When I was pregnant with my first child I worried about trivial things like what to put on my baby shower gift registry. “Oh, it’s so overwhelming…there’s so much to choose from.” And, after he was born, I got angry at trivial things like my old-school grandmother constantly telling me what to do and how to do it. But, I never once worried about whether I would be able to take care of my baby. Naturally, he would be fed and he would be comfortable. He would never want for anything. And, if I ran out of diapers, I or my husband could simply make a quick run out to the local store for a pick up.
So, it was easy to forget that there are some who don’t have it as easy. See, there’s this thing called “diaper need,” which, according to the Diaper Bank of Toronto’s website, “is the struggle to provide babies and small children with clean diapers.”
On its own, caring for a baby is an expensive task. At 12 months of age, my son was using, on average, five diapers a day. One box of 78 diapers @ $29.97 (advertised on Walmart.ca at the time of writing) would last 15 days. Even with the various sales and deals, the monthly cost is approximately $60 – $70. And, then there are wipes, maybe formula, baby soap, bum cream, sometimes medicine, child care, food, utilities, rent….and the list of essentials goes on.
Fortunately, there are dedicated people and organizations out there that are working to help those that find it difficult to afford the essentials and in some desperate cases, according to the Diaper Bank website, are forced to reuse “diapers that have been cleaned or dried out.”
So, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but haven’t done anything…until now. I thought that if I just mentioned it to you, maybe you would mention it to another friend. Maybe we could get more people talking about issues like this. Maybe we could also donate to a community organization, like the Diaper Bank of Toronto.
I know it’s not a solution. But it’s something we can do to help. It’s something simple…which is a good thing, especially when there are other things to think about…like, whether to go to baby yoga classes or baby salsa classes.
When I was 25, I spent three months in Tunisia (a small country on the north coast of Africa), working as a volunteer instructor at a children’s education centre. Everyday I took the bus to the nearest stop and walked to work. On my way I would pass a snack kiosk, but not without stopping to buy a chocolate bar. I never spoke to the man at the counter…only a friendly smile and a shy “Bonjour” (locals speak Arabic and French). After two months of buying chocolate he gave me the following letter:
I am very happy to write these few lines to you and to express my great happiness in having met you.
I wanted to tell you that I have a great appreciation for the Japanese and the Chinese and that I know a lot of traditions and customs that you practice.
My dream is to travel to Japan or to China and to live exactly like you.
I am very serious about the idea of marriage. But I am content in a simple friendship with you.
My problem is my inability to express myself in French. I understand French a little, but I cannot express myself well.
As I mentioned in my first post, 10 truths for parents with young children, I was disappointed when my sons weren’t as enthusiastic as I was about buying a children’s easel. It was an embarrassing realization that I was the one that actually wanted it. It would have been my own childhood dream come true! And then I had a eureka moment – “Hey, I can buy one for myself.”
Ever since my kids were born, my focus has been on them. My life – thoughts, actions, conversations, interests and motivations – has revolved around them. If I go to the bookstore to browse, I go to the kids section, even if they’re not with me. It was an unbelievable and truly eye-opening revelation…hmm…I forgot, I have interests, too! I can buy it for myself. Wow. I felt liberated. So I bought an easel. It was on sale – 50% off – regularly $99. And, this is what the beauty looked like:
Notice the $2 – Dollar Store – canvas….thought I would start out cheap,
as it was the first painting I was going to do in over 20 years.
And, I also bought a sketch pad, some number 2B pencils, an eraser and some shading stumps…I was feeling reckless. Excited…
So, after setting up my beautiful, first-ever easel, I decided to start drawing immediately. I started to draw this seal:
After four months, this is how it now looks…
November 2014. See the difference?
The shading stump and pencil rolled a bit.
As for the easel, it’s now being used for other purposes:
I can’t really say there’s no time. I recently thought I would sit to do some painting, but then I thought, “well, if I have time, I should fold the laundry”…or attempt to tackle the junk room…but that doesn’t happen…the painting doesn’t happen….and then I just end up watching TV. Perhaps I’m just a bit lazy. Or, a bit of a perfectionist and hesitant about starting something that won’t be perfect. Or, perhaps I lack the time management skills I so desperately need. And maybe I think it’s a bit of a luxury to sit and do something for myself, especially since there are kids running around looking for something to do (Read my second post: Why mothers should have their own fantasy sports pool).
Regardless of the reasons, I know I’ve done a terrible thing. To hang my garments on that which holds my future masterpiece is sacrilege for the true artist.
By the way, this is how I look when I’m painting (Obviously. Also, while I’m painting, my two boys are sitting quietly, writing poetry and composing music):
Life is busy when you have kids. There are lunches to prepare, temperatures to take, books to read, and bodies to bathe. And, on top of all the necessary daily tasks, there are extra-curricular activities. So much time. So many kilometers. And so many words of encouragement are invested to keep our kids active and well rounded. But, it’s all right – I think they’re worth it.
And then there are the husbands in our life who like to participate in a fantasy sports pool, or two. They also like to play in a league at least once a week. These activities aren’t his priority, but they are important to him.
Let’s take my husband as an example. For him, family is his priority. Below that is his work. And then below work, is hockey. To say that he loves hockey is an understatement and with his busy, stressful life, which we can all relate to – hockey is a good thing. It allows him time to socialize with friends, relax and get some exercise (although, I think the requisite post-game beer cancels out all the benefits of the hour-long game). So, for these reasons, unless there is something really important, he won’t miss a game. But, it’s all right – I think he’s worth it.
And us? What do we – mothers – do for ourselves? Unfortunately, unlike our guys we will make excuses, claim self-sacrifice or yield to the weather. “Well, there’s no time. I need to get home to cook and be with the kids.” “After work, I’m so tired.” “It’s raining.”
I know this because these are the excuses I use. And, I know it’s time to get moving….I can feel the fat collecting. Women (especially those who are busy raising a young family), need to make time for themselves. I think we all need to do something that is totally unrelated to our kids or our husbands. Something that is just for us – perhaps our own “fantasy hockey pool,” if you will. A fitness boot camp. A cake decorating class. Or simply, a run around the neighbourhood. It can be anything! Because it’s no longer all right to sacrifice your health or sanity. You may not realize it, but you are your kid’s priority. And, they think you are worth it.
I’ve been a mother for almost four and a half years now. So I’ve had some time to reflect on life, as I now know it; on parenting; and how perspectives can change in an instant, once you become responsible for another person’s life.
What I’ve realized, after a lot of commiserating with other new parents, is that we are all being challenged. Whether it’s trying to convince your child to start using the potty or to eat their vegetables, we are all simply doing our best…just trying to figure it all out. And, so far, this is what I’ve figured out:
1. Plan for your plans to be broken.
Be prepared. Or just don’t make any plans, ever…because kids get sick…and they get sick often. In many instances they’ll wait until you are all dressed up and ready for a night out to come down with a fever.
Aside from wrapping them up and keeping them home from school all week long prior to an upcoming event (something I’ve seriously contemplated), their dirty fingers will find a way into their eyes or into their mouths. There’s really nothing you can do, because in spite of the frequent hand washing, one day you’ll find yourself in a panic – 30 minutes before your scheduled Saturday afternoon birthday party, standing in front of a table covered with 40 cupcakes and food, that you got up to prepare at 4 o’clock in the morning – when you’ve just realized your child, the birthday boy, has pink eye.
2. A warm, cozy bed always beats standing in the cold to get into a bar…
…well, that’s what I tell myself, especially when my children are probably going to be waking me up at 6:30 in the morning. Gone are the days when my Saturday night would just be starting at 10:30 pm (and even that was too early to show up at a club). These days, I’m often settled in my warm bed and getting ready to watch the 11 o’clock news. It’s with mixed feelings, some nostalgia and some relief, when I see the local news stories showing images of people on the streets – perhaps a story about the annual Canadian National Exhibition or a story about Leafs’ fans partying in the streets after a long-awaited win.
3. Your child acts like the devil incarnate while awake and looks like a sweet angel while asleep.
It must be nature’s way of preventing parents from running away at night. All the anger and frustration your children may stir up in you, simply disappears when you see them sleeping peacefully.
“Our boys…they’re really sweet, aren’t they?” my husband says with a smile (30 minutes after the chaos, that is our usual bedtime routine – subsides). “Yeah, they’re sweet,” I say with a tired and irritated voice.
4. Speeches given by parents-of-the-bride and groom take on new meaning.
“It seems like just yesterday…” That’s how the speeches often start. When you heard these speeches before, you would clap and think, “Nice speech…the stories were kind of funny.”
Now, they’ve taken on new meaning. You realize that you are living the “yesterday” in the speech you will eventually tell and you start to cry…but, mostly because you will be old.
5. Your child’s first four years often feel like a race, one that you eventually wish they never finished.
You can’t wait until they start solids…until they walk…’till they speak…use the potty…read…We want them to grow up so fast. And, they do just that. Then you realize that you were so caught up in the rush of “growing” them, that you didn’t enjoy them just being….a baby. Enjoy the coos…just because they sound so sweet. And, not because you think she’s talking.
6. You realize that you may have given your mom a grey hair or two. But, you’ll never admit it.
You were fearless. Invincible! “Don’t worry, mom.” Those words were so easy to say, and really had no meaning. Now you know that as a parent, you just can’t stop worrying. Whether it’s your child’s first fever; first day of school; or first love, you worry. You
will even worry about what “could” happen. I call it “preemptive worrying”….you know, just in case.
“So let me get this straight,” my husband said. “You’re worried that “K” may play hockey and that he may get a concussion.” “K” is 2 years old. He doesn’t know how to skate.
7. Aside from the necessities of life, when you buy something for your child, you are really buying it for yourself.
I almost bought a children’s easel because it was on sale and because of course, my children wanted it. Ok, they didn’t ask for it. But – they paint and draw all the time!
“You don’t have to buy an easel, mama. We have too many toys,” said the weird kid in the back seat of my car. If only you knew my disappointment.
8. Ironing – it just ain’t happening.
When you’ve got young children, sometimes you’ve just gotta embrace the chaos. Life’s not going to be perfect, and your house will get messy. The dishes will not get done right away. There will be toys scattered all over the floor.
And, ironing the clothes just out of the dryer…well, that’s not gonna happen….that’s what closet doors are for.
If you are able to get the laundry washed, ironed, folded and/or hung in the closets, while still feeding your baby, cleaning up messes and everything else, then congratulations to you! Otherwise, here’s a tip for those of you who haven’t figured it out yet: hang up your wrinkled clothes and iron when needed.
9. Giving a mother unsolicited advice is like sticking your hand in a lion’s cage. Yes, it’s possible to get away unscathed, but we all know better, right?
It doesn’t matter how helpful you think you are being, never give a mother of young children, advice. If you do, you will be invariably attacking: a) her ability to be a mother; b) her intelligence; and c) her love for her child. Want some advice on this matter? Just ask my husband what he thinks…the scratches on his arms are almost gone.
10. Storage – the answer to all your problems!
(Warning: more unsolicited advice to follow) If you ever feel like you aren’t in control because your baby decides your sleep schedule; your baby has initiated a few food restrictions and doesn’t like the cheese you are eating; your baby has too many things and it’s too much work to go out; or, your baby doesn’t want you to take a long shower, take comfort in what you can control – your mess!
I have to admit, I’ve become a little obsessed with storage – baskets, buckets, cupboards and shelves – for all the toys, clothes, books and home supplies. Truthfully though, as I write this, my home is still quite messy because I’m in the middle of organizing a bunch of areas – the kitchen, the front coat closet…hmmm, should I get more containers?