{FAMILY} What Makes A Mom

This year I had the opportunity to work on the fourth annual Leading Moms event – a day full of inspiring talks from extraordinary moms. As always, the speaker lineup was filled with an array of  diverse women, all invited to share their stories and experiences with an engaged audience. Every year, whether I’ve attended as a guest or as a member of the event organizing team, I’ve always left the event feeling connected and inspired, and I’m sure this year’s event did not disappoint.

While I was unable to attend the actual event this year, there were some negative comments shared on the event’s site that left a bad taste in my mouth, so I wanted to share my thoughts.

One of this year’s speakers was Morgane Oger, a transgender activist, leader in social change, and mom of two young children. Some commenters questioned her validity as a “mom” and challenged the Leading Moms event team on the choice to include a trans mom on the panel of speakers. And everyone is entitled to their own opinion – if they don’t like the choice of speakers, they are not obliged to attend the event.

Haters gonna hate.

When the speaker lineup was first revealed, the thought that Morgane was a trans mom didn’t even cross my mind. My only thought was that I was excited to hear her story, to learn more about her perspective as a mom and the experiences, struggles and successes she had faced on her journey towards motherhood.

I can understand the fear of the unknown. I know that not everyone is inclusive, and that some people feel the need to express themselves when they are strongly opposed to another person’s opinions and perspectives. But what I will never understand, is the need to attack another person’s personal choices – choices that in no way affect their own lives – in a way that is so hurtful, and on a platform that is so public.

Many poisonous words were slung on the topic of trans moms, but what bothered me most about the backlash was the argument that the only thing that makes a person a mother is the ability to physically give birth to a child. As an adoptee, this comment hit me on a personal level.

In my eyes, it is not only the hours that it took to push a baby into the world that makes a person a mother, but the hours – days – years – lifetime – afterwards that earns the title of ‘mom’.

There are so many babies who are brought into this world by women who did not intend to become mothers. And if those children were as fortunate as I was, they were connected with people who devoted their lives – their hearts to those children. People who committed to nurturing those children, loving those children, and providing for those children unconditionally. And those people are equally as deserving of the title of ‘mom’, or ‘dad’, or ‘parent’.

Not everyone can have babies naturally. And not all people can love and care for a child naturally either.

A person can become a mom biologically, or emotionally – how that mom came to be is not what matters. What matters most is that the child who calls that person “mom” knows that they are loved.

A lifetime commitment to loving a child unconditionally – that is what truly makes a mom.

 

 

 

{FAMILY} How I Got My Groove Back After Baby

Bringing a new baby into the world can be a beautiful, life-changing, monumental occasion – whether it’s the first, or the third time around. But the thing about having a baby is that it can also be all-consuming. Recovery from childbirth, adjusting to new routines, and surviving an insurmountable lack of sleep amongst the chaos that comes with caring for a new little human being can be overwhelming.

Your life gets turned upside down, and before you know it, a year has flashed before your eyes and you feel like you have nothing to show for it but the bags under your eyes and the remnant mama’s bits of what used to be your slammin’ bod.

But there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel, and for me, that dim little shimmer of light that sat so far in the distance has finally come to fruition, and I’m ready to let that bright light shine.

working mom

With my previous children, I had always had the comfort of  job security when I was ready to return to work. But the third time around was different for me because I chose to work for myself. I didn’t know if the work would come when I was ready to work, and that terrified me.

Because of my fear of the unknown, I didn’t really ever stop working when baby #3 arrived. From the week she was born I was working on side projects, attending networking events and submitting proposals, eager to develop a small roster of potential clientele for when I was ready to dive back into the working world.

All the while, I didn’t let myself stress too much about what the future might or might not bring. I made sure to take time out to enjoy the little things – like the week I spent with my family soaking up this amazing view, completely unplugged.

working mom

But probably the most important thing that I did to get myself out of the post-newborn funk – my secret sauce to getting my groove back, was taking some time out for myself – to remind myself of who I am (and have always been) on the inside. To remember that I’m more than “just a mom”.

And as I explored my interests, took some time to reflect, and allowed myself to live a little outside of my comfort zone, opportunities began to unfold around me, and my dreams began to become my reality.

I’ve just returned to my adult ballet classes (after over a year and a half off). I’m still writing my newspaper column (one of my life-long dreams), and have recently completed some other pieces for print publications, and I’ve taken on some fantastic new clients through my business.

I feel like I’m back to being me – being BEE. I’ve finally got my groove back.

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{FAMILY} First Day of Kindergarten (Round 2)

No matter how hard I try, it’s simply impossible for me not to compare my second child’s first experiences with those of my firstborn. Because when you experience something brand new for the first time – especially those bittersweet monumental childhood milestones – the memories of those very first experiences stick with you. They tuck themselves in your back pocket like little reminder notes, and you just can’t toss them away.

But that doesn’t mean that experiencing those moments with the children that follow are any less significant, or anything the same. My second born and only son started Kindergarten today, and it was equally as monumental, emotional and memorable a milestone as when his sister took the leap into the world of school-aged childhood.

I was just as nervous as I was for Emma’s first day of Kindergarten. I couldn’t sleep the night before – tossing and turning, my mind racing with worrisome thoughts of how his first day would go.

After his less-than-successful Kindergarten orientation, I feared the worst. I prepared myself for tears and persuasive talks and sideways glances from the unfamiliar faces of new parents. I imagined holding my youngest under my arm – kicking and screaming – while I attempted to coax my little guy into his new classroom.

I had countless talks with my son about his first day. I walked him through the steps of how his first day would go, led him through the school on practice visits, and even promised a treat if the day went well.

And you know what? He nailed it.

Kindergarten

My little guy walked right into the classroom, gave me a confident wave goodbye, and sat right down on the mat as directed by his new teacher. He watched intently as she read him a story, and a wide grin spread across his face. I was so proud of him that tears welled up in my eyes. My sweet little boy had done it. He had willingly and enthusiastically stepped across the threshold between nervous little child to confident big boy Kindergartener, and my heart was full.

Two down, one to go…

 

 

{FAMILY} In My Daughter’s Shoes

I have vivid memories of what it was like to be 8. I can still remember how it felt to curl my tongue into the gaps of my missing teeth. I remember suddenly feeling butterflies in the pit of my stomach while talking to a boy in my class that I had known for years, unsure of why I was having those funny feelings. I remember feeling self-conscious about my knobby knees, and I can still remember conversations that I had with my best friend.

My oldest daughter is now 8, and I can’t believe that I’m the parent of an 8 year old. Now that she’s at an age that I can remember, parenting somehow feels a bit different to me. My daughter is developing her own personality, experiencing feelings and emotions that I can remember feeling, and I feel more confident as a mother – because I once walked in my daughter’s shoes.

Sure her experiences as an 8-year-old are different than mine were, but I’m hoping that I can help her to navigate through the confusing, exciting, overwhelming, challenging waters as she transitions from child to tween.

mother daughter

The challenge though, is that as she matures, I feel as though my status as “mom” in her eyes is maturing as well. I feel like I’m slowly moving from mom-with-an-enthusiastic-exclamation-mark, to mom-with-a-sarcastic-eye-roll, and I know that it’ll only get more difficult as she moves towards her teen years.

I can still remember suddenly feeling a tinge of embarrassment when my mom kissed me goodbye in front of my friends at school. I can remember rolling my eyes when my mom interrupted my friends and I during a play date, and I can remember crying in my pillow, convinced that my mom was ruining my life because I couldn’t watch TV until my homework was complete.

But I also remember feeling confused about my feelings towards my mom. I remember feeling guilty when I pulled away as she leaned in to give me a kiss, or rolled my eyes, not completely understanding why I was suddenly being so mean to the woman who I looked up to the most. I was suddenly annoyed by my hero – my best friend, and I didn’t understand why.

I’m learning that it’s important to give my daughter the space that she needs to mature. I need to be more conscious of how I speak to her and act around her in the presence of her friends, and most importantly, I’m realizing that it’s more important now than ever to establish a trusting relationship with her that goes beyond the because-I-told-you-so status of mom.

I’m doing my best to teach her that it’s alright to be honest with me about her feelings, even if it means that mine might get hurt. I hope that I’m doing it right, and that I don’t forget that I was once in her shoes, and that my mother was once in mine.

{FAMILY} 6 Things I Learned From Taking My Daughter To Her First Concert

6 months ago, I bit the bullet and emptied my bank account on a pair of floor seats to Taylor Swift’s 1989 World Tour concert – a gift I was going to give to my daughter for her 8th birthday.

I was nervous, unsure if she was too young for a stadium concert – and especially worried that floor seats would be too overwhelming for her first concert experience, but I knew that Taylor Swift would be a positive role model for my little girl and felt confident that the content of the show would be suitable for a young audience.

After a months-long countdown, the big day arrived, and my girl was ecstatic. She picked out her outfit (cutoff shorts, a cute top, a sparkly necklace, black ankle boots, and hair chalk to accent her cute little bob).

first concert

I was going to wear a pair of cute heeled boots or summery wedge sandals, but then I realized that my choice in footwear could either make or break the evening.

I’m so relieved that I opted for comfort because I wouldn’t have survived the night otherwise! We did a lot of walking, standing in line ups (oh the lines!), and on several occasions I was carrying my almost 50lb baby girl in my arms as we danced and swayed to the music.

Flats saved the day for this mama!

TIP #1: When taking young children to a concert, be sure to dress comfortably.

We left the house almost 3 hours before the scheduled start time, to allow for ample time to find parking (the sold-out concert crowd of 50,000 people, plus a few other high-attendance events scheduled in the same downtown neighbourhood meant a carefully-planned driving route was mandatory).

Once we parked, we strolled to a nearby restaurant and enjoyed a relaxing pre-concert dinner. This gave us time to chat, allowing me to prepare her for what to expect at her first concert – the opening bands, the waiting, the line ups, the encore, the standing and screaming and the overwhelm of being amidst such a large crowd.

After dinner, we sauntered over to the stadium and entered the building with plenty of time to find our way to our seats.

TIP #2: Plan out your route, and arrive as early as possible.

first concert

Arriving early gave us time to scope out the t-shirt stands, closest washrooms, and to find our seats before the large crowds poured in through the doors.

I was especially concerned about selecting floor seats for the concert, but when we arrived and found our seats, I was so pleasantly surprised. The floor seats were carefully spaced out in allocated sections, and our seats were located in the front of our section (which meant lots of leg room and easy in-and-out access for bathroom breaks!).

TIP #3: When selecting your seats, opt for easy-access (even if it means spending a bit more money).

We waited until the opening act started to play before we hit the t-shirt lineup, and we stopped in for one last bathroom break just before Taylor Swift was scheduled to hit the stage.

And then the big moment arrived.

The look on my daughter’s face when Taylor Swift appeared on stage was one that I will never forget. Wide eyed, grinning from ear to ear, and screaming at the top of her lungs, my daughter leapt into her first concert experience like a rockstar, and I soaked up every moment of her excitement.

TIP #4: Take lots of pictures!

first concert

 

first concert

first concert

TIP #5: Buy the t-shirt.

The line ups were unbearably long, and the prices were outrageous, but buying the t-shirt (or any other keepsake to commemorate the occasion) is totally worth it. Her first concert was the perfect excuse to indulge – a special drink at dinner, a commemorative t-shirt, and a very, very late bedtime – it was definitely worth breaking the rules (and the bank!) to make the night a little extra special.

As the concert came to a close, my little girl wrapped her arms around my waist and squeezed me tightly. I knew it was her way of thanking me for the best night of her life, and I took it all in as we danced to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” hand-in-hand.

TIP #6: Leave early. 

There’s always a bit of a drawn-out finale, and that’s the best time to make your exit before the crowds become unbearable. As Taylor Swift slowly strutted herself off the stage and the crowds roared, we rushed out of the building, beating the gaggle of fans who would quickly follow suit.

It was an expensive and exhausting night, but worth every penny and sore muscle. My daughter and I made memories that will last infinitely longer than our cracking voices and throbbing feet, and bonded over a mutual love for dancing and music that will hopefully carry us through many more concerts in the future.

{FAMILY} Parenting: Who’s The Boss?

When I was a kid, if I fussed and complained about wanting something (or not wanting to do something), my whiny why’s were immediately put to an end when my mom replied with a finite “My saying so is reason enough!” (her version of the infamous “Because I said so”). When those words were uttered, that was it. I knew I wasn’t going to get my way – my mom had made a decision, and I honoured it.

Nowadays I am constantly witnessing parents who are addressing temper tantrums and disrespectful behaviours with coaxing negotiations, bribery and hugs, and I’m left to wonder – who’s the boss?

I’m not judging the parents who are using these tactics, I know all children are different. I’ve definitely learned through the years that what works with one child, certainly doesn’t mean that it’ll work with all children. When my firstborn acts up, a few stern words about expectations and unacceptable behaviours calm her down.  I explain why her words or actions are not acceptable, and she understands, learns from the experience, and moves on. But my second child, he’s a whole different story.

Tantrum

As I navigate through the challenging waters of parenting, I’m constantly coming across articles and blog posts on the detrimental effects of time outs, consequences, and discipline tactics. And while the idea of correcting the undesirable behaviours by using those moments to teach important life lessons seems ideal, those tactics simply don’t work with every child. If I were to address my son’s screaming and flailing tantrums with a calm discussion about appropriate ways to use his words and communicate his feelings, my words would be met with louder screams and more undesirable behaviours. I confess, I’m not always the boss – but how do I regain my parental control?

I read so much about what we shouldn’t be doing, but I have yet to find a definitive solution to the problem that can be applied to all children. And I know why: because there is no one definitive solution.

What works with one child, will not always work with another. As parents, we know our children best. We know what sets them off, and we do what we can to dissolve the difficult behaviours. If time outs are working for you, do it. If hugging it out calms your child down, hug away! If you’ve discovered a new groundbreaking way to get your children to listen to you – keep on keeping on! But I think the ultimate goal as we raise our little humans is to make it understood that they have to listen to us – that we as parents are the boss.

 

{FAMILY} Kindergarten Orientation (Round 2)

Karma bit me in the ass when I took my son (my second born) to his Kindergarten orientation today.

In a haze of mom-ster arrogance, I had muttered to a friend that I hoped that my son wouldn’t be placed in a class full of first-time moms to school-aged kids. I poked fun at how hard it is the first time around for the children (and the moms) – how tears would be shed, and how I wanted to be grouped together with other “seasoned” parents who would opt to drop-and-go on day one of school.

Karma’s a bitch (and so was I).

I showed up with my coffee in hand (and baby in stroller), and strolled into the library with my head held high. I observed the new families in the room and reminisced about how nervous I had been when it was my first time. But I felt confident that this year would be easy breezy – I was just going through the motions. You know, for my son.

When the time came for the children to leave us in the library while they toured the Kindergarten classroom, disaster struck with a vengeance.

My son suddenly grasped onto my leg with a deathgrip and wailed “I don’t want to goooo” while my littlest simultaneously decided to wriggle and squeal in my arms. All of the other children – all newbies to the school scene, pleasantly obliged and walked hand-in-hand in pairs down the hallway. After several failed attempts at negotiations with my boy (including but not limited to: acts of bribery, stern commands, minor threats, loving coaxes and many many deep breaths), I followed the line of children – stroller, and wailing boy in tow.

As I stood by the door of the Kindergarten classroom, holding my distraught son in one arm and my overtired, cranky one-year-old in the other, I looked on as the other children sang along to songs, coloured pictures and enjoyed circle time.

I side-glanced to the outer perimeter of the classroom, where I noticed two teachers scribbling notes – observing each child and their reactions to this new environment. One of the teachers glanced in my direction, flashed a crooked, sympathetic smile at me, and scribbled some notes on her pad – presumably documenting my son’s behaviour.

I was officially that parent.

After about 20 minutes, I managed to sneak out of the room, leaving my son to his own devices. And of course, when they were finished (and the teacher observers had left), he met me with a glimmer of excitement in his eyes – grabbing me by the hand, eager to show me what he had done.

Today I learned that having three kids doesn’t make me more experienced as a parent. It doesn’t make mothering any harder (or easier) because each child and each experience is new and completely different.

When school officially starts in September, I will not judge the new moms. Instead, I hope to be just like them.

Kindergarten Orientation

{FAMILY} Tooth Fairy Torture

Last night my daughter lost her 7th tooth. As I flashed my best grin and cheered her on with enthusiasm while she recounted her valiant efforts to pull her wiggly tooth from its roots, my thoughts went straight to my late-evening plans, and how they were officially ruined.

I remember writing about how I would never succumb to the over-the-top Tooth Fairy antics. Boy was I wrong. The problem is, as much as I would love to drop a quarter under my daughter’s pillow and call it a job well done, friends talk. And there’s nothing more depressing than seeing your sweet little firstborn teary eyed because her best friend’s Tooth Fairy left her a pony and made real-life magic happen right in her bedroom. Ok, I may be exaggerating a little, but seriously, the things that my daughter hears about from her friends at school leave me pulling my hair out as I try to live up to unrealistic expectations.

When she lost her first tooth, she received $5 in her Tooth Fairy pillow, and that was it. She was ecstatic. By the loss of her second tooth, rumours had been swirling that if you left a cup of water by your bed, the Tooth Fairy would change its colour to coincide with the fairy’s colours. Fine, coloured water, done. For the lost teeth that have followed, the antics had evolved to leaving questionnaires for the Tooth Fairy to complete, water for changing colours, a tooth in a special pillow, and a drawing for the Tooth Fairy to take back to fairyland with her.  It’s just too much!

Tooth Fairy

The stress that comes with entering a sleeping child’s room to replace a tooth with a coin is enough to make my head spin, but mom knows no fear like trying to complete a full questionnaire (in whimsical scripture might I add, cause gosh forbid the Fairy has similar writing to mommy’s), dropping food colouring into a shot glass full of water, and leaving money tucked into a pin-sized hole, all while trying not to startle your little one awake.

The worst part of all? Trying to stay awake while you wait for your nocturnal child to fall into a deep enough sleep to complete the list of daunting tasks. Tooth Fairy visits are complete torture. I just pray that the next tooth waits for a few months so I can afford the time and money it takes to make magic happen once more.

 

 

 

{FAMILY} Working Moms: Why The Labelling Needs To Stop

I recently came across this article proclaiming that “being a stay-at-home mother is not a job” and it caught my attention. Underneath the link, the Facebook feed was flooded with angry words from moms of all backgrounds, disgusted by the message behind the post, and horrified by comparisons such as this one:

“No, Stay-at-Home-Mothers, choosing to create your own little person upon whom you’ll spend all your time and energy is a hobby. It is a time-consuming, sanity-deteriorating, life-altering hobby — a lot like a heroin addiction, but with more Thirty-One bags.” Source

And I get it, maybe comparing the choice to stay at home with your children to that of a heroin addiction is a little over the top, but I don’t think that was the point of the article.

I’ve stayed at home with my children, I’ve worked at a full-time in-office career, and I’m now working for my own business as a work-at-home mom. I’ve had hands-on experience as a mom who falls into each of these lifestyle choices, and I can honestly say that no “working mom” life is easier or more challenging than the others.

The truth is: being a mom is hard. Leaving your children in childcare to spend the day at a gruelling office job is a difficult decision and comes with many daily challenges. Deciding to stay at home with your little ones full time is a trying lifestyle and a true test of patience and stamina, and attempting to make a living by running a business at home with little ones at your feet is exhausting and challenging as well.

working mom

For some reason, society -and especially moms, get caught up in the terminology. Moms are categorized as SAHM (stay-at-home mom), WAHM (work-at-home mom), or career mom, as though having a specific “mom label” denotes a certain level of superiority or accomplishment. Statements are constantly made implying that one lifestyle is harder than another, and feelings get hurt when a mom who works outside of the home is referred to as a “working mom” (because being a SAHM mom is work too!).

But you guys, this is not a competition. This is life. We have all made our own decisions as to how to navigate through the journey of motherhood, and there are no right or wrong decisions. We are all doing the best that we can with what we’ve got and we need to stop being over-sensitive, competitive, and insecure about our decisions.

I don’t think that the author of the aforementioned article is trying to poke fun at the stay-at-home parenting lifestyle, I think she is just trying to dissolve the feelings of invalidation that many of the moms in her circle are experiencing – with perhaps a touch of sass. I think it’s ok to share our own perspectives because we are each having our own unique experience as ‘mom’. We should embrace each other’s perspectives, learn from each other’s stories, and support each other’s decisions. Because in the end, regardless of our employment status, we are all moms.

Stop the mom wars and start opening your minds to the possibility that we are all winners. Be happy in your own skin and don’t worry so much about the words of others – stop focusing on the labels.

 

{FAMILY} How I Got My Baby To Sleep Through The Night

Unfortunately, teaching your baby to sleep through the night is no easy feat. With each child, I have struggled with long periods of sleep deprivation, and with each child, I have eventually found a solution that works – convinced that I have unlocked the mystery to babies and sleep. But the truth is, there is no one easy answer – at least that hasn’t been the case for me.

With my first child, I tried the Ferber CIO method and let my girl ‘cry it out’.  I found that a combination of playing quiet music, surrounding her with soothers, and leaving her to cry in her crib when I put her down, actually worked quite well.

I remember being so nervous to try it out for the first time – afraid it wouldn’t work, or that I wouldn’t be able to last for more than a minute hearing my baby girl cry for me from another room. But I was so overtired! I had reached the point of desperation where I was willing to try anything.

sleep

My first child – sleeping soundly on her own.

She cried for 40 minutes straight, and then fell asleep on her own. And after that night, she was sleeping through the night. I would lay her down (asleep or awake), and she would suck on her soother and fall asleep peacefully on her own. I was so ready for baby #2. Or so I thought.

With my second child, nothing worked. From the day he was born, my sweet little boy would. not. sleep. There was no honeymoon period at the beginning – where newborns usually sleep most of their days and night away. He just didn’t want to sleep. Ever.

Eventually, when I reached a point of losing my mind from sleep deprivation, I decided it was time to try the Ferber method again. After (I hate to admit) letting him cry for more than 2 hours straight, I realized that it just wasn’t going to work with him. He didn’t take a soother, and just couldn’t settle on his own. I tried every other sleep training technique I could find, and eventually gave up.

sleep

My second child – who would only sleep on the go.

While it took a really long time for him to learn how to sleep on his own in his bed, my little guy had no problem falling asleep when we were out and about – especially in the car or on our boat. With him, I learned that each child is completely different when it comes to sleep patterns and sleep training, regardless of consistency in parenting efforts.

With my third child, this method worked like a charm (so far). For the first 6 months of her life, baby #3 slept like a rockstar. I’d put her down, and she would just sleep. I thought I had been blessed with the best sleeper in the world, and was living the dream. Until about 2 months ago.

Suddenly she just wouldn’t let me put her down. She’d fall asleep in my arms, and if I so much as inhaled too quickly, she’d awake with a vengeance. If I did manage to get her down, she’d wake up in the night frequently. Exhausted, I would pick her up, bring her into my bed, and nurse her to sleep. But I couldn’t sleep with her next to me, and I was starting to lose my mind with sleeplessness once more.

Baby Sleep

Ready to try anything, I started with trying to let her ‘cry it out’. I put her gently down as she wailed desperately for my rescue. I sat in another room listening to her helpless cries, and watched the clock. But as the time went by, I couldn’t handle it – I couldn’t stand to hear her so upset. After about 30 minutes, I went to her rescue. I’m not sure if it was the fact that she’s my last baby, or that my old age has weakened me, but I just wanted to make her feel better. After another long run of sleepless nights, I decided to try something new.

After rocking her and walking her for hours – I put her down in her crib and watched her as she cried. And as she continued to stand up and wail, determined to have me pick her up, I would gently lay her down on her stomach, and say in a hushed voice “It’s night night time, mommy’s here” while patting her back.

For 45 minutes, I continued to repeat those words in a calm and soothing voice, and continued to pat her back and lay her back down as she stood. Yes it was tiring, but I wanted it to work. And you know what? It did.

Her cries faded and eventually she fell asleep.

I ninja’d myself out of the room, and fist-pumped my way back to the living room where I celebrated my victory with a quiet night of tv-watching – baby free and grinning from ear-to-ear. And (knock on wood), she has been letting me put her down (awake!) ever since.

Some nights I still have to pat her back for a minute or two and say “night night”, but then she drifts to sleep – and sleeps all night long.

There is no simple solution – trial and error is what has worked for me.

I’d love to hear what has worked for you – have you unlocked the mystery of babies and sleep with your little one?