I took this picture this morning on our friends’ stoop, just minutes before we climbed into our car and weaved our way out of Brooklyn for good. I love M’s expression, as it sums up exactly how I feel about the whole experience of leaving our home and moving all the way across the country. So big, so sad, so weird, so exciting… so many major and minor things.
LA will be our new home, how totally new and different. It’s weird to experience such sadness about a change that at the same time involves not an ounce of regret whatsoever.
This picture captivates such a real and defining moment in my and my family’s life. Of course these two little girls can’t possibly fathom the journey we are taking them on… yet I also think that somehow, they do.
We have a big life change coming soon. N and I have known for almost a year. We may tell the girls tomorrow. They will be elated (they also, at ages 4.5 and 2, won’t understand that “moving” can actually mean going farther than across a bridge or 7 blocks away).
My own thoughts and emotions are beginning to flutter. Mostly excitement, curiosity… but also an underlying current of vulnerability. Brings to mind a poem by the British poet, Christopher Logue.
Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It’s too high!
Come to the edge.
And they came,
and we pushed,
and they flew.
I included this poem in a school portfolio piece in 2003, just before I graduated. Interesting how themes can rise and fall throughout your life.
Photo by friend, architect and photographer, Irene Bazquez.
I never post in this blog anymore. I miss it. My life has changed very much since I last wrote a post (7 months ago). I haven’t given it up, I’m just doing some other things right now. So I will come back to it, later. When I am in a different phase of my life.
For now, I am a working mom. I work 4 days/week, and this works really well for me. I used to be a stay-at-home mom, which did not work as well for me. The key here is “for me.” I wish society understood (or at least expressed) that there are no right answers on what *kind* of mom you should be. It is literally different for every single woman and family. It’s like snowflakes… No two are exactly the same…
When I was a mom who did not have a job outside of my work as a mom (because let’s be honest, I was working my ass off), I used to secretly judge women who “worked.” And now that I’m “working,” I can feel other women secretly judging me sometimes.
Dear Stay-At-Home Mum
Some people have been questioning what you do at home all day. I know what you do. I know because I’m a mum and for a while I did it too.
I know you do unpaid work, often thankless work, which starts the moment you wake up, and doesn’t even end when you go to sleep. I know you work weekends and nights, with no discernible end to your day or working week. I know the rewards are joyous but few.
I know that you seldom have a hot cup of coffee or tea. I know that your attention is always divided, often diverted from a moment to moment basis, and you cannot ever count on completing a task in the one go. I know that you probably don’t get any down time when you’re on your own at home, unless you have a single child who still naps in the daytime.
I know the challenges you deal with daily, usually with no peer support or backup. The toddler tantrums, the toilet training accidents, the food battles, the food on the floor, the crayons on the wall, the sibling rivalry, the baby that never seems to stop crying. I know how the work seems incessant, like an endless cycle – you shop for food, prepare it, cook it, attempt to feed it to your children, clean it off the floor, wash the dishes, and repeat in three hours.
I know you fantasise about having an hour to yourself to eat your lunch in peace, or about having an afternoon nap. I know you sometimes wonder if it’s all worth it, and feel envious of your friends who are having coffee breaks at work. I know that sometimes when your partner gets home in the evening after his work is done, he wants to put his feet up exactly when you need a break the most, and this can bring you to tears.
I know that you are misunderstood by so many who do not appreciate the difficulties of caring for small children on your own, all day, and refer to you as joining the “latte set”. They imagine you spend your day sipping coffee while your children play quietly. I know you miss your financial independence. I know you feel amused and sometimes annoyed when others proclaim “TGIF!” because to you every day is the same – there is no Friday, no break from your job. I know that many people do not understand that you work – you simply work an unpaid job at home.
SAHM, I don’t know how you do it. I admire your infinite patience, your ability to face each day cheerfully and bring joy into your children’s lives even when they wear you down. I admire your dedication to being a constant presence in your children’s lives even if it isn’t always easy. I admire the way you work without expecting any reward – no promotions, no fame, no salary. I know you want your children to feel important and loved, and SAHM, you do this the best.
I just wanted you to know that I understand. We’re both mothers. And I know.
Love from the trenches
. . .
Dear Working Mum
I know you sometimes get judged by others for leaving your children in the care of others to work. Some people imply that you don’t love your children as much as us SAHMs do, and that it’s best for children to be at home with their mothers.
How can they say this about you? I know you love your children just as much as any other mother. I know that going back to work was no easy decision. You weighed up the pros and cons, long before you conceived a baby. It has always been one of the most important decisions of your life. You thought about this even while you were in high school and were choosing subjects for Grade 11.
I see you everywhere. You are the doctor I take my children to when they are sick. You’re my child’s allergist, the one who diagnosed her peanut allergy. You’re the physiotherapist who treated my husband’s back. You’re the accountant who does our tax returns. My son’s primary school teacher. The director of our childcare centre. My daughter’s gymnastics teacher. The real estate agent who sold our house. What sort of world would it be if you hadn’t been there for us? If you had succumbed to the pressures of those who insisted a mother’s place had to be in the home?
I know you weigh up every job to see if it will suit your family. I know you wake up an hour before everyone else does, just so you can get some exercise done or some quiet time. I know that you have attended meetings after being up all night with your toddler. I know that when you come home in the evening, your “second shift” begins. The nay-sayers don’t understand that you run a household AND hold a job. You come home, cook dinner, bath your children and read them stories. You tuck them in and kiss them goodnight. You pay the bills, do the grocery shopping, the laundry, the dishes, just like every other mother does.
I know that you often feel guilty about having any more time away from your children so you sacrifice your leisure time. I know you can’t bring yourself to take a “day off” for yourself when your children are at daycare. I know you accept that work is your “time off” for now. I know that when you are at work you don’t waste a single minute. I know you eat your lunch at your desk, you don’t go out for coffee, and you show complete dedication and concentration to your job. You chose to be there after all. You want to be there.
I know how discerning you are about who is looking after your children, and that many long daycare centres offer excellent care. I know you only leave your children in a place where you confident they are loved and well looked after. I know that you spend many days caring for your children at home when they are sick, and sacrifice your pay. I know that you secretly enjoy these days, and revel in being able to be with your children.
I know that sometimes you feel guilty about not being there all the time. But WM, I know this. You are setting a wonderful example to your children. You are showing them that a woman can have a career, contribute in some way outside the home, and still be a loving mother. You are showing your daughters that they can do anything they want to do in life. You are displaying strength, endurance, dedication, tenacity, and you do it with so much joy and love.
I just wanted you to know I understand. Because we’re both mothers.
Love from the trenches
Walrus teeth. (We’re into animals these days…)
We kicked off summer by working on Lil M’s sleep “habits” this weekend. I have been bracing myself for a week of long, tiresome nights (not unlike the first 180+ nights of her life so far)…
Here is how it went:
Night one: she woke at 3 a.m. and I went in periodically to rub her back and reassure her. There was a method to this, and eventually she went back to sleep without nursing.
Night two: she slept from 6:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. That’s right. Straight through. …Um, it cannot possibly be that easy. CAN IT?? Let’s see what tonight brings.
I have a crazy story. It’s not overwhelmingly crazy, just sort of “no way…” crazy.
My husband travels a fair amount for work. We always (half-) joke that every time he goes away, something bad is bound to happen. There is history there, but luckily most of the things that have gone awry in his absence have been pretty harmless.
He is currently in LA. For some reason, this morning I felt a particularly strong sense that “there’s not enough of me to go around” with the girls. Lil M was hungry and crying. Vi must have asked me 50,000 times to cut that huge green watermelon in the fridge. I had opted for a shower instead of breakfast and coffee before the girls got up, so I was grouchy myself. Everyone wanted something, including me.
So, I did what I always do. I hit fast-forward, trying to accommodate each and every need instead of stopping and focusing on one task at a time. I fluttered around the kitchen, putting out mini-fires. Oatmeal, check. Watermelon cut and sliced, check. Coffee, check. I was about to move on to the baby, when my hand bumped the very large knife I had been using to cut the watermelon and it slid off the counter. I jerked my foot out of the way, but unfortunately my reflexes had not had their coffee yet either. With a thunk, that very large knife met my foot on its way down.
I had this slight moment of panic, as I stared at my foot and felt the dizziness set in. What if I faint right now? What if my foot is seriously hurt? M continued to cry harder. From the other room, Vi pleaded for some water with her watermelon. I was totally overwhelmed in the moment and hobbled to the bathroom muttering to myself. I reached for a Micky Mouse band aid from the cabinet, despite knowing that it was no match for this wound. I was so unprepared.
I wound up wrapping my foot in a kitchen towel, and sitting on the floor to nurse M so that I wouldn’t drop her if I fainted as a result of the vasovagal reaction I was having. I turned on Dora while Violet ate breakfast naked because I just couldn’t handle getting her dressed in that moment. It was a bit touch and go.
I will spare you the rather dull story of how I spent the rest of the morning in the ER. Four stitches and a major foot-ache later, the whole scene was mostly just annoying.
Mostly. It was also a sobering reminder of what else could have happened. A tad to the right of the puncture is a major tendon. Obviously there are delicate toes nearby, which I would prefer to keep. …As my husband described it, it turned the volume down on all the small situations that were stressing me out this morning. It sucked things into perspective so fast that my head swam.
When I feel that sense of can’t keep up, I need to slow down. It is in that fast-forward mode that accidents happen. I have learned this before, but I am reminded once again of the importance of taking a pause, a deep breath. Perhaps tell someone (unless it’s a baby) to please wait a few more minutes.
Oh and yes, that is my poor foot pictured above!
A friend of mine told me about this TED talk, by Brené Brown. She talks about the idea of wholeheartedness, which reminds of the parenting manifesto that I posted about last year. What she says is at the same time very obvious, and also incredibly revealing. Through years of research, she found that the people in life who are most fulfilled are the ones who experience deep connections with other people; they are able to do this by allowing themselves to be vulnerable. She theorizes that the more you try to hide it, the more you suffer.
When I think about this idea visually, the sultry graphic above by Saul Bass comes to mind. He designed and featured it on this poster in 1971. …So many messages in that very simple form, which is actually quite complex because there is such vulnerability hiding behind the seemingly coy confidence.
Perhaps nude photographer Thorsten Jankowski was inspired by vulnerability (and Bass’ poster) when he took this photo…
Comparing ourselves to others sucks. We are all guilty of it at times, it’s just a very human temptation.
Someone I value very much recently used a great analogy. A devoted yoga practitioner, she mentioned the danger of “the wandering eye” during a yoga class. If you look around, you will likely see others practicing very differently than you. Chances are, you will fixate on the person who seems, well… better at it than you. He/she may masterfully move through the asanas with (seemingly) no effort. That person may take on shapes that you are pretty sure you will never in your life successfully “do.”
In the midst of your distraction, you lose your focus. You find yourself falling out of a balancing pose or torquing a joint unsafely just to achieve a bind. You have lost site of your own practice and potentially injured yourself.
Lately I am working hard at spotting it when I feel my mind going to that lose-lose place of comparisons. Every time I do, I try to pause and bring just one thing to mind that I am thankful for. I find that it brings me back to myself, my own way.
Above photo by Elena Ray.
The Golden Mean is a place where I discuss beauty + balance amidst the chaos of life. Herein lies my virtual journal.
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