On Friday I took Toddler to a park she has never been to before. I fully expected her to play around and try to interact with some older kids who would want nothing to do with her, while I watched or played with my phone.
I am not a helicopter mom for a few of reasons.
1) I want my child to figure things out on her own so she learns how to deal. Learning to climb/fall/balance/fall is all a part of the learning process. If she was never to find out she could fall, her survival instinct would be zero.
2) It causes so much useless anxiety for her and myself. I feel like I can trust my instincts when I know something is unsafe or her abilities are not quite there.
3) I find following my child so she is within arms reach to be the exact opposite of what I want to do. So I don’t. I just don’t want to. End of story. I’m not gonna.
Sure, for the first while in my kid’s lives I try to make sure they don’t kill themselves or eat poison, but once they are showing signs that they want to explore I am totally down with that. Go ahead and check things out kid, I already know what is up, so I will sit here and enjoy my semi-silence and the fact that a little person is not trying to crawl all over me for a change.
Parks, playgrounds, playcafés, jungle gyms etc. – these things are a treasure when you have an energetic and inquisitive child. These places give parents a friggin’ minute of not having to entertain. We can disengage for a minute or two and sometimes that is all we need. We can’t be “on” all the time. We just can’t.
So if you feel the need to sit back and relax, it’s fine. Play on your phone, enjoy your book or stare off into the distance remembering what it was like to have less responsibilities.
Enjoy those moments… because your child will eventually notice the swings.
The swings are the deal breaker.
My child will literally swing for an hour. Husband and I have had to take shifts pushing her in the swing in our own backyard. Most times when we have had enough and want her to get out, it is a battle. I am pretty sure the neighbours have heard the screaming and have seen me carrying her like a football into the house while she wails.
Swings are her favourite. So you can imagine I was trying to avoid the swings as much as possible on Friday and let her explore the other equipment instead. It lasted about four minutes and then I was hauled over to the swings. I set her into the toddler swing and pushed her for a good ten minutes – fully expecting it to be longer – before she pointed to the other swing and said, “Your turn.”
Often the regular swings are a little uncomfortable when you are an adult. My hips have widened and my arse is bigger than it was, but I sat in the swing anyway and began swinging. I would at least try for a moment so I could see the look Toddler gave me as she was so happy to see me “having fun” her way.
I didn’t expect to really enjoy myself. It has been quite a few years since being at the playground was about my own enjoyment. So, you can understand how surprised I was to feel that tight ball of nerves in my belly that trickled its way to my extremities. Then I realized that if I closed my eyes tightly, I was five years old again – flying high on the swing my Dad set up for me on the weeping willow in our front yard.
I haven’t felt adrenaline or butterflies in my stomach for so long that they almost felt foreign to me. It felt like childhood.
Toddler and I looked at each other and we laughed and giggled. I had to get off the swing a few times to push her again, but I hopped right back on and tried to catch up with her rhythm.
She had a good idea that day. Not only did I manage to actually have fun at the playground, but I honestly lost track of time just like I did when I was little.
We weren’t worried about anything. I didn’t feel like I had to disengage in order to relax. We both felt the joy in the moment and let it ride. We were really connected at that moment.
Maybe when Toddler is older and has the chance to swing again, she will close her eyes and remember the time when her Mama joined her on the swingset at the playground – that tight ball of nerves bringing back all those sensations and feelings.
… and if you are wondering… she still totally lost her shit when it was time to leave. I proudly did the football carry to the car as I was watched by the other parents.
It has been almost one year since I made the move to be a stay-at-home parent. I took on this new position two weeks before we moved into a new house, just under 18 months into my youngest daughter’s life, right before my oldest daughter turned 13, and just over five years into our marriage (together for 10).
Here are some things I have learned during this year:
1) Time passes really fast.– This is mostly obvious, but if you are now in your 30’s and you had parents or older influencers who kept telling you that time is fleeting and all you did was roll your eyes then this one is for you. I bet you are kicking your own ass at this point for not grabbing opportunities while you were younger, or waiting to do something big and brave.
This year has taught me that even when I feel like I have all the time in the world to get things done, to start new projects (or actually finish them), I better fucking get on it. Time goes just as fast now as it did when I was working outside of the home. If I am being totally honest, I really think that the older you get times does some weird warp dance and goes even faster. My Dad told me this would happen and I eye rolled so damn hard.
2) Anxiety is always here. – I have struggled with anxiety for years. I often equated it to stress from school or the workplace, but guess what! It is still here.
You may have read my post about my post part-um anxiety issues, but my generalized anxiety is a bit different. It can strike me at any moment – unprovoked, or it can be caused by outside forces. It SUCKS. I have been doing really well at keeping panic attacks at bay, but anxiety is like a scary clown that is right around the corner ready to pop out and say, “Hey fucker! Gotcha!” I hate anxiety and how it has affected my life. It never quite goes away and makes me feel a little out of control of my own self. Now I know it isn’t always stress that is a trigger – it is just what I have to live with.
3) It is better for OUR family.– Staying at home to raise our kids (teenager is 50/50) was probably the hardest decision to make because I felt like I was giving up on a career that I felt could have gone places had I really pushed for it. However, I didn’t love my career and I certainly didn’t love the time it took away from my family.
I also really love having control of my house. This may sound weird to some, but when I worked I felt like my house was always in chaos. I didn’t know where everything was all the time, I was constantly being surprised by school meetings or events that my child knew about for about a month – but somehow I found out about the day before, and I did not feel like a home boss whatsoever. I was a terrible roommate instead.
Now I really have a good grasp on things like how much butter we have left and what day is garbage and what day is recycling pickup. — OK, this is totally true, but it is kind of funny how knowing these little tiny details make our home run much more smoothly.
If I am going to bake cookies, I need mother effin’ butter.
You know what is the most amazing of all? My husband and I fight wayyyyy less. We never really fought too much to begin with, but it was always a HUGE deal when we did. I have no idea if we are just happier because we have more control of our ship, or if we are just at the point that we know fighting just creates sadness. Either way, we win.
4) I sometimes really miss working outside of the home. – OK, so this is blatantly obvious for any of you who have read my blogs from the get-go.
Yup. Sometimes I get a little bit shack-wacky. I think it is pretty normal for someone like myself who is making a big adjustment like I did. I miss my work frenemies sometimes. I miss shooting the shit with the old guys at work who liked to be a little misogynistic – I miss that because I used to throw it back at them ten-fold. I even miss my commute and being completely by myself and allowing me to wind down for an hour from a stressful day at work before having to step in my door. Now my stress follows me everywhere because I am constantly at the workplace. Those are the days I feel like I am not captaining the ship as well as I should be and I have a huge glass of wine.
5) The longer I wait to have outings, the longer I want to wait.– Sometimes I have to force myself to leave the house. I have to take all of my shitty and lame excuses and get the hell out of here. Otherwise, I will pull every trick so I don’t have to go through the motions of getting ready, getting the kid (or kids) ready, looking like I have my shit some what together and interacting with people even though I often have fuck-all to talk about.
What? You don’t want to hear about our potty-training woes? Well fuck me. I have literally nothing else to talk about today. Hit me up to tomorrow.
Some days I just really don’t feel like I am all that interesting or good company.
Some days I really want to clean my house or sit back and read my book and take advantage of my child’s elusive naps so I can be alone.
I like being alone sometimes and that is OK, but I also don’t want to lose the friendships and connections I currently have, so I have to remember to nurture those relationships and part of that is actually seeing them. Oddly, once I am out and on the go, I actually love it.
So, suck it up and get out of the house. Period.
6) People talk no matter what you do. – I was really shocked when I heard my name being tossed around a few times in the gossip circles. I am super boring. I stay home and try to find grocery bargains and crafts to do with my toddler that aren’t going to cause emotional scarring.
Then I realized how easy it is to gossip.
Gossip doesn’t even have to be malicious or false. One of the definitions of gossip is that it is “idle talk” and I have caught myself in a few situations where something I have said about someone gets back to them and actually causes them pain. Nope, I didn’t mean it the way it was interpreted and I didn’t even think it was a big deal, but the thing about gossip is that once it is out of your mouth it can never be put back in. Ever.
7) I can cook and clean. Hoo-fuckin-rah.– For some reason when I was growing up my family liked to make fun of me for not being able to cook or clean.
Little did they know that this was a huge survival tactic for me. Why bother cooking and cleaning when someone else will do it for you if you do a shitty enough job?
Well, surprise! When it comes time to taking care of my own home, kids, husband, myself – I can actually do it AND I do it well.
So… neener neener neener to all the ones who told me I could never do it.
8) I am worthy of praise.– HOLD UP. That last one there, the cooking and cleaning thing – do you really think it just ends right there? Is my only mission in life to make my house spotless and to have dinner ready at 5pm while my children play quietly waiting for Husband to walk in the door and take a load off?
Well, if it is, some days I am bang on and I want to have someone tell me that I am nailing it and I want a fucking raise too because doing things that can seem so monotonous, and doing them with joy, deserves a friggin’ nod every now and then.
Some days are hard. Some days my toddler drives me up the wall and my teenager acts like I don’t exist. Some days nothing goes the way I want it to and makes me feel so inadequate.
Then I remember that if I left my husband alone for a week with toddler this place would be a wreck and so would he. I feel like I am doing a pretty good job at something I never pictured myself doing. Give me a pat on the back now and then and I will return that gratitude exponentially – like baking the best damn chocolate chip cookies ever.
9) I still need to have goals.– I go a bit cray cray if I am not working towards something. It can be a personal fitness goal, a business goal, or even a financial goal. I need goals. Otherwise I feel like I am floundering and life is getting a bit mish mash. Without goals life takes monotony to a whole otha’ level.
I also feel like goals make you stronger because often when you are trying to reach a goal you fail 800 times. In those failings we learn a lot of shit…
…and I have a lot of shit I want to learn.
10) I am still an individual.– When I first decided to leave my job and stay home I was so worried I would lose myself and the parts of me that made me unique. I have discovered because I am now a stay-at-home-mom it doesn’t mean I am fading into the background. In fact, at my old job I was probably more of a number on a piece of paper than I ever was considered a valued individual.
Stay-at-home-parents are super valuable and we are not just some mass of unseen creatures that have less esteem in society. We are part of the PTAs. We help organize and fund raise amazing things like school and sports trips. We often take in other children to care for. We build communities of volunteers. We sacrifice careers to make sure our kids have healthy and loving homes. We are a bunch of self-less badasses!
…OK – I am a little selfish sometimes and I will never be on any PTA, but if there are seriously people out there who believe that being a stay-at-home-parent means losing their individuality or self-worth then they are terribly wrong.
None of us are from the same mould. There is no one-size fits all to life.
I am just as weird/unique/individual as ever and I love that I am who I am.
Above all of these things that I have learned I have also developed some sort of idea of the actual human being I would like to be. I also have a better grasp on how my parenting and relationships should grow. I am discovering new things about myself constantly – some good, some bad and that’s just fine too.
I have been thinking about this blog a lot lately.
Growing up I was taught that I was a piece of property owned by my parents.
Heads up Mum, I am not racking on you, I am just stating how it was. I don’t really think it was a malicious idea that my parents came up with, it was traditional way of raising children, especially daughters.
I was taught there were certain ways I was to look. I couldn’t dye my hair until I was a bit older (and could pay for it myself…that makes sense) and I also wasn’t allowed to get tattoos (I did when I was 16 anyways) or piercings (which I also did at age 18).
Sex was also a super taboo no-no.
I never really had anyone to talk to about my sexual inclinations or how to protect myself. What I learned about sex was what I learned in sex-ed, TV and from what my older sisters joked about.
So, at a young age, I learned that my body was a temple, but it also wasn’t fully mine… until the day I realized I actually did have complete control.
There came a point where what my parents told me and demanded of me no longer aligned with what I wanted to be. I wanted to control my own self and I guess that came in the form of rebellion. I am also quite the polar opposite when it comes to some of the views of my parents. Piercings and tattoos can be beautiful and also reminders of life experiences. Sex is a fundamental part of life. There is no such thing as sluts.
I find the idea of basing someone’s worth solely on the amount of people they have had sex with completely absurd. As long as the sex is consensual, they aren’t sleeping with your partner, breaking up another relationship, or purposefully spreading STDs, why the fuck would you care what someone does with their body? Also, sex is (mostly) awesome… so… shaming someone for having an awesome time doesn’t make any sense to me.
So, here I am, the mother of two girls. One of my girls is almost 14 years old and the other is 2 and a half. I don’t have much to worry about with the toddler yet… besides keeping her alive and preventing her from tearing our house apart, but my teenage daughter is at that age where she needs a lot more guidance.
My ideas on these subjects could all backfire on me, but I am hoping they won’t.
What I want to instill in my daughters is that when they can fully comprehend the idea – THEY get to decide how they wish to treat their own bodies.
What? Hold the phone. I am not saying my small child knows when she should be able to get a tattoo or anything – there is definitely an age when I think it is more acceptable for them to be able to choose those things.
What is that age? Um, probably different for each of them?
The biggest factor is how the communication flows between us.
Are we able to have an open conversation about the repercussions of some of their choices?
Is what they are feeling a fleeting idea or a thought coming from peer pressure? Or is it something they have been thinking for a long time and know the pros and cons?
Can I trust their judgement and can they trust my advice?
1 MILLION other things that I can’t list here.
I can feel when my oldest is really serious about something. She is probably more mature than most girls her age and it can be a real eye-opener for me sometimes.
So, when the idea was brought forth to me that she wanted to get her nose pierced I thought of all of these things and more. I also had the fleeting thought that my parents (her grandparents) would be pretty upset if their grandbaby visited them with a new piece of ice in her nose. But, it didn’t stop me from having an open conversation with my kid. If anyone is willing to go up to bat for her daughter making the decisions about her own body, it’s me.
The discussion about the nose piercing lasted about four weeks in our house. I had my nose pierced before and flat out told her that it hurts, mine became infected and kind of looked like a big boog on my nose. It didn’t suit me. If the idea of these things didn’t phase her, she was probably more serious than I thought. She also had to pay for it herself… or so I told her.
Then the text came one day from her Dad – we are pretty lucky that we are both pretty rad, because I don’t think my Dad would have ever have opened up this door – and the text said, “Hey what do you think of M. getting her nose pierced?” Since we had been talking about it at our house for quite some time, I told him that when it boils down to it, a piercing is just a hole. A nose piercing won’t change her in any other way besides putting a tiny hole in her face. A nose piercing doesn’t open the doors for undesirable behaviours like underage drinking or drugs or prostitution. It is just a tiny hole in her face filled with a pretty gem.
Lo’ and behold, Teenager and Her Dad were close to a reputable piercing shop – and honestly, I am not even sure I would have wanted to be there in person – so they walked in and she got her piercing. The only request I had was that I got sent a video. She took it like a champ and much better than I did when I was 18.
But, what I am really hoping she got from the experience was that she is the ruler of her own castle – her body. She get to make the decisions of what happens to it, how it is modified and how it is used. I hope with all of my heart that it gives her strength to say “NO” when she means it and “YES” when she feels it. I hope it gives her confidence that she can not be used like a toy and also that she can respect her body for what it is…
This is the first Guest Post here on Waking Up Thirty.
We all go through different trials and tribulations in life – how we battle them is much more defining than the actual outcome in a lot of instances.
Cheers to “M.” for being brave and sharing their story.
In January, I wrote a list of goals for 2016. I am not a fan of resolutions but I do believe if you write things down there is a better chance of them being crossed off and accomplished. The list included items like drink more water, plan trips not purchases, breathe, compete with myself not others, Do Mud Hero, Not Since Moses run and 10km at Maritime Race weekend, Love myself, be in bed by 10pm, Go to church more regularly, more day trips as a family, more get togethers with friends, Seek Joy and At the top of the list, Get Pregnant and have another baby.
Well it is more than half way through the year and I am still not pregnant and we started trying about 6 months before I wrote that list. I’m not sure why it hasn’t happened yet. With my first, it happened quickly. There are reasons I’m sure. Physical reasons, emotional reasons, timing, purpose etc… Trying not to focus on it is an exercise in futility. Instead I try to listen to all the subtle truths being revealed. Truthfully it amazes me how we multi-task in this life. We carry on in our day to day (jobs, doctors appointments, friendships, family obligations) while just under the surface or behind closed doors we balance the emotions and struggle we experience in the waiting, in the living, in the knowing of not knowing, in the realization that we can only control so much. This is true of so many of life’s experiences not just trying to conceive. I’ve seen it in my friends and colleagues who care for their ailing parents or battle illnesses all while showing up for work , taking care of their kids and all with such strength and grace. It’s Amazing.
As a planner, someone who makes lists and crosses items off and someone who isn’t particularly fond of change, when you are ready to embrace a new life altering change and it just doesn’t happen it’s unsettling. I remember a quote from Ruth Houtby at the pulpit “Losing Control is losing the illusion that we were ever in control to begin with” This quote has had so much meaning in so many situations for me and yet I keep hearing it and learning it in different contexts. It feels particularly relevant right now.
I read this article the other day about how to support a friend through infertility. It made me realize three things. 1. We are not alone in this experience 2. I have some amazing friends. 3. The last paragraph… “At the end of the day, whether you are able to have the family you desire or not you will be made a better person by the experience.” Katie Hintz-Zambrano writes “While that is not an easy thing to tell a friend (or hear), it’s a reality of the experience. You will be a better parent, friend, sister, wife, person in general.” I would extend this to husbands and fathers as well.
I truly feel this. Even though it is hard and a struggle not knowing when and/or if it will happen for us again, it is shaping me and our family, growing us and challenging us to be more appreciative of the family we do have and more willing to explore new experiences and take more chances. We are living life more fully, more presently.
Have you ever written an “I am” list? You know the ones where you write “I am…” at the top of the page and then fill the page with positive affirmations about yourself? It’s big in the self-help world. Anyway I have. I am kind, I am generous, I am a loyal, I am happy yadda yadda… I get about two lines in and start trying to think about how I can re-frame negative self talk to be positive. (Side note: why do we carry such negative self-beliefs) But one truth I know is that I am a good friend. I care deeply about my friends and I prioritize maintaining friendships. It brings me joy to sit with friends and connect, no matter what the topic or context. It is equally joyful and challenging to connect with friends who are experiencing something in their lives you wish to be experiencing in your own. When you are trying to get pregnant you become that much more aware of all the pregnant people around you. I have experienced so many emotions as my friends experience pregnancy and the birth of their children, some for the first time and others the second time around: excitement, joy, jealousy, resentment, gratitude, sadness, guilt, longing. I have also become a more sensitive friend. I am that much more aware of the questions I ask or how I talk about my own child with others. It is so easy to complain about sleepless nights, how whiny your child is or the general struggles of parenting. I no longer take these things for granted.
In the midst of a particularly rough weekend which corresponded with sleep deprivation, PMS and the cycle that is the roller-coaster of emotions one experiences when trying to get pregnant (sorry if TMI) our family sought refuge at my mom’s. After I left she wrote to me. She said “You need to be more kind to yourself and trust your instincts. You are a good person. Sometimes I think you need to reverse the golden rule and do unto/for yourself as you would do unto/for others. Love you”
It meant the world to me to read those words from her. I felt as though she looked at me and really saw me. She saw me where I am currently and said exactly the words I needed to hear.
I know I am so lucky to have had a successful pregnancy the first time around and to have a loving husband and awesome little boy. Throughout and as a result of this experience I have also had the opportunity to cross off some of the other items on my list such as competing with myself and not others, running a few races, planning trips not purchases, taking time to breathe, practicing self-care and mindfully seeking Joy. What Katie Hintz-Zambrano writes is true. I am a better wife, mom, friend, daughter, sister and person for having this experience. I am learning and growing. I am present enough to recognize that there are so many known and unknowns becoming manifest and in the midst of it all, I have hope.
Thank you so much for the entry, “M.”
I think we can all agree that life doesn’t always give us what we want, but it has a way of giving us what we need.