I squeezed my hands into yellow rubber gloves and headed for the toilet. Glamorous.
After leaving this gruesome chore for far too many
weeks months, I shut myself in the basement bathroom and told the kids I wasn’t coming out until it was clean.
I avoid rubber gloves, raw meat and cleaning toilets. The minute my hands are inaccessible is the exact moment that my children need me. (You know, Murphy’s Law again.)
In the newborn years and especially in the newborn-AND-a-toddler years, time is of the essence.
In the newborn-AND-a-toddler years, Momma is always watching. Always on high alert. Ready to jump up and fly across the room to catch a falling child, grab an angry kid-hand before it strikes, catch a falling plate of spaghetti or grab a cup of milk before it splashes all over the kitchen.
Society scoffs at helicopter parents. We judge them and think, “Ha…they should be giving their kids more space.” and “How are their children ever going be independent?”
It’s a different story when the kids are tiny and you are the one responsible all day long, all night long and all week long.
The moment a new momma is handed her first baby she is responsible. The feeding, sleeping, safety, emotional well-being and intellectual development of a teeny tiny person are her responsibility. Hopefully Dad is there to help but Mom is usually the one bearing the emotional weight of it around the clock.
When my son was born the heaviness of the responsibility hit me full-on. I would tell myself “Women do this all the time all over the world. Suck it up. You’re the mother now. Relax.” When my daughter came along I revved up into an even higher gear, this time bouncing back and forth between the two like a ping-pong ball, trying (often failing) to meet their pressing needs simultaneously.
When my arms were elbow-deep in the toilet this morning, I realized something.
The kids called: “Momma, can you please get me a snack?” “Mommy, find my soother!” I kept saying, “You can do it! I’ll help you in a second!” After a few minutes of this, they stopped asking. It got very, very quiet. I peeked out of the bathroom.
My 2-year-old daughter was helping my 5-year-old son do up the zipper on his Superman costume.
My son found his own shiny red cape and velcro belt in the costume basket.
My daughter dug around under the blanket and popped her own soother in her mouth.
My son was at the sink, washing strawberries and cutting off the green parts with a kitchen knife for his little sister.
They were just fine. They were a little more independent than they had been the day before.
Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the day to day-ness of parenting that I don’t notice when things shift a little. Difficult behaviours or patterns that drive me crazy for weeks or months mysteriously disappear overnight and replace themselves with something new.
The changes come a bit at a time, maybe even when I’m just cleaning the bathroom.
*This story was first posted on The Purple Fig.
I still remember that hazy, summer Prairie smell that you don’t know unless you’ve lived it; a mix of gravel-road dust, ripening barley and canola, lush poplar leaves and the sun baking everything together.
Our farm was a kid’s paradise. My mom and dad planted each little stick of a tree before I was born. By the time I was a little girl there were row upon row of willows and spruce joined by vast expanses of soft grass.
The summer I was six we built a deck on the back of our house. The builder left a space open to crawl underneath, the best hiding spot ever for a couple of kids on summer break. The lush grass was our carpet and we shimmied ourselves under the fresh boards to play, our dog Rosie following us in to see what all the fuss was about. We’d look for dropped nails in the grass, triumphantly holding up the ones that could be saved for fixing our tree forts. Usually a cat would wander under the deck too, sliding up and cuddling in, grateful for the company down at her own level.
My Barbie pyjamas and my brother’s Star Wars ones had permanent grass stains melded into the knees that summer.
As the shadows got longer and bedtime approached we’d blend into the yard and not create too much of a fuss so my mom would “forget” we were still awake. Sneaking into the garden to crack open fresh pea pods and graze through the raspberry bushes was the perfect bedtime snack. That summer and the ones around it are the ones I remember as cementing my relationship with my brother. We fought like the wild kittens that hid in the wood pile but we were usually buddies when no one was watching.
My daughter is barely two but I can already see an us-against-the-world attitude forming between my children. “Come on, little baby sister! Let’s run in the sprinkler!” or “Where’d my big bruver go?” The sibling rivalry is here too…the fights, the screaming and yelling over the same toy. The pulling and pushing and hurting that are all a part of it; practice sessions for the school playground when I’m not there to jump in and rescue.
It’s a whole new perspective, being the parent and not the kid; the one enforcing the rules instead of the one pushing against them. The haziness of summer blurs the line a little between parent and child. The sprinklers are on and faces are sticky with ice cream as the warm sun drifts down and the clock ticks past bedtime.
I don’t know which summer moments will stick in my children’s memories. I’m blessed to watch their own stories unfold, as mine did years ago under the deck in the soft grass.
My grandpa Harry was the kind of guy who would say hi to the kids before the adults and then drop right down on the floor to give us bear rides. He had a drum set in the basement we could bang on. He could instantly become “Igor” and scare us silly until we collapsed with giggles. Once I caught him red-handed sneaking around and stealing my Easter chocolate out of a drawer in my room. He sent us mixed tapes at Christmas time with his voice recorded over the carols, wishing us Merry Christmas from Eastern Canada.
Every since I can remember, his name for me was Beautiful One. He had six children of his own and lots of grandchildren so it was special to have a nickname. When I’d walk in his front door he’d embrace me with his Marks and Spencer sweater-clad arms in a big bear hug and announce “It’s the beautiful one!” When I called on the phone he always asked “Is that my beautiful one?”
One March break I flew out alone to visit my grandparents. I was in that awkward phase of life…about 13 years old, with a too-tight spiral perm (it was 1990) and not very comfortable in my skin. As I came through the doors at the airport, my grandpa and grandma rushed towards me and I heard it again, “It’s the beautiful one!” Sweet healing balm to the ears of a girl who hadn’t yet been noticed by the cute boys.
I was delighted when my son came along five years ago and my grandpa was here to know him. At 80+ years, my grandpa was down on the floor playing cars and outside giving my son rides in the golf cart.
When my little guy was three I became pregnant and we moved closer to my grandparents. It thrilled me that my second child would likely get to know his or her great-grandfather too. I secretly thought that if he was a boy we would name him Harry. My grandpa was the kind of guy that deserves a namesake.
He never met my daughter. He died when I was 36 weeks pregnant. We hauled my 3-year-old son to the graveside and the memorial service to say goodbye. As we sang Jesus Loves Me and ate goldfish crackers my daughter kicked and danced along in utero, not knowing the importance of the day.
When she was born a month later she was a bright spot in our family. My grandpa would swoon over her if he were here to see her in all of her almost-two-year-old glory. I can just imagine the goofy look he’d have on his face as he chased her around wearing his worn, brown, polka-dotted house coat.
Last week, a few days before the second anniversary of my grandpa’s death and right around Mother’s day, I came out of the bathroom, fresh from the shower. I had a ratty old T-shirt on and a blue towel wrapped around my wet hair, turban style. My daughter was waiting for me in my bedroom. She giggled when she looked up and saw the towel on my head. She ran in for a hug and I picked her up and sat her down on my bed.
She reached up to touch the towel, got very quiet and then the words came out of her mouth quietly and reverently: “Beautiful one, Mommy. Beautiful one.” My grandpa’s familiar, love-drenched words echoing through my tiny daughter’s brand-new voice.
The people who really, really love us don’t just ignore our scars, wrinkles, bad hair or whatever it is about ourselves we scrutinize in the mirror.
They don’t even see them. They are too busy loving us.
Guess what my daughter’s new nickname is? Beautiful one.
I will say it to her over and over, when she’s little and when she’s grown, if she’s thin or if she’s chubby, when she’s cute and when she’s in that awkward phase.
A Facebook friend of mine just announced the joyous news of her first pregnancy. Soon afterwards she asked for advice on which prenatal class to sign up for. That got me thinking…about 95% of what I learned in prenatal class was useless. Motherhood has a wild initiation period and no class fully prepares you for the upheaval your first child brings.
Here is a list of what you really need to know before bringing home baby:
- How to change a diaper on a wiggling, squirmy puppy. If you can do this, you may be able to change a one-year old. Yes, the freaky-eyed, fake babies the nurses bring are good practice for changing a newborn. However, if your baby is like both of mine were, at around 9 months she will realize that it’s really not fun to have her legs in the air and someone swiping at her private parts.
- How to function on 3 hours of sleep per night. Prenatal classes should be held over a long weekend with no breaks for sleep. This might give new parents a tiny idea of how they will feel while caring for a new baby. Sleep deprivation is real and it sucks. Even if you get the very rare, almost-mythical “good-sleeper” off the bat, that is no guarantee that your baby will not turn into a non-sleeper at 3 months or 6 months.
- Never brag about your good sleeper on Facebook. That guarantees you a non-sleeper the next night.
- How to cope during the first few weeks with your baby. Our instructor could have covered the basics of pregnancy and labour in an hour and sent us home to watch What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Actual discussion of the huge psychological changes involved in becoming a parent would be far more helpful.
- Even if drugs are not in your plan, when the time comes, you will want them. Read up on them. The same goes for c-sections. Better to be prepared. My children are five and almost two. I had an epidural and morphine with one and practically no meds with the other. Now that the kids are older, no one asks me about it and nobody cares. You won’t get a badge of honour or special trophy for going drug-free or avoiding a c-section. Do what you need to do to remain somewhat calm and deliver a healthy baby.
- Breastfeeding is wonderful and natural and angels sing when some mothers do it. It also sucks sometimes, especially in the beginning. The nurse teaching our prenatal class actually said out loud to us “Don’t keep bottles or formula in your house. You may be tempted to use them.” We diligently followed her advice…until it was day 5 and my milk hadn’t come in and my son was screaming and starving. We ignored her advice and supplemented the poor child. He survived and he is perfect.
- If you want your baby to sleep in your room, put him there. If you can’t sleep with your baby in your room, put him in his own room if it’s nearby. It is your house, your baby and you need to do what helps everyone in the house get as much sleep as possible. I followed the “rules for creating an independent sleeper” with my son. He slept in his own room until his sister came along when he was three. Everything changed then and no book or sleep expert in the world could compete with a screaming newborn on the other side of the bedroom wall. Now my son is five and he crawls into the big bed every night.*
- Never talk about your maternity leave as your “year off.” It is your “year on.” You’ll see.
*I wouldn’t trade it for the world. 🙂
What do you wish someone would have told you before you had your first child?
When I became a mother five years ago I naively assumed that having a child meant a woman had grown up. Gone would be the petty insecurities, comparisons and judgements that women so cruelly share during the teenage years and beyond.
I was wrong.
Two children, two cities and many play dates and hours at the park later, I’ve made some wonderful mom friends. I’ve also been blown away by the cattiness and cruelty of some women who are permanently suspended in a junior high, mean-girls mindset, even with their own children watching and listening.
The sidelong glances, whispers and blatant online bullying I’ve seen encouraged me to start a conversation with a group of my own mom friends. The stories each woman told me were sometimes hard to believe but they are all true.
- That mom you shun at the park because she’s single and living with her parents? Don’t judge her. She’s going to university full-time to create a good life for her son. In the blink of an eye you could be her.
- That mom who is losing her patience with a screaming child in the grocery store line-up? She had two hours of sleep last night because her children are sick and teething. Don’t roll your eyes at her. Help her out. You will be her one day, guaranteed.
- That mom who puts her five-year-old in diapers at night? Don’t judge her. Her child has a severe illness. Sleep is far more important than night-time potty training. She also has to pour salt on her child’s food to help with kidney function so don’t judge her for that either.
- That mom that picked up McDonald’s for her child on the way home? Don’t judge her. 99% of the time she feeds her child good food. She’s tired. She’s had a long day.
- That mom who took a nap when you were visiting and didn’t cook you supper?Don’t judge her. She’s suffering from a postpartum mood disorder and is just trying to cope and care for her children.
- That mom who lets her kids sleep in her bed? Don’t judge her. She’s creating security and comfort that will last a lifetime. She knows little-kid-snuggles only last for a little while.
- That mom who stopped breastfeeding too soon? Remember when you told her how sad it was that her child would get sick and die on formula? Remember when you told her that she and her baby wouldn’t bond? Are you for real? She had thrush, was on two different meds to increase her milk supply and had multiple lactation consultants. It didn’t work. She moved on and you should too.
- That mom who is still breastfeeding when her child is two? She’s happy. Her child is happy. Leave them alone and stop staring.
- That mom who is too rushed to say hello at preschool drop-off? Her son has a life-threatening illness. She is so focused on his care that she doesn’t even see you. Don’t judge her.
- That mom who can’t get her children to sleep well? She’s tried everything. She’s read all the books and gone to the seminars. You may be an expert on your own four children but you know nothing about her two.
- That mom you judged because she had a C-section while you had a natural birth? Even though you told her she didn’t try hard enough and is a failure, she’s pretty grateful that her child is alive.
- That mom who is too easy on her kids and lets them get away with too much? She grew up afraid of a parent and refuses to repeat the pattern in her own family.
- That mom who had too many kids too close together? Don’t judge her. Her children are happy and loved. On the other hand, don’t judge the mom who only had one child either. You don’t know the reasoning behind it and it’s none of your business.
- That mom who looks after her children 24/7 and (gasp!) doesn’t work outside of the home? Maybe she actually likes it. Maybe she’s doing what is best for her kids. She may even blog about it.
- That mom who struggled with infertility for years and finally got pregnant with IVF? Don’t judge her. You have no idea of the thoughts and pain that go into such an experience.
Things are rarely as they seem. I’ve grown a pretty thick skin when it comes to being judged by others for my parenting decisions. I do my best to accept that everyone makes different decisions for their families. Could you do the same? Most of us are our own worst critics anyways.
Remember, it’s not about us. It’s about our children. Let’s cut each other some slack.
We’re supposed to be the grown-ups.
First published on The Purple Fig (http://www.thepurplefig.com).
Also published on The Huffington Post.
I’ve had two children for a while but we are just becoming a two-kid family.
My son is 5 years old. My daughter is 21 months old. Up until this point, we’ve been a one-kid-and-a-baby family.
I always wanted two children. I grew up with one older brother and was pleased to replicate my childhood “million dollar family” with my own kids. I envisioned all the things we could do that would be fun with two. When I was pregnant with my daughter I was told, “Don’t worry, two is easier than one because they play together.” HA! For me, one child and a baby wasn’t easier. It wasn’t two times harder. It was ten times harder.
But suddenly, now that child number two is approaching the age of two, things are changing in subtle ways. It’s easier now.
I notice it while making breakfast: 2 cups of milk, 2 bowls of oatmeal, 2 spoons. No mushy baby cereal, no breastfeeding or bottles. The only difference is the tiny spoons for my daughter’s little bites. It’s easier now.
I realize it while packing for a morning out: two bananas, two water bottles, two handfuls of crackers in little cups. No nursing cover, no bottle warmer. No pureed carrots, bib, spoon and wash cloth stuffed in a too-big, trendy diaper bag. Just a few snacks, one diaper and a couple of wipes jammed in my purse. It’s easier now.
It hits me when one of my children is upset about something. In the early days I would get so frustrated when my babies would cry and cry and I couldn’t figure out what they needed. Now they tell me and I can help fix what’s wrong. It’s easier now.
I notice it when the kids play. The ring stacker and foam blocks collect dust in a bin on the toy shelf. After hundreds of stroller rides and chewing sessions, Sophie the Giraffe is forgotten at the bottom of the toy box. I’m used to having my son’s playmobil and lego spread around our house. I’m used to watching carefully to make sure my daughter isn’t eating it. Suddenly, there are two children playing with it, fighting over it. It’s easier now.
I see it in the morning. A few times a week I wake up and there is a little bit of daylight peeking through the curtains. I realize that no one needed me all night long. It’s easier now.
It really hits me at the park. “Come on, little sis!” my son urges. “I’ll hold your hand! Don’t fall! I’ve got you!” Two kids, playing together. It’s easier now.
Oh, we’ve still got some hold-outs. The diapers, soothers, fleece sleepers, rocking chair and crib will be around for a little while yet. I’m glad they don’t all leave at once. As the baby things exit the house, I silently say a little goodbye to each one. I remember the precious baby breaths and the marathon rocking sessions with little faces nestled into my neck. I think of all the ups and downs of our years knee-deep in babies.
Last weekend my husband and I both sat down on the couch at the same time while the children played together. Nobody needed us for a full ten minutes.
We’re a two-kid family. It’s easier now. It’s wild. It’s wonderful.
Life has been wild. Illness, sleep deprivation, more illness, more sleep deprivation…you get the picture. I realized today that from when the kiddos and I awakened at 4:00 a.m. until they were both asleep at 8:00 p.m., there were two minutes in those sixteen hours that I was alone. It was a Monday, that’s for sure.
I’m starting a new routine: Murphy’s Monday Music. Once in awhile, on a Monday I will post a song that has meaning to me at this point in time. I’ve got this beauty to share with you today:
I hope you like it.
According to Ms.Manori, women who blog strictly about motherhood are “[depicting themselves] as a crazy mother who is obsessed with canning baby food or the latest gizmo for their child’s nursery. Also, they probably don’t think that others see them as living in a bubble with no other interests than raising their bubble children.”
News flash Ms.Manori: We don’t care what you or anyone else thinks. We are confident enough in our very conscious decisions to raise our children and discuss raising our children in whatever ways we like.
It appears to me that Ms.Manori typed up her anti-mommy-blogger post just to get some hits on her own blog. Actually, I’m not sure why she calls herself a feminist, because she’s telling a huge group of other women that they are doing it all wrong. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a feminist as “an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women.” Ms.Manori is not advocating or supporting anyone in this post. (See Momastery & Parenting, Illustrated With Crappy Pictures for some examples of high quality mommy bloggers.)
She also demeans men by saying “I cringe at the thought that a man will read these blogs, in turn reinforcing antiquated ideas of women in the home.” I’m not sure what kind of men she hangs out with, but the men in my life value, respect and admire me for putting my career on the back burner for a few years to raise up two confident, kind, and giving members of society. My posts about the ins and outs of my crazy days at home with two little ones make the men in my life laugh and smile.
Now that I’ve gotten all of this off my chest, perhaps I will go and can some organic baby food. Once I’m done that I will sit and google “gizmos” for my child’s nursery. On second thought, I’ll just go to sleep. That’s the only thing I obsess about these days.
I had a birthday this month and suddenly realized I’m in my mid-thirties. I’m not sure why I just noticed.
Perhaps because I have two very, very busy children and I’ve slept through the night only a handful of times in five years.
Maybe because I was selling a house in one province and moving to another (during a blizzard) while six months pregnant, with no job lined up for my husband and no new place to live. Kind of busy.
It hit me when I was getting my hair cut and my hairdresser’s face was smack-dab above mine in the mirror, under the flourescent lights. I was fascinated by the smoothness of her skin. There were no dark circles under her eyes and no lines on her forehead. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have issues with aging (I’m ONLY 36, after all) but I was taken aback when it dawned on me that we were different.
I’m not that girl in her twenties anymore. That’s fine by me. Not that young, but not very old; standing outside the gateway to the entryway to the hallway of middle age.
Because I’m into lists lately, here are a few reasons why I think being 36 is better than being 26:
- I go to bed without washing my face and don’t wake up with skin like a hormonal teenager.
- Two words: Granny panties. Just kidding. Maybe when I’m 46.
- If I’m too tired to smile the little lines around my eyes do it for me. I’m finally trying out all the sample tubes of eye cream and concealer that have been collecting under my bathroom sink for ten years.
- I don’t care that my fashion sense is pathetic. Why read Glamour magazine when I can sleep? If my daughter can wear pink and red together so can I.
- My hair is thicker and fuller than ever. Never mind that the fullness is due to handfuls of it falling out after my daughter was born; the regrowth is wiry and white (!), but there’s a heck of a lot of it.
- I listen to my younger friends’ tales of dating woe as I curl up in my moccasins with a good book, my children sleeping peacefully upstairs and husband tap-tapping on his computer in the family room.
- No excuses are needed to go to bed at 9:30 on a Friday night. Or 8:00 on a weeknight.
- I can act all mom-ish when I need to and
yell atadmonish the mean kid in the park but still be crazy and set up our camping tent in the playroom and roast marshmallows in the fireplace.
- That random chin hair that appeared when I was 26? Now it’s white and barely visible if I forget to tweeze it. 😉
What do you think? Do you like your thirties (or forties…or eighties) better than your twenties? Why?
NOTE: When asking my hilarious group of online, cross-Canada momma friends for input on this post, many of them cited bedroom activities as prime reasons of why 36 is better than 26. Since this blog is PG-rated (my 88 year-old grandma is a follower!) I will have to leave those suggestions up to your imagination. Thanks Jaclyn, Joanna, Erica, Marianne & Isabelle.
If you think I’m even a little bit funny, check out this Top 25 list at Circle of Moms. Click the link above, scroll down to Murphy Must Have Had Kids and vote each day until February 13th.