The Mediocre Kitchen

As promised, here comes a post about how I have started converting to minimalism and intentionality in my house and life.  While the first thing that I tackled was my wardrobe, it’s the one that I’m still most dissatisfied with – I feel like I’m in a really liminal space when it comes to my wardrobe, so my closet reflects that “temporary” feelings (I am still nursing… but probably not for too much longer during the day; I’m going back to work… but not until September; it’s freezing and whythehelldoilivehereagain… but spring is *maybe* coming).  So as much as I am FAR happier with my wardrobe right now, I’m not quite ready to do more than post the occasionally glimpse on Instagram.

But my kitchen!  It’s still also a work in progress, but I had no idea going into this how much this would change my life.  Cooking and baking used to be activities that I really enjoyed, and where I was very experimental and, admittedly, quite messy.  Cooking for and feeding my toddler and baby, however, has been far less fun.  Actually, I could easily accuse it of being the main source of most of my day-to-day anxiety (tied with the Sisyphean task of laundry for a family of four).  I had a pantry that was overflowing with STUFF and a fridge and freezer loaded with food that I couldn’t make meals out of – and that usually ended up getting thrown out.  Usually, we would look in our fridge, be unable to put anything together into an actual meal, despite the amount of food we were looking at, and then we would order in (I swear that Skip the Dishes knows us by name at this point).  So I was doing groceries (and paying for them in time and money) and then STILL ordering in food.  Once in a while, my husband would get overwhelmed by the fridge situation and just throw everything out, and we would start all over again.

Part of the problem going in was that I cooked off the top of my head.  I’d decide “tonight I should make risotto!  And tiramisu!” and off I’d go to the store to buy the specific ingredients for these recipes.  I’d make them, love them, leave my kitchen a total disaster, and fill my pantry and fridge with one-off ingredients that would languish there for several years before I’d be like “um why do I have a dusty bottle of Grand Marnier in the back of my pantry?  when did I even buy Grand Marnier?  was this a gift?  which 90-year old gave us this?” before trying to pawn it off on one of my senior family members, with fingers crossed that it wasn’t them who gave it to me in the first place.  Through this, I had acquired everything from a jar of what might once have been truffles, to 4 different kinds of curry powders, to various bottles of alcohol, to bottles of condiments with labels in languages that mean I literally don’t know what’s in them.

But no more, friends!  No more!

We live in a fairly small house, and we don’t have a lot of pantry or cabinet space, so what space we have is at a premium.  That means that the first step I had to take was to completely clear out my pantry and fridge and start fresh.  The challenge, though, is that I’ve DONE that before.  I had to rethink it and be more intentional about it.  So before I decided to do a big clean out, I decided to change the way that I was thinking about cooking.  I have done meal planning before, but in the way where I’d go through cookbooks or websites and pick 5 dinners that looked yummy and then buy all of the things I’d need to make those recipes.  I don’t deny the appeal here – I am not a food utilitarian.  I love food.  No, you’re underestimating it.  I LOVE food.  I have literally planned trips around food.  I have decided on which friendships to cultivate based on food.  I have, in a concrete sense, decided that eating delicious food is more important to me than losing weight (I’m serious.  I’m a size 8 who was formerly a size 2… but I had to struggle to stay at a 2/4 by really restricting what I ate and by making myself do exercise in a way that I don’t enjoy.  Now, I am very happy and consistent at my size 8, because I let myself have pain au chocolat with my morning espresso and a chunk of camembert whenever I feel like I need it).

My new approach worked like this: before I emptied out and reorganized my pantry, I needed to figure out what actually NEEDED to be in my pantry.  What items do we use again and again?  What items do we keep that we don’t use?  THEN, I figured out how to organize those items that we really use, and I went about it slowly and deliberately, making space for those items, so that I can easily see them (and therefore am more likely to use them) and so that we know when we are out.  It’s not written in stone, and it’s still a work in progress, but certainly this has allowed me to streamline and simplify both my groceries and my cooking.

Secondly, I re-thought my meal planning.  I decided on two things: 1. I HAD to have a plan.  No more staring at the fridge and figuring out what the heck to cook.  and 2. those meals had to have some consistency to them, so that I can re-use the same ingredients and don’t have to spend as much time thinking through things week-by-week and day-by-day.  But, let me stress, I cannot do the same meal every night.  And I can’t abide by the super plain, boring food that my husband and toddler seem to like.  So it had to be exciting (to me), consistent, and easy (like 30 minutes top to bottom).  Sadly, there are more conditions that I have to honour, like that my daughter is, y’know, 2, and while I believe that she should eat what we eat because I am not going to add “short order cook” to my already packed job description, I need to take her palate into consideration.  I sometimes give her palate more credit than it deserves, and I have to learn from those experiences going forward.

From there, it took a couple of months of trial and error.  Some experiments were crazy successful, like having my daughter help me make dinner whenever it was possible, and help serve it wherever it wasn’t possible for her to help cook.  Some experiments were significantly less successful, like my curried salmon stirfry, which we thought was delicious and which my daughter thought was worse than starvation.  After the trial period (let’s be honest, my life will always be in the trial period), I was able to sort out that my typical week looks something like this:

Monday: vegetarian option (meatless monday!)

Tuesday: tacos

Wednesday: salmon or chicken

Thursday: chicken or salmon

Friday: Pizza (we go to nonna’s house on Fridays for her homemade pizza and have been doing this for a decade- bless her heart for hosting six children and their 5 grandchildren every week)

Saturday: pasta

Sunday: Wild Card (i.e. leftovers, sandwiches, or order in)

All of these meals HAVE to have a protein, a carb/starch, and veggies.  My daughter (luckily) does not shy away from any particular category, though she obviously has likes and dislikes within each one.  From within this framework, it’s actually really easy.  I like to try out a fun recipe at least once a week, but try to pick something that doesn’t require me getting a bunch of random ingredients.  We really like Italian and Asian flavours in particular, so I usually stick with those palates, with the occasional branch-out to French or Indian/Thai.  We also don’t eat a ton of red meat, as you can see.

Once I had this laid out, the rest came about a lot easier.  My grocery list is already 80% done before I even start: I know I need chicken, salmon, whatever meat I’m using for my tacos, and lean ground something for my pasta.  I always get a bunch of whatever seasonal vegetables I know I can get my daughter to eat (right now it’s a LOT of cauliflower, beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips etc. because it’s winter, but in the summer, it’s more greenery and asparagus).  I need rice and potatoes (usually baby potatoes or red so I can keep the skin on and boil them quickly if I need to).  I also ALWAYS have garlic, onions, ginger, coconut milk, and the ingredients for tomato sauce.  I know a handful of solid recipes that I know my kids and husband will eat, and then I mix it up a 1-2 times per week so that I don’t get bored.  Any time I make something adventurous, it’s with the idea in my head that it MIGHT get added to the rotation, if it proves to be simple, delicious and not too expensive to add to the consistent grocery list.

After I had nailed this down and done a few weeks of work with it, I realized that I could pretty effectively organize my pantry.  I bought wood crates from Ikea, labelled them with my principal ingredients, and suddenly my pantry looks all fancy.  Now, I have saved even more time because I don’t have to really think about my grocery list and (thank you, sweet sweet progress) I use grocery delivery or pickup services.  So on Sundays, I just spend 10 minutes putting it all on my online grocery bill and it shows up at my house, or I pick it up, the next morning for the week.

So there you have it.  In a strangely ironic twist, the less I have in my pantry and fridge, and the more deliberate I am about what’s there, the easier it is for me to cook quick, healthy, and delicious meals.  I swear to you that my mealtime stress has been reduced to almost nothing because of this change.  Now my mealtime stress is related to my daughter wanting to eat her dinner sitting on the ground in the closed pantry, which she has proclaimed “the Yukon” and my internal voice whispers to me “choose your battles… one day you’ll tell this story at her wedding.”

What do you do to simplify your mealtime routine?  Is it as chaotic and stressful for you as it was for me?  I’ve sort of gotten used to the fact that things that are hard for me are often easy for other people because I am a walking ball of loosely bottled anxiety.

And, if you’re interested, my favourite cookbooks and blogs for delicious and quick meals are Half Baked Harvest (her blog and her book are just… wow) and Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks.  I also follow a few healthy mom food-bloggers on insta.  I’ll do a roundup on there for those who are interested!

 

xo

Mediocre Mom

Bell Let’s Talk Day – Momming with Mental Illness

So I’ve been away for a while.  First, I took some time off for Christmas.  Then, I realized I was online too much, so I wanted to sort out my priorities… and then, my depression acted up.  I like to think of depression as something like arthritis: it’s always there, but sometimes it “acts up.”  In many ways, to me, that’s the most accurate description of depression.  I can still get out of bed.  I can still interact with people, and laugh, and chase my kids.  But it’s harder – almost impossible – on the mornings where my depression is acting up.  It can be affected by the weather: I have a much harder time dealing with depression on cold, dark days than on sunny ones (though this is not always the case).  In addition to the physical similarities, I also see a commonality in the way that people treat depression and arthritis.  If you have arthritis (or any chronic pain condition, like fibromyalgia), you know what I mean when I say this: people don’t want to hear you talk about it.  The first time you are with someone and you are having a flare-up, you tell them about your condition and they are sympathetic.  But if every time you’re with them, you move slower, or you complain (or even mention it), they eventually get tired of hearing about it… or at least it sure feels that way to you.  So you start to pretend that it DOESN’T bother you.  You smile through the winces; you get up and participate, even if all you want to do is sit and cry.

That.  That is depression.  Or at least what it is to me.

I have what is called, in some schools, “high functioning depression” because I can live a “normal” life, even when in the throes of mental illness.  I can camouflage.  I smile, instead of crying.  I play with my kids, and talk to friends, instead of staring at a wall.  I work, instead of sleeping.  I have learned what I look like when I’m “normal” and I emulate those behaviours as closely as possible.  I usually feel like people just don’t want to hear about it (even if that’s simply not true, it’s how I FEEL when I’m there), and that I can’t use it as an excuse for withdrawing from the world, because my friends/coworkers/family deserve better than that, even if it’s what I need for my own well-being.

And this is especially true as a mom.

How do you explain to a 2 year old that you literally can’t talk to her because it is taking every ounce of your energy just to be in clothing?  Or that you can’t walk to the playground today because the struggle to put together more than one-word sentences is simply too overwhelming a task?  My desperate desire for her not to see me having Rochester’s-first-wife-in-the-attic moments is so strong that I power through.  My intense need not to somehow pass this on to her, like some kind of mental flu.  It’s like jr high track and field: you HAVE to participate, even if you’d rather cut your own legs off than race the 800 meter today.  I get in my lane and run the damn race; it’s just that I’m running the race in knee-deep mud, so every stride takes 10 times the effort that it should.  And even when I know it’s not true, it feels like my lane is the only one with this mud in it – like somehow all the other moms got clean lanes.  So I’ll show up.  I’ll race.  I’ll put on my runners, I’ll get in my lane, and I’ll run this damn race like my lane isn’t full of mud.

And the cycle, as vicious as it is, requires that I then recharge from the herculean effort of doing something totally innocuous with copious amounts of sleep.  If you’re a mom, you already know the punchline: sleep is not something easy to come by as a parent.

That’s it.  I don’t have advice.  I don’t think of myself as somehow “better” than other people with depression, just because I can force myself out of bed.  Trust me, there are days when I can’t.  I understand the crushing weight of it.

So, moms out there with depression – I feel you.  A wild, sad, emphatic salute to you in your struggle.  For days when you show up, and days when you can’t.  Days where you smile and laugh and chase and tickle and days when you stare at a blank wall while your baby naps.  For the times you swallow what you want to say and say “I’m fine” and days when you can’t, and you cry when you’re asked if you’re alright.  Stay strong.

This is my annual post for Bell Let’s Talk Day.  I started trying to be more open about my mental illnesses several years ago, starting with a post on Bell Let’s Talk Day on facebook that marked the first time I ever openly anounced my struggles, and I want to end this one the same way I’ve ended them all: if you are struggling, reach out to someone (if you can) and know that you are NOT alone.  If you aren’t struggling, reach out to someone who might be.

POTTY TRAINING

So life with a toddler and a baby is, as expected, insane.  But the previous level of insanity reached a new level of crazy this weekend when we decided to potty train G.

Backtrack a second.  We actually decided to potty train her like, three months ago, but we went about it in the way that I go about everything: half-assed.  And you cannot half-ass potty training.  You must whole-ass potty training.  Ass-and-a-half, even.  Prior to Friday, G had peed on the potty ONCE successfully and it was after my mom sat with her on the potty for an hour and a half with stickers.  I had gone to Toys R Us around her second birthday and bought a potty for on the toilet, and a portable seat for when we went out.  I switched her to pull-ups, and occasionally I’d ask if she needed to go to the potty, but that was it.  I was doing basically nothing, but at the same time I was frustrated because it wasn’t working.  So I went and bought an elmo stand-alone potty.  I had sticker books, special search-and-find books and a renewed determination to… do exactly the same amount of nothing.

Four months pass.  I get no sleep.  Daycare will only support what I already have in place, but wont potty train her for me (the nerve of them, refusing to parent my child and making me do it), and the after-daycare hours are so crazy that seriously I blinked and those four months were gone.  MY plans to have her potty trained before the snow was wiped out by both my own inaction and Edmonton’s early snowfall (which has trapped me in the house like some sort of domestic version of The Revenant).

But wait!  Here comes a three day weekend!  Didn’t my mother-in-law tell me that it only takes three days to potty train a toddler if you dont let them wear pants?!  PERFECT!  So when Friday rolls around, we get G from her room and… take her pants away.  At first, she was really upset because she loves her pants (they have cats on them.  Cats.  I’m such a dog person and my kid freaking love cats.  I think it’s evidence that she’s already going to be a rebellious teenager) and then, when we slowly tried to take her pull-ups away, things got a bit hairy.  See, her pull-ups have “Mickey” (it’s totally Minnie) on them, and it was like we were torturing her by not allowing her to wear them.  After a few attempts at distraction, we put a towel on the floor and took out her favourite puzzle, and she thought making “bum marks” on the towel with her penaten-coated rear was hilarious, so we were out of the woods.

Then we hunkered down to wait it out.  Everyone has told us that potty-training is the hardest and worst part of parenting, so we were prepared for the worst.  We had coffee.  We had snacks.  We weren’t leaving until she was potty-trained.  We set a “tinkle timer” on my phone for 20 minutes.  We gave her as much water-diluted apple juice as she could drink (and holy shit can she drink a lot) When the tinkle timer went off, we went to the potty.  At first she thought this was a hilarious game, and would hang out on the potty and read her new Richard Scarry word book.

The novelty wore off quickly.

Soon the tinkle timer was a source of mini tantrums, so we turned it off.  And it happened!  She stood up, looked at me and said “the pee is coming” and we ran to the toilet and it happened!  And there was no going back: she didnt have a single accident that first day.  We patted ourselves on the back for being such exceptional parents.

Saturday.

I spent the entire day in the bathroom on Saturday.  I Swear.  She had tasted success (it tasted like watered down apple juice, I assume) and wanted more.  Now she got her big girl underwear (it has Paw Patrol characters on it so we sing the theme song constantly – or at least the one line from the theme song that I know) and she wasn’t going to risk getting Skye or Marshall “wet.”  We did have our first accident, but it was because she was so excited about her puzzle that she didn’t want to go to the bathroom, so she peed a little while working on it.  But she told me right away and we went to the potty and it was all golden.

Sunday was the real test.

On Sunday, we left the house.  We went to dance class in the morning – no accidents.  We had our first legitimate accident at a restaurant that night when she told me she had to go and I let her leave the bathroom before she had gone to the bathroom (my fault, but seriously Tony’s Pizza was calling me back to the table!)

So where are we at now?

Well, this sounds like we had an incredibly successful weekend and, honestly, I would say that’s true.  We bonded a lot, she learned to tell me when she has to go to the bathroom, and it seems like she’s really got this when we are at home.

BUT

BUT

She does not want to use the potty at daycare.  It means that she has to stop playing to go, and they are spread too thin to set a 20 minute tinkle timer, or sit with her on the potty for 40 minutes waiting for her to pee, and I get it.  But it’s undermining the process for sure.

And she does NOT have it together for naps/bedtime.  That will be a big issue going forward, and I have no idea how to approach it.  She can’t get out of her room on her own, and we don’t have the kind of monitor in her room where we can hear her all the time – we use a Nest cam, so we can open it on our phones to see her, but it’s not like we would hear her saying she needs to use the potty unless we HAPPENED to be watching when she did.  So if anyone has any ideas here, I’d love to hear them (and then probably ignore them for like 4 months before I give in and half-ass them…as I do).

And here is the biggest one: we have noticed that during this process, her attachment has gone through the roof.  It’s heartbreaking.  Beditme and daycare time have gone through a HUGE regression since Friday.  I know we just have to ride it out, but it’s awful in the meantime, and it’s going to get worse because I’m a masochist and I’m going to start sleep-training L right away here… ugh why.

AND (whiney rant coming)

GOD I ALREADY MISS DIAPERS.

I know.  I know.  Who MISSES diapers??  ME!  I DO!  Do you know what I  hate more than cleaning my toddler’s poopy butt?  Sitting on the ground in a public toilet for fourty minutes waiting for her to poop and then STILL HAVING TO WIPE HER POOPY BUTT!  She’s GONE MAD WITH POWER!  She knows that I have to run with her to the potty if she says she has to go, AND SHE’S ABUSING THE TINY MODICUM OF POWER SHE HAS BEEN GIVEN!  This kid should NEVER be allowed to hold a position of authority – it WILL corrupt her!

 

Next up: sleep training.  I know there are a lot of opinions about it out there, but I’m going to talk about my experiences and opinions in my next post.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear your experiences with potty-training and what has worked for you!

 

xo

Mediocre Mom

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

Remembering What’s Important

I had started on a post about good/bad baby products for today, but honestly I can’t get through it.  I am having a “down” day, which is code for a day where my depression and anxiety is causing me to struggle with personing.  I have had struggles with depression and anxiety since I was pretty young, and some periods have been worse than others.  Being a mom has, unfortunately, triggered a lot of my mental health issues because of the constant feeling of not-enoughness that pervades a mom’s day to day living.

Yesterday was a bad day.  I looked around my kitchen and couldn’t make myself do dishes.  Which, of course, triggered feelings of failure because I was being “lazy” and couldn’t do what I feel is an expected bare minimum for me when I’m home all day.  I was a miserable ball of grump when I went to a pilates class and found out that it wasn’t pilates but *GASP* *HORROR* a barre class instead (“I didn’t come here expecting to do SQUATS for heaven’s sake” she says to the clearly offended instructor) making me feel like a huge bitch.  I went to school to help with auditions where I knew I would be letting everyone down because I wouldn’t be able to help with the show the way I would have before I had kids.  I was late getting home and didn’t have dinner ready.  I was short tempered with my daughter.  I was irritated with my son (Good Lord don’t you eventually reach a point of exhaustion where you just pass out?  When the hell does that happen for a newborn??  He could seriously keep national secrets safe in the face of sleep-deprivation torture).  I ate poorly because I had no energy and then hated myself for undermining my hard work to eat well for my health and milk supply.  I grumped at my poor mother on the phone.  I felt like a failure across the board.  The voice in my head repeated it to me: all the ways that I had failed all of the people around me.  I wasn’t giving enough to my kids, to my husband, to my family, to my job… and yet I felt like I had nothing else I could give… so clearly, I’m just not ENOUGH.

Yeah.  It was a bad day.  Depression, added in to the relentless erosion of parenthood, can be a beast.

In particular, it was my daughter I felt that I was failing.  I looked at her and someone else had put her hair in a ponytail (some well-meaning daycare working) and she had on dirty clothes with her runny nose and her perpetual daycare cold and I was crushed by the feeling that I was letting her down as a parent.  And even with that knowledge, I couldn’t stay patient with her when we were eating dinner (I spent seven damn minutes grilling this steak and you “no want meat”?!).

I was in tears by bedtime.  Not because of her – she is amazing – but because of me.  She’s TWO, dammit.  She wants to play hide n seek instead of putting on her pajamas; she doesn’t understand that I can’t help open the blue playdough when both of my hands are full, and she can’t help it that she can repeat the same sentence – “mommy help with boo paydough? mommy help with boo paydough? – a thousand times without realizing that she’s going to break me.  I came in to her room for the bedtime routine secure in my knowledge that I am a BAD MOM.

And then

We are lying in her bed, reading her story (“David’s Father” by Robert Munsch right now) and I’m lying next to her, with my head propped up on my hand while daddy reads and she yells out the parts that she knows.  All of a sudden, in one of those purely spontaneous moments that only kids seem capable of, she reaches a chubby little arm out and puts it around my neck.  She pulls my head down onto her tiny chest – I can hear her heartbeat like a butterfly through her fleece puppy pajamas – and she puts her sweet little lips on top of my head and says, entirely unprovoked, “I happy mommy.”

She’s happy.

She’s HAPPY.

 

I am not enough. I never will be.  I will never be enough to deserve the love that my daughter has for me… I will never deserve the way she looks to me when she needs reassurance… the trust she feels looking at me.  That’s a form of grace, you guys.  Undeserved, needed, precious beyond belief.  It makes my not-enoughness enough.

xo

Mediocre Mom

Post-Partum Self Care

Ok let’s start off by making one thing very clear: Self-care is NOT SELFISH.

Self-care is something that most of us used to do without thinking: we would feel overwhelmed at work; we’d go for a massage.  We were fighting with our partners; we’d take a bubble bath.  We felt unhappy with our bodies; we went to the gym (or, in my case, THOUGHT about going to the gym).  If we were sick, we would stay in bed, eat chicken noodle soup and watch bad television (here’s lookin at you, Chopped… who am I kidding, Chopped isn’t bad televisions, it’s the BEST television and if you don’t agree, we can’t be friends).  We were involved in self-care so regularly, that we often didn’t even realize that’s what we were doing.  For me, pre-baby, reading was key.  Whatever negative feelings I had, reading helped me care for myself.  It allowed me to get out of my busy head, escape for a while into a different world, and come back to reality restored.  I’m an introvert who holds a job that makes me act like an extrovert from 7:30-4:30 every day, and self-care was CRITICAL for me to stay human(ish) for my family, my husband, and my SELF.

Any you know what?  I was NEVER ashamed of taking that time.  I NEVER felt guilty that I needed to take an hour with a face mask on, in a tub, with my thick tome of sci-fi/fantasy escapism.  I knew that it was important, even though I never really stopped to think about it AS important… I just knew instinctively that I NEEDED that time in order to function fully in the other arenas of my life.

But then I was a mom, and everything changed.

If you’re a mom, you know what I mean when I say that all of the self-care you used to do without thinking suddenly seems almost prohibitively difficult to fit into your new life.  The first time I tried to take a bath after I had G, it took me 40 minutes to get into the tub.  I set up a swing (huge, hard to maneuver, and heavy, this thing required a fucking EXTENSION CORD to get it close enough to the bath for me to take one!) and then I nursed, and then I got all of my stuff together (towels, epsom salts, nothing fancy), then I put her in the swing and got one foot in the tub before I heard ppppffffftttttbbbbblurb.  Huge.  Blowout.  Poopmaggedon.  It was in her hair, for crying out loud.  So out of the tub I went.  Changed her, nursed her again (snacking babies will drive you nuts), changed the cover in the swing, and finally got into the bath.  Literally 5 minutes before she started crying.  I ignored her, muttering under my breath questions about why my own child hates me.  She cried harder.  I reluctantly looked over.  She has a spreading wet stain coming up the front of her onesie.  Fuck. ME.

Listen, no one is saying self-care after baby is easy.  I would argue, in fact, that the very reality of how difficult it is for us to take that time makes it even more important that we INSIST on getting it.  Some of the self-care you used to do might not be possible anymore, if we are being honest.  If you are the kind of weird, sad little person who cleans their house as a form of self-care, you may not be able to do a full-day, whole-house clean anymore.  You may need to follow the 15 minute rule: put baby down for FIFTEEN minutes and do ONE small task in that time (dishes, counter tops, etc)… anything that you can FINISH in that time so that you feel that sense of accomplishment.

For me, reading is a challenge now.  I used to disappear for hours.  I’m the kind of reader that actually does not hear you when you talk to me while I’m reading.  I don’t even know you’re there.  I can’t read like that anymore.  Even after the kids are asleep, I have to choose between the kinds of self-care that are most beneficial for me, and, frankly, sleep will win every time.  Like, every time.

So here are some of my recommendations for self-care.

  1. Post-partum self-care HAS to start with you caring for a body that has been hit by a metaphoric train.  A 5-10lb, balled-fist waving, rooting, screaming, pooping train that Juggernauted its way out of your body by means of your most delicate parts… or straight out through your abdomen.  Your body NEEDS you to care for it.  If you had an episiotomy, or tore, you HAVE to take care of that.  Take your sits baths (or full baths, if you’re allowed), use your peri-bottle, sit on your donut.  Don’t lift stuff, if you can avoid it.  Go for physio.  Yup, they have physio for THAT.  I won’t get into the awful post-partum situation that developed down there for me, but know that, if you’re an Edmonton mom, CURA physiotherapy can seriously FIX you.  If you had a C-Section, STAY IN BED whenever you can.  Don’t lift things.  Take care of your stitches, and pay attention to the signs of infection.  Listen to your body and know that this is one of the most traumatic experiences your body will go through.  If you had been hit by a literal train, no one would expect you to have cooked dinner two days later.  No one would shame you for not picking up your toddler.  You only get ONE of these bodies.  Care for it.
  2. And while we’re on the topic of your body: fitness.  Ok.  I hate working out.  No, like HATE it.  I liked sport (note the lack of the plural) in school, but since then nothing has really piqued my interest.  I would not survive a horror film.  I’d look that mask-wearing, knife-wielding mad man in the face and be like, welp, guess I’m dying on this couch, then.  BUT taking care of your body becomes even more important post-partum, because of those happy little endorphins that you get from doing it… and endrophins make you happy and HAPPY PEOPLE DON’T KILL THEIR HUSBANDS (5 friend-points if you know this reference).  You don’t have to do anything crazy.  Just… go for a walk.  Take the baby.  Put in earphones and listen to your broadway musicals, or your gangster rap, and stroll.  Taking baby outside like this serves the added bonus of establishing his/her circadian rhythms, which helps with night sleep.  Don’t push your body too hard too fast.  Just because the dr clears you for working out doesn’t mean you need to start doing crazy high intensity workouts.  Do what your body CAN do.  Do it so that you feel good, not so that you’re punishing yourself to try to lose the weight.  A lot of people will tell you that you’ll lose the weight because of breastfeeding, but for me (and for other women I know) my body held onto fat while I was breastfeeding to fuel baby’s growth, so I didn’t start to really lose weight until I stopped breastfeeding.
  3. Speak positively to yourself and about yourself.  No conditions or write up here.  If you don’t already do this, START NOW.  Your children hear what you say about yourself.  Be kind.
  4. Get a hobby- especially one that is creative.  If you don’t have one yet, start one!  I found a fun list of easy-to-start hobbies and am working my way through them.  I started with calligraphy!  It’s a good one because if L wakes up while I’m doing it, I can put it to the side, take care of him, and then pick it back up.  Some hobbies don’t allow for this, so it’s important to take it into consideration.  This was especially important for me, because I did not really have hobbies before I had kids, because my LIFE was my job.  Suddenly, I’m off work for a year with a new human and I realized that I had nothing that filled my time except for her, and I often felt like I was failing in that arena, so I felt like I was failing across the board.  Try new things, friends.  Find something fun and stupid that you can do while you’re off.  Maybe you’ll find something you love.
  5. Eat.  Seriously, don’t forget to.  I won’t even say you should be eating super healthy, just stop forgetting to eat.  Get some breakfast in you.  I bought protein pancake mix that I can throw water into and cook in a couple minutes.  That and a coffee gets my day started on the right foot.
  6. Join a mom’s group.  I definitely already wrote about this.
  7. Take a bath or shower every day, if you can.  I like baths because I can have L next to the tub in his swing, or on the ground, and I dont have to get him completely asleep before I take it.  I have heard rumours of water-slings that you could use in the shower, but I’m terrified of slipping and killing us both.
  8. Find a way to stimulate yourself intellectually.  Babbling all day, or reading the same basic books, will drive you slowly crazy.  Mom-brain is real.  I have swiss cheese brain!  Sleep deprivation + hormones = my cell phone in the fridge.  I love podcasts (which I had never gotten into before L) and I find ones that I learn from.  It’s incredibly important to FEED yourself in all ways.  I am super into American politics and global events, so I listen to a lot of podcasts on that.  And seriously, if you haven’t listened to S-Town yet, you’re wrong and missing out.
  9. Do something that makes you feel pretty.  Buy a dress (or jeans or whatever).  Do your hair.  Paint your nails with that 30 second nail polish.  Look in the mirror, give yourself a big smile, and tell yourself how gor-ge-ous you are.
  10. When you’re ready, go on a date with your partner.  Even just to your own backyard.  I know that it’s hard.  I know that, in a lot of ways, it’s scary.  Do it anyway.  Trust me that you will not miss the extra hour of sleep the next day (and if you do, take a nap when baby falls asleep, if you can).  You NEED to stay connected to your partner.  Ask gramma to watch baby, or put him/her down for the night and take a monitor, or watch Netflix in bed with your headphones while baby is in the bassinet, or go for a walk together with baby snuggled into the stroller.  Hold hands like teenagers.  Kiss.  Talk about your days.  Talk about anything that isn’t the baby.  Talk about the baby.  Check in with each other.  Reaffirm your love, because even though it looks wildly different now, it’s still there and you have to protect it and shelter it and nurse it and care for it, or you’ll wake up from your baby-daze to find yourself living as roommates or strangers.  My husband and I walk to Starbucks with the kids on Sunday mornings and talk about our lives and plans, and we watch stupid TV together at night, even when we’re tired (we are committed Big Brother fans, so that’s our mindless date), and we PLAN for dates.  Right now, it’s hard, but we have already planned to go out in a few weeks for dinner and my first glass of wine (OMG I’VE NEVER BEEN SO EXCITED ABOUT ANYTHING EVER).  I have a hard time pumping, but I have amassed several ounces over the past couple of weeks so that we can make this happen.  Do it.  Trust me, it’s worth it.

xo

Mediocre Mom

Get a Cluesday – Babywearing

Today is a post that I dedicate to first time mom me.  When I had G, she wouldn’t sleep anywhere but in my arms.  Not in a playpen, or swing, or Mamaroo, or carseat… just my arms.  It was exhausting.  I couldn’t get anything done, and my ability to actually care for myself was essentially nil.  I wouldn’t eat or go to the bathroom all day because I felt like I absolutely COULD NOT put her down.  Unless my mom came over to help me, I was trapped!  This became especially true after we started sleep training her (another post for another, more controversial day).  With her, I didn’t really do any babywearing… until she was about 6 months old when husband and I started finally figuring out that it might be helpful.  When I would finally wrangle everything together to take her to the mall or something (once in a blue moon, and only when I had help), I would end up carrying her in my arms all through the mall, terrified that I would smack her head into something/someone, or drop her because I am the least graceful gazelle on the savannah.  I would always pack my Ergo carrier under the stroller, and end up using neither the Ergo NOR the stroller because of her insistence that I carry her.

This will not do, friends.  This is not ok.

With Leo,  I decided to make babywearing a mission.  And boy howdy is it worth it.  You get your hand(s) back (I use the optional plural there because honestly I’m still not great at it and feel like I need to continue to support his little head with my one hand) which means that you can do the following things:

-cook yourself a meal (or at least grab a snack)

-brush your hair

-poop

Seriously.  If you’re a new mom, you know that these three things are next to impossible when you are carrying your kid everywhere.  I’m not so ambitious as to include “clean” on that list, though I’m sure my husband would love to see it on there, but if you are one of those people who get their yahoos from cleaning, go ahead and insert your insanity into that list mentally (because let’s be real: if you’re a cleaner, you probably love lists, too).  Point being: babywearing gives you two incredibly important high fives in one.  First, you have a teensy bit of independence back!  You could go check your mail, or prep dinner, or do some laundry… whatever floats your  boat!  Second, you get to still be holding your baby, which is super important, especially for new moms who often feel like their baby is going to disappear or turn green or something if s/he is put down at any point.

But babywearing is also super intimidating.  Ergos/Baby Bjorns have a lot of straps.  Moby wraps and Solly wraps are just a hugely (like, ridiculously) long piece of fabric that I definitely get tangled up in almost every time I use them.  Slings look cool, but um… what’s holding the baby?  And I find that, in the face of anything overwhelming (or even just whelming), I shut down completely and just carry my kid because it’s “easier.”

So!  My simple list of pros and cons, with links to good how-to videos for each.

Option 1: The ERGO 360

With G, front-facing in Paris

With L, today before I washed my hair just to demo it. Thanks for tolerating me, bud.


This is a harnessy backpacky thing.  But a front pack.  So like a fanny pack for a baby.  A big, baby-carrying fannypack (don’t act like you didn’t totally own a rad New Kids on the Block one in elementary to go with your neon windbreaker – you do you, nineties me, you do you).  There are a bunch of versions of the Ergo (or maybe the ergo is a version of one of the others), like the Baby Bjorn and the Lille Baby carrier, but I have an Ergo, so that’s what I’m going to talk about… plus they’re basically identical.

Pros:

-can be worn in a bunch of different ways (front carry, side carry, back carry)

-very secure!  (baby is not going ANYWHERE in this beast!)

-decently easy to figure out how to do at least one of the carries

-has a handy little head cover thing for protecting baby in inclement weather

-ergonomic!  This baby is pretty easy on your back, which is nice

-apparently you can nurse in it (yeeeeaaaaaah not this E-Cup mama over here)

-this is the only one my husband would wear so maybe that’s a pro…?

Cons:

-not very convenient to pack; it’s pretty bulky

-Although it’s usable in a bunch of different ways, I honestly could not ever figure out any of the other ways and have only ever used it front-facing, which is fine… that’s all I’ve ever needed it for

-expensive (Lille Baby is between $150-$250, Ergos and Baby Bjorns are $200-$300 PLUS an infant insert)

-I feel nerdy wearing it.  Like two-strapping your backpack in the 4th grade… sure it’s more secure and you know it’s probably for the best, but they’ll still shove peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into your indoor shoes when you’re out for recess.

Here is a tutorial on using the Ergo 360 with a newborn… which I just learned a few things from while pre-watching haha

My Take:

For me, the Ergo is the one I go to if I think I’m going to need to take him in and out of it.  I use it when I go pick up my daughter from daycare: I wear it in the car, then I slip him into it and tighten the straps, go in and get G, then loosen the straps and put him back in the car.  I found that the Ergo worked much better for me with a slightly older baby – especially one who likes to look around.  I wasn’t able to figure out how to do that with the Moby, so once G started wanting to look around while I carried her, the Ergo became my go-to.  My husband was excited when L started getting “big enough” to use the Ergo (technically you can use it with a baby of 7lbs and up, but neither of us felt like testing that).

Option 2: the Moby Wrap

Newborn snuggles in the Moby


The Moby is a hugely long piece of fabric.  That’s it.  It’s just a big ol’ stretchy rectangle.  This one is by far the most complicated to figure out (deceptive, considering that it is seriously just one piece of rectangular fabric).  It’s also the cheapest of the options, coming in under $100 for most versions.

Pros:

-To me, this one makes me feel the most secure.  Baby is seriously REALLY snug in there once you figure out the wrap.  I go hands-free in this one and it’s the only one I feel like I can really do that with.  I can even bend over and pick things up!

-cost!  This is half the price of the next cheapest carrier.

-good support for your back

-skin to skin!  (I’ve worn L in the moby without a shirt on so that we can get lots of snuggly skin-to-skin time.  The wrap completely covers both my front and back, so it’s essentially a shirt!)

Cons:

-the most complicated to get on

-tricky to get in and out of (both the other options can be sort of pre-set to slip baby in and out… this one is tricky to do that with and you have to re-tie it everytime you take it off)

-My moby wrap seems to make L very hot… not great for in the summer!

-I have for sure tripped and fallen while trying to tie this one around myself.

My Take:

The Moby is, despite its challenges, my personal favourite carrier.  I don’t use it as often as I’d like, but, especially in the winter with a little one, this is my favourite.  I can wrap him up super securely, with his little face shielded, and throw my coat over him.  I can’t say how effective it is with a toddler, because once G started wanting to look around, there was no way this baby would hold her.  But for Newborns?  Oh man, the Moby is the best for snuggles.  There is a 0% chance that either of my kids could stay awake in this one once I got moving – it is instant naptime and that is a hard luxury to turn down.  You can wrap a moby differently so that they can look out, but I found G WAY too squirmy and busy for it when she got to that age.

Here is a tutorial that I found really helpful for learning how to tie the Moby for a newborn. And here is one for you crazies who want to try to nurse in it.

Option 3: Ring Sling

Smiling in defiance against my growing awareness that I am not, in fact, a cool Instagram mom and I may have done this all wrong


The ring sling is basically exactly what it sounds like: a sling with a ring.  It comes in all kinds of fabrics, colours, finishes and lengths.  A lot of people make their own.  I want to love it.  I really, really want to love it.

Pros:

– arguably the easiest to get the baby in and out of

-older babies get a good view

-carrying position is nice and close to your chest and baby’s  head is unobstructed for smoochies

-totally customizable in terms of style

-all of the cool instagram moms wear them

-once you figure it out, it’s really easy to use and can be very versatile

Cons:

N.B. all of these cons are probably ones of inexperiences, so please don’t yell at me, ring-sling-moms

This one feels the least secure to me; I honestly don’t understand the physics of it

-to buy one of these seems to be kind of hilariously expensive: they run about 150$ on average

-you do not transform instantly into the stylish mom that you saw on insta (it’s like every time I get bangs thinking I’ll suddenly look like a Victoria’s Secret model and then I’m mad at my hairdresser)

nothing to protect baby from inclement weather. I ended up having to carry a hat to put over his tiny head, which gets continually knocked off because I’m awkward and gesticulate wildly when I talk. 

My Take:

Most moms that I know who swear by their ring slings will also tell you that it took them a long time to get the hang of it.  One of my friends had a practice baby (a bag of oats named Otis) that she used until she felt comfortable enough to switch to her real baby.  I am not that comfortable, and I don’t have it in me to practice enough to GET that comfortable.  Also, I swear that instagram convinced me that as soon as I put one of these bad boys on, I would become some sort of sun-flushed cheek, long wind-tossed hair, earth goddess type who easily maneuvers the playground in stylish clothes with one baby snuggled in her pre-softened-chambray-and-rose-gold fashionista sling and the the other running happily about the slides under my careful (but not hellicoptery) gaze.  This. Did. Not.  Happen.  I will admit that L sleeps in it, but I am terrified that he will fall out because I’m super new to it.

Here is a tutorial for wearing a ring sling.  I’ll point out, though, that she starts off by saying “I assume you know how to thread your ring sling” and see now that’s already too many steps for me.

Here’s my wrap up (boom. pun.): the Ergo is for sure the easiest to figure out, and, in my opinion, probably the one you’d be able to use the longest and in the most situations.  The Moby is wonderful for snugglies with your newborn.  The sling is an enormous lie made to make me feel inferior.  Whatever works best for you, use it!  Babywearing is a life-saver!

 

xo

Mediocre Mom