Sunday, May 30, 2010

I found the proof in my pudding: stay-at-home-parenting is the most exhausting job.

I've read dozens of debates about who has it harder - stay-at-home-parents or working parents (those working outside the home).

Genuinely, I don't presume anyone has it harder or worse, necessarily. But, back when I was at home all the time, I speculated over how the two really compared.

Now that I've experienced both avenues first hand, I've reached my own conclusion - that a day looking after two young kids is definitely more physically and mentally exhausting than a day at work. For me, anyway. And I'm a massage therapist (well, almost). And that's a tiring job, believe me.

After a day at work, I still have the energy to go for a run.

After a day at home, I'm depleted and ready for bed by 9 pm.

Two months ago I started my massage therapy practicum - a job, two days a week. Aside from the anxiety of leaving my kids for the first time, I anticipated the exhaustion that would follow. The working day promised to be hectic: dropping the kids off at the dayhome, working for the day - doing several massages, picking them up afterward, preparing dinner, catching up on all the things that needed to be caught up on in the evening.

Sounds tiring.

But actually, it only took me a couple of those days to realize that my energy took way less of a beating on working days. Despite the whole procedure of getting through the day, I wasn't as exhausted as the days I was at home.

Because, after the rush of the morning, and once I was at work with my coffee in hand, things moved slowly. I could sit quietly with my books and paperwork. I could work with clients in a calm, focused manner. Each task I performed was uninterrupted. In between appointments, when there was a quiet moment, I could make a list, or scan my diary to remind myself of upcoming appointments or birthdays. I had time to get my thoughts together.

At home, an average day includes (deep breath) getting the kids up, changed, dressed -- making and feeding breakfast -- making beds -- clearing up breakfast -- preparing activities for the day -- doing laundry -- cleaning the kitchen -- talking to family and friends on the phone -- clearing up after craft activities -- making and feeding lunch -- putting kids down to nap -- clearing up after lunch -- taking out garbage -- doing more laundry; catching up on emails -- changing more diapers -- doing more activities -- preparing a mid-afternoon snack -- clearing up toys -- making and feeding dinner. And more stuff I can't remember.

An agenda many of you are familiar with, I'm sure. It doesn't pause for breath.

On top of the physical demands of being a stay-at-home-parent, there's the emotional side, too. I don't know about you, but on any given day, there are tears, tantrums and a whole host of other feelings and reactions to deal with.

I think, having considered both sides, what makes being a stay-at-home-parent harder for me, is the combination of nonstop activities, physical tasks and emotional confrontations. It's like a concoction of all the most tiring things a body can endure rolled into one period.

And after another weekend with the kids (while I was at class - whoo!), my husband, I'm pretty sure, will agree.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The distance between us.

This afternoon I walked my Mum to her departure gate at Calgary airport. As always, I held back the tears as I hugged and kissed her goodbye, and walked away with my two little boys, not sure when I'd next see her again.

"Where's Nana?" Matthew asked, a few moments later in the car.

"She's on the airplane." I explained. "Going home to see Grandad."

"Oh." He said, thoughtfully, looking up to the sky.

At times like this, the distance between us is measurable not by miles or kilometers, but by the enormous gap that unfolds between us again as we say our goodbyes.

We'll return to our phone calls, our skype calls, our emails, our photograph exchanges. But it's not the same as sitting together in the kitchen, chatting about random events and imparting our opinions on politics / the weather / the price of apples over coffee.

The challenges of being away from family (especially those you genuinely get on with) are huge. In some ways, it doesn't make sense - to move away from the core you've grown up with, to start a new life alone, to raise a family in strange territory. And yet so, so many of us do it. We move to other cities, other countries, other continents. And we get on with it.

As is often the case during Mum's visits, I found myself talking about the reasons I moved to Canada. And how, when I left, the sadness I felt about leaving my family was counterbalanced with the excitement of my new life in this foreign, exciting place where everyone wore cowboy hats and drove Hummers (what the hell was I thinking?) (also, this is truly not the case, I swear).

After a few years of getting into the swing of living in North America - existing as two young, childless, spontaneous people with plenty of cash and more than enough ways to spend it, we had kids. And everything changed. Suddenly I realized what it really meant to be away from my family.

The trips they made over here, after I had my kids, were fantastic. But when they weren't here, when I was having a bad day following a bad night, when I was at the end of my rope, when I hadn't showered for four days straight, or when I just wanted to see a friendly face, I couldn't call my Mum or Dad or brother on the phone and ask them to pop over for an hour.

So many times I've questioned whether I did the right thing, moving here, away from my family. But, by the time we had our kids, I'd fallen in love with our life here. The house, city, friends, lifestyle, still, to this day, make me grateful to be here. This is home, now. But, without my family, it's still hard.

Nana with her grandsons, 2010...

My Mum and me, sometime around 1983...

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Sharing, caring, and other brotherly myths.

A few days ago I heard a rustling coming from the closet by the front door. I peered around to find Oliver, my younger son, rummaging in the umbrella stand. He looked up at me, sheepish. In the container, I found what appeared to be a stash of items he had put there - a secret treasure trove of random things he'd carefully placed for safekeeping.

Instantly, I understood: the toys in this house - the ones meant for two brothers to share - are often caught in a tug of war. And usually, the bigger person wins.

No wonder Oliver has his own secret stash.

I can't blame Matthew for trying to label everything his - he's still in that phase of discovering what sharing means. And he was once the only child in this house, after all - the one to whom all the toys belonged.

While Matthew is slowly adjusting to the idea that he has to share with his brother, Oliver is only just learning that sharing is even an issue.

Often in these situations, I hastily jump to Oliver's defense, imploring Matthew to please share, to not snatch, to be kind, suggesting he find a toy to give his brother because that would be a nice thing to do.

And Oliver, the little brother, already somewhat adept at getting even, knows exactly the right sad face to pull, and just how to cry, so that I'll come running with my protective arms outstretched.

I'm a sucker for big teary eyes.

They tell me, one day they do learn to share. But I'm not holding my breath for the short term.

In the short term, all there is, is patience. And the occasional times when they play harmoniously and I run for the camera.

One of the challenges of raising two brothers close in age is teaching the art of gentleness: how to play together, how to get along, how to share, how to be kind to one another, how to be gentle.

And for me, finding a middle ground - somewhere between patiently teaching them the right way, and not flying off the handle every time someone kicks, pushes, trips, hits, or steals a toy - is an art in itself, too.

All I can do for now is steer them in the right direction.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Third child vote: 85% not likely. 10% maybe. 5% ask me next year.

Sometimes - like on a sunny evening when everyone is fed and content, and the kids are chasing the dog around the garden and we're enjoying a smooth glass of Cabernet, and everything feels good and right, I think about a third child.

The picture in my head is just ever so slightly romantic: I imagine three kids - perhaps three boys - sitting in a tree house concocting plans, riding bikes to the park, teenagers with appetites so large we'd need to start raising cows and pigs.

And, over-dosing on optimism, I think, that would be SO MUCH FUN!

But then I remember last night, staggering around at 2 am. like a cave woman, grunting from tiredness and spilling milk over the kitchen floor before returning to the nursery with a bottle for my youngest son who still does not sleep through. Occasionally I could swear I hear myself hissing "No. More. Kids.". In fact, J said one night I actually did hiss this (at him) as I rolled back into bed.

And I think, yeah.. there's no way.

And then I look at our two sons and consider how absolutely amazing they are with their blooming characters and their funny words and smiles and kisses and tantrums, and I can't help but wonder what our third child might look like, sound like, be like.

And I think, we could so do this again!

But then I remember how much I love my new work, my school classes, and how, after a long period of house-bound-ness and several winters with a baby and a toddler, I've regained a semblance of independence and something that's mine, again.

And I think, nope, just can't go back there.

And then I'll see a pregnant woman at the market, hand proudly straddling her bump, waddling along in her uber-cute maternity dress. And I think ahhhh..... What a precious feeling that was.

But then I remember - morning sickness, uncomfortableness and childbirth. And sadly, I'm just not one of those childbirth-orgasm types. I'm more the scream-like-you're-being-murdered-by-an-axe-murderer type.

And I think, No. No. No. And also, no.

The thought goes back and forth like a schizophrenic conversation. Finally, I tell myself - we have two healthy boys - what more could one ask for? But the little nagging thought is there. Always there, pestering me. What if?

How do you know when you're done having kids?
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Friday, May 14, 2010

It's a Happy Friday Giveaway kind of a day.

*** The winner, selected using the random number generator, is number 15 - Elaine A!
Congratulations Elaine!

Who wants to win a really cool piece of kid's furniture?

Last year I worked with CSN Stores to do a giveaway for my readers, and when they contacted me to do another I was happy to oblige. CSN is an online retailer with over 200 stores, selling everything from bathroom vanities to contemporary furniture.

They are offering one of my readers the chance to win a P'kolino Silly Soft Kiko Seat!

The P'kolino Silly Soft Kiko Seat is a chair, a table, a big, soft thing your kids can climb on and piece together like a giant puzzle. It has microfiber covers that are removable and washable. It measures at 15.5" H x 16" W.

How cool is that?

I quite want one for myself actually...

TO WIN: Leave me a comment.

A winner will be randomly picked on Friday 21st May.

Open to Canadian and US residents only.
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How I think Lost is going to end.

There's only one more episode before the Lost finale, DAMMIT. I'm in denial. And, I'm considering hiring a babysitter for the penultimate episode so that nothing can prevent me from savouring every last moment.

But, I feel like there are still a few loose ends:

- Why do pregnant women on the island die?
- Why can Hurley see dead people?
- Geronimo Jackson??? Hello?
- How does the island move?
- Why is Desmond so important to the island?
- What, specifically, transformed Claire from fresh-faced beauty to manic cave-woman trog lady?

Here are my predictions for the ending...

Completely Ridiculous Ending.
Jack and Kate discover Hurley is actually an evil alien with superpowers who has secretly orchestrated the whole situation in order to free the Man In Black so that they can jointly take over Earth.


Erotic Ending.

Sawyer takes off all his clothes and then the island blows up.


You've-Got-To-Be-F-ing-Kidding-Me ending.
Desmond wakes up on flight 8:15 to find he dreamed the whole thing. The end.


Whaaaa... What? Ending.
The cast are all 4mm-tall characters in a ship in a bottle on a shelf in an antique shop.

© CartoonStock

The Real Actual Possibility Ending.
Everyone dies a gruesome death when the island erupts during an all-out war between Widmore and the Man In Black.

In the parallel universe life, Desmond brings all the characters together (my guess is at the hospital where Jack works), where they collaboratively piece together the story of their other existence on the island.

Then it is deemed they must all go back to the island, and in order to do so, they must all board one specific flight together. On the plane, the turbulence begins, the plane is shaking uncontrollably, Kate shoots Jack a wistful glance and then.... black.

The End.

But really, that ending would SUCK. So that had better not be it.

What's your prediction?
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Sunday, May 9, 2010

For the love of God. Someone give the kid a swing set.

There are two main reasons why we need, I repeat, NEED some kind of swing set / climbing apparatus in my back garden. Very soon.

1) My son has taken to sliding backwards down the handle bar of his wagon.

Poor, deprived kid.

"Look Mama!" He says, showing me his moves.

And then, "Wheeeee!" as he goes down the handle bar and lands on the ground.

Poor kid.

2) The park is a disaster zone right now.

The problem: two highly energetic kids at different developmental stages, running in opposite directions towards potentially dangerous climbing frames and things that spin around at eighty miles per hour, and one mother with rapidly-graying hair and a slightly overactive imagination, chasing after both kids with rising blood pressure, and with only two arms and one very hoarse voice.

I definitely feel a swing set coming our way.
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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Immature Mum. Not in the age sense.

Every day I make sensible, adult choices for my kids. I tell them to finish all their vegetables; I instruct my toddler not to whack the dog over the head with the phone; I make them wash the caked-on dirt from their hands before dinner (well, most of the time).

But sometimes I don't feel like being mature. Because being sensible all the time is so... what's the word.... mind numbingly dull. It's boring to always be the one with the sensible decisions and the wise words and the wipes and hair brushes and band aids. Etc.

Sometimes, I want to be the one to flick my yogurt across the room and let it land wherever it lands. And I want to toss the laundry that someone else has been carefully folding on the floor and let someone else pick it up. And I want to play chase around the backyard screaming "I'm gonna get you!!" with the hose and cackling loudly.

And so, sometimes, when my son challenges me, instead of taking the grown-up approach, I just challenge him right back.

For instance.

He'll ask, fake-innocent, provoking, "What you talking 'bout Mama?" even though he knows full well I've just asked him to put away the crayons he's been colouring with.

Then I start the stare-down.

"What are you talking 'bout Matthew?" I say, equally daring.

"No. What YOU talking 'bout MAMA?"

"No. What YOU talking 'bout MATTHEW!?"

"No. YOU."

"No. YOU."


"No. YOOOUUU!!!!"


And so on. Until the dog starts howling.

When he badgers to me to play hide-and-seek right as I'm making dinner, I finally relent, find the best hiding place I can, and after letting him look for me for five minutes, I jump out at him yelling "BOO!", making him, his brother and the dog scream and yelp all at once. It honestly sounds like a zoo is being murdered.

And after I'm done pretending I'm five, I go right back to being mature, responsible Mummy, making the dinner and telling everyone to use their "indoor voices please".

How about you? Do you have immature moments too?
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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Creatures of habit.

It wasn't until I tried to fix my son's raggedy bear last week, that I realized just how much he hates change.

No exaggeration, he has complained about the state of that bear for months - maybe years. "Look Mama! Harry has owies!" He exclaims, pointing to Harry's open hands and feet, where the fur has been chewed apart to reveal the lining of Harry's limbs.

I thought fixing the bear would solve several problems in one go. Matthew could enjoy his bear again; I would feel like a better mother for not allowing Harry to look like Freddy Kruegger's bear; Harry could even go out in public again.

But when I saw his reaction last week, I understood: he never really wanted the bear fixed at all. He liked him just the way he was - all open wounds and tatty arms and legs. His grumbling was all just part of his enjoyment of the bear.

And now it's clear to me - Matthew is very, very fond of his routines. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are eaten at the table, in the same spot. His bedtime ritual is always the same - pajamas, brush teeth, read story, milk, lights off. Thursday is the day he goes to Luke's house. Tuesday is the day Grandma comes to visit. His sippy cup has the blue lid, his brother's has the green - don't dare ever get them mixed up.

It's all about routine.

And at the same time, I had another awakening - it's not just him that's dependent on his daily rituals - I am too.

As much as I like to think of myself as this adventurous, up-for-anything, move-countries-at-the-drop-of-a-hat type person, I guess I'm not any more.

I need things to fall into place. I need the reassurance, the speed, the safety of everything happening the way it's supposed to.

When I was young, it didn't matter if things changed or got canceled at the last minute - I could simply pick myself up and adapt to the situation.

Now, when my routines get disrupted, everything gets upset. It's like fifty ten foot dominoes all toppling down around me. Or, at least, that's what it feels like.

When my work is canceled, for instance, it's as though all the intricate things that are hanging in balance to make work happen - childcare, study time, practicum hours, money - all come crashing down.

An upset routine = major stress.

I'm thirty one. And I hate to admit it, but I like my routine. I like my coffee in the morning. I like knowing which days I work and which days the kids have childcare. I like that Lost is on every Tuesday night. These small patterns keep me grounded.

Perhaps when, one day, life isn't pulling me in thirty directions at once, I'll be able to handle the sporadic changes life tosses at me. But for now, I'm definitely a creature of habit.
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Monday, May 3, 2010

WonderMother Day

With Mother's Day under one week away, I was thinking about the ideal gift.

Aside from a weekend away, a new car, a $100 Starbucks giftcard and an iPhone (I'm a woman of simple needs), I can think of one, very inexpensive thing I'd like to receive: the gift of time off. Time alone. Time to browse a few stores, sit in a park reading a magazine, get a pedicure, hire a horse and carriage and a pack of circus clowns for an hour - whatever. The location and the activity don't matter so much as the fact that it's time off, without responsibility, if only for a few hours.

So, dudes, if you're running low on inspiration, here's an idea for you.

And ladies, if you suspect your significant other is lacking inspiration, feel free to cut this out and subtly stick it to the fridge, the car hood, the underside of the toilet seat, or whatever.

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