A Serious Case of the Grumps

I don’t know what’s going on with me lately, but I just feel so…blah. Kind of moody, kind of grumpy. Just constantly irked.

Things with Baby P. are getting a bit better, but it was still a rough week. There were a few days where he basically just cried from the moment he got up until the moment he went to bed. And then he woke himself up and cried some more. Sometimes when I hold him he seems happier, but then when I have to put him down he starts crying again. It’s really exhausting. I know now that he’s teething for sure. Poor little dude. I feel for him and I do everything I can to make him more comfortable, but the crying still grates on my nerves by the end of the week.

Blah! Party logo

Blah! Party logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My house is an absolute mess. There is baby stuff everywhere. I only managed to make dinner twice this week. I bought a bunch of cookbooks and was excited to get to try them out, but they’re just sitting unopened on my coffee table. I desperately, desperately want to start exercising but have no idea when to do it. By the time my partner comes home in the evening I am completely exhausted and ready for bed. My baby doesn’t really nap, so during the day doesn’t work, unless we go out for a walk or something (and the weather has been so crummy that hasn’t been possible for a while).

I look in the mirror and I just look…ugh. My eyes are puffy and red and my hair is in the same messy ponytail it was in two days ago. I’m wearing yoga pants and an Old Navy t-shirt, both covered in baby food and spit up. I’m weary and I don’t have the energy or motivation to do anything except for maybe go to bed and sleep for a week.

And then I hang out with my friends, other moms, and they just all seem like they have their shit together. They’re laughing and smiling and their babies are laughing and smiling and they seem to be having so much fun being a mom. It makes me feel like the worst mother in the world because my baby isn’t laughing and smiling, and I don’t know if it’s because of him or me. I look at people that I know who are pregnant, and they’re posting pictures of their sonogram and their cute little baby bumps and talking about how excited they are and how much they love their husbands and I just think, “Ugh. Go away.”

What is wrong with me? No one else seems to be struggling as much as I am, or at least they don’t show it as much as I do. I love my baby boy more than anything in the world but good God Almighty am I tired and grumpy. I just want to shut myself in my room and not talk to anyone until it passes. But I can’t, so I get up every day and try not to grump all over everyone I know. Am I the only one who feels this way?

Miffed About Myths

I was very glad to contribute this piece to a new blog that’s a project to encourage moms to be kinder to each other. This post was the first of a series on subjects that are contentious in the parenting community.

End the Mommy Wars

We welcome Meagan Harris with End the Mommy Wars’ inaugural guest post.  When I asked moms on our Facebook which topics were most debated in their social circles, I was baffled at the diversity of the responses!  Meagan’s is the perfect first post because it addresses one of the more unusual of the mommy wars topics.  What speaks to me most about this particular issue is the fact that it is an issue in the first place.  I believe that the fact that mothers are willing to judge and battle over such a very personal, and in my opinion very seemingly innocuous, nuance of family life is evidence of the depth and breadth of the mommy wars.

~Amber

fb tooth fairy

Before I had my son, I had no idea that there were so many things that I needed to worry about. Eight months into motherhood, I’m still learning. Sometimes things that I…

View original post 499 more words

To Facebook or Not To Facebook

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

That has been the question that’s been on my mind for the past couple of months. Should I start a Facebook page for this blog?

Mom blogs and Facebook pages go hand in hand like peanut butter and chocolate. The Facebook community is a natural outlet for moms like me who don’t have a lot of support and who feel isolated and want someone to talk to. There is a huge number of parenting communities online that range from accepting and supportive to rigid and judgemental. I’ve sifted through many of them and settled on a few that I like (for the record, they are Bottle Babies, Fearless Formula Feeder, The Leaky B@@b, and The Skeptical Mother).

I see the good that online communities can do. I also see the other side. I see the nasty comments and the arguments among members. I see the extraordinary amount of work that the moderators do to keep the peace, delete inappropriate posts, and provide relevant and engaging content.

Blogging has always been a very part-time pursuit for me. I write when I have the chance, usually on the weekends when my partner can watch the baby. It’s rare that I have the chance to devote any real time to writing during the week. I definitely don’t have time to monitor a Facebook page all day to make sure that adults aren’t throwing online temper tantrums because someone said something that they don’t agree with. (Sorry if I sound bitter, I’m just a bit disillusioned with the parenting community at the moment).

So I’ve been going back and forth over whether I should start my own page. I’d like a place where I can feel free to post things about parenting without worrying that I’m clogging up my friends’ news feed with baby-related statuses that they have no interest in. I’d like to offer a place where parents can go to ask questions and talk about parenting with open-mindedness and humour. I just don’t want it to turn into a negative experience for me or any of my followers.

After much deliberation, I finally gave in and did it. We’ll see how it goes. It will probably take a while until I amass a decent amount of followers, but it’s fun to have a place to post interesting articles that I come across. If you’d like to “like” my page, you can find it here, or by searching “The 8020 Mom” on Facebook, or by clicking on the Facebook icon on the top of the column to the right. I hope to see you there!

Homemaking for a New Generation

A few years ago I noticed that something was happening among me and my friends. We started taking up interests that a decade ago would have been considered dated or overly domestic. Crafts that used to be for “old people”, like quilting or knitting, were suddenly back in fashion, with friends proudly displaying pictures of their handiwork on Facebook. It was no longer cool to buy pre-packaged food; cooking from scratch was the only way to go. Gardening and visiting the Farmer’s Market on the weekends was hip. Canning your own food and making your own clothes was the mark of a socially aware citizen of the world. Moms were blogging about how they cleaned their houses and posting tips for cloth diapering.

Circular knitting on a circular needle

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seemed that everywhere I turned, young people were embracing the culture and practices of previous generations. Then I was introduced to two websites that took these ideals and raised them to a whole new level: Etsy and Pinterest. Visit either of these sites and you could spend hours scrolling through the fruits of other people’s labour: millions of pictures of crafts, homemade goods, recipes, interior design, organization tips, and instructions on how to do anything yourself.

We have entered an era where “DIY” is the new standard for the young middle-class. I myself have been swept up in the movement without really understanding the reason behind it. I cook from scratch and make my own bread and baby food. This year for the first time I’m growing a vegetable garden and canning fruit from a local u-pick. I know more than one person who is studying beekeeping, and I’m one of the few of my friends who doesn’t knit. So why is there a resurgence of these activities that all but faded away after our grandmother’s generation?

I’m reading an interesting book right now called Homeward Bound that seeks to answer these questions. I urge you to read it if you’re interested in this topic because the author provides some ideas and raises some questions of her own. I believe that there are a few reasons why we’re seeing young men and women taking up the domestic arts.

We live in a hectic society where we are saturated with information and technology. There are days at a time when I don’t leave the house, but I am still glued to my laptop, iPhone, TV screen, and e-reader. For all of the apps and tools that we have to make our lives more efficient, I feel like we have never been so exhausted. Everything is artificial. You can learn how to play the guitar without ever touching an actual instrument. You can have an entire relationship with someone that you’ve never even met. We inundate ourselves with “reality” television programming that is anything but. Is it any surprise that, at the end of the day, we just want to slow down, do something with our hands, and produce something tangible?

I remember watching a music documentary once where someone (I think it might have been Tom Petty) said, “Sometimes you just want to touch wood.” I get what he means. In a world where everything is fake, sometimes you just need to get back down to basics. When I’m in the kitchen, baking something from scratch, or when I hear the pinging of my jars as they seal over a fresh batch of jam, I get such a great sense of satisfaction. If I’m rolling out a pie crust or weeding my garden, I’m not staring at a screen or sitting on the couch. I’m making something.

Pinterest

Pinterest (Photo credit: stevegarfield)

I think another reason we are embracing homesteading is a general distrust of the products and services that are available to us. Truly, this is the luxury of an affluent society to have everything that we need (and more) available to us, and to turn our backs on it in favour of making it ourselves. But I think that we have good reason to do so. When we hear reports about the awful things that can happen in daycares, it can seem attractive to give up a career to stay at home with our children. When we hear that bees are dying at record rates many of us want to do what we can to help preserve the species, even if it means keeping a colony on our rooftop. We’re warned about genetically modified foods and the dangers of artificial sweeteners. We can’t even pronounce half of the ingredients in an average pre-packaged food. Growing our own vegetables and making our meals from scratch seems like the healthiest thing that we can do for our families.

The work of a homemaker used to be invisible to everyone except for her (I say “her” because the majority of domestic duties used to be relegated to the woman, and statistically still are). If she spent all day organizing her linen cupboard, she might get a “thank you” from her husband, but there was very little recognition for what she did. Now, men and women who choose to devote their time and energy to cleaning and organizing their homes can post pictures on their blog or on Pinterest and receive immediate feedback. The invisible work of homemaking is now very much part of the public arena.

One question that is raised is whether or not this is a positive movement. In some ways, it is. I think we’re nearing a breaking point in the way that our society is structured. Organizations are getting larger and larger, with behemoths like Wal-Mart absorbing everything in their paths. We rely on products shipped from half-way around the world instead of producing them in our neighbourhoods. We’re losing the skills that we truly need to live in favour of keeping up to date with our technologies. I think a return to a slower, more authentic way of living is inevitable and necessary. The way that we currently live just isn’t sustainable, in many different ways.

On the other hand, there could be some drawbacks. This movement is lead primarily by the white middle class. It takes money to stay at home with your kids and to live on a property that allows you to grow your own food. Single mothers, people living in urban areas, those who are forced to work and place their kids in daycare don’t have the option of checking out and living off the grid. Who will fight for their rights? The new focus on the home is very much an “every woman for herself” type of situation. You could look to the rise of parents who choose not to vaccinate as a perfect example. What is good for a singular family is not always the best choice for a society as a whole.

Some might ask if the increase in domestic culture is feminist. You could argue that the answer is both yes and no. It is positive to see things that previously would have been referred to as “women’s work” receiving recognition and popularity, however when taken to the extreme it can cause competition and pressure to keep up. What of the young men and women who don’t subscribe to this movement due to lack of ability, financial means, or simple desire? Is a mom less of a mom because she doesn’t host a themed birthday party for her children (complete with handmade invitations and a homemade designer cake)? Whereas twenty or thirty years ago, a woman who chose to forgo career to stay at home might be viewed as lacking ambition, today a woman who works outside the home and feeds her baby food from a jar might be judged the same way.

On a personal level, I find the rise in popularity of domestic skills fascinating, and I’m enjoying watching this movement unfold as I play my own small part. So far, there are no chickens on my patio and I won’t be quitting my job and supporting my family by selling handicrafts on Etsy. But I have enjoyed learning some of the skills that were a way of life for my grandma and great-grandma. I like to see the results of my efforts and know that I have the ability to create something. It satisfies me. Because sometimes, you just want to touch wood.

I Think My Baby is Eating His Pacifiers

The pacifier tree

(Photo credit: cesarastudillo)

We’ve got a situation going on here that has me baffled.

Every night I place my sleepy baby in his crib with a pacifier in his mouth. And every morning I come into his room to see a smiling baby in the crib…but no pacifier.

I assumed that he was accidentally tossing them behind his crib so the other day I pulled it out and looked. No pacifiers behind his crib. I took the mattress off to see if maybe some had become wedged under the mattress or were hiding under his crib. Nope. Intrigued, I looked behind and under his dresser and changing table. Not a one.  My partner and I turned his room upside down and couldn’t find anything.

Where are they going? What happens during the night while he’s (supposedly) sleeping that makes his pacifiers disappear? It’s a real mystery.

I figure that one day when we move or rearrange his room we’ll find some dusty corner that contains a huge heaping pile of soothers. Until then, I guess I’ll just keep going to the store and buying new ones. And the mystery will continue…

When Nothing Works

What do you do when nothing makes your baby happy?

My 8-month-old son is going through a phase right now that has me desperately trying to find the answer to that question. He seems generally miserable, and has been for the past few weeks. He’s not crying like he’s hungry or in pain, he’s just restless and difficult to please.

He doesn’t want to be around other people. Adults or babies, if he gets a look at anyone other than me or his dad, he starts crying. I know that stranger anxiety can start to set in around now, but I’m struggling with how to handle it. The easiest thing to do would be to just stay at home and avoid social situations. That definitely wouldn’t be good for me, and I’m not sure it would be good for him either. I try to be reassuring and ease him into social situations, but it can seem pointless to try to visit with friends and family when I spend the entire time trying to calm him down.

He doesn’t really want to play. Things that used to make him happy, like his bouncer and exersaucer, now hold no appeal for him. He just starts whining as soon as I put him in them. I’ve bought countless different types of toys and nothing holds his attention for more than a minute or two. I’ve tried playing with him and leaving him to play by himself, but both result in him looking at me with a sad face and a pout, and whining.

He hates it when I read to him. I’ve been slowly amassing what I can only describe as the most kick-ass library of kid’s books ever. I’m hoping that one day he and I can sit together and enjoy a story. Right now, sitting on my lap with a book in front of him results in squirming and screaming.

He doesn’t like being in his stroller or carrier. A sure-fire way to make him happy used to be to plop him in his stroller and go out for a walk. Now, that keeps him content for about five or ten minutes. Then he’s whining and crying to get out. A couple of months ago, I could take him to the store with me. Now, if I have to run out to get something, I usually end up carrying him with one hand and pushing the stroller with the other while trying to do my shopping.

I feel like I spend most of my day trying to keep him from being upset. It’s really exhausting, especially on the days when he cries unless I’m sitting directly next to him. Sometimes it’s like I’m back to the newborn days, when it was impossible for me to eat or shower or do anything other than try to figure out what’s making the little guy so sad.

I know that everything is a phase, and that one day he’ll wake up and be in a good mood and all of this will be over. I think it’s probably a combination of a few different things: stranger and separation anxiety, frustration over not being able to crawl or move, frustration over not being able to communicate, and tiredness (he hasn’t been sleeping particularly well either). In the meantime, I’ll just keep doing my best to make him happy.

Did you go through a phase like this with your baby? What did you do to get through it?

5 Cheap Baby Dates (0-6 Months)

When you’re a new parent, especially when you’re staying at home to care for your infant, it can be pretty isolating. Before my maternity leave, I imagined a luxurious year of relaxing in my apartment, finally getting time to clean up and repaint, and enjoying the peace and quiet that comes with getting to stay at home. Ha ha ha…I know, right? I was so looking forward to not having to leave the house and deal with traffic, rude people, or the various annoyances that come along with taking public transit every day. What I discovered is that it didn’t take long for me to develop a serious case of cabin fever.

When I was working, my home was a comforting solace at the end of a hectic and stressful day. Once I stopped working, I quickly got pretty bored of staring at the same four walls day in and day out. All of a sudden, the most banal activities were exciting. A trip to Tim Horton’s for a hot chocolate? Woo hoo! Something different to do! Grocery shopping? Bring it on! Just get me out of this messy, cluttered, way-too-tiny apartment!

Of course, there are only so many times that you can think of an excuse to go to the grocery store. I’ve found some other places that I can go with my baby that get us both out of the house and keep him interested and occupied. Each of these things is either free or costs less than $10. So if you’re stuck at home, going out of your mind, and looking for something to do, why not try one of these out? You’ve got nothing to lose, except for a couple of hours confined inside the same walls that you were staring at yesterday.

English: Logo of Ikea.

English: Logo of Ikea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • IKEA – even pre-baby, I loved IKEA. Now it’s one of my favourite places to go with him during the day. It is very baby-friendly, with family parking spaces and nice wide aisles that accommodate strollers. There are lots of colourful things for babies to look at. The store itself is big, so if you take a trip through the showroom and then the marketplace, you can easily kill an hour and get some walking in at the same time. If you’re hungry, you can visit their cafeteria and grab some lunch for around $5. Judging from the number of other moms that I see pushing their strollers through there during the day, I’m not the only one who enjoys going here as a free baby date.
  • Shopping mall

    Shopping mall (Photo credit: pix.plz)

    The mall – chances are, there is some kind of shopping centre somewhere near where you live. For killing time, nothing beats plopping your baby in a stroller or carrier and taking a stroll through the mall. Again, they are usually family friendly with family wash rooms and lots of space for strollers. The malls in my city all offer free stroller walking classes for new parents. One of them also offers a free mom and baby Zumba class once a week. Check out the shopping centre near you to see if they offer something similar, or just organize a group of parents to get together and walk the mall together. If you live somewhere like me where it rains for most of the year, this is an especially good option.

  • The library – I was pleased to recently discover that most libraries offer free story-time for infants and toddlers. The one near me offers a half-hour program, three times a week for free! We sing songs and the librarians read a story or two and play with hand puppets. Babies six months and under might not really appreciate it, but at least it gets you both out of the house. My baby just liked looking around at the other kids and hearing me sing to him. Anything that is free, gets me out of the house, and keeps my baby occupied and happy for half an hour is worth it.
  • Outside – One of the easiest ways to get out of the house is just to literally get out of the house. Even if I don’t particularly feel like going anywhere, putting my baby in his stroller and taking a walk around my neighbourhood is often enough to perk me up and make me feel less stir-crazy. There is something about fresh air that my baby likes as well, so if he’s especially whiny or bored, a walk around the block will usually distract him and make him happy. I have lots of hills near where I live, so as an added bonus I get some exercise in too!
  • Mom and baby drop-ins – I have to admit, I haven’t fully taken advantage of drop-in programs, but there are a ton of them. Most of them are geared towards new parents, and are offered a rate of $1-2 per session. Some of them are just social, some offer guest speakers on subjects like daycare and car seat safety, and some of them are more structured learning. I’ve been kind of nervous to go to one of these on my own, but I figure that if I go and hate it, I’ve only wasted an afternoon. Google “mom and baby drop-in” and see what’s available in your area. Like me, you might be surprised at how many there are!

These are the ways that I’ve been keeping busy during my baby’s first half year of life. New parents, what do you do to keep you and your baby occupied during the day?

5 Ways That I Feel Like Less of a Mom

I don’t know why, but eight months into this parenting adventure I still hesitate to call myself a mom. I clearly am one, but I feel like I haven’t earned the right to use that label yet. For some reason I have this idea in my head that our “momness” can be evaluated on a scale, and I just don’t measure up. It makes absolutely no sense, but here are some of the reasons why.

I feel like less of a mom…

London, England Caesearian Surgery, obstetrici...

London, England Caesearian Surgery, obstetricians at work. This is an edit of the original image, reducing colour and luminosity noise. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…because I had a c-section. It was an emergency section and probably saved my baby’s life, but I still feel like I cheated. I feel like moms who give birth vaginally, and especially naturally, really earn their stripes. I can’t even count the number of women who tell me that they wish they would have had a c-section, as if it were the easy way out. Maybe that’s why I feel this way. I know that undergoing major surgery wasn’t easy, physically or emotionally, but it still makes me feel like less of a mom.

…because I only have one baby. I know that most moms only start out with one, but I feel like I have no right to complain about being tired or busy with only one baby. My mom had twins when I was 18 months old. Now she can probably tell you about being tired and busy. I feel like an amateur compared to moms with two or three or more kids.

…because my baby is so young. I barely know anything about being a mom. My baby’s needs right now are fairly basic. He’s not even mobile. I haven’t yet entered the arenas of tantrums and schoolwork and adolescence. Moms who have been through all that can really see the big picture and know what it truly means to be a parent.

…because I’m going back to work. Out of financial necessity, when my baby is one year old I will be returning to work and he will be in daycare. I’ve heard people ask why someone would have kids if they’re just going to have someone else raise them. I hate to say it, but I don’t totally disagree with that statement. My son’s daycare provider is going to be there for his first steps, his first words, and all sorts of other firsts. I’m going to miss out on so much. It makes me feel like a crappy mom.

…because I’m not breast-feeding. I feel like I’ve beaten this subject to death, so I won’t get into great detail again, but I envy moms who can breast-feed their kids. I feel like they have a connection with their babies that I’ll never have. It makes me feel like less of a woman and definitely less of a mom.

I know that I’m new to motherhood and that obviously I don’t have the experience and perspective that seasoned moms have. I know that it’s not a competition and that I have no one that I need to measure up to, but sometimes it feels that way. I think that I just need to accept myself and my limitations, be thankful for what I do have, and not be afraid to call myself a mom.

Happy Father’s Day

Makita Impact Screwdriver 14,4V 3.0 Ah Li-ion ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is Father’s Day here in Canada. If you didn’t know it was coming, you might have been tipped off by all the ads for power tools and golf tees. I really appreciated having a day in which I was recognized for all of my hard work being a mom. I think that dads need just as much thanks and recognition as we do.

I would like to take some time to thank my partner for everything that he does for me and our baby. A lot of the work that he does is behind the scenes. He doesn’t stay at home all day caring for Baby P., but he does work hard every day for all of us. When he comes home from work, he walks through the door with a smile on his face and a hello for both of us. If he’s had a shitty day, he puts that aside and doesn’t complain about it. He’ll take the baby as soon as he gets home so that I can get a few moments of rest. And he does this every single day.

He puts the baby to bed almost every night. They have their routine down, and he’s a lot better at getting that little guy to go to bed than I am, I can tell you that.

If the baby wakes in the middle of the night, he’ll go into his room and lay with him until he settles down.

He’ll bathe the baby, or change his diaper, or feed him without me even having to ask.

If I need some time alone, he’ll never complain about having to take care of the baby by himself for a few minutes or hours. He just does it.

He has some magic skill where he can get Baby P. to laugh at any given moment. He’s the only one in the whole world who can do it. Even I can’t make him laugh.

He puts our needs ahead of his own almost all the time. Even when I can tell that he’s tired and needs a break, he’s still there and willing to help out.

My baby’s dad is a loving, committed, caring father. I can see the love on his face when he looks at our son, and even more touching is the love on our son’s face as he looks back. I know that my baby loves me, but right now he is Daddy’s boy, no doubt about it. I hope that their relationship will always be as close as it is now.

So, to my baby’s dad, and to all the other dads out there who are playing an important role in their children’s lives, thank you. Thank you to those of you behind the scenes, working hard and supporting us so that we can be the best parents that we can be. Thank you to the dads on the front lines, changing diapers and attending teacher conferences. Thanks to those who have to work far away for weeks at a time, and to those who stay at home all day with their kids. Thanks to the dads who teach our kids how to be loved, and our boys how to be men. We appreciate everything that you do. Now get out there, play some golf, and barbecue something. Or stay at home and sleep. You’ve earned it.