A Hundred Excuses

I haven’t posted in a month.  I have a hundred excuses why.  Some are more valid than others, but none of them are the full truth.

Excuse 1: I had family come in for a visit.  They drove from Ontario to visit with us and, as the designated stay-at-home-for-right-now mom, I was more than happy to escort them about the city, showing off the place I love.

Excuse 2: Holidays.  Between thanksgiving and Halloween, a lot has been going on.  G had her first movie experience, we have carved multiple pumpkins.  We have baked and eaten that baking.  I have gained back all of the weight that I had lost… you know what they say: Thanksgiving is the beginning of the end for every weak-willed dieter.

Excuse 3: I am a bridesmaid in a wedding and the bachelorette party was in Canmore last weekend.  A LOT of my focus had to go into that.

Excuse 4: L is in a BAD sleep regression.  G had them when she was a baby, but not like this.  I am getting absolutely no more than 90 minutes of sleep at night and only a few small breaks during the day.  I love him to little bits but I may leave him in a box on the side of the road with a “Free Baby” sign pretty soon.

 

Ok so not 100 excuses, but four.  Again, all of them real reasons why I have been lax in my blog posting duties, but none of them cover all of it.  The real reason was one that I hadn’t been able to recognize until I was at my book club last Thursday.  My book club, which has only had two meetings so far, is made up of women that I’ve never met, all of whom are small business owners or entrepreneurs.  They are incredible.  Beautiful inside and out, these women work their tails off to live their dream and to make their visions reality.  I was overwhelmed, surrounded by them, by how strong and utterly RELENTLESS they are.  Our book for October was “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington and while we all agreed that it was sort of “meh” overall, it had a few interesting points that became deep conversations for us.  One of the key points was hit on the head by one of the other women: we are constantly told to question our own abilities and value.  We have these deep desires and wants in our lives… oftentimes involving dreams we want to pursue.  But we stop ourselves.  We stop because we think of finances.  We think of responsibilities.  We think, most of all, “who am I to do this?”

And that line is what struck me.  “Who am I to do this?”  She was speaking of her own experiences, and yet it was like she was giving voice to the fear that hides in the back of my head: Who am I to think that I am worth hearing?  Who am I to think I can speak to this or that?  Who am I to think anyone wants to hear what I have to say?

For all of the many concrete reasons I had given myself for putting off posting, this was the one that they hid: my deep insecurity that no one should care what I have to say; that it is arrogant for me to think that what I have to say is worth being heard at all.

I recently read a piece by Joan Didion that talks about self-respect and the struggle to find it.  She likened it to a “well-lit back alley” where all of our self-knowledge waits to essentially mug us with the truths behind our masks and self-image and reputation:  here lurk the truths you can hide from everyone but yourself.  I think I LIVE in that back alley.  I am never unaware of my failings, big and small.  I still think about the time I called a kid a bad name in grade 4 and that one time I didn’t stand up for my mom when I should have.  I’m aware of the frustration I feel when I’m with my daughter – the short-tempered cruelties that shame me deeply.  I can’t pretend with myself to be any kind of parenting sage because I know too well the truth of myself, and to write any kind of piece that says otherwise is to be inauthentic.

It’s a funny duality that I have found in motherhood: I jealously remember the times in my life when I was truly seen, now that I am permanently relegated to the background of my children’s lives.  I once was the sun, with everything orbiting around my life, but now I am just one of those planets, orbiting G and L while they shine.  I guard the precious memories of my life BEFORE when I was Danielle and not just mom.  When I had interests and independence.  But the irony is that I think my greatest fear is to be truly seen now.  To be seen in my inglorious moments, my frustrated ones, my shameful ones. It’s one thing to embrace the messiness of parenthood – there is a deeply funny side to the trivial failings of our day-to-day lives: the spilled milk, the spit up accidents, the blow-outs.  There is a black humour to the first time your kid repeats the word “fuck” or accidentally does something inappropriate with total, pure innocence.  But it’s a different beast to look at our real failings as parents and as people.  Those are moments we do not want to be seen… and they are moments that I feel I have had more of since I became a mom.

And yet, I believe there is value in it.  I think that there are those moments where seeing someone else be vulnerable allows us a greater connection to both ourselves and one another.  I believe that we are closer when we see each other as human.  Especially in a time where social media makes it difficult to separate someone’s PROFILE from her LIFE.

So I’m back.  I have to believe that there is a value to what I want to say.  Perhaps it will be uncomfortable – for me, for people who read it – but perhaps there is value in that.  If I want to raise a daughter who sees value in her own thoughts and voice, I have to find that value in my own.

Fingers crossed.

 

xo

Mediocre Mom

Why I Kept Her in Daycare

When I was off with my first baby, I had to make a major decision (as so many of us do) between going back to work and staying at home with my daughter).  Despite the seeming ease of this question, for me it was an identity crisis.

I wanted so badly to be the kind of parent who LOVED being at home with her kid(s).  Seriously.  I looked at my some of my SAHM friends and saw what amazing moms they were – they somehow always had it together, even with way more kids than me.  They were always out and about; the kids were stylishly dressed and in all sorts of beautifully-photographed activities.  They seem (and perhaps it’s not the case, but I can only report it from the outside!) very content with her kids.  On social media, they post funny mom-memes and beautiful photos of their sleeping kids with captions about how even when it’s hard, they are so blessed to be at home with their kids and see them growing.

But the part of me that is far more honest with myself than I sometimes would like, I knew I was not one of those moms.  I love my daughter intensely, but I found my mat leave to be one of the hardest years of my life.  I struggled with bad post-partum depression and anxiety for several months after her birth, and sadly did not find motherhood to be something that came naturally to me.  I don’t know – maybe none of us do, but it certainly felt at the time like I was the only person who struggled with it.  I missed adult companionship.  I missed the intellectual engagement I found in my job.  Additionally, I found myself in an internal war between how much I freaking loved this little human and how very deeply frustrating I found being at home with her.  I realized during my mat leave that I was not the kind of person who fell easily into chatter with small children, and I felt a deep sense of personal shame and failure over the fact that I had to work so hard to be patient and engaged with my own child, who I knew was one of the EASIER ones out there.

This struggle was compounded by the fact that the majority of my social interactions were work-based, so being away from work not only deprived me of my sense of personal fulfillment (I have long considered my profession to be more a calling than a job), I also felt that I had lost my entire social circle  as some of my best friends, and certainly the ones I spent the most time with, were my coworkers.  When I started talking about going back to work, I had to confront the challenges I would be facing: not only regarding trying to balance my work life (which typically involves a lot of work on evenings and weekends in addition to the regular work hours), but also in regards to finding a place for G.

I would first of all have to actually deal with and be okay with the sense of failure I felt in the fact that I knew I couldn’t stay at home with my daughter without ending up resenting her.  This has nothing to do with external pressures – although let’s be real, you can’t win either way (pick work and you’re a bad mom, pick staying at home and you’re wasting your potential) – and everything to do with my frighteningly consistent desire to put my child in a box on the side of the road with a “Free To a Good Home” sign on it.  I HAD to go back to work (for both our sakes).  But what to do with her while I was there?

We were a bit gunshy about daycare, so G spent several months with her nonna before we made the move to daycare in the early spring.  I was so nervous about it.  Neither my husband nor I had been in daycare as kids: his mom had stayed at home until the kids were all in school, and my parents worked alternating shifts and had me at my oma and opa’s house whenever they couldn’t be there.  Our in-laws had made similar decisions, with our sister-in-law staying home with her kids.  We didn’t have any friends with kids, really, and most of the friends that we knew had their kids with a grandparent or were staying at home.  Many of the daycares I looked at before finding the one we went with were too depressing for me to consider.  Like they were just orange jumpsuits and homemade shivs away from being tiny kid-prisons.  One place we went had a “yard” for their “outdoor hour” that was black tarmac with a chain link fence around it.  The kids were separated by age into little quadrants of the black chain-link fenced yard.  Tarps were slung across the tops of the fence to provide the pretense of shade.  To access the yards, the kids had to line up in between two secure doors to be counted.  They literally had inmate numbers, you guys.  And this place was EXPENSIVE!  I want champagne daycare at a beer budget and I won’t settle!

not her first day at daycare (I’m not on it enough to have gotten a picture of that haha) but look how cute her backpack is!


But once she started, everything changed.  While dropoff was awful (so. sad.) because she has some serious attachment stuff goin on, I quickly saw the benefits.  G has her mom’s social skills: when she wants to make a friend, she runs over and stands an awkward distance from them and just… stares at them.  If they look at her, or acknowledge her, she runs back and hides behind my legs.  But at daycare?  She made FRIENDS.  She learned to play with other kids, and to (sort of) share (she has a little boy who pulls her around in the wagon, and I think that counts as friends).  She gets to go outside everyday.  They garden.  They swim.  They go on field trips.  They colour their faces with super-indelible-never-come-off-till-youre-dead-and-maybe-even-later colouring markers.  Wanna guess how many of those things I did with her over my mat leave?  Ok, we did one of those things.  I’m not telling you which, but let’s just don’t ever get my kid wet (if you get this joke, you both read good books and also should be my friend).

So when L was born and we had to make a decision about whether to keep her in or pull her out of daycare, we decided to keep her in.  When I don’t feel like explaining my parenting deficiencies to people, I say that we kept her in so that we didn’t lose her spot for when I go back to work next year (this is actually true – the waitlist is huge and there are no promises), but the real reason is that I am not a good mom to her when I’m with her 24/7.  I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past two years: mostly how much stronger and weaker I am than I had thought.

Daycare not only gives her more than I can, they also let me give her more than I could.  With them, she gets a close, safe group of friends.  She has formed bonds with other people and it has helped her be more independent.  She has tended a garden, released butterflies.  She gets swimming and singing lessons.  She gets EXPERIENCES.  At home, I’m too overwhelmed with L to give her those things, and even when I’m not, I find planning and executing activities like that to be too big a task for just me (kudos times a million to all of the SAHMs out there hustling to give their kids experiences and activities on the regular).  Additionally, because I feel like I have had a chance to nourish my SELF, rest and bond with my new baby, I feel like I give her the better parts of myself when she’s home: evenings are full of playdough, tickles and songs (and tantrums, potty training and dinner and bath battles… I mean seriously.  You keep your cool after your kid poops in your hand or throws dinner on the floor and I will name you a Saint), weekends I feel like I had enough energy for adventures (also, I have access to the help of my parents and husband on the weekends, which makes adventures much easier to plan and execute).

Despite my wishes to be a super mom, I’m not.  I’m Mediocre (I once said that I was a bad mom and I was harangued for it because I was “not on crack,” so  I realized that the bar is perhaps a little lower than I’d previously thought).  I get tired, frustrated, over-touched, and bored.  I lack the energy or ambition to organize the kinds of entertainment that a busy 2 year old requires occasionally as a break from smashing pans together and reading the same book four million times.  This isn’t about comparing myself to other moms, this is about what is best for my kid, and for me.  And for us, it’s daycare.

xo

Mediocre Mom
Ps: still my favourite log entry from daycare

this kid is going places.  not college; but places.