the whole short flight and I don’t think she knew we weren’t just as home sitting on the couch. This was very different, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well she did.

I packed her little princess backpack (that she could carry herself had she wanted to, of course, she didn’t want to) with two of her favourite books Brown Bear, Brown Bear, and Baby Bear, Baby Bear, some snacks, and of course the iPad with some interactive games and a few videos that we knew she liked and would keep her busy. We brought her noise-cancelling headphones because they have been said to help with the air pressure on take-off and landing. She did her own thing for most of the flight and did take a small nap on both the way there and the way back.

There seemed to be a lot of kids on our flight and she seemed to be amongst the best behaved, so I definitely felt good leaving the plane knowing how well she did.

I think whenever you travel with one of your littles, it’s important to just prepare. Over prepare! If you even think maybe you need something, pack it. It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

I think a lot of parents, especially new parents worry that travelling with your children may take away from the feeling of it being a vacation. Sure, it’s not as relaxing and you are never really off-duty, but there is this different feeling of bliss watching your child(ren) experience things for the first time. That sense of wonder is really so special.

I loved watching her see lizards scurry across the grass or the walls. Watching different, more colourful birds fly around and watching her try and walk up to a frog. We went on an excursion and swam with the dolphins after seeing a dolphin show, which I wasn’t sure if she would be okay with. She only had a small freak out when it swam by and her fingers grazed the underbelly (even though she had touched it’s back several times and was completely okay and even excited about it).

All in all, it was a wonderful trip. I prepared. I made sure she had more than enough for the weather, and to keep her busy and I am so happy we decided to take the trip.

If you’re a parent and you just aren’t sure, it’s a good time to test out travelling. Why? Because usually children under a certain age stay free and all you have to pay for is their tourist visa which costs under $30CAD in Cuba. And you DESERVE it!

A Low Bar For Self Care

My morning routines may not seem like much, especially considering most mornings my sink is more full than empty, my daughter is no doubt walking around the house with one slipper on, no pants, her hair still slightly messy from her sleep. Toys make up most of the space on the floor and at any given time my TV is playing Super Simple Learning Songs around the clock. From the outside looking it, I am sure there are handfuls of people that will wonder what in the hell I am doing with all my time.

For most stay-at-home parents, this is the norm and they are used to constantly drowning they don’t really expect a lifeline. They’re comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I never get to drink my coffee hot, I’ve stepped on more half-eaten ArrowRoot cookies than I can count, there are a lot of days when I don’t brush my teeth or my hair until late in the evening, track pants and old tees are my new fashion trend and all of my showers are taken with a small human at my feet, occasionally looking up at me from that very observant spot between my legs.

This is parenting.

I’m so used to it at this point, I don’t even know how I would function if things changed.

Today, while scrolling through Instagram, I saw something that pretty much stopped me in my tracks. It was a post by @scarymommy that had me pausing and rethinking the way I did everything.

To sum up, it pretty much said there has never been an instance where taking a shower, washing your face, or brushing your teeth has been considered self-care for dads, so why is it that when a mom gets to spend an hour by herself doing errands, taking a shower or doing anything any normal person gets to do as a daily part of their routine, the world stop and screams “Self-care!”?

Life for moms is rough. Someone who I love who tells it as it is; Chrissy Teigen will be the first one to clap back at anyone who questions her parenting, but having those questions and comments thrown out at her in the first place is not only eye-opening but completely normal in this day and age.

We live in a time where taking a moment to breathe sans kids is considered negligent. Where sitting at the park and pulling out your phone to message people about your day as your kids play ten feet away is enough to call the authorities about in the eyes of All-Knowing Amys and Judgmental Judys.

When did moms become these less-than-human things who had to live for their kids every moment of every day? Who isn’t allowed to admit they need time to themselves without being made out to seem like complete monsters.

Even I am guilty of calling things that should be my basic human rights self-care, when in reality, if I kept the bar where it had been before having my daughter, I haven’t received a single moment of self-care since becoming pregnant.

Society is failing moms, and for every troll on the internet that has the audacity to call a mom who dares go out for a drink with their girlfriends a bad mom, we fall lower and lower.

Sure, this isn’t the life of every stay-at-home parent. Some parents who stay home get up with an alarm clock every day, take a solo shower, put on their faces and get dressed without a child ever even popping up. But more often than not, that isn’t the case. It may be a few days, or even weeks before you see a make-up brush. Dry-Shampoo may know you better than your shower does, and although that is okay, don’t settle for the little things and tell yourself it’s big.

As parents, especially as mothers, we’ve earned the right the have guilt-free time to ourselves. We’ve earned time to work on our mental health and emotional wellbeing without someone saying that doing so makes us bad mothers. We deserve a lot more than we’re given and shouldn’t be shamed for saying so.

Basic care is not the self-care we desperately need and pretending it is maybe more damaging than helpful.

Look, I am just as guilty as every other parent out there. I’ve hidden out of view behind the couch eating a snack I didn’t want to share and raised a ”Self-Care” flag in triumph. I’ve gotten ready; makeup, hair, clothes, without being interrupted and dubbed that alone time as self-care. As ridiculous as it may seem, those stolen moments without a child attached to me are blissful.

But I deserve more, parents deserve more.

Mothers deserve more.

Let’s stop pretending basic care is enough.