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.

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.

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!

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.

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 Impossible Job of the Stay At Home Parent

Before I got pregnant there was always this discussion about the difficulties of the stay-at-home parent. Often it was discussed by people who didn’t have kids, ones who stood on the outside looking in while they went on to their 9-5s somewhat envious of the stay-at-home parent for the possibility of sleeping in, staying in your PJs or workout clothes all day, and getting to spend most of your time at parks or other seemingly enjoyable locations.

“What is there to complain about?” “How can a job you do in your PJs possibly be difficult?” “God forbid, I had to spend my days at home binging hours of Netflix?” “What are they complaining about? I would love spending all that time with my kids if I had them?”

These are some of the most common comments you have probably heard.

Well, this is for all the people who don’t have kids and think that parenting 24/7 is such an easy task.

There are days when even parents who don’t intend to co-sleep have spent a whole sleepless night with this child in their bed, little legs and feet in their back, hands thrown over their faces, wishing for just three inches of childless mattress so they can close their eyes enough to make it through the next day. Then, exhausted and sore, they have to get up and go a whole day at the beck and call to their little minions.

There are no sick days, there are no holidays or days where you can phone it in and just go through the motions. Even the routine of being a stay-at-home parent isn’t as much of a routine as you’d like because children are unpredictable. They are living, breathing things that are in charge of every waking moment of your day, no matter how much you schedule or plan.

One of the most tedious jobs I’ve had was working at a Bridal Consultant. I worked at four different wedding gown stores and the job seemed simple enough; help brides-to-be find the gown of their dreams during a one-hour consultation. Usually, you are one-on-one with the bride (and usually an entourage of her choosing) in a room trying to decipher all her contradicting wants and needs. There were honestly days of this job (which I stayed in for over seven years) where I wanted to pull my hair out and burn the boutique to the ground. But, at the end of the day, I got to go home. I got to unload, I got to leave those brides behind for evenings, little weekends, vacations, and completely forget about them.

Imagine having to do your job constantly. From the moment your eyes open until they close and night (and most nights, even after your eyes are closed). There is no clocking out, there are no care-free evenings, there are no vacations.

Don’t mistake me that for meaning that being a parent is awful. It’s not. Most days you smile more than you cry, you forget about the underlying exhaustion while you make playdates, and meet-and-greets, and appointments. You go through 22 hour days without even realizing you’ve taken five mini-naps while your child is eating, or playing, or watching their favourite program. Parenting is a rollercoaster, and for most of it, you are smiling (even when you’re screaming). Saying it’s easy though, is like saying you can wake up today after no preparation and enter a strong man competition… every minute of it will be a struggle.

I think what a lot of people don’t realize is what exactly makes being a stay-at-home parent so isolating. Your social life completely disappears if you don’t have other stay-at-home friends. It’s isolating and lonely, and sometimes all you want is to sit down with any other adult person and have an actual conversation.

There isn’t a lot of support for stay-at-home parents. When the bulk of people out there think that it’s easy, there isn’t a lot of support. Some people say you can lean on your families and friends for the support you need, but sometimes you just crave support from people who don’t necessarily know you. Ones that won’t respond with “Yes, but you’re so strong, you can get through it.” or “I know you, and this is just a bad day.” 

Making new friendships is extremely difficult. You spend a lot of time at kids programs and the park hoping to connect with other parents but a lot of them are just out there trying to catch their breath, their eyes glued on their kids and hoping to get a few moments alone before they have to go back in and do a load of laundry, or start dinner, or get their kids in the bath. When you factor in that becoming a parent has most likely isolated you from your social circle if they are still without kids, not being able to make any new friends can be depressing.

Alongside all of that, there is the constant guilt. You feel guilty because your child may not be making their milestones. You feel guilty because you spent those extra ten minutes in the bathroom, or on your phone, or computer ‘ignoring’ your child(ren). You feel guilty about reaching out and asking your partner for help because they’ve been at work all day and you’ve been home. The list of things that trigger guilt in parents is miles long, and new things get added to that list every day.

And all of this is barely scratching the surface. Imagine having a child who requires extra attention. A child with health issues, or developmental issues. Just imagine the constant struggle of being home with them all day, never getting the chance to come up for air.

Parenting isn’t easy.

If it was, there would be a lot more high-functioning, perfect adults running around. The truth is, we never know if what we are doing is right, we just do our best and hope everything turns out.

In a world where the cost of living keeps rising along with the cost of childcare, a lot of parents are opting to stay home until their children reach school age to help with the expenses of childcare, which means there are that many more parents out there staying home and reluctantly signing up for the difficult job of being a stay-at-home parent. So many more single parents that have to get on assistance just to make ends meet.

All of this definitely weighs on the stay-at-home parent. The mental and emotional strain on parents, in general, is immeasurable.

As someone who has always worked with children in one way or another, my eyes have always been somewhat open to the issues and the hardship of being a parent, but becoming one myself has definitely put things in a whole new light.

Parenting IS a job.

For anyone out there that doesn’t think so, they clearly have no idea what they may one day be getting into.

Rainy Day Madness

As Canadians we know moving into the month of October we had better buckle up for the rollercoaster weather. September brought us low temperatures of 10 degrees Celsius, and highs of 34 degrees Celsius which I think left the bulk of us, here in Toronto, wonder what the in the world was going on. One day you are wearing a light sweater and thinking it may be a bit too much for the weather, the next day you’re contemplating taking your winter coat out of hibernation.

This weather means two things. The first thing is dressing your baby or little one for the outdoors becomes difficult. You struggle with dressing them warm (which is what I always tend to do) and removing their little hat to see sweat matted hair, or dressing them on the lighter side and having to hurry home as soon as the sun starts to dip in the sky and it goes from warm to freezing in a matter of moments. The second struggle is your little one getting sick.

The constant up and down, being bundled, and unbundled usually leads to some kind of cold. My daughter usually gets congested with thick, mucus boogs that dry on her face before I can ever wipe them away. Wiping their nose is a constant battle which usually means you have a kicking, swatting, screaming baby who would tell you to f**k off if they could as you wipe their nose over and over.

It quickly becomes a routine of sitting in the bottom of a steamy shower, humidifier, essential oils, saline sprays, and chamomile. I always find congestion is something that sticks with you longer than any other symptom. When it is the lone symptom, it really does want to hang around, especially when the weather is so unpredictable. Going from hot weather outside, to AC on full blast inside, back to a freezing night outside really messes with your body, especially for babies and children whose bodies are still so small and trying to figure things out.

A lot of parents decide to spend most cold days indoors, not wanting the trouble.

Now, just for fun, let’s add some rain.

This past week we had three-four really grey, damp, and rainy days. Rain for me, especially now that I have a one-year-old, means its an indoor day. Unfortunately, for a lot of parents, days, where you have to keep your kids indoors, makes you feel like you are the warden in an insane asylum where your patients/inmates are bouncing off the walls, rioting, wound up with unspent energy, and refusing the essentials like naps and snacks. My daughter turns into Mr. Hyde when she is kept inside for two consistent days in a row.

We were in for four.

By the third day, I was hiding in the bathroom, pushing snacks underneath the door while a naked baby screamed at me, banging on the door and snatching those snacks in-between fits of rage and lunacy.

And my child is only one.

I can’t say whether or not it gets easier when they get older or whether or not this is the easy stage (insert nervous laugh here). Part of me believes this age is harder because there is no negotiating. They are too young to want to sit inside a fort and watch a movie or do anything that will really give us a break. This is also the stage where any minor change completely throws their routines up in the air. Not going out for a walk or going to the park for an hour or so to spend some of her energy, means she has all the energy built up and it turns into a frustration she can’t voice or work through.

This usually means she crawls over to her ‘zone’ (the mats by the balcony door), lies down on her back and fake cries for anywhere between 15-45 minutes because she just doesn’t know what to do with herself and she is sick of both mommy and her trusty best friend Toby (our dog). She is a kid who likes to be social, so the same faces for days on end makes her act pretty irrational.

Our apartment turns into a battle zone. Toys and books all over the floor, more snacks scattered around than in her mouth, baby songs playing on a loop, usually a lone diaper open somewhere on the floor that she has taken off at one point so she can crawl around naked and I have forgotten about for the time being.

Fall is hard. More rainy days mean more madness (for both of us). I honestly can’t wait until she is old enough to enjoy just sitting and watching her favourite movie or show for a few hours. (Insert new age gasp here as I admit to wanting my child to sit and watch TV so I can get a break.)

As we move closer and closer to December and when they are predicting we will have our first snowfall here in Toronto, I wonder how adding more indoor days is going to affect her mood. Will she adjust over time, realizing this is just another part of life, or will indoor days always be a battle. Some kids just need to be outdoors.

I guess time will tell.

The Quest To Find Yourself

A whole year has passed, and when I sit back and think back on my pregnancy, it has been even longer since I feel like I’ve lost my sense of self. In our teens, we look at adults and think they have it all figured out. We associate being an adult with this sense of surety. They know all the answers, they know where to find this happiness that seems to constantly elude us as teens who have to constantly ask permission for everything. So many of us spent those years wishing we had that freedom that goes along with being an adult.

All too soon, the years roll over and we are out of our teens and into adulthood.

Well, if anything was ever more falsely advertised than adulthood I’ve yet to find it. I turned twenty waiting for this transformation to take place. I thought the birthday would come with a clarity I had been so ignorant to before. My acne would disappear, this confidence would become my new personality, I would walk with my head held high, filled with all the answers to the questions I had been asking for years but wasn’t old enough to know yet.

Instead, I was just as lost and confused as ever and found myself wondering how the hell all the other adults in the world had functioned and kept up this façade for all these years. Nothing changed, you were still the same person you were, just a year older. The main thing that changed was the weight on your shoulders.

With the knowledge that this was adulthood, you weren’t given any cheat sheet to life and the added burden of being an adult, it’s hard to avoid feeling as though you are drowning. You suddenly become aware of how pointless the curriculum in high school is. Physical Education was mandatory, but there were no classes that taught you how to fully function as an adult. There was no class to teach you how to file your taxes, how to save you RESPs, how much of your paycheque should go towards living and what should go away if you wanted to have a safety net for when you suddenly found yourself unemployed. What to look for in a used car, what price was reasonable for mileage. How do you even go about purchasing your first piece of real estate?

Suddenly being an honour roll student means nothing. For those who don’t have the parents with this knowledge, you are up a creek with no paddle.

Now, add being a parent to it all. Suddenly you have a tiny human to take care of, no more answers but countless more questions, and society expects you to keep it all together.

The slack for new parents in our society is non-existent. You are supposed to breastfeed because breast is best, you should spend every waking moment raising your child, but you should also have a promising career and not be dependant on ‘government handouts’ and god forbid you admit to being helpless. Life has become endlessly more complicated and has no sign of getting easier.

Sometimes I wish we were centuries back. All you had to do was learn a trade and you were set. You were a blacksmith or a shoemaker and that was life. There was no credit scores, no retirement funds, no judgment about parenting whatsoever. If your child survived, you were the parent of the year.

In my teens, I told myself I was going to be a writer. There was nothing I wanted more than to walk into a bookstore and see my name on a hardcover book, sitting on an almost empty shelf. I told myself that was who I was, and I was so close to being exactly who I wanted to be.

Now, let’s add adulthood to the mix. Suddenly, that dream seems unattainable and unstable and people start telling you that you should have a backup. The thought that what you want isn’t enough means that all the writing you’ve been doing gets put on the back burner so you can work 40 hours a week and earn a living. Sooner than later, that back burner gets almost forgotten, although that creativity in you still burns brightly and there are notebooks full of these ideas that one day you promise will come to fruition.

Just becoming an adult can be enough to make you lose your sense of self, all while telling yourself it is because you are on a quest to find yourself and determine exactly who you are.

Now, just for fun, let’s add pregnancy.

If you had the dream of doing something creative being pregnant, suddenly tired with a mind that feels like it is surrounded by thick fog will definitely put a damper on that. I felt a change in my creativity when I was three months pregnant. Just waking up and pushing through my workday so I could get home and go back to sleep was literally all my brain could process. Looking at my half-finished pieces of work was depressing. I would open my laptop and put my fingers to the keys hoping for the best but wasn’t able to do much work. I found myself forgetting my own stories, having to read and re-read everything I had written just the day before and forgetting simple words.

Telling myself this would pass helped keep me from spiralling into depression, but it was difficult being unable to summon the energy to do little more than sit there, my mind completely blank and half asleep.

When I finally had my daughter, the weight of exhaustion was unreal. I kept telling myself next week would be the week when I felt more like myself again, next week, next week…

It’s been over a year. Almost two when you factor in my pregnancy since I have felt like myself and if I am being honest, I am nowhere close to finding her. I like to think she is sitting in the clearing in a lush forest of my mind. Books piles in a happy circle around her as she goes through notebook after notebook, trying to capture all her thoughts, telling all the stories that have been trapped in my mind while I wander around completely lost. I’d like to think she is happy, content waiting for me there, so sure that I will find my way back to her eventually.

That thought keeps me going on days when I feel so lost and overwhelmed (which is honestly most days). A furrow in her brow as she writes, a faint smirk across her lips as she hears me in the distance, desperate and afraid I’ll never find her. The smirk is knowing, because she knows it will be just a matter of time as she glances as the clock at her feet, counting down the moments until I find her again.

I guess in the meantime, I will just wait. Wait and try to survive until I can find myself again.

Split Second Happenings

The birthday party had ended and if I am being honest, I was filled with this sense of relief. All those DIY crafts that took hours had been pulled down in a matter of seconds, decor thrown away, and a baby coming down from a sugar high that I thought meant she was going to nap so soundly, I may actually get that break I’ve been hoping for since… well, a year ago.

Finally home, you tell yourself the rest of the day is going to be relaxing with your feet up. A warm cup of tea, comfy jammies, and not a care in the world.

Then you remember you’re a mom and that is as much of a pipe dream as being the first person to surf on the moon.

Nana and papa flown in from the East Coast to celebrate with us, sitting all together after the party with my little munchkin standing right in front of us, within grasp. One minute she is there, then there is a bang, and she is down. Just like that. Fully supervised.

A split second.

I feel like as parents, we receive a lot of judgement. People judge us when we take a moment to look at our phone while pushing our kids on the swing. They judge us when our kids have bumps and bruises from tumbling while learning how to walk, they judge us based on their clothes, their hair, whether they still have food caked on their face from the snacks they had on the stroller ride over to the park. With noses turned up, they judge us for every little move we make.

They expect our kids to be wrapped in bubble wrap, supervised 24 hours a day. The reality is, it can’t be done. We are parents, but we are also human.

One split second and she had fallen, smacked her face off the coffee table and split open her eyelid. Four people watching her, within all of our grasps and it didn’t make a difference. My heart was racing, my stomach in knots and up in my throat, the amount of guilt that filled me was immeasurable. Picking her up, I tried to move her hands away from her face to see what I thought would be another bump, instead I saw what I’m sure would be any parent’s worst fear; blood.

I knew right away it was a hospital visit. Bundling her up, I threw on my purse and went out in my pjs.

There were so many thoughts going through my head. My anxiety was crippling on the drive there. I was worried about her eye, so close to where she had banged her head. I was worried about concussions, I was worried about whether or not her fall would deter her from learning to walk. I was worried most of all, in that moment that she would need stitches.

In the back of my mind, I kept telling myself the doctor would look at it, tell us we were being over cautious parents and send us home with the assurance that it would heal on it own. When the nurse came out and put the numbing cream on, I knew that wouldn’t be the case and I can’t tell you what I felt in that moment.

Kids get hurt. That’s the truth of it. The guilt that goes along with our kids getting hurt, especially when they are so young is so heavy. Add that to society’s need to input their comments and opinion on every parent’s parenting, and you can add to that guilt tenfold. The amount of pressure on parents is unreasonable.

And that night, I was feeling all of it.

Two stitches and about ten years off my life.

All of this had me thinking about how parenting affects us mentally. No one is harder on us as parents than we are on ourselves. Every bump, every bruise, every stitch, every delayed milestone, every tantrum weighs on us and makes us question whether or not we are good parents. Sometimes, convincing ourselves that we are can be the most trying task.

Parenting is so constant, and there are rarely people patting us on the back for every accomplishment. Sometimes without that, we forget about our accomplishments altogether and focus solely on our failures. This is especially difficult for mothers.

We carry the brunt on the weight. We tend to be full time parents, putting ourselves aside for the well-being of our little bundles of mischief, adventure and joy. We sacrifice our bodies, our hormones, our emotions, our mental health, our sleep. Everything that we are is transformed into this entirely different personality, changing us so completely we almost lose ourselves when we become mothers.

Add the endless guilt and questioning of whether or not we are doing a good job and some of us can feel so low.

The fact is that babies get hurt. They fall down, they get bumps and bruises. They overreact to small pinches and squeezes, they cry sometimes without reason. Even a mom at the very top of her game will turn her head for a second and turn back to see her little one sprawled on the floor.

Don’t beat yourself up. Babies are super resilient and I am learning that every scratch, bump, and bruise seems to traumatize us more than it does our babies.

Keep at it, tomorrow is another day filled with even more challenges. One day you will wake up and years will have passed and all of those ‘failures’ won’t even have made it into their memories.

Tell Me Something Sweet

“Tell me something sweet.” She whispered,

As tears roll down her face.

“Whisper to me sweet nothings,

Forget my ugliness and disgraces.”

“Tell me something sweet,

So that maybe I can sleep the night.

My mind is heavy, my heart is aching,

I’m forgetting how to fight.”

“Tell me something sweet.” She sobs,

Combing fingers through her messy hair.

Bags under her eyes, oily skin,

And a weight on her shoulders she can hardly bear.

“Please… tell me something sweet.” She groans,

Her throat sore as her voice breaks.

“I’m trying my best to just be strong,

But this is all so much more than I can take.”

A baby cries in the room behind her,

As she stares at the reflection of the stranger she once knew.

She’s just a shadow of the woman she once was,

After all her body and mind has been through.

“You are so… strong, you’re… beautiful, and… wonderful.”

She whispers when all she really wants is to disappear.

But instead she whispers something sweet to herself,

Because she knows her daughter’s there to hear.

 

If I’ve wrote it once, I will write it a thousand times: Parenting is hard!

There are so many mommies out there too afraid to admit their struggle, too ashamed to ask for help, wandering in the dark questioning themselves: Is this normal?

There is a lot of joy that comes with being a new parent, but there is also a lot of exhaustion, sadness, and this general feeling of being overwhelmed. As mothers, we overcome… but sometimes that requires a support system.

Reach out, ask for help.