Thursday, 20 December 2012

No matter what your full-time job're a great Mom

Not long ago, I shared a picture on Facebook that I found amusing. The picture features two women having coffee and one says “I hear you. Raising kids and running a house keeps me busy too. I also have this little gig on the side called a full-time job."

A few days later, I got a message from a friend who is a stay-at-home mom. She has a great sense of humour and is definitely not the kind of person who is sensitive or easily offended. But in her message, she very eloquently told me that she was bothered by the image because the joke draws a line in the sand about something she felt moms need to stop fighting about. I guess that something is “who has it harder – moms who work outside of the home, or stay at home moms?”

I found her message very enlightening and realized that it was a pretty insensitive thing to post. I’m pretty new to this whole mom gig, so I didn’t realize that moms actually competed or fought about this question. The fact is that I actually think being a stay-at-home mom is way harder!

I hope my friend won’t mind my paraphrasing but what she said was that she thinks both ways are hard. Most of the time, it’s not really a choice but a reflection of the way things are in our lives. 

For example, where I live in Quebec, daycare is extremely affordable but salaries are generally lower. So it makes it difficult financially for one parent to stay home with their children. In other parts of Canada and in the US, daycare costs are exorbitant; so many mothers have to stay home with their children. Another friend of mine once told me that if she were to go back to work and send her children to daycare, she would essentially be working to pay for daycare. At that point, why bother sending kids to daycare when you can provide them the best possible care yourself?

Then there are those of who have worked for a long time to advance our careers before having kids. There are feelings of fear associated with staying home with pre-school aged children. How will five years (minimum) out of the workforce hold me back from advancing my career? Will I still be employable after that time? Will my networks dry up? Will people forget about me? I admit that I like the idea of being a stay at home mom and while the main reason I work is financial, I would hate to lose everything I have worked for in my career so far. There is still a lot I want to do, and I definitely fear putting my career on hold for more than a typical maternity leave.

Sometimes I feel like by working outside the home full-time, I’m missing out on spending time with my son. When I first returned to work from maternity leave, I found it so hard to focus on working. I was too used to focusing on being a mother 24/7 and had a hard time remembering that anything else is important. But that’s the kind of job mothering is – full time with very few breaks. After a few months, I grew accustomed to this new schedule and I must admit - I thoroughly enjoy dropping my son off in the morning and picking him up at the end of the day. Talking to adults for the rest of the day is infinitely easier!

Juggling motherhood, a home and a career is hard work. Trust me, and read any of my previous posts. It’s not easy. I am definitely struggling with it. But I can assure you that I think focusing on motherhood and a home full-time is just as hard, if not harder.

So why are we competing with each other? Why do women feel the need to fight and one-up each other all the time? When did the realm of motherhood become this way? As my friend pointed out, whether you stay home with your children or leave the home to work, we're alike in the feelings of guilt and doubt that we allow ourselves to feel. These are the modern day results of feminism making us feel like we have to do it all instead of it all being about choices opened up for us. I suspect that even if you have a full-time nanny, housekeeper and a part-time career, chances are if you are a woman you will find something to feel guilty about.

Ladies, we are all Supermoms, no matter how we do it. On that note, I will be sure to think twice before posting that kind of picture again!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Hurricane Mom

When I was much younger and just starting out in my career, I had a colleague that I would refer to secretly as “The Hurricane Mom.” She was a bright, intelligent, talented and hard-working woman but she had a full-time career, two young children and always seemed to be completely harried. As a young, unmarried, childless woman, I vowed never to let myself become a Hurricane Mom myself. I was so na├»ve.

More than ten years later, my life (and outlook) has changed significantly. I am now married with a young child, and I have an established career that makes me literally sleep with my BlackBerry. I love my life, but I understand now that it’s not easy. Stress can creep up on you from every angle and make your chest hurt in the middle of the night if you let it.

I’m usually awake before 6 am every day and before leaving the house at 8 am, have to get myself and my son ready, prep breakfast for all of us, send my husband off with his coffee and newspaper and yes, cook tonight’s dinner. If I’m lucky, I can get a chance to empty the dishwasher so the evening’s cleanup is not so painful. While all that is going on, I have one eye trained on the BlackBerry to see if the blinking red light is signalling anything urgent.

Does this routine sound familiar to you? I’m sure it does.

But wait – not only is managing the day-to-day stuff challenging enough on its own. Then there’s the extra stuff that I feel like I need to do to ensure that I am keeping up with super-mom status… if I ever get to it, which is rare. For example, making the annual calendar of photos of my son to add to this year’s Christmas gifts. Preparing little Christmas gifts for my son’s daycare friends. Baking…okay, maybe baking is a stretch. I blame Martha Stewart and Pinterest for making me feel like I need to go above and beyond making sure my family is properly fed and clothed.

You might be asking yourself – where is your husband in all of this? Surely you’re not alone in managing everything. Fair question. I am not alone, it’s true. My husband is right beside me, helping with meals, cleanup, bedtime, etc… but when it comes to Martha Stewart ambitions, he looks at me like I’m crazy and implores me to take a break.

So what’s my point in all this ranting? My point is that lately, I’m starting to realize that it’s all too much. This constant pressure to go, go, go is going straight to the place inside my head that makes me crazy. And tired. And anxious. I’m teetering on the verge of becoming Hurricane Mom. And I only have one kid! How do people with more manage it?

In doing some talking with people much smarter than I, the solution it seems lies in making more time for myself. Trying to do things every day that relax me. That doesn’t mean passing out, glassy-eyed, in front of the television at 9 pm. It means do some yoga, go for a run, get a massage, read a book, meditate, chill out.

The first thing I do when I’m told to take more time for myself is give an internal snort. Really?! More time? Where am I supposed to find said time? But the reality is that I can’t take care of others properly if I don’t take care of myself. I know this much is true.

Moms, we cannot let stress make us sick. I know that I’m not alone in this. If my friends’ Facebook posts and Tweets are any indication of how we’re feeling inside, we need to take a break. I don’t want to burn out and be useless. Worse, I don’t want to die of a heart attack before I turn 40.

So I’m asking you – how do you fight stress? What do you do that is just for you? Does it work? Make a cup of coffee, put your feet up and let’s discuss.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Attack of the serial hugger

Toddlers are a funny lot. It’s rather amazing how early on in a person’s life their personalities begin to show up in the behaviour. Shy, introverted, outgoing… it’s not too early to see what kind of adult they might become. In my son’s case, one of his very obvious personality traits is his extremely sociable nature. 

At just 21 months, he is Mr. Outgoing. He loves other children, likes to play with just about anyone and is not shy to be affectionate with other kids. These are all things I love about him. His outgoing and independent nature made his integration into daycare two months ago an absolute breeze. 

There’s one small problem, though. Sometimes I think my son will become one of those people that hang out in public places giving away free hugs. While I mostly find this to be adorable, sometimes his peers in his daycare class are not so keen on his hugs. At least not in the early days just two short months ago. You see, one thing my kid also has on others his age is a definite size advantage. He’s a big boy for his age and pretty strong too. So when the other kids would see him coming, arms outstretched, they would just shriek and start crying as he would tackle them to the ground and plant big wet kisses on them. 

How do you explain to an 18 month old child who barely speaks that your kid just wants to hug them? It probably doesn’t seem that way when a gentle giant comes along and starts crushing you and slobbering on you. Are you supposed to discipline your child for trying to be nice? All I could say was “Sweetie, not too rough, gentle, gentle, GENTLE!!!!! Oooooh, sorry buddy, he didn’t mean to hurt you!” as the kid would fall to the floor. That was usually my cue to hightail it out of the daycare and off to work. 

The good news is that my little man quickly learned (after a few nasty bites in retaliation from his victims) to stop hugging people smaller than him and found a new group of friends on the daycare playground. At 4 years old, the older kids are more willing to oblige in hugs and seem to even enjoy hugging him. It’s pretty cute seeing them greet him in the morning with a big hug. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t occasionally (and affectionately) take down one of his own classmates, but now they usually freak out a little less than they used to. 

What can I say? He’s a serial hugger….

Friday, 9 November 2012

How a toddler can derail your social life

Here’s a riddle for you: You have three birthdays to celebrate on the same day. Your father is turning 65, your twin sisters-in-law are celebrating their 30th birthday and your husband’s best friend, whom you don’t see very often, is also having a birthday. All three have invited you to partake in birthday celebrations on the same Saturday night. Which do you attend?

Answer: None, because your 20-month-old son brings home a nasty case of the stomach flu from daycare which literally brings the entire family to its knees, praying to the porcelain gods for mercy from 24 hours of hell.

That, in a nutshell, was a recent weekend. I have never been so sick in my life. I can say that with complete certainty. How are two sick parents supposed to care for a sick child when they can hardly care for themselves? And we only have one kid! Thank goodness my mother-in-law was brave enough to come over and watch him while we were ailing. As I lay in my bed in a semi-conscious and very dehydrated state, I kept praying that her immune system was tougher than ours (it was).

I love my son’s daycare, I really do. It’s a wonderful place and he loves it there. He loves his educator and his friends. It’s clean and a great learning environment and they take good care of the children. But no daycare is immune to the viruses transmitted by pre-schoolers. And apparently, neither am I. I have hardly been healthy for the past 2 months. And I think I might have only slept through the night twice in that amount of time. The only reason for that is because I was physically away from my son for those nights.

I know this vicious cycle has just begun. I’m told by many people that I am looking at a minimum of six months before we can start to regain our health. So we’re in the thick of it. I have just entered the dark tunnel and am nowhere near the light at the end of it.

I am seriously thinking about fleeing the country for a warm and sunny beach where I can park myself on a lounge chair and sleep for a week. Who’s with me?

Monday, 22 October 2012

In praise of good daddies

Since this is a “mommy blog” and I happen to have a husband who likes to keep our personal lives private (oops, sorry for violating that one), I usually reserve this space for chronicling my own journey through motherhood. But there is nothing that I go through as a mother that I go through alone. I am fortunate to be supported by my amazing husband who is truly an equal partner in parenting. So I feel like every now and then, he needs a public shout-out to thank and recognize him for being a great husband and father.

I’ve come to realize that every now and then, something happens that changes the way you do things as a parent. Whether it is intentional or not, from one day to the next, things are just different. For example, your child discovers something new and becomes hooked on that so you start using it as a bargaining tool (ahem, Elmo). Or one day they decide that brushing their teeth is no longer something they want to do. Or maybe they want to brush their teeth all the time. Or maybe it’s the point where you have to start smothering all their food in cheese. Regardless, there are these bizarre pivotal parenting moments, sometimes big, sometimes small. But usually they become a game changer in your daily routine.

Last week, I went away on my first overnight business trip since returning to work from maternity leave. It was the first time my husband was responsible and alone in caring for our son for more than 8 hours. He had to do the daycare pickup and drop-off, bath, dinner, bedtime, breakfast, etc… by himself. Of course I had full confidence in his abilities and no issues leaving him alone. As expected, everything went very well and they both had a great two days together.

What I didn’t expect was that when I returned from this trip, I would no longer be capable of putting my son to bed.

As my loyal readers know, bedtime has never been easy with my son. We’ve always followed the whole bath-books-lullabies routine, but I’ve always had to rock him to sleep, usually to the point of being comatose, before I could put him down in his crib. Anything else usually resulted in whining and tears while he reached out to me with puppy dog eyes. Lately, my husband has been challenging the routine because my son is simply getting too big to be rocked to sleep, and it’s time for him to learn to fall asleep on his own. I know plenty of people are probably rolling their eyes, thinking that it should have been that way from the start, but trust me when I tell you I’ve tried it all and had resigned myself to the fact that I would be rocking him to sleep forever.

Suddenly, however, Daddy seems to have the magic touch. He simply reads my son his stories, turns out the lights, puts him down in the crib and walks away. And there is never a peep of protest from my son, who promptly conks out in his bed.

When I learned this was finally working, I was so excited. Surely if my husband could do this, so could I!


I tried. I really did. But when I came back from that business trip, I could not for the life of me, successfully put my kid to bed. Even when I resorted back to trying to rock him to sleep, it didn’t work. As tired as he was, he would just fight sleep, bounce back up and try to manipulate me into keeping him awake. One night, after an hour of attempting to get him to sleep, I left him in tears in his crib, fighting my own tears of frustration. My husband heard the tears and went to see my son. Within less than a minute, he re-emerged from the bedroom where my son was now quietly putting himself to sleep. WTF!?

At that moment, we agreed that for now, bedtime would no longer be a shared responsibility. This is now my husband’s territory. But I live in fear and frustration of the next time that he won’t be home and I’ll have to do this myself. How long will it take and at what cost? Oh well, time will tell. Anyway, in the meantime, I will simply try to enjoy having this responsibility removed from my plate and let my husband enjoy his newfound power.

Even before becoming the bedtime baby whisperer, my husband has always been a great dad. I have to give credit where credit is due. He loves spending time with our son and they have a blast playing together, something I think will only get better as he gets older and they can do even more together. He’s the one who managed to get our son to enjoy bath time. He always works hard to make sure we’re eating delicious food that even a toddler will love. And as a husband, he is supportive of me as a mother and tries to always give me the time that I need for myself.

In other words, he’s a rock. And a star. A rock star dad. So for once, I’m taking a time out to give a shout out to a man who is both a wonderful husband and father. Thank you. Love you.

(He better read this.)

Friday, 12 October 2012

The Mommy Effect

As my son gets older, he is starting to be much more independent and self-sufficient. Being in daycare has had some incredibly positive effects on his behaviour. His interactions with other children are better; he behaves himself pretty well at home or in others’ homes, and napping has improved exponentially. I mean, he literally puts himself to bed now at naptime and will sleep anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours. That is a far cry from the old 30 minute naps of pre-daycare days.

Well, maybe that’s the case when he’s at daycare or being babysat by others, or even when he’s alone with his father. But when it comes to Mommy, either I don’t know what I’m doing, or the general rules don’t apply. Because with me, he wants to be rocked to sleep, clinging to me as though his life depended on it. And God help me if I try to put him in his crib before he is ready (i.e. completely passed out).

As my loyal readers know, I’ve struggled with sleep training for the past 20 months. And I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem is not my son. I am the problem. I am his mother and he wants to be with me. Period. Remove me from the equation and he can easily fall asleep on his own, take nice long naps and yes, sleep through the night past 5 am.

This seems to me to be just another case of not being able to win when you’re a mom. Your kids may love you but that’s not a reason for them to behave themselves like the little angels they are with other people. In fact, it seems like the very reason not to.

Not one person who has watched my son when I’m not there has ever told me a negative thing about him. And I don’t think it’s because they’re trying to be nice. He’s truly a good kid who behaves well with other people. Yes, they have commented that he is energetic and enthusiastic and very, very strong and sometimes those factors combined can be a recipe for mild chaos. But it’s never cause for more than a chuckle. And to go back to my sleep point, it’s simply not an issue for anyone but me. Well I try not to make it an issue anymore for myself but it never ceases to amaze me when he acts completely differently with others than with me. But I guess when you’re a mom, all bets are off.

Oh well, I guess I’ll just keep enjoying the hugs and kisses that come more easily to me than to others. Because that’s one thing I get to enjoy way more than anyone else! I guess it’s just the Mommy Effect.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012


My son has officially been in daycare for a month now. Daycare has brought many wonderful things into our lives – new friends, a great setting for fun and education, an explosion of new vocabulary words and a newfound sense of independence for my son. It has also brought the inevitable plethora of germs and viruses to our home.

I debated whether I should even bother writing about this subject, because it’s so over-discussed. Everyone knows that once your child starts spending long hours in close proximity with many other children, they’ll be sharing more than crayons and toys. I have witnessed many colleagues over the years go through the first six months to a year of non-stop illnesses. I fully knew what to expect. Do we really need to talk about this more? Then I figured, why not – it’s always good for an interesting debate and most people can relate.

Last week, I made a Facebook comment about how the daycare virus spree has begun in earnest and one of my friends and readers replied wondering why parents send their kids in to daycare sick. While I agree that it’s not exactly a best practice, deep down I kind of feel like this phase is a rite of passage for my child’s immune system. Bring it on, I say. Let him get sick! The more germs he is exposed to now, the stronger his immune system will be later.

Obviously I’m not advocating for proactively bringing my child in sick when he should be staying home to rest, but the reality is that he will unavoidably pick up whatever is going around. Not to mention, the average virus lasts 7 – 10 days. Neither my husband nor I can afford to miss that many days away from work at a time, especially if he’s going to be going through the illness cycle repeatedly.

There are definitely instances where I don’t think he should go in, and I have already kept him home at least twice. He had an eye infection, for example. We kept him home but when it looked better the next day, he went back. Unfortunately, it worsened before it improved, and I had to go pick him up and do what I call the “daycare walk of shame.” You know, when they call you to pick up your sick child and you feel like the worst parent in the world for sending him in when you should have realized he wasn’t well enough to be there in the first place. Was it my proudest moment? No, I will admit it wasn’t.

Then there are the odd comments like “He was coughing a lot today….” As a parent, do I take that as a hint that he should be kept home, or do I say with a nervous laugh (as I did) “it’s just the tail end of his cold from last week…” then run along with my proverbial tail between my legs.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to parade my kid around town as a walking germ haven in order to bolster his immune system. Believe me, we are fervent hand washers in my house. The second I bring him home at the end of the day, I strip him down and bathe him. He doesn’t wear the same clothes twice without washing them in between. He’s fully vaccinated. I’m doing my best here.

But let’s be realistic, it’s all part of life for young children to share germs the way they share cookies. Yes, I will do my best to exercise good parental judgement so as not to spread illnesses. But if the next six months to a year are not our healthiest as a family, I just have to suck it up and pop some extra Vitamin C. And pray to the daycare gods that there’s no outbreak of gastroenteritis this year!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Tantrum time

Before becoming a parent, I always heard about the “Terrible Twos”… you know, that dreaded milestone in every child’s life when they start asserting themselves, testing their boundaries, having tantrums and saying no to everything. Here’s something no one tells you: this phase is not necessarily something that starts at age two. Instead it should be called “Terrible Toddlerhood”.

My son, now 19 months old, is definitely starting up in this phase. Thing is, he’s always been a tester of boundaries and he’s had a little temper on him since, well, birth. When he gets mad, it’s hard not to laugh. He clenches his firsts and yells in a manner very similar to the Incredible Hulk. Instead of turning green, he goes beet red. Then if he’s really pissed off, he’ll bang his head against the wall or the floor, or whichever is the closest surface to him. I don’t love the head banging part, but he usually stops that pretty quickly when he realizes that it hurts.

Recently, he began shaking his head to say “no.” Any question asked of him would be met with a firm shake of the head. I’m never entirely sure if he really wants to say no, or he just likes shaking his head in response to a question because he usually has a big smile on his face when he does it. Sometimes he’ll give me the shake, then stop and nod. As in “Do you want some yogurt?” Shake of the head, pause, well – okay, I’ll have some yogurt.

Then last week he began to say the dreaded word “no.” I don’t remember if it was in response to anything in particular, or if he just came out with it, but he said “Mama, no no!” to me and my heart dropped. Now I know that the Terrible “Twos” have begun.

Fortunately the arrival of this new vocabulary word coincided with a regular check-up at his paediatrician’s office. Without me even asking, she had a pretty nice talk with me about how to handle the tantrums. She reminded me that the best thing to do is to pick my battles and if they’re not related to something serious, ignore the tantrums until he calms down. Her advice was that if I respond to the tantrums and show my frustration or give in to unreasonable demands, he will only learn to use the tantrums to get his way. If I don’t respond, he will give up more quickly and move on to something else. I thought it was pretty good advice and I’m trying my hardest to follow it. Bad behaviour, on the other hand, is something to be dealt with and she offered up some advice on that as well. But I think we’ll tackle that in another post because there’s plenty to be said on that subject!

Since that time, it’s been a non-stop chorus of “no” or “oh no!” or “no no.” But he says it so cheerfully it makes me laugh most of the time. I imagine it’s only a matter of time before the word finds itself into his tantrums, but until then I think I’ll try to focus on teaching him how to nod and say the word “yes.”

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The first day

First days are always nerve-wracking aren’t they? New beginnings can bring about excitement but also anxiety, no matter where they are and how old you are. First day of school, first day on a new job, even first dates! My son had one of his first first days last week. The first day of daycare!

Fortunately, at 18 months, he’s too young to have experienced the anticipatory feelings that come with new beginnings. For him, it was just a new destination. Instead of going to Grandmaman’s house, it was daycare. It was a fun new environment with lots of kids, toys, games and activities.

But for me? I was the nervous one in the weeks leading up to his first day. Had I thought about everything he would need? Change of clothes? Check. Labels on all of his belongings? Check. A familiar blanket and pacifier for naps? Check. Diapers, cream, tempra? Check. With my logistics all straightened out, I only had my emotions to worry about.

Fortunately, I handled it much the way I would handle first days of school when I was a kid. A little nervous, but mostly excited and happy. The first day back at work after maternity leave was much harder on me emotionally. After six months back at work, the transition from “granny nanny” to daycare was easier than I thought. I guess I was more nervous about how my son would handle himself. The good news is that I had no reason to be nervous.

When we arrived, he immediately hit the ground running and went straight for the interesting new toys. As other little ones wailed around us, looking for their moms or something familiar, my little guy was checking things out and having fun. I knew then that he would be just fine.

I didn’t hear from the daycare educator in charge of his class during the day, which I took as a good sign. No news is good news, right? When I went to pick him up at the end of the day, he saw me through the window as I entered the building and start wailing immediately. But his teacher said he had an amazingly good day and had been great playing, napping and eating. Aside from a collective group meltdown mid-morning when all the kids were tired and hungry, he didn’t cry and only needed his pacifier for his nap.

The next few days were pretty good as well. One key learning though is that toddlers are creatures of habit and like most adults they need quality sleep in order to function well. On day 3, he was tired after a less optimal night of sleep; it was his usual educator’s day off; and there were some kids in his class that he didn’t know. Suddenly, he wasn’t so comfortable and dropping him off was not as easy as it had been the previous days. After a few attempts, I just had to walk away and choke back my own tears. On the bright side, my colleague who dropped her son off a few minutes later said that my son waved happily at hers when he saw him outside the window. So he’s already forming familiar friendships with his little buddies.

Overall, I’m happy so far. This has not been as hard on me or my son as I thought it would be and my work-life balance has improved significantly. Somehow I seem to have more time on my hands now and I spend less time preparing him for his days as I did when he was with his grandmother. And since he no longer spends full days at home, my house has stayed cleaner! The best part? He’s so tired when he comes home now that putting him to bed early is no problem. Woohoo! Let’s hope all these positive upsides keep up for the long term…

Friday, 31 August 2012

The Journey to DC… (daycare, that is)

It’s official. My son starts daycare next week! Hurray hurray! Not only is he going to daycare, it’s the amazing government subsidized daycare (Centre de la Petite Enfance for my Quebec friends) that is located onsite at my company. I am living the dream. The suburban corporate working mother dream, that is.

For six wonderful months, my amazing mother and my son’s beloved Grandmaman (or “Gaaaaa” as he calls her) has been babysitting my son while I am at work. I am so thankful that she has been able to do this. Not only did this avoid us having to send him to an expensive private daycare but it also built a wonderful bond between my son and his grandparents. She is an extraordinarily patient person who had to draw from reserves of strength and energy that she probably didn’t know existed in order to spend long days with a toddler. But she never once complained and told me often how much she enjoyed it and how much she loves him. Who could ask for anything more? I know that on the days when she had other appointments and I had to work from home to stay with him, I was ready to tear my hair out in frustration, so she is a better woman than I am.

When I got the call from the daycare a few months ago telling me they had a spot for my son in September, I was ready to throw a party to celebrate. In Quebec, there is an excellent program which subsidizes daycares to provide affordable childcare to parents. The problem is that government subsidized daycares are so popular that waiting lists are notoriously long and spots are highly coveted. I put my son on this waiting list when I first learned I was pregnant. They knew about my pregnancy before anyone else! When I wasn’t hearing from any of the dozen or so daycares on whose waiting lists we were registered, panic began to set in. I was starting to look for semi-private or home-based daycares for my son. Fortunately those spots are easier to come by, but I was still holding on to hope that he would get in to this particular daycare.

The day has almost arrived and I am so excited. I know it will be a challenging transition, but I think it will go well. By all accounts, my son is so ready to start interacting with other children and he’s desperately in need of new experiences and stimulation. When we visited the daycare last week, he was so excited it was hard to tear him away when it was time to go home! I’m sure there will be moments where the novelty will be at its peak and others where he will not want to be parted from mommy but when the routine becomes established, it will be good for everyone.

Wish me luck! Read all about it right here next week!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Travels with toddler

Ahhh vacation time… a concept that usually inspires enthusiasm, rest, relaxation and much happiness. Before having a child, my husband and I would almost always choose a beach destination where we would arrive, drop our luggage in an all-inclusive resort room and head to the beach. Where we would sleep. For seven days straight.

If ever there was a time in our lives when we could use seven days and seven nights of sleep, it’s now. But alas, the reason for our exhaustion is also the reason that it’s simply not an option for us to do that anymore. Not if we want to spend any quality time with our 18-month-old son.

So times have changed. This year, we headed to the ultimate land of family vacations: Florida. We rented ourselves a condo, a car and bought tickets for a day at Sea World. Yup, times have changed.

All things considered, it was a wonderful vacation. We spent two weeks on the beach, disconnected from home and had lots of fun as a family. Some wonderful things happened, some funny memories were made and we will not forget this first of our family vacations together.

On the wonderful side, my son FINALLY started saying “Mama”. It took him some time, but once he began, it was so lovely to hear him say it over and over again. He says it so sweetly that I feel like he’s saying he loves me every time. It has not yet reached the nagging, whining stage, so please let me savour it as long as possible!

We went to the beach almost every day. My son really enjoyed the warm, shallow water, the soft white sand and being able to run free along the water’s edge. I think we may have only missed three days of beach the whole vacation – once when we went shopping in Orlando, once when we went to Sea World and on the last day, when it rained and my husband had a raging fever and stayed in bed all day. That last day was oh so fun. Thank goodness for the most amazing mall (Westfield Countryside Mall in Clearwater) about 15 minutes from the condo, which had an indoor playground designed for toddlers and a cute train that takes parents and kids on a ride through the mall. Even the family bathroom was fun, with tons of toys and things to play with.

Renting a condo was really perfect for our needs. We were able to cook our own meals, pack our lunches for the beach, wash our towels and bathing suits in a washing machine, we had wifi and a great selection of channels on TV and the condo complex had its own pool. But let’s face it, a vacation that involves cooking, laundry and cleaning is not the most relaxing of vacations, is it?

My son was also not in his familiar comfortable bedtime routine or bedroom, so getting him to sleep was a nightly challenge. No, let me rephrase that. It was a nightly epic battle. In those times, I felt like a horrible, mean, surly mother because my frustration would escalate to points of anger and yelling that really didn’t help the situation. There were many nights when my son finally fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion at 11 pm, far from him normal 7:30 pm bedtime. And it didn’t stop him from waking up at 7 am the next day.

Let’s not even talk about airplane travel with a toddler… Let’s just say that it involves a serious amount of toys, books and abuse of any available videos. Thank goodness for my iPad and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse videos I had downloaded before we left. I know you’re not supposed to let kids under 2 watch TV, but well, some situations call for it. Okay, many situations, but that’s a debate for another day.

As far as vacations go, it was definitely different from our last vacation. It was the start of something new for us. As with all new parenting experiences, we learned a lot and maybe the next time, with appropriately managed expectations and newly-learned coping mechanisms, we won’t sweat it! Or maybe we will. Who knows… All I know is that I now understand the expression “I need a vacation from my vacation!”

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

And we're back!

Source: via Baby on Pinterest

Oops, has it really been a month since I last posted? Dear readers, I’m sorry, I know I broke the number one rule of blogging, which is not to let much time go by between posts!

Well, it’s been a crazy month which might explain my absence from cyberspace. It all started when my mother (and primary childcare provider) went to Greece for three weeks for a well-deserved vacation. After she took such good care of my son for so long, how could I begrudge her a vacation? So in that time, I was using and abusing other relatives for baby-sitting services and working from home. Needless to say, although I had much to blog about, I had no time to do so!

Then we took our first-ever family vacation since my son was born. We went to Florida for two weeks, so that brought on a whole other level of frenzied preparation, and then while on vacation, a whole new set of life learnings. 

So I spent three solid weeks with my son, at home and on vacation. It was exhausting.  Now I need a vacation for myself. I’ve never been happier to go back to work, where there is quiet and a constant supply of hot coffee!

I promise to provide a post-vacation report on travelling with an 18-month-old very soon! In the meantime, I have to finish unpacking, catch up on my work e-mails and (hurray!) start getting my son ready for his big daycare debut in less than two weeks.

A woman's work is never done...

Friday, 20 July 2012

A quiet moment

A few years ago, I used to travel for business fairly regularly. These days I don’t have the opportunity to travel as often, which is appealing to me as the mother of a 17-month-old child. Life is less complicated when you don’t have to leave the house at 7 am to catch an early flight from Montreal to Toronto. Today, I took my first business trip since returning to work from maternity leave. Until last night, I wasn’t too stressed about it. After all, it’s just a day trip for some meetings in Toronto, something I’ve done millions of times.
My own preparation for the trip involved absolutely nothing.  In fact, less than for a normal day at work, since I had no lunch or gym bag to pack, no errands to plan for on the way into the office. I simply needed my purse, my laptop and my boarding pass. At the last minute I threw a 3 month old issue of Today’s Parent into my bag in case I found myself with time to read on the plane.
But suddenly last night I remembered my son. Oops. My trip meant that my mother would have to come over early to babysit, I couldn’t prepare his lunch and snacks for the day in the morning like I normally do – and since I would be arriving home later than usual, what the heck was the plan for tonight’s dinner? So I scrambled to get it all done last night after coming home from doing groceries after dinner while my husband looked after putting my son to bed.  
But I’m not complaining. It’s par for the course. Business travel when you have kids requires a little extra planning. No biggie.
What I found disorienting today was the fact that I had forgotten how much time you spend waiting around when you travel. As the mom of a toddler, I just don’t spend time waiting around anymore. I have to-do lists and I am always trying to accomplish something, whether I’m working or I’m home. Idle time is normally planned and scheduled. In other words, if I sit down to watch TV for two hours at night, it’s on purpose.
Even with my blackberry and laptop on me and meetings planned for the day, I still underestimated how much time I found myself with at the airport and on the plane. The kind of time that in the past did not seem to go by as slowly. These days, I am amazed at what I can accomplish in an hour. I can zip through items on a to-do list and multitask like nobody’s business. So once I had accomplished whatever work I could possibly complete, read an entire magazine while chatting about vacation plans with the colleague who was travelling with me, I thought, what the heck am I going to do on the flight home? Especially when I found myself seated next to an empty seat (yes!).
I briefly contemplated taking a nap, which would have been so gratifying. But I’m not a pretty sleeper. I am the person whose head rolls around the seat, mouth open with a trail of drool running down my chin. Since I would like my professional integrity to remain intact for a little longer, I opted against the nap.
There was no in-flight entertainment, since I was travelling aboard a small regional jet on a short flight.
I suppose I could have sat alone with my thoughts for the hour and stared peacefully out the window at the view below, but that would have inevitably led to the abovementioned nap, so that wouldn’t have been a good idea.
So I’m blogging. And as I write this I’m truly amazed by the speed at which I now operate. How many things do I cram into my time now? How hard is it for me to disconnect, really? My mind is constantly racing, thinking, planning, plotting, working. Thinking about projects, assignments, the office, my job, my son, my home, my husband, our plans, our upcoming vacation, what we have do at home, what’s for dinner, what’s planned for the weekend,  finding time to go to the gym, what I’m going to write about in my blog, when I’m going to find the time to write my blog, what’s happening on Facebook, when will I read this month’s book club selection, and oh, I have to remember to fill in my son’s forms for daycare before August 6th.
Whew. I’m exhausted. Maybe I will take that nap after all.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Talk that talk

The words are starting to emerge from my son’s mouth, usually garbled through the ever-present pacifier that he is refusing to relinquish (but that’s a post for another day!) I’m finally starting to feel like my son and I are communicating, sort of. There’s still a lot of whining and pointing when he wants something specific, but now he’s starting to use what sound like real words to communicate.

Like many other children, his first word was Dada (or Daddy, which he uses a lot as well). Naturally, Dada was thrilled with that one, but from what I hear it’s pretty common, because it’s one of the easiest things to say. No offense, Dada!

Next up was “l’eau,” the French word for water. My little guy is growing up trilingual, and spends most of his time with his Grandmaman who speaks to him exclusively in French, so it’s natural that many of the first words are coming out in French. Speaking of his grandmother, he’s now starting to occasionally pop out the odd “G’mama” when he sees her or when our car pulls up to her house.

Source: via Aubrey on Pinterest

He loves The Cat in the Hat and the book “Go Dog Go” where he learned one of his new favourite expressions “Go go go!” And when the Euro soccer tournament was in full swing, he learned to associate kicking a soccer ball with the word “Goal.” In keeping with the evolution of using words that start with a “go” sound, he’s now saying “good,” especially when he likes a particular food.

Most of these words are pretty simple, but he does have a few more sophisticated words in his lexicon as well. Whenever a plane flies overhead (and it happens often since we live somewhat close to the airport) he points to the sky and makes a sound that could be interpreted as “avion” (the French word for airplane). Finally, once or twice he has said the word “dangereux” (French for dangerous) which his grandmother says to him fairly often when he comes close to touching or doing something he shouldn’t. That word required some creative interpretation to understand, but we believe that he was trying to say it.

What amazes me more than the words though is that he understands almost everything we say to him now, and he responds to our questions and instructions like “give me your hand” or “show me your nose”. He also has sounds that he makes for certain things, like “broom broom” for cars, trucks, and basically anything motorized or on wheels. He barks in a high-pitched voice when he sees dogs, and makes a similar sound for birds.

With the newfound ability to communicate comes a newfound level of frustration, though, and for all the fun he’s having learning words, he gets upset sometimes when we don’t understand him. I guess it’s only normal that he has so much he wants to say but his language doesn’t always correspond with ours. Especially when it’s a mash-up of three languages. I’m never sure if the word he’s trying to say is English, French or Greek!

Lately, we have been watching videos that we took over the past year and it is absolutely astounding to see what a difference a year makes. A year ago, my son was a chubby baby who couldn’t even sit up on his own. Today he’s a toddler who runs (a lot), has an almost full set of teeth and babbles incessantly. He loves other children and is always trying to hug them (usually taking them down in the process but that is also a post for another day). He’s truly becoming his own person every day.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

I survived our first night apart

It's 8:30 am on a Sunday morning and I'm sitting in my eerily quiet kitchen drinking a still-hot cup of coffee. I'm acutely aware of the emptiness of the high chair next to me and the lack of mushed bananas on the floor. I can actually hear the sound of my husband sleeping down the hall.

Why so quiet, you ask? My son had his first sleepover at grandma's last night while we went to a wedding. And I still haven't called to check in. I want to savor this moment just a little longer. And not seem like an overbearing mother who can't be apart from her child. The latter is by far closer to the truth than the former.

I just know that my poor mom, bless her, had to wrench herself out of bed at 5:30 this morning (at the latest). And I slept blissfully and unawarely through it. But I must say that even thought I woke at 7:30 am after a late night and a few drinks I feel more rested than I have in 17 months. Which goes to show that 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep is more beneficial than 8 hours of broken sleep. Also taking Advil before bed really does prevent hangovers but I digress.

But I really miss that little guy and I especially missed our morning cuddling so I think it's time to wrap up this blog post, wake my hubby up and go get our little monster.

Have a great day friends!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

One little monkey getting on my nerves!

At almost 17 months, my son is officially driving me crazy. On one hand, he’s at that fun, amazing stage where he’s learning new things, slowly starting to talk, and performs non-verbal party tricks on command (“show me your belly” “where’s your nose?” “Cut the pickle! Tickle tickle!”) He’s a constant source of amusement and entertainment to those around him and is learning to work a room like a stand-up comedian on amateur night (you can see the spark in his eyes when people laugh at his antics “They’re responding! This works! I’ll do it again!”)

But he just. Never. Stops. This kid could teach the Energizer Bunny a thing or two about going and going and going and going. And he wants to touch EVERYTHING. Especially if it lights up, makes noise, or involves buttons and switches. Unfortunately he can tell the difference between real “grown-up” gadgets like (iPads, blackberries, cameras and stereos) and his many, many toys that do the exact same things without consequences (like long-distance phone calls, erased photos or electrocution).

The thing that really gets me is that while he has demonstrated on numerous occasions that he understands everything we tell him, he pretends not to understand when we tell him “no”. He actually finds it funny to hear us say no, and laughs while he repeats the offending action.

Are all kids like this at this age, or is mine particularly mischievous? This past weekend, he gave me that mischievous smile so many times I actually began to understand why people used to spank their children so often. Fortunately, I can’t bring myself to raise a hand to him.

This weekend, he had an encounter with a Pomeranian. For those of you who don’t know what that is, picture a tiny, fluffy, yappy dog. Smaller than a toddler and light enough to be lifted by its tail with one hand by my son. I know this because it happened. Twice.

Seriously?! Can I just get an effing break?!

The thing is, for all his antics and energy, my son is truly a sweetheart. He is ultra affectionate and very liberal with hugs and kisses. When he sees other children, he runs over and gives them hugs. He scares the bejeesus out of the kids he hugs, but he truly has good intentions. The thing is, he’s big and strong for his age, and sometimes he takes them down with his hugs, but he’s just so happy and excited that his enthusiasm gets the best of him.

I never thought I would have such an exuberant and ebullient yet exasperating child. I’m a pretty calm and patient person, or so my coworkers think, but this kid just tries my patience these days. Keeping up with him is a herculean task.

When I got to work this morning after a (very) long weekend, I was actually happy to be in the office where I could sit in relative quiet and not have to chase anyone or peel a child away from potential electrocution or pissed-off lap dogs. Up until this past weekend, I was really looking forward to my upcoming two-week vacation. Now I’m not so sure…

Somebody please reassure me!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Is this really all we talk about anymore?

My husband and I are pretty gaga over our 16-month old son. I think that’s pretty obvious to anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis. But we really try hard not to be those overbearing people who will talk about their children non-stop with others, especially at the office. We each have a few colleagues with children the same age as ours that we can secretly engage in toddler chat with, but aside from that we make a concerted effort not to be “those people”.

So when he calls me on his lunch break or while stuck in traffic on the way home, the first thing we start talking about is our son. “How was he today?” “My mom said he napped for an hour and a half this afternoon!” “He really needs a new pair of shoes; we should go pick them up tonight.” “He threw his food all over the floor today at lunch.”

Or better yet, when we’re really feeling mushy, it’s “remember how cute it was when he laughed this morning?” or “He’s so funny when he imitates trucks.”

Last week, as I was finishing some story about how our son had banged on the window and waved at some strangers walking down the street, my husband interrupted me and said “Is this really all we talk about anymore?” I paused, thought for a moment and replied “Yup.”

And it’s true; we really don’t talk about much of anything else anymore. Come to think of it, what did we talk about before he was born? I really don’t remember…

If I think about where we were and what we were talking about a year ago at this time, I very clearly remember being obsessed with my lack of sleep. Since I was on maternity leave and my son was still young and relatively quiet (i.e. not the rambunctious toddler he is today), I would spend hours reading books and blogs about baby sleep habits, baby development milestones, learning about introducing solids, taking pictures of everything and scrutinizing his diapers.

Today, being the busy working mom that I am, when I’m at work, I’m thinking about work. When I’m not at work, I’m mentally running through to-do lists, schedules, and meal plans. But who wants to talk about any of that stuff? It stresses me enough just thinking about it, I don’t need to verbalize it all too.

Plus my son is at a really fun age, where he does funny things, is trying out new skills and slowly working on learning to speak. He can be really frustrating sometimes, but he’s also really amazing to observe as he becomes a little person. He’s not a baby anymore and it’s amazing to watch the transition. Since most days, we’re not home all day with him to enjoy it all it stands to reason that we want to talk about it, right?

Or at least that’s how I justify it to myself…

But just the same, we now try to inject our conversations with at least some non-work-related, non-child-related items. Sometimes it’s just about the weather, but at least we can tell ourselves that we’re not “those people” at home either.

PS – I fully enjoy being one of those people, by the way, so if you’re not annoyed by it, let me know and I’ll keep talking!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Learning to stop and smell the roses…

Summer is here! Hurray! Now that my son is 16 months old, I feel like we can really enjoy being outdoors and enjoying all the fun things that being a parent in the summer has to offer. Last year, he was still young – we couldn’t really enjoy much time outdoors with him without worrying about him being too hot, too exposed to the harsh sun, afraid of bug bites, etc, etc, etc… Now my little toddler is obsessed with being outside, running around our backyard, playing at the park, splashing around his kiddie pool and his all-time favourite, riding his tricycle (well, being pushed around on his tricycle).

All this activity has got me thinking about how we used to spend our summers, BC (before child). I love the grown-up activities associated with summertime like drinking cocktails on a shady terrace, vacationing in more exotic destinations, attending all the amazing summer festivals in Montreal, etc… Problem is… I wasn’t really doing those things! I had grown bored of the usual summer activities. I used to see parents walking to the pool or the park with their kids and I’ll admit that I was kind of jealous of them.

This summer, we feel less pressure to have the kind of summer we used to have – being out all the time, trying to make sure we enjoyed ourselves, trying to take advantage of this short but sweet time of year. Now we’re just doing it, without the pressure – without trying so hard. We’re doing it by sitting in our backyard in our lounge chairs, splashing our feet in our son’s baby pool, watching him run in circles and play with his toys. Taking evening walks in the neighbourhood, going for ice cream, planting flowers in our yard.

Now on Monday mornings, when people ask me how my weekend was, I can honestly say with a smile “It was great.” And when they ask what I did, I can say “Absolutely nothing interesting,” with an even bigger smile. Because this year I have finally learned to stop and smell the roses. And I love the way these roses smell.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Mama's Boy

I don’t want to brag but my 15-month-old son is pretty darned smart. Every day, he astounds me with some new knowledge, skill or connection that he has mastered. He can give kisses on command, which he does in a totally cute way with a loud “aaaahhh-wahhhh!” noise to accompany the kiss. He will shake his finger every time the doctor in the book says “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!” He emulates us cooking by stirring the imaginary contents of his beloved pots and pans with a wooden spoon. He walks and even runs like a champ. Heck, he can (sometimes) dribble a soccer ball. The list goes on and on, but there’s one thing that I must admit to finding rather frustrating. At 15 months, he still does not say “Mama.”

After many hours of painful labour, scores of sleepless nights and two solid months of colic at the beginning of his life, I must say that I thought he’d be slightly more demonstrative of his appreciation for my role as his mother. I mean, really, as fun as his “Dada” is (yes, he says Dada) it’s not like he was breastfeeding his son for almost a year! You would think “Mama” would be the first word he would use.

To be fair, while he is an extensive babbler who can have long, rambling incoherent conversations with himself, he doesn’t really speak at all yet. His only word is Dada, which he uses for pretty much everything. He communicates well through the use of pointing, exclaiming with little noises and of course, whining. But he hasn’t exactly mastered the art of the spoken word yet. I’m being extremely patient on this point, given the fact that he’s growing up with three languages (English, French and Greek) and that I’ve read that boys tend to master speech slightly later than girls. I know he understands everything because he can follow simple instructions. And every so often, he’ll bust out something that sounds an awful lot like a real word but then never says it again.

I’m sure that I can expect him to become a real little chatterbox any day now, and some might even argue that I should enjoy this pre-speech period while it lasts. Because once it starts, it’ll probably never stop (until he becomes a sullen teenager). But is it asking too much for him to just say “Mama”?

What were your children’s first words?

Friday, 18 May 2012

Fitness Funk

Like many women, I’m carrying around a few extra pounds that I gain and lose every few years, depending on what’s going on my life. I’m a classic yo-yo dieter. Just before getting pregnant two years ago, I lost 15 pounds by committing to exercising four times a week and really healthy eating. It was one of the first times in my life that I wasn’t on a “diet” to lose weight but through sheer motivation and willpower, stuck to a healthy way of life and benefitted.

Then I got pregnant and well, turned into a heifer. Fifty-five pounds later, my son was born. Eeesh. The thing is - it was easy to lose the baby weight. Between breastfeeding, not having time to eat, and not sitting at a desk all day for a year, I went right back down to my pre-baby weight and even lower. I was so proud of myself and thought, hey - that was easy! Running around after a baby turned out to be a pretty good way to get back in shape. 

Since returning to work, I’ve spent most of my days sitting down at a computer screen and the rest of the time passed out on my couch in sheer exhaustion. I easily packed back on 20 pounds in the past four months. But until recently, I couldn’t find the time to exercise. Having a toddler pretty much saps your free time. I’m usually up at 6 am, running around until I get to work at 8:30, picking up my son by 5 pm, making dinner, feeding / bathing him, getting him ready for his 7 pm bedtime. After 7, it’s my time to catch up on cleanup, prep for the next day and then hopefully two merciful hours of couch time before bed. So when on earth am I supposed to find time to exercise?

Thank goodness I work for a company that has an amazing setup for work-life balance, including a gym on site and fitness classes at lunchtime. So I've been trying to do the lunch thing. But even then, when work is busy, there’s just not much time.  Pre-baby, I used to be one of those annoying people who would preach that you have to make time to exercise. Post-baby, I’m exasperated and frustrated and feeling like there’s not enough time in the day to take care of myself and get back to a happy weight. I now fully understand mothers who say that 24 hours in a day just isn’t enough.

So moms, I am asking you now – do you find (or “make”) time for exercise? How do you do it? Any tips for a fellow mommy who wants to get back on the fitness train?

PS – I used to be an avid reader of those fitness magazines like Women’s Health that would motivate me to move my behind. Now they just depress me. I will admit, I’m in a fitness funk and I want out!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Working hard...or hardly working?

It's been a hectic month at work. The kind that keeps me in meetings all day, and when not in meetings I'm scrambling to be productive, meet deadlines, answer e-mails and try hard not to ignore my to-do list. In the old days (pre-baby) I would have just gone into the office earlier or worked later if I needed to catch up. But now that I have a toddler that I only see for about 4 hours on the average weekday, extending my office hours just aren't an option. I know lots of other parents at work who simply leave the office at 5 pm, go home to their kids, feed/bathe/play with/ and put them to bed, then log on to their laptops and work from 9 - 11 pm. I wish I could do that, but quite frankly, most nights my husband and I are both passed out on the couch by 9 pm.

Last week my mother (who babysits my son) had an appointment that required me to stay home with my son and spend the morning working from home. I knew it could either go really well or really badly. I had a few conference calls that I knew I could manage while watching him play and then I figured I could be productive while he napped. On a good day, this is sometimes possible. I've done it and it's worked. But last week, my son had other plans. He was not in the mood to cooperate with my ideas. I guess he was excited to be spending the morning with mommy, so why on earth would he want to nap? So he didn't. And I spent more time that morning trying to make him nap than getting any work done. And the more time I spent trying to get him to nap, the more frustrated I got. My mind was on my inbox and my projects. I was not in the mood to read Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You for the fifth time that morning. He was in the mood to buzz around the kitchen and bang on pots and pans. I snapped at him several times. It wasn't pretty. 

So when I dropped him off at my mother's and finally got back to the office that afternoon, I was actually happy to have a cup of coffee and sit at my desk in (relative) peace. But by the end of the afternoon, I was feeling awfully guilty about the way I'd behaved with my son. Poor kid was just excited to have some extra time with me, and I spent most of it losing my temper. I probably should have just cut my losses and spent my morning with him and one eye on my blackberry.

When I picked him up at the end of the day, I gave him a huge hug and covered his face in kisses. I've said it before and I'll say it again - being a working mom is not easy. Thank goodness my son forgives easily! If I've learned one thing since becoming a mother, it's that everything takes longer when you have a toddler. Working from home is just another one of those things. So am I working hard, or hardly working? Both, I guess!  

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Mom Mentors Wanted!

In my social and family circles, we are in the thick of a baby boom.  I fall into the 30 – 35 age range, and this is prime time for baby-making. Seems like every few months, there’s a baby shower to attend or a new baby to visit. I’m not complaining – I love it! It’s a blast having friends and family with children of the same age group and it has opened up a whole new world of social activities, discussions, issues, etc… I even find that I have more in common with colleagues at work now that I have a child. There’s no ice-breaker like trading war stories from the parenting trenches.

Not only am I surrounded by other young, first or second time parents, but I’ve come to realize there’s another tier of fellow parents in my life… those with children aged between 8 and 18 years. These are the parents who have been there, done that, and have the scars to prove it. They are still busy parents but they’ve survived the sleepless nights, potty training, daycare dramas and living through everything for the first time. Thank goodness for these parents. They’re the ones who give the best advice and support because they’re not so far beyond parenting young children that they’ve forgotten what it’s like. I love my parents and in-laws but 30 years later, they don’t remember much about raising little ones. They’re probably still trying to recover from the trauma of raising teenagers and paying for weddings, but I digress.

The mid-stage parents, as I like to call them, are the ones who can listen, offer encouragement and tell you “don’t worry, it gets easier.” They have assured me that while I may never sleep the way I did before I had children, one day I will regain some independence. One day, I won’t have to do every single thing for my child. One day, I will be able to go to the bathroom in peace, or find time to exercise or maybe even take up a hobby. They’re the ones with the awesome recipes that kids love, or the great family-friendly vacation ideas and the strategies for dealing with public temper tantrums. Best of all, they’re the ones who don’t try to tell you how to be a parent; they just smile and say “just do whatever it takes to stay sane.”

It got me thinking – wouldn’t it great if there was a “Mom Mentoring” program, a buddy system of sorts? That would be awesome. There’s probably some kind of money to be made in that idea but heaven knows I’m in no position to start up a business now. It could be like Big Brothers and Big Sisters, but for grown-ups with babies! There’s no handbook on parenting (just a lot of overpriced volumes that usually provide useless advice) but a Mom Mentor would be a great thing. Then, once you’ve passed into a comfort zone with your children, you could become a Mom Mentor yourself! 

I could name a handful of mothers that I know that are amazing role models and “super-women”… wonder if any one of them wants to be my Mom Mentor?

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Have toddler, will travel

This past weekend, we decided to embark on our first real road trip with our 14-month-old son. We’ve taken very short overnight trips before, but this was our first time spending more than one night away from home. And we figured, if we’re going to do this, let’s do it right. So we took a bite out of the Big Apple and headed down the highway to New York City for the weekend.

I will admit that I was really nervous about this. Travelling with a toddler requires a serious amount of planning, packing and patience. When we visit other cities, my husband and I like to be on the go. We don’t stop to eat; we grab pizza by the slice and say to hell with our diets. We leave our hotel room early and come back late at night. We research and map our itinerary and do as much as we possibly can in the short time we have. This just doesn’t work quite the same way when you have a little person with you. Because that little person has needs!
So here are the pros of travelling with a child under the age of 2:

• If you’re driving there, you can drive at night and they’ll sleep through the trip. That was how we got our trip off to a good start. We were zombies in the morning, but he was fresh as a daisy and that’s what really matters.
• If you’re flying, they don’t pay for a ticket (hurray!)
• You don’t have to stop for repeated bathroom breaks, because diapers are good for a few hours. However, you need to find nice clean bathrooms where you can change diapers easily as needed, but fortunately that didn’t prove to be a problem.
• They still take naps, so if your child is good to nap in their stroller, you get to do your own thing while they snooze. Thank goodness my son naps well on the move. He even slept through Times Square of all places! If your child needs a bed or crib and a quiet room for their naps, I’m afraid this doesn’t help you.
• Many, many people will tell you how adorable your child is, and then will be more likely to hold doors, elevators or move out of the way for you. But that’s not everyone, that’s for sure!
Here are the cons of travelling with a child under the age of 2: 
• The stuff! You can’t travel light – you need to pack diapers, wipes, snacks, sippy cups, blankets, a change of clothes in case of emergencies, three different kinds of hats… the list goes on. We took a bold risk in not packing any kind of toys or books for when we were out, but I knew these would only end up on the dirty NY sidewalk so we didn’t bother.
• Yes, they nap, but before the nap usually comes some whining and if you’re unlucky, a meltdown. Cue frustration and public embarrassment now.
• Grown-up activities like shopping, museums, and eating in nice restaurants are a challenge. I’m not saying you can’t do it, but it’s not easy.
• Feeding them requires serious planning and strategy. Depending on what your child is now eating, you may not be able to feed them restaurant food, so you’ll have to pack meals, snacks, milk, bibs, wipes, spoons, cups, etc, etc, etc… That may have been the most stressful part of our trip for me. Especially when he was refusing to drink his milk and water and I was worrying that he would get dehydrated.
• Being stuck in a stroller for three days was not my son’s idea of a good time. We had to stop often to let him out to walk around and stretch his legs. Then we had to stay on top of him so he wouldn’t touch garbage or eat gravel… which he attempted.
• Travelling with a child who needs diaper changes, naps, meals at specific times and an early bedtime… well, it slows you down. Plain and simple. You just can’t accomplish as much as you would have otherwise.

That being said, it was a great long weekend. It was so nice to spend some quality time together as a family, to get out of town and be in a different place. We all had a great time and this weekend will stay with me as a wonderful memory for a long time to come.  They say a change is as good as a rest, and this weekend’s change of scenery was a great mental rest, even if it was physically exhausting! 

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Sleepless….once again

Being a working mother is hard. It’s draining and exhausting, but not in the physical way that comes with chasing an active toddler around. It’s mentally and emotionally draining. Take the mental exhaustion that comes with working all day and combine it with the emotional frustration of dealing with your child’s separation anxiety when you come home. Add a heaping portion of guilt and there you have it. The story of my life.

We are sleepless in my house once again. After several really good months in which my son was asleep before 7:30 pm and would not wake until the next morning, he has decided that he no longer wants to sleep alone in his crib. I’m attributing it to separation anxiety, but really who knows why he has suddenly changed his tune…

The first few weeks back at work were really not bad. My son would happily wave goodbye to me in the morning as I would leave the house and then proceed to spend the day having fun with his grandmother. Then, exhausted, he would sleep easily at night.

After about three weeks, the novelty of his new schedule wore off. Every so often, I would leave the house to the sight of him holding his arms out to me pleadingly. Once in awhile, he would start crying. A few more weeks and this became almost a daily occurrence. Now for the past week, I can’t put him in his crib at night without tears and tantrums. And the night waking has become a nightly occurrence.

When I was off work on maternity leave, I would stoically let him cry it out, thinking to myself that we could catch up on our sleep during a nap the next day. At least that I didn’t need to use too many brain cells in the morning, so if I was a bit sleep-deprived, it was okay. Now that I need to use my brain at work, I will do anything to get some sleep. This has resulted in him sleeping in our bed almost every night now. Trying to let him cry it out these days has not been successful. After 40 minutes of crying, we usually hit out limit and respond by going to him.

So let’s review the situation to date: mental exhaustion + separation anxiety = no sleep and lots of guilt. Which ultimately results in stress. Lots of stress.

Maybe I’m reading into things a bit too much, but I feel like this change has made my son angry at me. He has really started to cling to my husband more than before. Not that I mind that part, because it makes me happy to see him showing more love toward his father. But it almost feels like my husband is the more stable force in his life. He knows that daddy goes to work in the morning and comes home at night. That’s the way it’s always been and he can rely on that to stay the same. But mommy has changed and is no longer there for him the way she once was.

So in my guilt and desperate need for sleep, I let him sleep in our bed at night, something I’m not crazy about doing. I have nothing against co-sleeping… it’s just not something I want to do because I don’t sleep as well. But when he wakes up in the morning and gives me a big toothy grin, it makes me happy. And these days I cling to those moments because they’re much easier to handle than walking away from outstretched arms and tears.

It’s a vicious cycle and I can’t decide if I need to be firm and proactive about breaking the pattern, or if I should embrace my old mantra of “This too shall pass” and ride out the storm.

Any advice for a mama going through a rough patch? What has worked for you in the past?

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Has motherhood become my hobby?

Before becoming a mother, I have to admit I didn’t have any crazy hobbies or special interests. I liked to read, travel, cook, shop, and socialize with friends and family… nothing especially noteworthy but I was okay with that. Since becoming a mother, my interests haven’t changed much, although I definitely have changed up what I read, cook, shop for, where I travel and who I socialize with. Because let’s face it, everything has become about my son. The word “family” has taken on a new meaning in my life. It no longer only refers to my parents, siblings, in-laws, etc… Now I apply that label to my own house. I never really thought of my husband and I as family, but now that we’re parents, here we are.
A few weeks after my return to work, I had a business lunch with a consultant whose passion in life are her dogs. In fact, she and her husband train their dogs in the sport of agility (Google it – fascinating!). It was the first time I met this consultant face-to-face so there was a lot of personal chit-chat and so when she asked me what my hobbies and interests were, I was suddenly a little speechless. What, after all, have I done in the past year besides raise my son? And I’m not discrediting that because it’s a full-time job and one that has brought me much joy and pleasure (among other things). It just got me thinking… has motherhood become my hobby?
I returned to the office after lunch and looked around at my colleagues… it should be said that I work in an organization of highly motivated and intelligent people so of course, why would their interests and hobbies be anything less than exceptional? Everywhere I turned, I was surrounded by marathon runners, snowboarders, jazz-choir singers, amateur gourmet chefs, semi-professional cupcake bakers… There are people who spend their vacations volunteering in Tanzania and others who rescue dogs from puppy mills. My boss is an amazing photographer whose photos are visual masterpieces. One of my colleagues is a Martha Stewart-esque master of all things domestic goddess related. Not to mention she has excellent taste in shoes.
Suddenly I felt very ordinary and I started questioning what defines me outside of my work and home life. In fact, I even learned that one colleague asked another colleague to describe me and was told that I am very proud of my Greek heritage. Which is very true, but is that who I am? I know that’s not all there is to me. I’m a blogger… I have a book club… I have a secret wish to one day write a novel. But not everyone knows these things about me.
After mulling over this and having a few conversations with other parents, here’s what I discovered. Being a new parent is an all-consuming job but it’s also an amazing phase of life where you are learning new things every day and navigating uncharted territory on a regular basis. For a few years, it’s normal that life is all about being a parent. Sure, it’s important to have hobbies. It’s definitely essential to feel like there’s something in your life that’s just for you. But maybe now is not the time to focus my energies on that. I’m not saying I won’t make any “me” time in my schedule or do anything for my own personal enjoyment. But if my family is my current hobby, I think that’s pretty healthy too. And if being a mother right now is what defines me, then that’s a label I’m very happy to wear.
When I have more than one child and they’re older and no longer physically dependent on me, I will find some crazy hobby that’s just for me. I, too, will be a superstar who runs marathons while baking cupcakes. But for now, I want to spend all my free time with the loves of my life. My husband and son.
Moms, do you have any special interests? Is motherhood your hobby too? What are your thoughts on how you define yourself outside work and home?

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Taking the first steps into toddlerhood

Just days before his first birthday a few weeks ago, my son began taking his first tentative steps. Although I’m proud and excited, I have to admit, it wasn’t the big momentous occasion that I had expected, which once again led me to realize that I watch too many movies. Like most things, he built up to walking very slowly. Two steps one day, then five steps a few days later, and now a few weeks later, he can toddle his way across a room. But now that he’s getting the hang of it, he’s bobbing and weaving around the house on his little unstable feet like the town drunk at 3 am. It’s hilarious and heart-warming all at the same time.

This big “step” led me to realize that, holy smokes, he’s not a baby anymore! He’s officially a toddler! Lord help us all, we have a toddler in the house. It’s not just the walking that has made me realize that he’s crossed over into toddlerhood... there are many other signs that the time has come. Here are a few observations that made me realize that a new era has dawned in my home:

· There are Cheerios everywhere. I’m constantly stepping on them, finding them stuck in my hair, sweeping them out of corners and emptying them out of the dust buster. The little buggers are more insidious than bed bugs! When you think you’ve rounded them all up, more pop up out of nowhere. Makes me wonder how many actually end up in my son’s mouth.

· Temper tantrums have begun. In true mini-drama queen fashion, the littlest things will set off a full-on tantrum, complete with tears and a theatrical scene in which my son throws his head back on to the floor, kicking and screaming.

· On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, he can now perform cute tricks on demand: blowing kisses, giving hugs, clapping his hands, waving bye-bye, hiding his face behind his hands until we say “peek-a-boo.” In an attempt to turn him into the ultimate flirt, I’m trying to teach him to bat his eyelashes. I know, maybe I should start working on teaching him to count or learn the alphabet. Maybe my priorities are a little off...

· Food has become much more interesting and my son always wants to eat what we’re eating and to feed himself (or to feed us). I’m happy to encourage his independence at the table but when he’s watching us eat French fries and refusing his own mushy peas and carrots because he wants a fry, I don’t love it as much.... does this mean we have to start eating mushy peas too? Ugh.

· Similarly, he is very decisive about what he likes and doesn’t like. And when he doesn’t like something, he flings it onto the floor. Which somehow always makes my husband and I launch into a diatribe about how there are starving children in Africa who would be happy to eat this food. As if he understands. And when did we turn into our grandparents? I’m pretty sure the “starving children in Africa” argument pre-dates our own parents.

Do you have a toddler in your house? What are some of the classic toddler behaviours that you’ve seen?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Eight things I learned in one year

Last week, my son turned one year old. I can’t believe it. The passage of time is so much more striking when you’re watching a child grow. As fully-grown adults, we could go years without really noticing ourselves age. I know I’ve looked at pictures of myself from ten years ago and passively thought “Huh, I looked younger then.”  But babies grow so fast that it’s astonishing how much they change from one month to the next, let alone in a year!

Celebrating my son’s birthday really got me thinking about how much I’ve learned this past year. If there was one year in which I’ve learned a lot, it’s this one! Here’s a very short list of my key learnings in the first year of being a mom:
1.   No matter how many books you read, nothing can truly prepare you for the journey of parenthood. The Baby Whisperer can tell you What to Expect and how to have the Happiest Baby on the Block with the No-Cry Sleep Solution but your baby’s the boss. It is entirely possible that at 3 am, you will be sitting in the dark, mentally composing hate mail to the Baby Whisperer because your baby just doesn’t want to do what she thinks is right.

2.   All babies are different... and yet, they are all the same. File this one under the WTF file. This is the reason that mothers sit around and compare notes on what their babies did that week. This is what sends us into paroxysms of anxiety when our five month-old still hasn’t rolled over but our neighbour’s six month-old is playing pat-a-cake.

3.   Everyone has an opinion about everything. If only I had a dollar for every time someone said “Maybe he’s hungry,” or “He looks ready for a nap,” or my all-time favourite: “If you put him to bed later, maybe he would wake up later/sleep through the night.” But hey, many’s the time I caught myself giving the same kind of advice to others, so as frustrating as it is, I have learned to accept it.

4.   It’s amazing how much time mothers spend thinking about, analyzing, and discussing poop. As one of the only indicators of health in a child who can’t speak, poop is the thing to watch. And sniff. And scrutinize.

5.   The human body has an amazing capacity to function on very little sleep. It doesn’t mean we’ll be nice about it, but we can make it by fairly well on just a few broken hours of shut-eye. But just because we can, doesn’t mean we should!

6.   Anyone who is able to “sleep when the baby sleeps” should be given an award. As the mother of a really lousy sleeper, I barely had time to pee when my baby slept, let alone try to squeeze in a nap. I admire those who are able to do it.

7.   You can really only TRULY appreciate your own mother when you become a mother yourself.  Not only do you gain a newfound respect for everything your mother has done, but grandmothers are an amazing source of help and support. They are a shoulder to cry on when you’ve had a rough day and if you’re lucky, they’ll fold your laundry so you can take a nap. And of course, not many other people will happily spend time sitting and listening to you go on about how amazing your child is. My mother and I shamelessly go on to each other about how wonderful and adorable my son is because, quite frankly, we can. And we know that we can’t do it with anyone else so it’s our own little guilty pleasure.

8.   All things pass in time. Take the most horrible, sleep-deprived, spit-up covered, poop exploding diaper day and file it away in the banks of your memory because those days will be gone before you can say “Pampers.” When you’re cursing your decision to become a parent, and you’re looking up the phone number of the nearest orphanage, just remember that whatever terrible phase you’re going through will pass. You will forget until your children are 30 years old with children of their own. And when they ask you “Was I like this as a baby?” you have two choices. You can rub it in their face that yes, they were indeed terrible children who never let you sleep. Or you can claim selective memory and let the past become a blur while you tell them, “You know, I just don’t remember having any sleepless nights with you.” I know I intend to remind my son of every torturous thing he did to me as a baby.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here. The one thing that I can honestly say is that my life feels so much more complete now that my son is in it. I’m also more exhausted than I’ve ever been, with more gray hair and some stretch marks that will never go away. But it’s worth it because there is no feeling in the world like the love you feel for your child. And even though I have no idea what the heck I’m doing, he seems to be growing up just fine! Here’s to another great year filled with more amazing experiences...