How Formula Feeding Made Me a Better Mom

This post is dedicated to all of the other fearless formula feeders, and the ones who aren’t fearless yet, and to every mom who has been humbled by the experience of becoming a parent.

 

I was a smug breast-feeding mom. Of course, that was before I had kids.

To be clear, I don’t think that most breast-feeding moms are smug. Most of my friends who breast-feed are super cool and don’t seem to have an opinion one way or another about how other people should feed their babies (or at least they don’t broadcast it). I was not one of those moms.

When I was pregnant, I was 100% sure that my baby would be breast-fed. I read all the pro-breast-feeding articles and bought into the statistics that there were only a miniscule number of women who truly couldn’t breast-feed. I nodded along in pre-natal class as the instructor drilled into our heads that “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. I heard the stories about how much breast-feeding could hurt, and quickly dismissed them. Thrush, mastitis, sore nipples? There was a treatment for all of that. Moms who quit breast-feeding because of the pain just didn’t try hard enough. Moms who chose not to even try breast-feeing were simply uneducated. I looked down my nose at moms in the store buying formula, and felt proud of the relationship that I was about to have with my baby.

Then he was born. I’ve written before about difficulties I had while breast-feeding: the dread I would feel as I saw his open mouth come towards me, the moments that I almost passed out or vomited when he latched due to the excruciating pain. I pushed through those moments for weeks and then months until finally, my body made the choice for me. I had to switch to formula.

I felt totally defeated. I was a quitter. I had one task as a new mom: feeding my baby, and I had failed at it. I was a bad mom. All of a sudden, every decision that I made seemed to feed into my self-condemnation. My baby sleeping in his own room at 3 months old? Should be co-sleeping. Bad mom. Pushing my baby in a stroller? Should be baby-wearing. Bad mom. Not feeling bonded with my three-month-old? Should be overwhelmed with all-consuming love. Bad mom. The refrain echoed though my head all day, and into the night as I gave my baby his bottle, and then looked disgustedly at my body which had failed me and my baby.

Around that time I started looking online for support. The dizzying world of online parenting groups can be tricky to navigate for moms who are in a good place, but for a new mom in the throws of post-partum depression, it was the final straw. I was met with a flood of judgment. Some of it was outright: I was told that I was poisoning my baby by giving him formula, that I didn’t love my baby enough to do what was best for him, and that I was stupid for letting the formula companies manipulate me into buying something that my baby didn’t need. Some of the judgment was more subtle: the oh-so-often repeated chorus of “breast is best”; the sly digs “formula-feeding moms can’t bond with their babies the way breast-feeding moms can”; the inaccurately quoted statistics about formula-fed babies being obese or less intelligent or sickly.

I was mired in that community for a long time, with other people’s judgments feeding into my own self-doubt. Then I read the book “Bottled Up” by Suzanne Barston and found some supportive online communities, and things started to turn around. I realized that there were other women out there who, like me, wanted to breast-feed but couldn’t. There were some who didn’t want to breast feed at all for various reasons. There were all kinds of different moms making different decisions, and I saw the hurt and vulnerability that they were experiencing from being judged. Learning that I was not alone was more than liberating. It was cathartic. It was like a slow dawn out of my depression. I started to look at my son differently. He was doing okay, wasn’t he? He was happy and healthy, and most importantly, he was fed. Maybe I wasn’t such a bad mom after all.

Not being successful at breast-feeding knocked me down a peg or two. Or a hundred. It was the single most humbling experience of my life. It was the first time I had really tried and failed at something. And it taught me my first important lesson of motherhood: my expectations aren’t always going to match with reality.

I have come out the other side of that darkness with a much more flexible approach to parenting. I have an idea in my head about the type of mom that I want to be, but it’s far less rigid than it used to be. I know that who my son is will dictate a lot of my decisions. I’ve given myself permission to change my mind about how I raise him. I’ve let go of most of my pre-conceived ideas and take each decision one at a time. And if something doesn’t work, I don’t beat myself up about it. I just try something else. I’ve relaxed. A lot.

I look at other parents differently too. I used to think that I had an idea of the ideal parent. Now I know that each family defines their own ideal. It’s not my place to decide for them how they should raise their kids. I could look at another mom who raises her child differently than me and think, “She’s wrong”. Or I could have empathy for a fellow mom and appreciate that I don’t know her, her baby, or why she made that decision. I can realize that it’s ridiculous to judge a parent based on a handful of their choices or a few moments of observation.

It’s hard. Sometimes I see a mom making a choice that I wouldn’t, and I catch myself thinking, “I would never…” Then I remember that there was a time when I thought the same thing while looking at a can of formula. I remember myself as a pregnant mom, so adamantly opposed to formula that I refused to even have any in the house when my baby was born, and I remember the hot-faced shame that I felt having to make a midnight run for formula and bottles because my baby was hungry and I couldn’t feed him. I never say never. Things that I’m not doing today might be the answer for tomorrow’s problems.

Several months ago I discovered that my son has a severe lip tie. It makes breast-feeding incredibly difficult and painful. It doesn’t matter how hard I tried, it never would have gotten better. It may have been able to be fixed, if all of the experts that I consulted hadn’t missed it. But you know what? It’s okay. It’s taken me a long time to get to the place where I can say that it is truly okay. I’m sorry that my transition to motherhood wasn’t smoother, but I’m thankful for the experience. It’s helped me look at my value and worth as a mother as more than an equation. I’m more than the difference between what I’m doing “right” and what I’m doing “wrong”. My son is a beautiful and complex human being who is more than a function of what he was fed. I like to have faith that even if breast-feeding had worked for me, that I would have lost my smugness and judgment towards other moms, but I can say for sure that the experience I had made me more compassionate and forgiving towards myself, to others, and to my son. And that has made me a better mom.

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Our Finest Moments

I feel compelled to write a post in response to an article that is making its way around social media right now. I left a rather lengthy reply on his post, but still had more to say. Plus, with over 6300 replies and counting, I’m pretty sure that mine is now lost in the shuffle.

The article is called “You Just Broke Your Child. Congratulations” and is a call-out to dads to make time for their kids and let their children know that they are a priority. The author wrote three pages on the subject, and I basically agree with most of what he said. I don’t think that his advice should be directed just to dads either. All of us, moms and dads, should be letting our sons and daughters know how much they are loved.

Something about the article made me uncomfortable though. At the very beginning of his post, he describes witnessing a scene between a father and son at Costco, in which a dad forcefully makes his son stand still and quietly. On the first reading, my heart ached for the little boy who was “broken” by his father. I scrolled to the bottom of the post to read the comments (Oh Lord…never read the comments), and was accosted by accusations from a number of moms who said that they would have called the police and social services. I stopped reading after about a dozen comments, but I think the last one I read was them mobilizing to see if they could hunt this dad down.

Before we start organizing a posse to bring this guy to justice, we need to step back and take a look at ourselves. Who among us has never had a moment when we’ve snapped at our kids, or ignored them when they were begging for our attention? Who hasn’t offered an exasperated sigh or yelled out of frustration? I’m not saying that what this man did was okay. I’m not saying that he’s necessarily a good dad. I just think that it’s hard to judge the quality of a person’s parenting skills on a few minutes observation of what may not have been his proudest moment.

I’ll tell you about my finest moment. It was a few months ago on a sunny spring day. Baby P. would have been around four months old or so and he was going through a phase where he was crying pretty much nonstop. After lunch one day, at the end of my rope, I decided to put him in his stroller and get out of the house, if only so the sound of the traffic would muffle the constant whining. As I tried to place him into the stroller, he started stiffening up and squirming around. I was trying to manoeuvre him into the straps, but they were getting all twisted around. He was getting progressively more hysterical, his tiny face turning bright red, as the straps got more and more twisted. After about five minutes of trying, my patience ran out.

I took him and placed him safely in his crib, then closed his bedroom door as he wailed away. I walked back into the living room where I proceeded to kick the ever-loving shit out the stroller. I mean, there were pieces of it everywhere. My frustration diffused, I reassembled the stroller, went into my baby’s room and got him out of his bed, put him into the stroller, and went out for a nice walk.

Could I have better handled the situation? Of course. Could I have done a worse job? Sure. I could have shaken my baby or screamed at him or let him watch as I beat up a defenseless piece of baby equipment. My point is that if anyone had seen me in that moment, in a fit of rage with my baby crying alone in his room, they would have thought I was a monster. If they had seen me just ten minutes later, they would have seen a happy mom and baby out for a walk on a lovely day.

I don’t know this dad’s story. I don’t know if he treats his son like that all the time, or if he was just having a bad moment on a bad day. Instead of jumping to call social services or threatening him, why not just offer a sympathetic smile and a “Rough day, huh?” Maybe just knowing that someone else sees what he’s doing will be enough for him to stop it. Maybe not. But before rushing to judgement, if you look deep down, you’ll know that there was a moment when you were there too.

The Countdown is On…

Four months to go. Four months of my maternity leave is left. 118 days until I’m sitting in my office and my sweet baby boy is in the care of someone else.

I know that seems like a long time away, and I know that I’m incredibly lucky to live in a country where I’m able to spend a full year with my son. But to me, it’s not nearly long enough and my time at home with him is slipping away, day by day.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. And by thinking about it, I mean completely obsessing over it. I go through endless options in my head, trying to think of a way that I can put off going back to work for at least another year or two. With daycare coming in at a whopping $1100 per month, there is more than just emotional incentive for me to stay at home. It seems ridiculous that I will be spending my days aching to see my little boy, and paying someone half of my monthly pay cheque for the benefit of it.

With seemingly no other option, I try to think of the benefits of daycare. He’ll get to socialize with other children his own age, something that he rarely does hanging out at home with me all day. He’ll take part in a variety of enriching activities (I’m actually quite happy with where he’ll be going; they have a full calendar of pretty cool daily activities including dance, arts, different languages, and gardening). Our time together, although limited, will be so much more special.

But (no matter what, I always come up with a “but”) he won’t be with me all day. Someone else will be there for milestones like his first words and possibly his first steps. They’ll get to know him day in  day out. I’ll get him up in the morning and put him to bed at night, and the rest of the day he’ll be with someone else. The thought of it is heart wrenching.

I have so many questions that no one can answer. Will he hate it? Will he cry when I drop him off and when I pick him up? Will he start to forget about me? Will he no longer consider me his primary caretaker? Will we still know each other as well as we do now, and have the same bond? Will the daycare providers treat him with the same love and respect that I do?

I hate it. I hate that I have to hand him over to someone else and trust that they’ll care for him the way that I would (which no one ever will or could). I hate that I’m going to be sitting in my office for eight hours a day answering mindless questions and doing work that is completely inconsequential when I should be caring for my baby. I would do anything to not have to go back to work. But (!) even with the exorbitant cost of child care, we still can’t afford to exist on one income.

So, for now, I’ll count down the days and try not to think too much about what’s coming up at the end of October. Being sad all day now will just ruin the last months that I have at home with him. I know that lots of people place their kids in full-time daycare and it works out. I’m sure it will get easier as time goes on, and I’m sure it won’t be nearly as awful as I’m imagining. I just wish that there were some other way.

 

25 Signs That You Might Not Be a Natural Parent

I subscribe to a couple of natural parenting groups on Facebook, and a link popped up on my newsfeed the other day that listed 25 signs that you’re a natural parent. It was a fun, lighthearted look at some of the practices that come along with natural parenting (for the record, I try to avoid labels like “natural parent” or “attachment parent” when possible, but it was a cute article). Then I looked at the comments. Oh, Lord, I’ve said it before, but NEVER look at the comments.

There was, of course, one commenter who “rolled her eyes at how mainstream the list was”, then proceeded to give a point by point assertion of how she was even more natural, and therefore a better parent. I especially liked her condescending query of “doesn’t everyone?” when discussing packing organic lunches and making her own laundry soap.

Uh, no. In spite of the fact that it seems to be the new standard, we don’t all parent that way. I hit a few points on the list, but definitely not all of them. So, in response to that comment, here is my point by point list of 25 signs that you might not be a “natural parent”:

  1. You vaccinate your kids according to the recommended schedule, and feel good that they are protected against potentially fatal diseases and that they are contributing to the herd immunity for unvaccinated children.
  2. You gave birth in a hospital and/or were induced, used pain medication, or had a c-section.
  3. You have fed your baby puréed food out of a jar or a pouch.
  4. Two words: formula feeder.
  5. If you breast-fed, at some point you “topped up” or supplemented with formula.
  6. You buy powdered formula from the store, or the pre-mixed ready-to-eat formula.
  7. Your child’s primary health care provider is a pediatrician.
  8. When illness strikes you do what works, even if it means using over-the-counter medication.
  9. Your kids attend public school and possibly also attended pre-school or daycare.
  10. When someone says, “What are you doing?” you reply, “Doing laundry.” With store-bought soap.
  11. You did not eat, freeze, encapsulate, dry, plant, or preserve your placenta in any way. You may not have even seen your placenta.
  12. The only people present at your birth were your doctor and your partner.
  13. You pack your kids non-organic fruit, store-bought bread, and juice boxes in their plastic lunch box.
  14. One (or more!) of your Pinterest boards has a title like “Meals in less than 30 minutes” or “COOKIES!!!” or “Barbie cleaning tips”.
  15. You’ve asked a stranger where they bought their stroller.
  16. You buy your vegetables from the store.
  17. Your children’s chore list includes loading the dishwasher, taking out the garbage, and Windexing their handprints off the window.
  18. Your trash can is full of disposable diapers.
  19. You’ll be using your next pay cheque to buy more diapers, wipes, and formula.
  20. Your friend calls you to ask you if you have a canning pot and you tell her that you don’t, but let her know that jam is on sale this week at the grocery store.
  21. Within minutes of meeting a new friend you’ve swapped birth stories, but neither of you mentioned whether you used a doctor or a midwife.
  22. You know the cheapest place to buy formula and diapers, the closest store that sells baby food, and exactly how many uses you can get out of a Diaper Genie refill.
  23. It’s the middle of winter and you and your kids are stuffing your faces with store-bought hot chocolate and marshmallows.
  24. Your kids wear something with a Disney or Pixar character on it.
  25. You try to limit the amount of TV that your kid watches, but sometimes putting him down in front of “Blue’s Clues” for half an hour is the only break that you’ll get all day.

I want to be clear that I am not mocking the original list or saying that one way of parenting is better than the other. This list is in response to a specific comment, but I know that the commenter doesn’t speak for the natural parenting community (in fact, everyone was pretty quick to let her know that she was out of line).

My intention is not to draw a line between natural parents and…unnatural (?) parents. I had a midwife and I make my own baby food, bake my own bread, grow a garden, and babywear. I also buy disposable diapers and use store-bought formula, and my son is fully vaccinated. Does that make me a natural parent? Who knows? Does it matter?

I think that parents who make their own laundry soap and homeschool should be proud of themselves. That’s a lot of work! But I think moms who buy their laundry detergent from the store and have to put their kids in daycare should be equally as proud of themselves. We’re all working hard, and the most important thing is to find a way to parent that works with your own lifestyle.

Disposable diapers or cloth, homemade or store-bought, organic or not, we’re all doing okay. No eye-rolling necessary.

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?

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?

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.

An Open Letter to My Friends

Dearest friends,

I write to you from the comfort of my couch, in the middle of the night on a Tuesday. I’ve been thinking about you a lot. Every day, in fact.

I know that I’ve been absent for the past seven months. I know that I haven’t texted, called, or e-mailed you as often as I should. I’ve never been really good at keeping in touch, but since I’ve become a mom my social skills have become abysmal. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to you, or that I don’t miss you. I do.

I wake up in the morning with the best of intentions to invite you over, or even just send you a message saying, “Hi.” Then my day starts and it’s like a whirlwind of activity that never ends. If I do get a few moments of rest, I usually check my Facebook to see what you’ve all been up to. By the time I’ve caught up with you, maybe clicked a few “likes” and made a few comments, I’m back on duty as a mom until the end of the workday.

Then there’s dinner to be made, a family to be fed, a kitchen to be cleaned, and a baby bedtime routine that gets longer and longer each night. By the time all of that is done, the hubby and I are lucky to have half an hour to sit down and actually talk to each other. Then I look at the clock and it’s 9:30, and I calculate how many hours of sleep I’ll get if I go to bed right then…and off to bed I go. I wake up the next morning and do the same thing again.

I miss you guys. I always said that I wouldn’t be one of those moms who got too busy for her friends once she had a baby, but sometimes in spite of the best of intentions, it happens.

To all of you who have continued to text me, message me, or call me…thank you! You are my link to the outside world and I appreciate it more than you realize. Being a mom is hard, and watching your friends move on sucks. I promise I’m trying, and I think about you all the time.

Sincerely,

Your socially negligent friend

A Letter to My Mom

This letter is in response to the daily prompt from earlier this month:

Today is Mother’s Day in the United States. Wherever in the world you are, write your mother a letter.

Dear Mom,

I just have one question for you. How did you do it?

Now that I’m a mom, the things that I took for granted while I was growing up seem like monumental achievements, and I wonder how you managed.

How did you simultaneously care for twin newborns and a precocious toddler? When did you sleep or eat or shower? What were you thinking as your babies were crying and your eldest was clamouring for your attention? Thank you for always making all of us seem loved and important and like we were a priority, even though you had a thousand other responsibilities.

When did you find the time to teach us all to read before we started kindergarten? How did you manage to help each of us with our homework and science fairs and school projects? Thank you for instilling in each of us a life-long love of learning and for playing an active role in our education all the way from preschool to university.

Where did you find the time and money and energy to involve us in so many extra-curricular activities? You sat through dance recitals and airband concerts, swimming lessons and karate tournaments. You picked us up and dropped us off from Brownies and Beavers meetings. You helped us rehearse poems for Speech, Arts, and Drama and put together costumes for Christmas concerts. And I never once heard you complain, even though there must have been times that you would have rather just crawled into bed instead of driving the thirty minutes into town to get us to another lesson. Thank you for a childhood of memories and experiences that have enriched me as a person.

How did you manage to get a healthy, home-cooked meal on the table every night, even when you were working full-time? Eating out was such a rarity, I remember going to McDonald’s with a friend in elementary school and not even knowing what or how to order. Thank you for teaching me the importance of nutrition and sitting down as a family for dinner every night. Thank you for teaching me how to cook, and for making it fun by letting us be responsible for choosing recipes and helping you make them.

How did you keep adult worries from plaguing our childhoods? I never heard you discuss money or any of the other issues that must have consumed a working mom with a husband and three kids. Thank you for preserving my childhood and letting me a kid. Thank you for having the strength to keep those things from us, even though I’m sure there were times that you wanted to say something in front of us. Thank you for making home a safe place.

How could you keep on giving all of these things (and more) in the face of tantrums and complaining and “I hate you”s? How could you keep on going, year after year, knowing that your children wouldn’t truly know the depth of your sacrifice until they had children of their own? Were there days when you wanted to run away and never come back? Thank you for putting up with us when we were ungrateful and mean and for not turning your back on us, even if, at the time, we deserved it.

You’ve set the bar high, and I hope that I can be even half of the mom that you are. I don’t know how you did it, but thank you.

Love,

Meagan