This Week in Motherhood

This week in motherhood, I….

…helped a daughter navigate breaking up with a friend.

…wiped away tears.

…coached about the importance of standing up for oneself.

…demonstrated exactly how stand up for oneself.

…explained why the word ‘p*ssy’ is an insult.

…had a sex talk. Or two.

…giggled over fart jokes.

…baked up a storm on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

…squeezed and hugged and kissed my girls.

…snuggled on the couch and watched movies.

…dished out praise for jobs well done.

…reminded about chores, homework and school notices.

…spoke the truth, despite the difficulty in doing so.

…worried that I’m messing this whole motherhood thing up.

Being “Nice” vs. Being a Doormat

My mother raised me to believe that it was important in all situations to “be nice”. Being nice meant being compliant. It meant compromising, being agreeable above all else. It meant looking after the needs of others before my own. It meant ensuring that no matter what, people liked me. Being nice and being liked were the two most important things, according to how I was brought up.

As you can imagine, this has caused me lots of problems over the years. Because this version of being “nice” equates to basically being a doormat. It means laying down and letting people walk all over you, in the hopes that it will result in them liking you and believing you to be a good person. This has led to me having terrible boundaries, being taken advantage of, and giving everything of myself until I was utterly exhausted.

This week my oldest daughter, Kiddo, has been struggling with this very thing. She’s been having issues at school with another child. It’s a situation where good solid boundaries are required. I know from personal experience how difficult this can be. I will give Kiddo credit, she is trying. I have been coaching her on how to handle this situation in a way that will (hopefully) improve things. The problem is that setting and enforcing these boundaries is leaving her feeling guilty. She is feeling like protecting her own mental and emotional health means that she’s “not being nice”.

Ohboy. It’s like she opened her mouth and *my* inner voice came out.

It’s a little ironic (or perhaps, not ironic at all) that I find myself going through a similar struggle myself right now. For the past while I’ve been making a great effort to “be nice” to the girls’ dad. Get along. Keep the peace. It became evident this week that in my doing so, I’ve really been just allowing him to walk all over me. Patterns from our previous marriage are just getting repeated over and over again.

This week I gave my head a shake and reminded myself that, like my daughter, I need to remember that there is a big difference between being nice and being a doormat. It isn’t “not nice” to have firm boundaries. It isn’t “not nice” to refuse to continuously bend to someone else’s wishes. It isn’t “not nice” to put your foot down and demand better treatment. I need to remember to stand up for myself when it comes to my ex husband, just like my daughter needs to stand up for herself when it comes to this other child at school.

The best way that I can teach my girls how to be happy, strong, independent women is to be one myself. Because all the conversations with them in the world aren’t going to mean anything if the example I live in front of them every day speaks the exact opposite.

It’s time to not just talk the talk, but to walk the walk, too. Not only will *I* be happier and better off for it, but so will my two precious daughters.

Thirty Six Seconds

I’ve been running a lot lately. It’s been good for me for a lot of reasons. I had originally planned to run a full marathon again this fall, but there just wasn’t room for that in my life this year, for a whole lot reasons. After this was put on the back burner, though, I found myself a little lost. That’s when I made the decision to start trying to improve my speed, as I’m not nearly as fast as I would like to be.

So this past week I’ve started cutting my distance back a bit, in favour of concentrating more on speed. I won’t lie, it’s been tough, since I’ve come to rather enjoy my slow-and-steady paced morning runs. And let’s face it — pushing oneself physically like that has a tendency to kind of suck. However, I’ve been able to push through those “this sucks” feelings to focus on my goal. I’ll never be speedy, I’m just not physically built for fast running…but I want to be able to say that I’m “fast for me”. I have a certain time goal in mind that I would like to work my way up to hitting pretty consistently. If I can do that, I will be pleased with my progress and feel like I’m getting somewhere.

This morning I headed out for my usual morning run. I could tell in the first kilometer that I was feeling good (thanks to a deep-tissue massage earlier this week) and so I decided to push myself to see if I could hit that goal of mine. I run with a running program on my phone, which gives me an update every kilometer, so I can know how well (or not well) I’m doing.

And so…I pushed myself. I kept that goal planted firmly in my brain. Every time I thought about slowing down, I pictured that particular number in my head. I knew if I could just hit it, then I would be happy with my progress for this particular run.

As I was coming up on my “finish line”, I heard the smug female voice of my app inform me of my time. I missed my goal. By thirty-six seconds.

I’m pretty sure that I swore right out loud when I heard that. So close…and yet so far. I won’t lie…I was pretty disappointed in myself. I wanted to hit that particular goal. Badly. Anything less felt like a complete failure.

As I continued on with my run, however, I thought more about this. The time that I reached, though slower than I ideally wanted, was still pretty damned good. Especially for a “slow” runner like me. I have definitely made progress from where I was just a few short months ago, which I can see from my increasing speeds.

And then I heard a little voice in the back of my head. A voice that asked me what I would say to one of my girls if they encountered the same thing. And what would I say? I would tell them that progress is progress…and that it should be celebrated. That goals are nice to have, but they shouldn’t be the be-all, end-all to something like this. That when it comes to running, the joy is in the experience, and that I shouldn’t discount an otherwise great morning run because of a measly 36 seconds.

Sure, goals are great to have, but what happens when we don’t quite meet them? We have to celebrate the process. We have to enjoy the moments leading up to that finish line. And I’m not just talking about running here, either. In life, if we boiled everything down to either goal achieved = success or goal achieved = failure, then life would be pretty miserable indeed.

I still plan on keeping my eye on that goal. But you know what? Until I get there, I’m going to enjoy the journey. It’s what life is all about.

I refuse to allow my joy to be swept away by thirty six seconds.

Why I Owe My Husband a Big Fat Apology

I know it may be tough for some of you to believe, but I’m not the easiest person to be married to.

Shocker, right?

I can be bossy. And moody. And hormonal. My temper is sometimes quick. I have an ugly tendency to bottle things up until they come spilling out in unexpected (and sometimes unfair) ways. I leave my stinky running clothes on the bathroom floor. I squeeze the toothpaste in the middle — sometimes, just to be passive-aggressive. I can be high maintenance when it comes to the smallest, most ridiculous things.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s also a fair amount of awesome-ness built into this little red-headed package, too. I’m not a monster, after all. But despite those many awesome qualities I know that I am not always easy to love. This isn’t a “poor me” post, for the record, it’s just me being straight up honest about who I am. And I am many, many things, but stupid I am not.

So there’s that. Sunshine = both awesome and difficult at the same time. Some days way more difficult than awesome, but overall I’m fairly confident that the scales tip more in the positive direction than the negative. Depending on what day you ask my husband, I suppose. heh.

Part of what contributes to my “difficult to love” status is my baggage. I already mentioned all the mental and emotional baggage (and the stinky-running-clothes-on-the-bathroom-floor baggage), but I’m also referring to that pesky baggage from my past.

No, not that ugly backpack I bought in university that I just can’t seem to part with. Mostly, I’m talking about my ex husband.

Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuuun.

I haven’t been writing about him much lately purely for privacy reasons but let’s just say that while things haven’t been horrific, they haven’t been ideal, either. And well, as is expected, the situation with my ex causes stress — for me and for my girls. And of course it also causes stress for CBG, since he’s the one who has to deal with all the fall-out on our end of these less than ideal situations.

For the record, I have a pretty good idea why second marriages fail. They’ve simply got a whole lot of extra baggage going on there, what with step kids and ex-spouses. I mean, let’s face it, as awesome as CBG and I are, and as awesome as we are together, we are far from perfect. We’ve got our own pile of garbage to sift through, we don’t need any extra pieces of trash blowing around from my relationship with my ex.

And yet…we have them. It’s inevitable, really. I mean, exes are exes for a reason and the reasons you break up with someone aren’t going to magically disappear because you’ve signed a piece of paper saying you don’t want to be married to them anymore. It just doesn’t work like that. It’s been my experience that many of those old problems just keep hanging around, and in some cases can even be worse — after all, we have less motivation to at least be nice to one another now than we did when we had to live together under the same roof.

I do my best to keep my relationship with my ex husband where it belongs — on the outskirts of my current life — but there are times when it’s impossible to do that. Particularly when you consider the fact that we share 50/50 custody of our girls, and collaborate on a lot of parenting issues as they arise. And well, when I’m experiencing conflict with my ex I know that it puts a damper on things with CBG, despite how hard we try to not allow that to happen. Because as we’ve previously covered, I’m not perfect. And when I’m bitchy because of my ex husband, sometimes that gets taken out on the one person who least deserves my bitchiness — CBG. Try as I might to prevent that from happening.

Now, it’s not like I’m a raging bitch or anything (at least not most days), but I can only imagine how it must feel to be CBG, having to talk me down off the emotional ledge following a run-in with my ex husband, only to then have some of my residual bitchiness be taken out on him. I hear his frustration when we have to clean up parenting messes with my girls because of something that their father said or did. I know that none of these things can be easy for him. And yet still, he does them. And continues to love both me and my girls through it all.

And for putting him through these things, I know that I owe him a big fat apology. Because yes, I may be awesome, but just think of how much more awesome I would be if I didn’t have an ex husband to deal with. And frankly, CBG deserves the most awesome wife that I can be.

So from the bottom of my heart, CBG, I am sorry. Sorry for all the times you’ve had to put up with my frustration and anger and bad moods. I’m sorry for the stress that my relationship with my ex husband causes you. I’m sorry for the disruption that this sometimes causes to your life.

And most of all, I’m sorry that I’m not always as awesome as I should be. But I’m working on it, I promise.

 

 

The Quiet

I’ve noticed that I haven’t had nearly enough opportunity to just be quiet lately. Life is so busy — too busy, for the most part, and the result is that I just don’t have the time to slow down and just sit quietly with myself and my thoughts.

Or rather, I guess don’t make the time is a more accurate statement.

It used to be that I had so much more opportunity for quiet than I do currently. Before CBG moved here, on the nights that the girls were with their dad, I had plenty of evenings where I would just sit in the quiet with my thoughts. I would listen to music. I would blog or do other writing. I would sometimes take hot baths. There was no one else that I needed to be considerate of, or communicate to.

Back in those days I would also do lots of walking, mainly to and from work every day, and even sometimes over my lunch break. Those walks gave me plenty of time to sort through plenty of mental and emotional garbage. Now CBG and I commute to work together, and many of our lunch hours are spent together. I’m also guilty of allowing technology to suck away some of my quiet time, too; moments when I could be sitting quietly I’m on my phone, checking social media like an addict.

Don’t get me wrong — this isn’t a, “I don’t love all the time I’m spending with my husband” kind of post. This isn’t about that at all. The problem here is that I haven’t been spending enough time with just myself. As I result I’ve been feeling stressed. Mentally and emotionally disorganized. Out of touch with my thoughts and feelings. Distracted. Uninspired. Sluggish.

And just a wee little bit lost.

I know the answer: find ways to build The Quiet into life as it is now. Make time for me. Sit and listen to my thoughts and pay attention to all those emotions stirring up around inside of me. We all know, however, that this is easier said than done in a life full 0f work, errands, housework, homework, child rearing and marriage. It’s that old never-ending cycle: If I had some time to sit down and be quiet with myself, I’d likely find ways to build more quiet into my life. Yet there’s not enough quiet to be able to find more quiet.

Irony is an asshole.

The Quiet is where I re-charge my batteries. It’s where I find focus and inspiration. It’s where I solve problems and answer questions. It’s where I hear that small voice in the back of my brain that provides me direction at the most unexpected of times. The Quiet allows me to get mentally, emotionally and spiritually organized.

I need to find The Quiet again. I need to intentionally build those moments into my regular routine. Time set aside to enjoy The Quiet, without distractions and without pressure or expectations to just be. To listen to my thoughts, check in with my emotional self. Turn everything else off — worries, to-do lists, social media updates, and just breathe in The Quiet.

It’s exactly what I need right now.

 

 

Morning Chaos

“Don’t forget to brush your hair and brush your teeth!”

 

“Where’s my homework folder?”

 

“Did you get your lunch out of the fridge?”

 

“Do you need me to fix your hair for you?”

 

“Look! The kitty’s so cute this morning!”

 

“Did you brush your hair yet?!”

 

“Mommy! Your kettle is boiling!”

 

“Girls, we have to get going!”

 

“Ooops! Forgot my sweater.”

 

“Has anyone seen my water bottle?”

 

“I got your earrings fixed.”

 

“I need to go put my earrings in right now.”

 

“Go get in the car, we don’t have time for that.”

 

“Did you brush your teeth?”

 

“Ooops! Just a minute! I gotta go brush my teeth.”

 

“Girls! Come on! We’re going to be late!”

I Want to be Just Like My Daughter When I Grow Up

When I was a kid, a common mantra in my home was, “But what will other people think?” It was something my mother said often, reminding me that I shouldn’t stray too far out of society’s norms, because, after all, being liked was way more important than being yourself. She didn’t tell me this to be cruel; in fact, quite the opposite — I think she did it as a way to keep me from standing out and becoming a potential target in a sometimes harsh world. Blend in, don’t draw attention to yourself. Make sure that you’re friendly and likeable and above all else — be nice, no matter what!

The childhood training I received worked well. A little too well, in fact. At 40 years old I still sometimes struggle with being myself and err on the side of blending in. I still feel an awful initial pang when I realize that someone doesn’t really like me all that much. I am sometimes nice when I really don’t need to be – or possibly even shouldn’t be. I hear my mother’s voice asking me, “But what will people think?” when it comes to things like second weddings and orange wedding dresses. I wrestle with that voice more often than I would like. Thankfully with the support of certain people *cough* CBG *cough* I am victorious more often than not these days.

But honestly I just wish that dang voice would go away completely.

I do my best with my own girls to encourage them to be exactly who and what they are. Obviously, at 9 and 11 they’re still very much figuring that out, but at every step along the way I make sure I tell them certain things. Like they are wonderful and amazing just the way they are. That there’s nothing wrong with standing out and that standing up for yourself is a good thing. That “being nice” isn’t the same as being a good person and that sometimes NOT being nice is the best course of action in a situation.

Last week my youngest daughter, Lil’ Mo got the haircut that she’s been talking about for months now. A while back she got the idea that she wanted to have the left side of her hair shaved. At first I said that would be a great hairstyle for her when she was a little older, but it kept nagging at me, particularly since she kept talking about it (in the whole, “this will be so awesome when I’m old enough to get it done” way). I started noticing lots of people around with similar hairstyles and reminded myself than in a few years, it might not be a popular style anymore.

And then I remembered something else important – it’s just hair. I realized that my hesitation regarding Lil’ Mo’s hair had more to do with my dear old mom’s mantra than anything else. What does it really matter how her hair is styled?  She’s nine years old. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. So we marched ourselves into that hair salon and she got the hairstyle that she’s been dreaming about for months now, showing the world that she’s the kind of person that does what she wants. Sure, it was just a haircut, a relatively small thing in the grand scheme of things, but for me, the smile on her face once it was all said and done reminded me how important it is to be true to yourself — always. Because nothing can replace the happiness and satisfaction that you feel when you do.

I’m 40 years old and I’m still growing and learning. And my nine year old daughter is one of my heroes. Some day I hope to grow up and be just like her.

 

Lil' Mo, totally rockin' her new bad-ass hairstyle and proving that she is definitely someone I need to look up to.

Lil’ Mo, totally rockin’ her new bad-ass hairstyle and proving that she is definitely someone I need to look up to.

 

 

 

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