A Hundred Excuses

I haven’t posted in a month.  I have a hundred excuses why.  Some are more valid than others, but none of them are the full truth.

Excuse 1: I had family come in for a visit.  They drove from Ontario to visit with us and, as the designated stay-at-home-for-right-now mom, I was more than happy to escort them about the city, showing off the place I love.

Excuse 2: Holidays.  Between thanksgiving and Halloween, a lot has been going on.  G had her first movie experience, we have carved multiple pumpkins.  We have baked and eaten that baking.  I have gained back all of the weight that I had lost… you know what they say: Thanksgiving is the beginning of the end for every weak-willed dieter.

Excuse 3: I am a bridesmaid in a wedding and the bachelorette party was in Canmore last weekend.  A LOT of my focus had to go into that.

Excuse 4: L is in a BAD sleep regression.  G had them when she was a baby, but not like this.  I am getting absolutely no more than 90 minutes of sleep at night and only a few small breaks during the day.  I love him to little bits but I may leave him in a box on the side of the road with a “Free Baby” sign pretty soon.


Ok so not 100 excuses, but four.  Again, all of them real reasons why I have been lax in my blog posting duties, but none of them cover all of it.  The real reason was one that I hadn’t been able to recognize until I was at my book club last Thursday.  My book club, which has only had two meetings so far, is made up of women that I’ve never met, all of whom are small business owners or entrepreneurs.  They are incredible.  Beautiful inside and out, these women work their tails off to live their dream and to make their visions reality.  I was overwhelmed, surrounded by them, by how strong and utterly RELENTLESS they are.  Our book for October was “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington and while we all agreed that it was sort of “meh” overall, it had a few interesting points that became deep conversations for us.  One of the key points was hit on the head by one of the other women: we are constantly told to question our own abilities and value.  We have these deep desires and wants in our lives… oftentimes involving dreams we want to pursue.  But we stop ourselves.  We stop because we think of finances.  We think of responsibilities.  We think, most of all, “who am I to do this?”

And that line is what struck me.  “Who am I to do this?”  She was speaking of her own experiences, and yet it was like she was giving voice to the fear that hides in the back of my head: Who am I to think that I am worth hearing?  Who am I to think I can speak to this or that?  Who am I to think anyone wants to hear what I have to say?

For all of the many concrete reasons I had given myself for putting off posting, this was the one that they hid: my deep insecurity that no one should care what I have to say; that it is arrogant for me to think that what I have to say is worth being heard at all.

I recently read a piece by Joan Didion that talks about self-respect and the struggle to find it.  She likened it to a “well-lit back alley” where all of our self-knowledge waits to essentially mug us with the truths behind our masks and self-image and reputation:  here lurk the truths you can hide from everyone but yourself.  I think I LIVE in that back alley.  I am never unaware of my failings, big and small.  I still think about the time I called a kid a bad name in grade 4 and that one time I didn’t stand up for my mom when I should have.  I’m aware of the frustration I feel when I’m with my daughter – the short-tempered cruelties that shame me deeply.  I can’t pretend with myself to be any kind of parenting sage because I know too well the truth of myself, and to write any kind of piece that says otherwise is to be inauthentic.

It’s a funny duality that I have found in motherhood: I jealously remember the times in my life when I was truly seen, now that I am permanently relegated to the background of my children’s lives.  I once was the sun, with everything orbiting around my life, but now I am just one of those planets, orbiting G and L while they shine.  I guard the precious memories of my life BEFORE when I was Danielle and not just mom.  When I had interests and independence.  But the irony is that I think my greatest fear is to be truly seen now.  To be seen in my inglorious moments, my frustrated ones, my shameful ones. It’s one thing to embrace the messiness of parenthood – there is a deeply funny side to the trivial failings of our day-to-day lives: the spilled milk, the spit up accidents, the blow-outs.  There is a black humour to the first time your kid repeats the word “fuck” or accidentally does something inappropriate with total, pure innocence.  But it’s a different beast to look at our real failings as parents and as people.  Those are moments we do not want to be seen… and they are moments that I feel I have had more of since I became a mom.

And yet, I believe there is value in it.  I think that there are those moments where seeing someone else be vulnerable allows us a greater connection to both ourselves and one another.  I believe that we are closer when we see each other as human.  Especially in a time where social media makes it difficult to separate someone’s PROFILE from her LIFE.

So I’m back.  I have to believe that there is a value to what I want to say.  Perhaps it will be uncomfortable – for me, for people who read it – but perhaps there is value in that.  If I want to raise a daughter who sees value in her own thoughts and voice, I have to find that value in my own.

Fingers crossed.



Mediocre Mom

You Can’t Be Everything

When I was a kid, I won a purple participation ribbon at track and field day.  It was fourth grade – the first time that we had to compete in the events instead of just playing around outside – and I was running the 100 metre.  I chose the 100 metre not because I am fast… on the contrary: I chose the 100 metre because I am an awful athlete and it was the one that would be over the quickest so that I could get my tiny ice cream with the popsicle stick spoon.  The humiliation of placing second last (God bless you, last placer) was quickly fixed by the pinning of a ribbon and the reception of a delicious ice cream treat.

And track was not the only area of my life where I received head-pats for mediocrity.  My parents, with all of the well-meaning enthusiasm of the 90s, cheered me on by telling me that sacred millennial mantra: you can be ANYTHING you want if you put your mind to it!  I embraced this foolhardy belief system, but with one important alteration.  In my head, I adopted the belief that not only could I do ANYTHING, but I could do EVERYTHING.  I was a special little snowflake who would excel (or at least not be the worst) at everything I tried.  I blithely marched out into the world to take what was mine: all of it.  And, for a time, it worked.

I worked what amounted to full-time through university, maintaining my grades while simultaneously volunteering to puff up my resume.  I planned a wedding as a first year teacher (if you’ve been one, you know what the hours are like) while maintaining a decent social life (for me, anyway).  I coached, directed the play, worked 14 hour days building resources that totally already existed, and somehow still found time for dates with my husband and lots of shopping.  Sure, there were trade offs, and I did none of those things to the best of my abilities, because there were too many things to become really excellent at any of them.

So when I became a mom, I figured it would be the same deal: put my mind to it and I’d be able to do it all.  I would be able to be a mom, have a career, maintain my marriage, keep my friends and social life, get the best body of my life and, of course, have a killer closet.  If you’re not laughing yet, it’s because you’re not a mom.

With my first, I realized that I was an idiot pretty much right away.  There was no way I was doing all of that, but in my head I added a yet.  I only couldn’t do it all because I was in a transition period, or because I was physically recovering, or because I was pregnant again and exhausted (I had hyperemesis with my second, so it was a good excuse).  Whatever the reason, there was a REASON I couldn’t have it all… YET.  As soon as those reasons were resolved, I would be able to get it all going and have everything.

But it never happened.

Today, I sat in the middle of my floor wearing oven mitts and my husband’s flipflops, crying.  It was the basement, too, which is undeveloped, so I had dust all over my skirt (yes, skirt).  I had decided when I had my second that the excuses were over: it was time to really put my mind to it.  I woke up every morning and did my hair and basic makeup.  I signed up for workout classes.  I went dairy-free and started watching what I ate.  I cleaned my house, and then cleaned it again.  I signed up for EVERYTHING for my daughter – taking her on weekly trips to everywhere.  I met up with friends.  I started planning and working on a bachelorette and shower for a wedding I’m in.  I started hobbies.  I began redecorating my house (more on this later).

And then I found myself sitting on the floor.

After getting ready to go out and meet my mom for lunch, I had tried to take the glass out of a frame for a painting I had made with my husband and daughter when I was being everything on the weekend (note: here is me simultaneously trying to be stylish, social AND good around the house).  In the midst of it, the glass broke a little.  So I went upstairs to get gloves to pick up the glass, but when I tried to move the frame to find the broken piece, the rest of the glass shattered.  So now I’m in flip flops and a skirt, with oven mitts (I couldn’t find my work gloves), surrounded by broken glass in my undeveloped basement.  I’m not wearing my glasses, so I can’t REALLY tell where the glass is.  So I crouch veeerrrry slowly down and hear the crunching that tells me that I am probably millimetres from slicing the shit out of my feet.  With my oven mitts, I “feel around” (note: you cannot feel anything through oven mitts) and find the slicey bits.  I try to put them in a garbage bag, but whaddaya know, they slice the bag to shreds.  Slowly, slowly, I pick up the glass and pile it on an old ottoman that has been relegated to the “not ready to sell it, but not a part of my decor anymore” pile.  Upstairs, Leo wakes up and cries, hungry.  Downstairs, the frame I had been trying to use breaks when I try to move it out of the area now that the glass has been picked up.  I’m exhausted.  I cry.

It’s self-pity crying.  It’s pathetic.

But it’s IMPORTANT.  I continually forget that my near-zealous devotion to the ideal that I can be anything I want is not the same thing as being EVERYTHING I want.  I am NOT a DIY-er (note that at the same time as this glass incident, there was also an oversized hole in the wall of a room upstairs where I had tried to use drywall anchors and hit a stud).  I am NOT a social butterfly.  God I want to be.  And most importantly, I cannot be ALL of the things I want to be all at the same time.  I can’t be the well-dressed, DIY expert in a perfectly maintained home who flits from pilates class to wine night with my girlfriends who still has a perfect marriage, kids who get enough attention,  and grandparents who are involved in the lives of their grandchildren.  I definitely can’t do it all while I’m exhausted from not sleeping longer than 45 minutes at a stretch for the past two and a half months.  Every choice I make has to come at the expense of something else.  Wine night with girlfriends means another night I’m not spending quality time with my husband after the kids are asleep, a workout means a nap time is disrupted, time with my husband means introducing a bottle, becoming a DIY goddess means being bodysnatched my aliens because let’s be honest, that shit’s just not in my DNA.

We only have so many resources to spend.  I have always spread them around too thin, seeking the realization of my fourth grade dreams.  I never really let go of the idea that I COULD be a singer if I really wanted to (I’m still waiting to be discovered) and so I hold onto the notion that I CAN be all of the things that I want to be all at the same time, and, if I’m honest, that I can do it all with very little cost to myself.  The problem with being EVERYTHING as a parent, is that now there is a real price to being only “okay” at aspects of your life that are important.  You don’t give yourself enough time to LEARN or improve, you just accept average (or worse) because you dont have the resources left to get better.  You don’t have the ability, or even the desire, to get better…  you just want to be at the finish line and get your fucking ice cream already…but there’s no ice cream or purple ribbons for parenting.  There are very real people who need you to not take the shortcuts where they’re concerned.  They need better than (second) last place.

So no more DIY for now.  No more stretching myself thin.  Time to get back to what matters the most: my family and my well-being.

Let’s see how long it lasts this time.



Mediocre Mom