Parenting After the Trenches

Something has felt different lately for me and I’ve been trying to figure out what it is. Why am I more content lately? Why is life just a liiiiiiiiittle bit easier to handle? Why am I a fraction less stressed, less anxious, even though world events are still just as bad as they’ve ever been? Have I been doing something differently?

Then this week I had an epiphanic moment and I realized in an instant what it was: I’m not in survival mode.

I’ve never not parented in an extremely heightened state. I’ve never not parented in survival mode. And guys can I just say……it’s like, a little bit fun sometimes? I finally get it!

I mean, having three kids back to back to back is no joke. In hindsight, I wish I had spaced things out so I could have been able to enjoy my pregnancies more, rest during postpartum more, and try to be more mindful about how I spent my time with my kids. I was unable to do any of that because we’ve been in the trenches for six years. After Hennie’s first year with so many medical unknowns, cardiology visits, medical genetics visits, and severe colic (UGH), we got pregnant on Hennie’s first birthday and were right back in it trying to survive another pregnancy and postpartum while navigating toddlerhood for the first time. Wells wasn’t colicky but he was an extremely fussy baby with a tongue and lip tie, intense gastrointestinal issues, and a deep aversion to sleep . Then when he was seven months old we moved from the city to the coast and spent a summer settling into our new fixer-upper before we decided to get pregnant again. While I was navigating the nausea of the first trimester with a toddler and preschooler we heard about this new thing called the coronavirus (UGH) and embarked on a year in lockdown. Finallyyyyyy in late 2020 our last baby was born. Phew! But with three kids under the age of four at home (and one who had to be bounced 20 hours a day) it was pretty tough that we weren’t allowed to have anyone over to help us out. Again we found ourselves with a baby with severe colic and every moment felt like the hardest moment of the day. Sometimes I thought it was going to break our family forever, but I knew that there were so many in the world who had it much worse. I cried every day those first few months but somehow we survived the sleeplessness and back-breaking baby-bouncing of those first few months.

We’ve seen three babies teething. Three babies nap striking. Three babies sleep regressing. Three babies learning to crawl and getting into trouble. We’ve painted and DIYed every little corner of our home with three kids awake and running wild and drawing their tiny, horrible masterpieces on the wall. And I never realized we were on the other side until this very week.

So now our kids are 2, 4, and 6.

Life is nowhere near perfect but the crucial, significant difference is: it feels manageable.

So if you’re in the trenches with your first or second or third or fourth baby, please know that one day you will sit down again, if only for a moment here and there. One day you will sleep again and not wake to a screeching monitor but to a sweet whiny face. One day you will have a really, really, really hard day with your kids and it won’t cause you to spiral into despair or wonder if your life will every go back to normal. One day you will eke out small moments of time for yourself and hear yourself think your own thoughts and maybe, just maybe, you will pee alone. Some of us are still waiting for that one.

A Few Fun Things

I’ve been loving these headphones (I call them my Cool Guy Headphones) and recommend them to anyone who, like me, often falls asleep to meditations or podcasts in bed. I love my Sony headphones for working out but they’re so clunky in bed (I’m a side sleeper) and my tattoo artist told me about these back in the summer. I finally pulled the trigger and I’m so glad I did! The perfect invention for me (or anyone else who is obsessed with their Calm app!)

I’ve been mucking around the house this January, as I usually do — painting, rearranging, putting up shelves and art, and doing small scale projects, and it gives these dark winter months a huge boost for me. I have an Inspo album in my phone (don’t we all!?) but I have a steadfast rule for it: only doable, achievable, relevant-to-my-house photos are allowed to go into it; no pipe dreams allowed! Then when I get the itch to change things up at home I scroll through and can see affordable options. These are never big renovations, just small things, but they always spark huge joy for me. A pantry re-organized. A mudroom freshly painted. Little corners of the house, improved. Plus, Tom just loves being shown a blurry screenshot of a random person’s Instagram stories and being told to replicate it in our own home. Bonus!

In related news, I have become utterly ruthless at home; if we don’t love it and don’t use it, it goes. And if I love it, I frame it (lol). I bought a heap of new photo frames on a super super sale after Christmas and it’s been so fun! I’ve been framing the kids’ art, albums, cute totes, magazine pages, pretty much anything I love looking at. Above, I framed a favourite Lonely Moms Club makeup bag, and I’ve always thought the cover of this Kate Baer book was so strikingly beautiful, so I ripped it off and into the frame it went.

Since I no longer get the time to go running (too many kids!) I started jumping rope in the summer. Fast forward to now and it’s the best part of my day! I love the cardio and the progression, love the challenge, and love that I can do it during nap time without leaving my driveway. The first time my neighbours saw me they said, “can you do 20 without stopping?” and now….I’m way past that, lol. It’s so fun and frivolous that it brings a child-like joy to my life.

Last thing – spending less time on social media has freed up a lot more time for writing and it turns out, I actually enjoy doing it again! I’ve been toying with the idea of doing more freelance stuff from copy editing to blog writing and more. It takes time to build a portfolio so it’s a work in progress but just sitting here at my laptop (when I can!) has been a really revitalizing start. And yes, this is my kitchen table workspace even though we have multiple offices. Kids, I tell ya!

What has been brightening your January? I’d love to hear it, if you’d like to share.

Holiday Post: Tiny Milestones

How was your Christmas, if you celebrate?

I got my only real wish this year, which was to have no sick kids on Christmas Day. Last year all of the kids were sick and they were too miserable for us to enjoy ourselves and it pretty much ruined Christmas. This year I just wanted to make some healthy Christmas memories. Luckily the kids were on Winter Break from the 16th of December so we were able to sort of isolate at home the week before Christmas to ensure that no one got ill. Our Christmas this year was therefore a huge improvement on last year, no matter how many holiday meltdowns there were! Haha.

Over the course of the 5 days we spent on the mainland staying at my mom’s house, Tom and I started to notice little milestones here and there. These things kind of define where we are in our journey through parenthood and life, so I started writing them down.

  • this is a huge one (for us!) but it was the first Christmas since we became parents SIX years ago that we got to sit down and have a conversation while our kids ran off and played. Since none of our kids were ever babies who we could really put down or pass around, we have spent every single holiday before this one with a baby in a carrier, walking around the block to help him/her fall asleep or stay calm. Our kids are finalllllllly of the age and disposition to run off and play with their cousins, though they only do this at my mom’s where they’re most comfortable, not at the extended family’s homes. Maybe next year.
  • we had our first family Christmas dinner since before covid (and before Rumi!). There’s just nothing like family cooking and an endless amount of lingering hugs to heal the wounds of trauma that the last few years have wrought.
  • our five day stay at my mom’s is the longest and furthest we’ve ever traveled with all three kids! I know, laaaaame for all of you keen travellers, but our pandemic babies have only ever slept in their own beds, so it felt like a substantial milestone for us. Can’t wait til we have more money so the five of us can travel together a little further! aka never! Lol
  • and for the last, and most insubstantial milestone, I went out in sweatpants for the first time (ha!). I have never felt comfortable wearing sweatpants in public, I didn’t even do it in high school when it was all the rage. I just don’t think it’s the right choice for me, I guess? But I did a quick grocery shop with Tom on Boxing Day and I didn’t change into my jeans for it. Nothing bad happened. I did not explode. None of the Boomers in the grocery store in my mom’s neighbourhood even looked at me. I made Tom take a photo to commemorate the occasion (see below, lol). I know, this is so silly and not worth writing down or reading, but here we are.

Now it’s January and the kids were back in school for three days before all three kids got the barfing flu, so I guess it’s back to reality for us!

Regarding my Instagram break so far, it was actually really nice to be off Instagram in December. I popped on here and there without thinking but every time I was quickly reminded why I’m enjoying the break. I absolutely do not miss seeing everyone post their gd elf on the shelf every single night (eek, sorry). It also feels pretty needless to scroll through endless stories about what everyone got or what their kids got. The space away from seeing everyone else’s Christmas left me with more energy and focus for my own family, which is probably just as it should be. It also made the texts and calls with close friends feel more special; it’s fun to catch up, just not always with everyone on the internet maybe?

I also enjoyed the space away from everyone’s end-of-the-year recaps. I’m happy for everyone and love to see people thriving, but an annual recap is a highlight reel on an app that’s already built to be a highlight reel. As humans, it’s in our nature to have a propensity to remember the good moments and let the bad stuff fade (whaddup Faded Affect Bias!) but I’m sure seeing all of those highlight reels makes some people feel as though their year / achievements are lacking. I love to get introspective about my year, but it’s more effective for me to look back at my own journey without the visions of everyone else’s dancing in my head.

THAT SAID, I miss everyone! I miss many of the faces and spaces I’ve come to love on the app and I really miss the spaces that help me learn and grow and sharing the books I read. I try to be mindful about my follows, so I’m missing the exposure to new recipes, budget DIY inspiration, social justice reminders, and familiar faces that add to my life and genuinely propel me to try to be a better person.

But the break from absolute and constant overwhelm is really nice, too. Clearly I am still figuring it out.