The 24/7 Parent

Any of you following me from the beginning would know I was a nanny to two wonderful twins before becoming a mom. If there was one thing I can say with certainty, it’s that I was a pretty kick-ass nanny. I’ve always had this way of connecting with kids that made working with them just seem like a breeze.

When I became pregnant, all this experience with children gave me this illusion that I was prepared. I had been in the trenches, I had learned and perfected all the tricks. I was ready.

How wrong I was.

There is never anything that can prepare you for the complete lack of personal identity that sometimes goes along with being the ‘primary’ parent. Especially as the stay-at-home parent. It’s so constant and you lose yourself a bit in this role.

Add a global pandemic to the mix and it is enough to wear even the most mentally strong down.

Something they don’t tell you about becoming a parent is how isolating it can feel. In a way, it’s you and your child on this little island. You feel this overwhelming sense that no one else can care for your little as well as you can, no one can love them as fiercely, no one can give them as much as you can. Thinking this way can easily lead you down a path where you are a 24/7 parent and you slowly lose hold of yourself as an individual parent.

From the beginning, some of the choices I made set things in motion that would cause my daughter to be more dependant on me than my husband. This wasn’t the plan, but sometimes things just happen and you don’t realize what you’ve been doing until you’ve been doing it so long it’s hard to get back to a place to undo it all.

I solely breastfed.

Although I did pump, she didn’t take to bottles easier and it became easier for me to just constantly breastfeed. This eliminated some important bonding with my husband, and if I could go back and do it all over again, I would have buckled down and really tried to get them both into a routine of bottle feeding.

I co-slept.

This is a bit of a touchy subject for a lot of people. Doctors say it’s not ideal and not safe, but cribs are a modern invention and something mostly used in first world countries. Co-sleeping seemed like the best choice for me because I was hit with this brutal anxiety when my daughter came along and I would spend the whole night just staring at her, waiting for the tell-tale rise and fall of her chest to let me know she was okay. I couldn’t sleep without feeling her, without knowing without a single doubt she was okay. It also made night feeding so much easier.

These two things made my daughter completely dependant on me. It wasn’t long before I began to feel as though she was my whole life. I was with her through the whole of the day, and while a lot of parents got to turn off at night, she was my whole night too.

I had become a 24/7 parent.

She was my days, and she was nights.

This routine had become so cemented that I didn’t even realize my mental health slipping. What had started off as bouts of anxiety had turned into constant anxiety. I was exhausted and began having a lot of really low days. I would set aside times in the day to cry. I just felt so full to bursting with emotions I couldn’t sort through, I felt I needed to let it out and cry to purge myself and get on with the rest of the day.

The routine of getting ready and taking pride in what I looked like fell through the cracks and just basic maintenance was no longer a thing. I often showered with her because I couldn’t steal time away during the day to be alone. Which meant I often skipped on things and routines that made me feel good about myself for quick and convenience.

Looking in the mirror at the woman I was now almost hurt.

My pregnancy and anxiety had brought back the acne I thought I had battle and conquered in my early 20s. The dark skin under my eyes that had always been something I’d been self conscious about seemed darker and larger. My hair, once this full mass of happy curls, was now thin, brittle, and lack-lustre. Although I had never openly thought of myself as beautiful, suddenly the task of even looking representable seemed unattainable.

In an age of social media, it’s definitely more difficult to feel great about yourself as a parent who feels like they don’t have it all together. Instagram moms are an unattainable status. With these massive, clean houses, daily pictures where they looked flawless and children in coordinated outfits that just look so well behaved and happy.

Meanwhile I am wearing the same yoga outfit I have been wearing for days, my hair has been so neglected it’s somehow straight even though my hair is naturally curly, I am battling yet another breakout, and my child is lying in the middle of the living room in a pile of her toys while screaming at the top of her lungs. Where are these social media moms? Where are the ones that show the chaos, that show the unhappy daily moments, and make you feel less alone in your struggle?

Where are the moms who haven’t slept in their own beds in a week? Their nights spent curled up with their little because they just won’t stay asleep and it’s not worth trudging back and forth to your own room in the dark. Where are the moms who haven’t cleaned the house in weeks because any moment they are alone they marvel at just sitting by themselves, untouched? Where are the moms that cry while they’re making lunch because they know their toddler isn’t going to touch any of it?

Parenting is hard.

24/7 parenting is even harder.

I applaud any parent out there who spends the same amount of time I do with my daughter and hasn’t completely come unravelled. Although I love my daughter with every beat of my heart, I have never been so completely underwater in my life, just constantly drowning.

For any struggling 24/7 parents out there who, like me, are just struggling to keep their head above water, I SEE YOU.

I hope you find a way to navigate these treacherous waters.

Learning At Home With Your Toddler

Here in Toronto, Canada we are on the cusp of our second wave of the Covid 19 pandemic. Although I know a great number of people who were brave enough to send their children back to daycare and school, I knew after our personal brush with the virus we wouldn’t be one of those families. That meant I had to figure out how to provide my ever curious daughter with a learning environment at home where she could thrive until higher safety measures are in place or our city finds a new normal.

As a former nanny I can definitely see the benefit, even outside of a pandemic, of making a habit out of learning at home. With this “Play to Learn” education plan in place for a lot of Junior Kindergarten and Senior Kindergarten students in public schools, a lot of students don’t settle down into an actual curriculum until they are on to grade one, and at that point they are trying to play catch up.

I remember spending the summer before my kids (when I was a nanny) went to school teaching them both to write their names. It was a moment to be celebrated for the kids and myself. We worked really hard at it. I also remember a few months into school speaking to the teacher when I picked the kids up about one of them not knowing how to write their name and how we should be practicing that at home.

You can imagine my frustration.

Put simply, his new skill wasn’t being used enough during school for him to retain it, and I had gotten a little slack on our at home education because I felt they needed a break now that they were in school.

I think that experience definitely opened my eyes to some holes in our education system and how a lot of parents, regardless of your child’s age, are forced to take a more active role in your child’s education. I know a lot of this is about funding. Teachers are overworked and underpaid, and I definitely sympathize with that, but I don’t remember my mother ever having anything to do with our education when we were kids.

Outside of signing permission slips, my mother never had an active role in our education, thankfully so. I think if my mom got some of the notes my kids got when I was a nanny outlining all the things their teacher expected us to work with them at home, she would have done something overly dramatic like showing up at our school with a briefcase and asking out principal for her paycheque, since apparently she was a teacher now. (She would 100% do something like this.)

Being a nanny definitely opened my eyes. I live in the same neighbourhood I worked in, which means eventually my daughter will end up at the same schools. This is why I have always tried to do my best to get her comfortable with the idea of learning activities at home. I want her to be prepared going into school, and I want her to have those skills and not feel like she is drowning when she reaches grade one.

As soon as I could I introduced her to things like flash cards, learning songs, and cognitive play. A lot of my friends who are also parents often asked me how I get my daughter to sit for one to two hours every morning and do flash cards, puzzles, or scheduled activities. First, with everything and our children, it is mostly about routine. When you do something often enough, they get locked into that schedule and everything gets a little easier. Second, I find it’s so important to learn how to engage with your child in a way that entices them. Just like you, they are little people and they have interests. Play on those interests to achieve the desired learning result.

I recently have been reading up a lot about Love Languages, and how important it is to learn your partner and your child’s Love Language. If you’re familiar with that, you know everyone has different needs and everyone needs to be shown love in a specific way (if you don’t definitely read up on it to improve the important relationships in your life). Just as each person has their own Love Language, I feel every person also has a Learning Language.

How often has someone been teaching you something and you’ve pulled out a notebook and needed to write that down? Or how often have you not been able to grasp something when you read it but have someone show it to you and you get it down right away? Finding out your child’s Learning Language will definitely help you gear each and every activity to ensure your child’s success.

From a very young age, my husband and I both knew our daughter was musical. If it was singing George Costanza’s answering machine jingle to get her to stop crying in the car at four-months-old, or watching The Greatest Showman around the clock for around a year, it became abundantly clear our daughter’s whole mood could be changed with music. When she was about ten-months-old we learned that Music was her Learning Language. Whether it was singing what we wanted her to do, coming up with little songs for anatomy, or the alphabets, or even animals, she seemed to pick up anything extremely quickly if it was set to music. Luckily for us, in the age of Youtube, there is a kid’s song about everything under the sun which means, learning has come easily to our daughter.

When music isn’t working, games is a safe bet for pretty much every kid. Everything is always more fun when it’s a game, especially if your child has very limited interest in learning.

For one of my kids (nanny) Active Play was the best way to learn. He could pick up spelling if he was hopping from letter to letter better than he could reading a book or even singing out the spelling. Find out what your child is interested in and use that interest to make learning fun for them.

If you do this right, they will actively seek out activities where they are learning because they will relate your lessons to fun.

If I’m being completely honest, this will make it less painful for you as well. It’s getting hard out here for us parents. We have been quarantining with our kids, some of us have been doing remote learning and been thwarted back into a classroom we swore we would never go back into. Trying to force our kids to learn is just another thing right now that pulls at the thread of our mental health, and it’s okay to admit that. It doesn’t make you a bad parent to admit you had no intention of being your child’s teacher on top of everything else. We’re already chauffeurs, maids, assistants, nurses, chefs, friends, entertainment, and so many other things to our kids, a lot of us (especially those of us who made it through school by the skin of our teeth) had thought Thank f*ck our kids are in school and I don’t have to worry about all of that. Then of course 2020 came knocking, and by knocking I mean it kicked in our doors like we owed it money, and suddenly we are doing that too.

Once we created a learning space for our daughter in our living room, it made our mornings pass a little more quickly and just improved both our moods.

A lot of parents just don’t know where to start. As I said, we are not teachers. Just start with the basics. ABCs, counting up to ten, colours, and shapes are a great start for your and your toddler and flash cards for these are readily available and inexpensive.

Learning at home definitely benefits your toddlers, but it benefits you as parents just as much. You are teaching them basic understanding. Which means it will be easier to teach them outside of your little lessons, whether it’s teaching them to be a little more independent by being able to identify things and grab them themselves when asked, getting them to do tasks like brush their hair or teeth, or even just working on their listening in general. Any type of learning you do at home with your child is starting a solid foundation for their learning when outside the home.

Right now when everything, including your child’s education, is so unsure, put in the work to ensure your child is getting the exercise they need mentally as well as physically.

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!

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!

Sleep vs. Parenting

I think back to when I was in my late teens, early twenties. I had the kind of lifestyle where staying up all night, closing my eyes for an hour in the wee hours of the morning, and getting up to conquer the day unaffected was something I took for granted. I would down several coffees during the day more because I enjoyed the taste than because I really needed it. Sure, my energy wasn’t ever really at a hundred percent, but it was at this level where even my exhaustion had energy to it.

Fast forward to now.

I am a footstep away from thirty, a new mom and living off of that same amount of sleep I was back then, but now I fee, it down in my bones. That exhaustion I used to scoff at, wear as an accomplishment for days, even weeks, is this weight that has me dragging, my mind completely useless.

Most people can chalk all this up to aging. As you get older those aches stay with you, those sleepless nights roll over into your day, a day without eating can make you feel as though you are withering away completely. This is growing old.

That being said, there is something so complex about becoming a mother. The physical tolls from pregnancy and childbirth live on hour body for longer than they tell you, the emotional exhaustion only adds to the physical. For the first time in my life, my mental health is constantly at the forefront of my mind. There’s an alarm going off in my head constantly, warning me of what will happen if I dance too close to that line, wearing myself too thin.

Physically, my body may seem as though it’s bounced back, but deep beneath the surface I know there are aspects of my pregnancy, even my delivery that still linger. Exhaustion is like a weighted blanket I can’t quite get out from under, my mind constantly hazed, my emotions always up in a cyclone.

I constantly get asked when I will stop cosleeping. It’s so easy from the outside looking in to try and diagnose my problems and tell me exactly what I need. “What you need is more sleep.” “You need to nap during the day when you can.” “You need to get your daughter sleeping in her crib so you can get a better night sleep.”

Realistically, new moms neglect their self care for so long, it would take months of spoiling ourselves to really try and right ourselves. Its not the quick fix everyone seems to think it is.

The root of it all is sleep, but even when our babies are sleeping soundly in their own cribs, it’s hard to completely shut our minds and emotions off.

Moms are always mentally on the clock, and that plays a huge part on why we never really get the sleep we need and why self care, if not constant, doesn’t really work the way people preach it does. Personally, I don’t think going out to get my nails done or hair cut will ever really help with the constant emotions I have coursing through my body every day.

That all being said, parenting is definitely something I feel like has been my greatest happiness. Sure, I am exhausted, I cry more often than I would dare to admit, and underneath everything else inside me there is always this quiet voice telling me I am not a great mother, barely even a good one, but I wouldn’t trade my daughter for all the sleep and self care in the world.

Parenting is life changing, anyone who says it isn’t probably isn’t doing it right.

Sleep?

I need it and crave it, but have come to terms with the fact that it may not be something I get for another year or so.

The Holidays With Your Baby

For as long as I can remember I have never really been one who has been excited about the holidays. In this day and age, everything seems to come with a hefty price tag and December is already the month with a few birthdays for me so it kind of ruins the whole month for me.

I am basically the Grinch.

Having children really changes your outlook on things. Now, as a mom, I found a new sense of excitement surrounding the holidays. There is something so special about getting to watch your child experience things for the first time. I find myself getting giddy just thinking about watching her tear open wrapping paper, or see anything new. With that in mind, Christmas was different for me this year.

Last year, my daughter was here but she was so new that that feeling wasn’t quite there. We gave her any gifts we bought as we bought them last year because most of her gifts were things we hoped would make everything easier for us; swings, playmats, activity seats etc. Anything that would give us ten minutes where we could just sit, watching her from across the room was something we didn’t want to give her. We were exhausted new parents.

This year she was a toddler, walking around. She knew who Santa was in a sense from seeing him at the mall and watching little videos of him. Sure, she couldn’t fully comprehend the idea of Christmas, but she could participate in it this year which was a game changer.

The gifts were still things we hoped would keep her busy, but we actually waited until Christmas morning for her to open then. We got to see her walk around the corner and look at the Christmas tree with wrapped gifts under them. We got to hear her say her signature catch phrase (one we hear about a thousand times a day) “What’s that?” as she slowly walked towards her Bounce Barnyard Animal.

It was enough to put up with all the stress that goes along with Christmas.

As a mom, I do reach out to a lot of moms. I have a mom app that I regularly use to chat with other moms. Around the holidays, it really opens your eyes to the struggle a lot of parents are going through. There are so many parents who think the dollar amount is what makes up Christmas. They think they have to spend X amount for their children to enjoy the holidays, and let me tell you, they couldn’t be more wrong about this. Especially in younger children.

I have a friend who chooses her son’s favourite toys and wraps them for Christmas. Why? Because she knows he loves those toys, and she knows half of the excitement of these holidays is just opening things, regardless of what’s beneath that ornate paper. She buys him one larger gift, and then things he needs like PJs, socks, toiletries etc. Then she wraps two or three of his favourite toys. Every year (she has been doing this for three years and he is four now) he opens it and his eyes light up. He doesn’t care that he’s already seen those toys a thousand times before. He just knows they make him happy and he’s happy to see them again.

I do think this is a wonderful thing to do around Christmas because it makes your kids appreciate the things they already have without really breaking the bank.

Looking back on my own childhood, my mom was a single mom of 5 so splurging on gifts wasn’t really in the cards. That being said, I can’t remember a single year when I felt we didn’t get more than enough.

Utilize things like the dollar stores to fill stockings. What did doesn’t like holiday themed candies and chocolates, colouring books, and even picture books? All of these things can be found at the dollar store without breaking the bank.

My go-to gifts for most kids (including my own) is always books. My daughter can sit with a pile of books for half the day. So anytime a new book comes into our house she is in heaven. Places like thrift stores often sell books for as little as $1.49/book with the 5th book being free. These books are often in amazing condition and some are even donated by libraries and bookshops.

It’s really easy to make Christmas affordable if you try.

Something my mother still does is buy gifts throughout the year. I know our gift (a personalized Sherpa blanket) was purchased in April. Certain things will always be great gifts. Buy things throughout the year and put them away so the holidays don’t feel like such a big financial hit.

If I am being totally honest, the best gift I received this year was the photos I got to take of my daughter and husband opening gifts. I could have got nothing this year and that would have been enough.

Some of the best gifts come without tags.

Really try to implement family into your holidays. Make it more about time than gifts. I think that is the best gift you can give your child around the holiday… your presence.

I am hoping to make these posts more of a regular thing, until next time guys I’ll just be around… pretending I know what I am doing.