Being the Woman I Want My Girls To Be

I don’t always stand up for myself and if I do, I don’t often do it effectively, forcefully, or immediately. I spend a lot of time thinking of what I should have said, analyzing what I did say and figuring out how I got myself into that situation. 

A couple weeks ago, we were at a car dealership, dealing with a gentleman who had plenty of years experience selling cars. He knew his stuff. But he did not know us. When he was walking us through the first car, he sat me in the driver’s seat, but brought Scott upfront to show him the engine. When talking about the layout of the interior, he spoke to Scott about hauling sports equipment, and me about strollers and groceries. On the test drive “experience” (which involved a prescribed route, and him driving the first stretch of it), he kept instructions to a minimum for Scott. He walked me through how to adjust the mirrors properly. 

While it seems terrible when you write it out, everything was said in such a way that it managed to go right up to, but not cross that line into misogyny. 

But there is no doubt that he didn’t take the time to get to know us at all. I am the one that knows about the benefits of an engine with double overhead cams. I am the one that is more likely to coach soccer. I am the one that feels more comfortable in the driver’s seat. Other than when I measured the trunk space to see if I could get a 2×4 in there (no, not with an 8′ length), we let him keep trafficking in gender stereotypes and it did made me feel kind of scuzzy. We didn’t buy the car and weeks later, I still wish I would have said something the first time. 

Yesterday, M had an appointment for new boots for her brace at the local children’s hospital. The technician switching over the footplates was running through the usual information. These boots are leather. They will soften and stretch the longer they are worn. As a result, the strap will need to be pulled hard to get it tight enough, so you may want to get your husband’s help. 

I cringed. But again, it’s like the tech went up to but didn’t quite cross the line. After all, when we were first shown how to put the boots on, it was a two person job. (And some days it still is with the way M likes to roll around). Before I had enough time to debate whether to say something, he said: “there, the footplates are on. Kids tend to kick a lot, so the screws could loosen over time. You’ll want to get your husband to grab his screwdriver every once and a while to tighten them.”

Now that certainly was over the line. 

And for once, I said so. 

“So why can’t I use my own screwdriver to tighten them myself?”

He looked flustered and replied “it’s just in my relationship, I am the one who is stronger”

“Well your relationship is not my relationship. I’m plenty strong, thank you very much.”

And for once, I was. 

I know M is too young to remember that fleeting moment of time but in that moment I spoke out because I didn’t want her to grow up in a world that assumed men own the tools, and that men were automatically stronger. I didn’t want her to inherit my tendency to give people the benefit of the doubt, to keep my mouth shut to avoid discomfort, to only push for change on a theoretic level. If I wanted her to believe she could do and be anything, I had to show her how to do that. 

Walking away, the only regret I had was that C wasn’t there to witness it, too. 

Categories: The new identity | 2 Comments

Calm

My house is a disaster. Granted, a couple hours this evening did help bring it back a little more under control, but overall, it’s still a mess. We’ve become way to habituated to tossing anything that belongs in the basement just to the bottom of the stairs. We’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that there are some toys just not worth putting away. And we’ve just become lazy when it comes to putting our clothes away at the end of the day.

It doesn’t help I get lost in the details when it comes time to clean. I love the look of things perfectly organized, and so I will often take the extra time required, when putting one thing away, to straight everything up around it. It’s a good habit to have when you are dealing with a small mess, but not very productive when you’re dealing with a disaster.

Tonight, my priority was to clean M’s room (done!), C’s room (done!) and the living room (…..kind of done?). Instead of ensuring all the messy build up was off the floors, I found myself re-organizing a bench just inside the door.

We’ve got a busy week ahead of us. We are out of the house for at least one activity every day that will likely disrupt naps, which will mean less cleaning time during the day. Plus, Scott and I each have one evening activity this week, which usually means the other can just write off being productive that evenings because the kids will be upset. And of course, next weekend we’re hosting a barbecue lunch at our house, so we may need it to be tidy.

And yet, instead of making sure that the shelves are tidy, the floor is clear and kitchen is clean, my brain prioritized re-folding meters of woven fabric that make up my baby carrier collection, folding the long trapezoids in half, and in half, and in half, and in half until they stacked nicely on top of each other inside the bench.

I could hear part of my brain saying: “what are you doing? Just dump it all in and shut the lid! Even if everything looks perfect today, you know you’ll be pulling carriers out of here all week any way!” and yet I just kept folding in half, and in half, and in half, and in half until they stacked nicely on top of each other.

Part of my brain knew this wasn’t a restful weekend. Friday evening was so long ago, I couldn’t remember anything about it. Saturday was spent tending the garden and preparing for an afternoon of laying sod. There was barely enough time to shower before going to a Father’s Day supper at my sister’s and then coming home late enough to ensure rough nights for both kids. Sure, we slept in on Sunday, but that meant hitting the ground running to get to church, make Scott a nice Father’s Day lunch, run off to get grocery shopping done before coming back to get both kids down for naps, make supper (burn supper), get one kid in the bath and the other to bed before trying to get the messy house under control. So folding the wraps in half, and in half, and in half, and in half until they stacked nicely on top of each other? That was the calmest part of my weekend. 

Categories: The new identity | 1 Comment

Five Things Friday 

It’s Father’s Day Weekend! I figured if I was going to give myself a whole weekend for Mother’s Day, I might as well do the same for Father’s Day. It’s going to be a whole lot of fun, laying sod, weeding gardens and mowing the lawn. Ok, I might try to make sure we have some fun in there too! But I’m pretty lucky to have a completely involved partner in this parenthood thing. And he’s pretty good at it too!

  1. He’s been C’s favourite since Day 1. I never stood a chance with her if he was around. I’ve had a pretty good run with M as her favourite but the tide is shifting there too. She radiates joy when he comes home at the end of the day
  2. He puts C to bed almost every night, which is an exhausting endeavour of “I need to pee! I need to poop! I need to brush my teeth in the living room” the minute the lights turn out. And he remains pretty patient through out it. 
  3. He lets the kids play all over him. Obviously C is the more rambunctious one, doing summersaults, climbing, and swinging off of him. He gets virtually no personal space when they are awake (and yet she manages to respect the closed door of the bathroom when he’s on the other side…)
  4. He never complains about how often I leave him with both kids in the evening to go out for supper with friends even though I can’t remember the last time he got to do anything with his friends that didn’t include the kids. And never refers to it as “babysitting”
  5. He (almost) always hears them wake up and will (almost) always be the first one to their doors. And even if it’s 3am and M is up to eat, he’ll still try his hardest to get her back to sleep if I’ve become confused, thought the baby was crying in my dreams and fallen back asleep. It’s happened more than once. This week. #sleepdeprived

 The girls are pretty lucky to have a dad who exposes them to random music, comic books and video games with great enthusiasm. He even does a pretty great job of faking enthusiasm for some of their other interests. And I’m very lucky to have someone who carries his share of the load of parenting these crazy girls of ours. 
Happy Father’s Day, Scott!

Categories: The new identity | 1 Comment

Whispering “Mom”

Nothing screams “mom” more than blasting Fred Penner through your stereo speakers with all the windows rolled down in the middle of a car dealership when they are showing you how easily your phone connects to the car with Apple CarPlay and that is the last thing that was played on your phone.

You can do it if you try,
You can do it if you try,
You can do do doodly do it if you try

I like to pretend that unless I have a kid hanging off of me, I’m not so obviously a mom. There is enough grey hair on my head that I can’t pretend I’m the babysitter, but I still like to sometimes go out, with or without kids, and not feel as though my look screams “I had 5 hours of sleep last night, I can’t remember when I last showered and despite doing laundry every day for the last week, I don’t have any clean clothes” as much as that may be true on every.single.day.

So I’ve got cheats that I use, whether it’s a list of pre-made outfits that look pulled together but are washable, nursable and most importantly, comfortable, or whether its makeup that attempts to disguise the bags under my eyes or, if nothing else, distracts from them, or whether it’s an accessory that makes me feel like I’ve taken the extra time to look after me, even if it’s just a necklace or a pair of glasses.

This outfit? In pictures looks so simple. But it fits all of the above, and it doesn’t scream “I’m a mom!”

IMG_0377

Ok, that is a teething necklace, so maybe it just whispers “mom”

Categories: The new identity | 2 Comments

Review: Today Will Be Different

Maria Semple’s Today Will Be Different seems to be the most blogged book of 2017, at least in my circles. I think it’s because my circles mostly involve young mothers who are trying to balance raising kids, holding a job, not letting their house fall apart, and maybe spend a good 10 seconds a day talking to their husband, always waking up thinking: “Today will be different.”


We see ourselves in Eleanor. Ok, my upbringing was neither as glamourous nor as tragic as hers. Yes, I’m close with my sister (*waves* Hi Sister!) and while we may fight, I’m pretty sure her husband isn’t crazily controlling, and so I’m still in regular contact with her (plus, she lives in my neighbourhood so it would be awkward avoiding her at the local grocery store). We see ourselves struggling to pinpoint who we are and where we are going in this weird baby/career/life mess. We see ourselves as we are a little too hard on our kids, as we check our behaviour upon seeing another adult silently passing judgement, as we hand over our phones to silence them so we can just have one second to think. All of this I expected.

I’m not sure why seeing myself in Eleanor as she relates to her husband caught me off guard. I think it was the potato chips.

Let me explain. I was making a quick run to the grocery store (for the third time that day) to pick up the one item I forgot and the one item that was very necessary for that evening’s lettuce wraps: the lettuce. I couldn’t help but go down the chip aisle to see if they had ketchup Doritos… ketchup chips being my favourite (and Scott’s least) and Doritos being his favourite (and my least), thinking it would be a good 5 minutes entertainment as we both tried to choke some down, both likely hating it. But alas, they were sold out. Instead, I saw another brand was on sale if you bought two bags. Needing my ketchup chip fix, I bought myself a bag and scanned the shelves for one for Scott. I grabbed All Dressed. Arriving home, I hid the bags until C was out of the room (no junk food for her… just her parents, because we live by a different set of rules?), and then showed him the bags.  A look of confusion crossed his face. After some prodding, he admitted he wasn’t a fan of All Dressed chips. He kind of hates them.

We will have been together 10 years this fall and I don’t even know his favourite kind of chips. Sure, it may not seem like a very important detail (as evidenced this weekend in our car buying experience, I do know important information like his work phone number, his salary, his preference of back-up cameras and his hatred of making left hand turns anywhere but at controlled intersections), but to suddenly be faced with the realization that you don’t know something as basic as favourite chip flavour (especially being so incredibly wrong about it), came as a shock.

Obviously, my husband isn’t lying to his wife and his work place about his whereabouts during the day. I’m not letting my imagination get away with itself and assuming he is performing surgeries on yachts for millionaires. But sometimes, it takes a book going a little overboard to make you realize “maybe I need to take a step back and focus on him for a while”. Maybe, the next time we’re in the chip aisle together, rather than just finding a bag of chips we both are willing to tolerate and then settling on ripple.again.I should actually listen to his preferences. And then spend some time talking with him as we eat them rather than sitting beside each other, staring at our respective screens.

Today Will Be Different is over-the-top in Eleanor’s reactions to the events of the day, hovering right around the line between real and ridiculous. As a result, Semple’s writing mixes some heavy subject matter with levity to keep you enrapt in the chaos without dragging you down with it. I highly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone who is trying to balance “it all” and maybe not always keeping it together.

Categories: The new identity | 2 Comments

Five Things Friday

This week was not a stunning example of the type of mother I want to be. And of course, reading Today Will Be Different by Marie Semple (review coming) simultaneously made me feel like falling short is both normal and something so appalling that your life will fall apart if you don’t deal with it. So on that theme, here’s how things are going to be different next week

  1. I’m going to get up earlier so I can have a better breakfast with my girls and maybe feel a little less rushed to start the day (plus then I can maybe make C something other than PB&J for breakfast so when she refuses to eat lunch, I can resort to that without feeling like it’s all she every eats).
  2. I will let C know the plan for the day so she is less thrown off by the transitions between activities. Plus, it will give me a reason to make sure I follow through on my to-do list.
  3. I will make sure I eat lunch and drink enough water because a hungry mama is a grumpy mama. And “whatever C doesn’t eat” is not considered a meal.
  4. I will make cleaning up part of every activity, including meals. Not only will this make for a cleaner, calmer house, it will also enable us to spend more time together as a family in the evening before bed. I’ll also incorporate C into making and cleaning meals so there is less of a likelihood of her crying in the living room: “But who will play with me?!?!”
  5. I will go to bed earlier so I am more well-rested (she says typing this 20 minutes after my bedtime)
Categories: The new identity | 7 Comments

Currently: In June

June! It’s a touch hot for my taste right now, but better too hot than too cold! We’re soaking up the sun through the parts of skin that sweated off the SPF 50 zinc oxide sunscreen. Thanks to Anne and Erin for another month of Currently!

Currently June

… planning: M’s baptismal barbecue lunch at the end of June. It’s far enough away that I’m still excited and not overwhelmed at the idea of it. Mostly, it’s just a good excuse to look up fun fruity desserts

… wishing: for more sleep. For a while we were in a good routine of M waking up between midnight and 2, eating and going back to sleep and then waking at about 6:15, eating and going back to sleep and then me going for a workout. But now, that second wake up is anywhere from 3 to 5:45, and she is a fight to get back asleep and into the crib. I’ll often be up for an hour, which sometimes means only getting about another 25 minutes of sleep before she’s up for the day and waking her big sister up with her chatter. I feel so groggy that I can’t wrap my head around a workout, so even when Scott gets up with the girls and lets me sleep, I’m losing out on the energy I get from that. Plus this time around, my body just isn’t tolerating coffee. I’m actually dreaming about sleeping for 8 solid hours. 

… learning: how to sustain a garden. This is the first year that we’re doing raised beds and it turns out that the things I thought would be hard are easy, and the things that are hard are things I never even thought of. Like waiting until seeds sprout, and then hoping you don’t pull them thinking they are weeds. I mean, how am I supposed to know the difference?

… browsing: lawn furniture and car listings. Those are two separate searches, for what it’s worth. We’re spending more time outside, and carting more stuff around in our car than it can handle, so both would be handy.

… going: to the farmer’s market. Last year, we bought a share in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and it was all right. We enjoyed always having vegetables but they weren’t always the vegetables that we wanted. Since my garden is still in the early stages, I’m missing the fresh veggies so we’re going to the mid-week Farmer’s Market (the Saturday one is bananas!) whenever we need to supplement our little garden. We’ll still end up picking up produce at the grocery store too (we may have a fruit & veggie loving  little kid in our house) but the more local we can get, the better! Plus, it’s errands and a fun outing all in one!

Categories: The new identity | 8 Comments

Popping Up In Your Browser

Hi People!

My sister recently sent this image to me:


While I tried to write it off as an infected iPhone issue (I assume every piece of technology my sister touches eventually turns into a virus-ridden antiquated door stop, even if her track record of that ended quite some time ago), a few checks here and there and sure enough, mobile browsers have to deal with super annoying fake looking ads. Sorry guys, I guess now you know I’m C-H-E-A-P. SO here are a few questions to see if it’s worth my while upgrading to disable the ads

  1. Do you read this blog on your phone?
  2. Do you use an RSS reader as your primary means of reading it?
  3. How annoying are the ads on here? 
  4. Do you pay the monthly fee for your blog to disable ads?

 Thanks!

Categories: The new identity | 2 Comments

Five Things Friday

I’m stuck in a rocking chair trying to get M to sleep. It’s not working. And while part of me thinks that I should appreciate the time to gaze adoringly at her, since she is gazing adoringly at me but my head keeps making to do lists, which only serve to aggregate me by reminding me that evenings are generally my most productive time of the day. So in the hope that writing it down will help get it out of my head, here are the top 5 things I’d like to be doing right now:

  1. Watering the front garden. My plants are not tolerating the heat given they were just planted in the last week
  2. Drinking the can of Coke I opened at 6:30 in order to give me enough energy to get through bedtime, and that was assuming it was an easy bedtime.
  3. Saying goodnight to C. I’m usually out of M’s room when Scott is partway through C’s bedtime routine so I get in a quick kiss and cuddle. But tonight, I’ve missed that window and as luck would have it, C went to sleep quickly and easily.
  4. Going to the bathroom. 90 minutes ago, I didn’t have to pee.
  5. Going to bed. Seriously, kid. It’s almost past my bedtime, especially if you’re going to decide the day starts at 5:45. It’s 9:15 and I still need to make the chicken satay marinade I promised your sister after she read about it in an Oliva book (despite knowing that it will go over about as well as the Brussels sprouts did, though that did teach me the proper spelling of the cruciferous vegetable)

Fine. I’ll gaze at you adoringly as you coo along to your lullaby. And maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to watch you peacefully drift off to sleep and it will calm my brain down enough to enjoy it.

Categories: The new identity | 4 Comments

Mental Labour & Exhaustion

The general rule on the internet is not to click on links unless you know where they’re going to go, right?

The other night, I clicked on a link tweeted by a friend entirely without any context or comment associated with it and I have never been so glad to have taken that chance. It lead me to “You Should Have Asked.” It details the mental labour that women do that is not in the least bit obvious to men, particularly in committed relationships where the couple also has kids.

One of the examples that struck me the most in the web comic was that of cleaning off a table.  It could take a man 5 minutes to take everything off the table and put it where it belongs. It could take a woman 2 hours to clear everything off that table and put it where it belongs because she’ll notice, as she puts the towel in the laundry hamper, that it’s full and so she puts in a load of laundry. And then as she’s putting vegetables away, she realizes that they are out of mustard, so she has to add that to the grocery list, and so forth. While all of these tasks are needing to be done regardless of whether it is the man or woman who is doing them, these tasks are largely invisible to the man who concentrates only on clearing the table.

It explains why I start getting ready for bed before Scott, but he’s always waiting for me to climb in before he can turn out the light. It’s true that I have more that I typically do.  I have to do things like take off my makeup, take down my hair, take out my contacts and brush my teeth. And all he has to do it brush his teeth. But there are all the unrelated tasks that I still have to run through before I can even get there.

  • I take a quick look around the house but the quick look often takes long time even if I ignore all the mess that still lying around the house that I like to clean up before bed. I check to make sure that the front door is locked because if Scott only used the back door, he won’t think to doublecheck the front door before going to bed.
  • I have to make sure that I’ve got a water for the night because in the middle the night there’s nothing worse than having to get up tiptoe past sleeping baby’s room to get some water only to have her wake up and having me unable to get back to sleep after 45 minutes of feeding, rocking and sneaking out of her room.
  • I have to check on two sleeping babies. I have to make sure that the toddler is breathing normally because her night terrors and her head sweating are often linked to severe sleep apnea. I have to make sure that baby sleeping calmly enough that I can check to make sure that her boots are on properly and that nothing is shifted around on her brace without us knowing.
  • I have to check the weather for the next day that way when Scott gives me a kiss goodbye (if I’m still asleep trying to make up for the interrupted night) I can take a quick look at what he’s wearing to make sure that it’s weather appropriate.
  • I have to make sure that I’ve got a list of everything that I need to get ready the next morning because the minute that my feet hit the ground, they hit the ground running, knowing it doesn’t matter whether we need to be at the door at 9 AM or whether we need to be at the door at 11, because there’s always something that gets forgotten or left behind. I always tell myself that tomorrow’s going to be the day that I remember to get everything into the bag when it needs to be in there.
  • And then I have to do a postmortem on the day. I think I put on things that went well. I think one of the things that I forgot to do, and I have all the things that I didn’t get to do. And then I have to try to decide whether it’s more important that I get eight hours of sleep a night or whether I get them done or whether I put them in a note somewhere to get them done which inevitably leads to making a note of all the things that need to be done around the house because I was intending to make that list of things we need to pick up from Home Depot and every time I’m at Home Depot I think “I don’t have a list of things to do” so start making that list

Before I know it, an hour has passed and while I may not accomplished anything in full, I’ve gotten at least three and a half lists made and figured out answer to a problem that I didn’t realize was an issue until I was half asleep.

Scott once explained me that having ADD means there is a constant sound of static in his head. Maybe not static, he said, but there is so much going on that he couldn’t pick out one single sound, and it gets exhausting. This mental load that women handle often feels the exact same, only instead of it being a constant droning sound we can’t distinguish, we can’t stop hearing each individual noise and try to categorize them and control them, all while trying to maintain a sense of composure, grace and decency.

It’s no wonder that once I finally fall into bed, I either can’t sleep, for all the thoughts in my head, or am out immediately, exhausted from trying to have my body keep up with my brain.

Categories: The new identity | 9 Comments

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