I Come First Too!

Have you ever wondered how some families seem to have it all figured out? They have somehow found their balance. Someone once said to me while I was shopping with my kids ” oh wow! I don’t know how you balance having a toddler and baby. You look great!” When that was said I couldn’t find the words to reply back, I was too busy thinking about the word “balance.” I mean, what is balance? I almost wanted to spurt out a chuckle, but instead I smiled and thanked her. Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely appreciate any complement that comes my way. But, what this woman didn’t see several minutes before was that my 3 year old threw herself onto the floor when I told her I wasn’t buying the Paw Patrol yogurt drinks, my youngest crying because her sister was crying, and I had spilled my $6.00 coffee down the side of my pants. I’m already too tired to curl up and watch a movie with my husband when my girls are in bed, so how on earth do I balance his needs, my needs… all of our needs? I’ve always wanted to find the moms I see on my Instagram feeds who appear to have figured it all out. Showing that their balance is a solid 10/10.

I have been married almost 8 years and yet figuring out the intricacies of marriage remains constant. Along the way I have been given so much advice on various subjects around marriage and parenting, but no one really talks about both parenting and marriage together, and what that actually looks like. Does it even exist? It must if my Instagram moms are doing it, right? How do you balance both? We all want to be that great wife or that great mom, but how do we fit both of them together? There is no proven textbook on how to balance parenting and marriage. There are tons of books suggesting ways to improve things, but what works well for others will not always work for you. So how do you balance being an equal wife and an equal parent?

Along time ago I stumbled on articles that discussed putting your husband and yourself first, children second. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “how could anyone do that?” or ” I would die for and do anything for my kids.” So before you get your pants twisted, let me explain. These articles made some valid points. It discussed that we wouldn’t be parents without our partners. We were married & together first, so why would we make that less of a priority. As we navigate parenthood, we often put ourselves and our husband last. We are so caught up with our children’s needs, that we forget about our own needs. When we put ourselves and husband’s needs last, we lose a part of our identity. The identity that we worked hard on developing before kids became part of the equation.

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When the parental team breaks down, this not only impacts your marriage, but it also impacts your children. It’s so easy as parents to put ourselves and partner last while you figure out raising your children. When we do this, you not only lose a sense of yourself, but you lose those moments and much needed connections with your husband. Having a positive secure family are the building blocks for your children’s security. If you are focussing equal efforts on your relationship, this helps your children see that marriage is an important relationship to have. Just because we shift our focus to our needs or our husbands needs first, this is doesn’t mean that I care for my children any less. Infact, it means I care for children so much more, that I recognize times where my husband or I come first in the equation. How do I find this balance?

While I’m knee deep in various bodily fluids between, scattered toys, and lack of sleep for the foreseeable future, I ask myself, “how on earth do I have spare time?” I haven’t seen spare time since before I had kids. I remember hanging out with some of my friends who are also a mom, and it was said that they plan “couple” time and “me” time. “Couple” time? “Me” Time? They pre-schedule alone time with their husband and alone time for themself, without their kids. This might include time spent once the kids are in bed, or calling a family member, or babysitter so they can take the afternoon to reconnect with their husband over coffee, a meal, or just a walk in the park. This sparked some good ideas. I’ve only read about couples pre-scheduling, but I never knew for a second this would be me. My husband and I pre-schedule our kids appointments, and family events, why not add “couple” time? and “me” time. I’m not suggesting that this becomes frequent as weekly; this could be monthly. If I’m already using my phone, what’s another appointment?

For a happy and balanced marriage, scheduling time together and apart is so crucial. Whether it’s a round of golf, or a few hours spent getting your hair done, or meeting up with a friend, plan this time. This is balance! This is not you being selfish, this is you, recognizing that your marriage comes first, sometimes. In order to raise positive, happy children, you also have to be living a happy and positive life. Find time for yourself and your husband, you will thank me later!

I Can Do It

While I watch my 3 year old get ready for preschool, I’m watching her struggle putting on her boots. I offer to help her, when she interrupts me saying “no mommy, I can do it myself.” As I grit my teeth, anxiously waiting for her to get it right, I realize this is typical behaviour for any preschooler. Preschoolers are learning how to do so many new tasks, and as a parent I often forget that we should let them figure it out. As I watch my daughter figuring out how to do most tasks, and insisting on doing it herself, all of this has me thinking. I’ve come to the realization that I rely on doing so many tasks independently. All most, too independently.

For years, I have been overly independent. Dating back to when I was in my late teens, I made it a priority to move out on my own without help. I would work two jobs to make sure I was able to pay rent comfortably, and figuring out my post secondary school courses. When I was 19 years old, I spontaneously responded to a job ad in a local newspaper, to apply as an AuPair in the United States. Within a few months I was on a flight to New Jersey to move in with a family I had only met over the phone, coordinated by an organization I had only read about through a newspaper ad, ready to take on this year long adventure. When my time in New jersey was finished, I moved back home temporarily before moving again, working a few more jobs and relocating out of city to settle down and attend college.

It wasn’t until I was watching my daughter learn new tasks or go about her daily routine before I started realizing that not only does she have some very similar character traits as I do, it really had me thinking about myself, and why did I move around alot? Why was I so persistent to do things by myself? Why would I turn down help when circumstances would be so tough for me to manage by myself? Was it because I was too proud? Or was it because I didn’t want to burden a friend or loved one?

Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva on Pexels.com

To ask for help felt too gut wrenching. I had a hard time finding the courage or finding comfort asking. I remember when I was in college and my college money was delayed and I couldn’t pay my rent on time. Even under these circumstances I reached out to no one. I found myself skipping 3 days of college classes to work enough hours to cover my rent. When I had a college roommate who decided to move out while I wasn’t home and wrote me a faulty cheque for his last months rent, I reached out for no one. Whether it was money, help moving, or balancing various work and home life responsibilities, I find myself in various circumstances where I would tackle these tasks, and run myself so thin that I begin to feel like I’m a 10 year old laptop riddled with viruses trying to run windows. For some reason, I still find enough bandwidth to push through, no matter what it took to get there. Why was I doing this to myself? Why would I endure all of this pressure? It goes beyond a sense of pride. It was a way to hide that I was different from others. A way to hide that I carry a past.

What I was really doing was running myself too thin. I would refuse help, but internally stress myself out for taking on too much. I remember sitting down with an old therapist, when it was discussed that I suffered from Hyper-Independence. I know what you must be thinking, “is this a real thing?” It is. Hyper-Indepence is a real condition. It is a condition that develops when someone has experienced a form of severe trauma or chronic illness. For years, I have created this false notion that I had to prove I was capable, and to prove my value and self worth through all that I was capable of doing independently, instead of who I am as a person. This would caused me so much harm, than it was good for me. I would over do myself on many tasks, I refused to ask for help when times felt impossible, and when I would find the courage to ask for help, I would feel even worse about it. I would begin to feel worthless.

The road to recovery is slow, but constantly moving. My self worth is not measured by the amount of tasks I take on alone. I am learning to not fall into the mind trap that when I do eventually ask for help, it may not be accomplished in the same manner I have set out in my head, but rather it was done differently, and that’s ok! I was reminded to give others the opportunity to help me. I don’t have to do everything myself, and that it’s ok to rest. To be strong goes beyond how much you do. If you ask for help it doesn’t mean that you’re weak. In fact, this is far from the truth. Recognizing when I need help shows incredible strength. Strength and courage to ask. I would be lying if I said I followed these suggestions perfectly. What I can say, is that each day is a new day. The more I practise, and allow myself to accept help, with time I will be able to find a healthy balance of independence.

For anyone who is struggling whether its with Hyper-Independence, or various forms of anxiety, remember that you aren’t alone. Find someone you trust. Someone that you can lean on to ask for help. Let them know how they can help. Remind yourself that this journey is slow. It will take time for your trust, strength and courage to come. Give yourself patience. Once you get there, you will find that this will be the most mentally and emotional thing you have done.

Getting Through It

Sometimes I need to be heard. Sometimes I need to feel that my feelings matter and by feeling this way, it’s OK. Often times when I express various emotions to someone, my feelings often get lost along the way. Either the person I am expressing them to is perhaps going through something of their own. Perhaps the other person isn’t able to connect with me emotionally because they simply don’t understand it for themself. No matter the reason, I find myself going down a very dark and grim path. It comes with no surprise that last year, 2020 hit most of us hard with a worldwide pandemic. This really wasn’t something we were eased into. This came in full force, providing us with very little information and a lack of understanding. While it was expected to be a short term effect, it became over a long term effect. This is where I found myself struggling. Struggling to find balance. Struggling with change. I was feeling as though my strength to keeping it all together was being tested to its full limit.

I have learned a lot about myself. This pandemic has taught me so much. Even though I am feeling the struggles of finding peace with this year long change, I have gained STRENGTH, and WEAKNESS, and I’m proud of that. I know what you’re thinking, how could I have gained both and feel proud of that? Well, let me explain! I have, with all of you, had to adjust my routines and my lifestyle right down to the basics. This was something that felt incredibly foreign to me. What do you mean I am no longer able to see my family? What do you mean I can’t just hop in my car and browse a store? Wait, you’re telling me I have to wear a mask when I go out? No, you can’t possibly expect me to keep my preschooler home with me all day, everyday while we are also not able to go places. I had to learn the basics of teaching my preschooler and adjusting our daily routines while school was closed. This came with so many uncertainties while I was trying cope emotionally, struggling and waiting until I can see my family again. When can my daughter see her grandparents. Let me assure you, we did eventually adjust. I won’t sugar coat it, my days felt long, and my nights felt short, but I was able to get to know my daughter so much more than I did before. We took long walks each day. We played in our backyard daily, read endless amounts of books, made blanket forts, played games. I would be lying if I told you we didn’t watch Peppa Pig so many times that now I find myself questioning why Peppa and her family always seem to roll on to their backs when they laugh. I would be lying if I told you I haven’t seen Disney Frozen 1 & 2 600,000 times and no matter how hard I try, I still find myself humming “Let It Go.” Despite our abundance of TV watching, we did also learn so much. My daughter knows that birds eat worms, and whales eat fish. My daughter has also learned that she should never eat sticks, as our bodies cannot digest wood the same way beavers do.

As we approach the second year of this pandemic, I have realized that my strength comes from overcoming my own unknowns and fears. It wasn’t until June, 2020 where I finally felt comfortable with mine and my daughters daily routine. For once, I felt comfortable and confident with how I was managing with minimal reliance of my daughters school. I was able to force myself outside my own comfort zone for the sake of co- existing in this pandemic. That is where I have gained my STRENGTH. Strength, comes in all forms, and it varies for each person. Some of you might be balancing work and having a child home. Some of you might be adjusting school and work life balance or changing career paths, or adjusting to working from home, instead of in an office. Some of you might be homeschooling, while attending Zoom call meetings, all while trying to stop your toddler from putting their fingers in your office printer, pulling endless amounts of paper off your desk, or running around pantless in the background because today was the day they decided it was a no pants day. Whatever it is you might be facing, remember that even completing the day took STRENGTH.

Now, you might be wondering why I mentioned WEAKNESS? I will openly admit where I have fallen short is my patience. No matter how hard I try to always keep a positive composure, and my emotions in check, I have and still have a hard time with patience. My patience is running thin on how long it is taking for our family, for you, for society to get back to where we were at in 2019. My patience is running thin on having to explain to my preschooler the importance of using the toilet 100 times a day, so she doesn’t have an accident. My patience is running thin to watch Frozen 1 & 2 because its Tuesday, and I have yet to have “Let It Go” stuck in my head, today. I know I will get there. The process takes time. I have to remind myself that my daughter is happy, and, I am doing the best I can, with the STRENGTH I’ve got.

So for all of you all of you experiencing the heightened struggles that this pandemic has given you, please know that when you are faced with a negative impact or your emotions are feeling strong, know that there is something positive waiting for you. You can have STRENGTH while still figuring out your WEAKNESS. Use the power and energy from what is making you feel good, to move forward in baby steps. It’s ok to take that personal day from work. It’s ok to order take out because you know you can’t bare to cook another meal. You know your limits better than anyone else and you certainly don’t need to defend them to anyone. Parents; it’s ok that your child has watched enormous amounts of TV so you can take a break, or finish that work meeting. It’s ok that lunch meals have moved to the couch because a toddler meltdown is not what you’re capable of handling today. Accept the little changes that get you through your day because at the end of the day, you completed the day in one piece. Always find time to reward yourself. Adjusting your lifestyle is not an easy task, and you need to credit yourself for getting through it!

You’re not “JUST” a MOM

As long as I can remember, I knew I always wanted to be a mom. Perhaps, partially my fascination has stemmed from being an only child. I didn’t have siblings to annoy and then watch my parents get all “red faced” holding in all of their frustrations because we all couldn’t get along. Whatever the initial reasons were, it was in my DNA. I was meant to take on this lifetime role.

When I was blessed with becoming a mom, this was the greatest gift I was given. Although, I must admit, I was incredibly naive what this role truly meant. There is so much that isn’t talked about. There is so many “fictional” notations about being a mom, where you lose a sense of reality. I remember having an encounter with another mom at a store. We began talking and I asked her what she does for work, and she says to me “I’m JUST a mom!” I told her she couldn’t possibly be “JUST” a mom. I shared with her that being a mom requires us to wear multiple hats simultaneously. What I have learned thus far, is that

you’re not JUST a mom!

Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash

I know what you are thinking, how is that possible? Even though most of my time, day and night is spent caring for and loving my daughter, it doesn’t mean that this is all I am. This has taken me 2 years to realize this, and I am still learning this. When you’re a mom, you are wearing several hats in one day. For me, I am constantly wearing these hats stacked on top of eachother in every moment of each day.

I am a wife.

I am a wife first. This might seem incredibly crazy to you, in fact, probably insane, but let me explain. Before the idea or concept of starting a family became a real life goal, I was seeking the man who would be my life long team mate, my partner, my best friend. Creating this fundamental foundation for our life together, it is imperative that it is strong and secure for our family. This foundation expands and contracts as we go through life and life’s challenges together. While my husband of 6 years (together 11 years) continues to grow, and strengthens our foundation, our love for eachother continues to grow. This love is what grows a family. It’s not wrong to love and be a wife or partner first, its fact, it’s truth. As our love strengthens, and carries us through life, it’s so important to remember where this love started, our journey, because without this love, ultimately, I wouldn’t be a mother, today. This doesn’t mean that I love my daughter any less, or my husband any less, it means that I respect, and appreciate my love and partnership with my husband so much, that he will always be my #1, and my daughter who I love beyond this universe #2. My husband and I are leaders in our family. We know our daughter is watching intently to our gestures, communication, how we treat each other and how we love . Our focus is to constantly show this love, respect and appreciation throughout her life. Who are the two most important people to show her this? WE ARE! The two most important people in her world. We are her world.

I am the cook.

So many of your days is often spent in the kitchen between snack times, and meal times. This might be one of my least favourite jobs, but I do find benefit and accomplishment showing my daughter nutritious meals and snacks.The more I show her nutritious meals, she will learn positive eating habits. It’s a HUGE accomplishment when she eats it.

I am the nurse.

Whether I’m sucking the snot out of my daughters nose, or attending to her fever in the middle of the night, I’m on call 24/7. I’m the one running the bath, steaming the bathroom to help her congestion, chasing her around the house to give her medicine, but most importantly. I’m the one sitting on the couch, with her curdled up on my lap, with her toesies covered in the blankies while she fights off the illness she picked up. The best medicine for our little girl is nurse Mommy.

I am a teacher.

Whether your strengths are in math or english, we will eventually have to help teach subjects we once hated. Luckily for me, my daughter isn’t quite there yet. I still have time to freshin’ up. I am my daughter’s teacher. I’m the one covered in glue, playdough, and paint teaching my daughter arts, crafts, numbers and shapes. I am the drama teacher, playing creative play, dressing up as princesses and fairies. Even though this role is often a joint effort with my husband, I am the one who is home with my daughter the most. In no time, I will be helping with science projects, bake fairs, and creating flash cards in preparation for tests. Lets face it, learning and school does not end when the bell rings.

I am the chauffeur.

Whether I am doing errands, or taking my daughter from one appointment to the other, I am the driver. This role has 14 more years to go, before this role slowly disappears. Until then, pack a snack, or even a light meal, because our days are often spent in the car.

I am the maid.

I thought living with a man was messy, wait until you come over to my house, and see what a toddler can do. In 0-60 seconds, each room of my house has something out of place. All of my life, I have underestimated how fast, and the distance a toddler can travel in a short amount of time. This job can feel long and endless. In the beginning for me, I knew this would be the hardest job for myself, to let go. Letting go of the constant need that our house has to be “guest” worthy. Its ok that the laundry only makes it to the basket, and it might take a day or two to for the laundry to make it to the dresser. Its’ ok that it has been a couple weeks between washing your floors… afterall, if you have a dog, that’s what they’re for? Haha! We do what we can, with the hours we are given. Just because you let housework slide today, or tomorrow, doesn’t mean that in a few days from now, or next week it will be the same. Do what you can, when you can do it. Kids are messy, and that is a fact of life!

Let’s face it, as a mom, we wear multiple hats. Our job description is longer than the average roll of toilet paper. That’s ALOT!! We have to give ourselves way more credit for all of the things we do. We are not “JUST” a mom. Wear the “MOM” title proudly. Own it. Being a mom is 1000 times more than the jobs I’ve listed, above. The next time you hear a mom say ” I am JUST a mom,” remind them that’s not all they are. Remind them that they are EVERYTHING & MORE. Through all of the bodily fluids you might find yourself wearing, own your MOM title and wear it proud! Next time when someone asks you what your job is, tell them

I AM A MOM!!!