So after months and months of feeling like I was trying to swim with a boulder attached to my ankle, I finally feel like I am getting my head above water. I wish I could just chalk it up to a few busy months, but I was really feeling the weight of all my obligations. It is amazing how all the small roles a person undertakes can amass to such a long list of responsibilities. However, I freely admit that this accumulation of jobs can often be self-induced by my type A, control everything personality. Needless to say I am back writing my blog because I am back to a manageable level of busyness.
I felt like a failure as a mother because my kids were unhappy and their behavior unmanageable. I felt like I was a complete letdown to my husband because I could not be superwoman and because I couldn’t manage it all. I felt like a failure as a business woman because I wanted to throw in the towel and shut down the daycare. I found infinite ways that I was failing to be Michelle Quinn. My house was a mess, I felt tired and cranky, my kids were acting out, which made me not want to be with them, and what kind of mom doesn’t want to be with her kids all the time (insert sarcastic tone here). The sad thing about this whole situation is just how overwhelmed I felt, and when I could no longer cope with the anxiety and stress how much I felt like a failure. I have battled anxiety and depression all my life, so I know the importance of positive thinking and a positive outlook. I also know how debilitation negative thinking can be for a person’s well-being. Yet it is just so easy to jump back into negative self-talk (ie “I am a failure”), and all or nothing statements (ie “I am a failure as a mother because my kids misbehaved”, and “I can’t do anything right”).
Finally I reached my breaking point, and I left the kids with my husband and I called my mother. She met me for tea and I explained all the ways I was horribly failing my life. Have I ever mentioned how much I love my mother? Well, she is one of my best friends (second only to my husband), and she told me exactly what I needed to hear. First of all she listened and validated, then she repeated back to me what appeared to her to be my biggest problems. From there we brainstormed some ideas to solve these problems. She also affirmed all the ways I was succeeding as a mother, and a wife, and as an individual. She re-shifted my focus on all the positive things that I do. So after hours of talking to my mom, I had the cathartic release I needed to go back to my family. That night my husband and I sat down and ironed out exactly what we needed to do to get our family back on track. The goal was a happy family again.
The answer was so simple too! The main problem was I just felt so overwhelmed and tired by watching 3-5 kids 50 hours a week, plus cleaning the house, cooking healthy meals, while trying to squeeze a run in 4-5 days a week. I was too tired; my kids were not getting enough attention and therefore were acting out. This challenging behavior from their part made me more tired, so I got less done (yet still did not get enough sleep). I was angry with my husband for not picking up the slack, and he was angry back. Things continued to spiral downward until it got so unmanageable I felt like I was going to have a mental breakdown (it was very close). So the solution was simple, I just work less. Crazy, right? I now am doing the daycare part-time, and doing a cleaning job on the side (which is perfect since it is only twice a month, and my mom is my boss). We decided to put my son in preschool three morning a week, since it is obvious that he needs to learn how to follow rules and I really think some time away from mommy will do him some good. He has now been going to school for over two weeks and it is wonderful for everyone. I also have relaxed a lot about all the things I need to do. I have given myself permission not to be perfect. Not everything needs to be done right now because quite frankly I just can’t do it all (and that does not mean I am failing).
So what is the end result you ask? I am so much happier! The huge weight that was making me feel like I was drowning is only a tiny pebble, and I am much better at enjoying all the things I love about my life. This happiness has resonated throughout the family, and we are all enjoying life more. The kids haven’t even noticed that our budget is tighter; all they see is happier, less stressed parents. I guess that old saying has some truth, “if Mamma ain’t happy, aint’t nobody happy!”
One of the best things that ever happened to my family was the time that I was laid off when I was 8 months pregnant with my son. At the time I was terrified about how we were going to pay the bills, especially since I didn’t qualify for Employment Insurance (EI), but now safely in the future I can look back and see how this event changed the course of our family life forever.
It was absolutely wonderful to have a whole month to myself. I read every day, and really got a chance to get to know myself again. I loved the time to connect to my pregnant body and the baby growing inside of me. But those were just perks of not having a job for the first time since I was 12. The really good thing that came from the whole experience was learning the importance of simplicity. For the first time in my life I learned how to live on a lot less. I had less stress, and less to do, less things, and yes also less money. My husband and I had to really budget to make our money stretch, and we had to be really conscious of the purchases we made. Gifts were carefully planned, and given with real meaning so that the monetary value would not seem as important as the thoughts behind the gift. We got really creative on how to be frugal, and we learned that we could just say no to spending money we did not have. We really did a good job keeping our spending down, especially at a time when most people start to spend a lot more. It also taught us to really shift our focus on what our priorities’ in life are; not what we have purchased.
I wonder to this day what would have happened to us financially and just holistically in our family life had I not been laid off, and had I received EI. I am not saying I would have spent us into debt, but I definitely can confirm we would not be as responsible as we are now. But I don’t want to make this a blog about money, because we really are not perfect with our money. In fact I do still feel we spend too much, and the idea of being mindful of what we buy does not seem as much on our minds as it was in days gone by. In fact lately I have been feeling a large amount of anxiety and I just can’t seem to get ahead of this feeling. I feel there are just not enough hours in the day to get everything done, and I am working hard on my priorities, yet I am having a very hard time of making a “clean house” be one of those. I feel it is mostly because I have too much clutter. My house is filled with crap I do not need, and I spend my day cleaning the clutter, so I can’t get to the actual cleaning.
Which is why I am so glad that I got laid off 3 and a half years ago, because it taught me the art of enjoying less, and being able to be happy with less. I don’t just mean less money,
I mean less of everything. No no, let me rephrase, I mean being happy with the things that matter and having less of the things that don’t. This is something I have forgotten in the last little while. I have been getting caught up with our culture of consumption and the “need” to keep up with the Jones. Lately we have not been as conscious of what comes into our house, and our house is a half-cluttered chaos which is a constant form of stress for me. This is resonating in my entire family life, including in my children’s behavior, and I have been looking for ways to get back to a homeostasis. Things have felt very crazy here over the last couple of months, which has really been sucking the joy out of the parenting role for me.
That was until I picked up “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne from the library. I saw a review for it in another blog, and the “using the extraordinary power of less to raise calmer, happier, more secure kids” really spoke to me. Although I am not the biggest fan of how this author doesn’t heed his own advise when it comes to writing (really the power of less could also be applied to fluff metaphors, and long winded explanations too), this book is helping me get back to basics.
Over the last few months I have been having a really hard time with making time for all my priorities. So as I begin to pare down and get rid of things, I am actually really looking forward to having less. Instead of constantly trying to tidy up stuff, I can have time to play imaginative games with my children, make healthy meals, exercise and be mindful of what I eat, connect and build my relationship with my husband all while living in a house that is still clean and tidy (although maybe not spotless). I love that this book has reminded me:
- that I can get rid of those toys that make obnoxious noises that DRIVE ME CRAZY,
- that my son does not need hundreds of cars,
- that I can throw away broken toys,
- that I can control what comes into our house.
I have to power to say no to the fad toys and the pressure of “I want, I want, I want”. By saying no I am teaching my children about delaying gratification, about working hard for your things and then appreciating what we have. Sometimes having less means more imagination, more time to be creative, and more happiness. I am happy to spend less money, and spend more time on my family.
Oh and by the way, if you are wondering if there is less of me after two months, the answer is Yes! I have lost 18 pounds in the last 11 weeks.
I run an educational based home daycare business. I started it when my son was seven months old, and I love that it allows me the best of both worlds. I get to be a working mother and a stay-at-home mom. For the last year I have been on maternity leave so I could have my daughter and spend some time focused just on my family. It has been a wonderful and busy experience, and I never thought I would say this, but I am ready to start working again. I think the routine of the daycare, and the other children at our house everyday will be good for my kids. This means that I am now back to the reality of juggling a family and a business.
As part of my educational programming, each day during circle time I pick a letter of the alphabet to examine with the kids. We read a book with that letter in it, we sign the letter, we hear the sound(s) that letter makes and then for the rest of the day we look for that letter in our world. This week I started thinking about this educational practice, and I was thinking about the ways I could improve and expand this exercise. For obvious reasons I started at the letter A, and then our family got ravished by a bout of gastroenteritis and I couldn’t move onto the next letter. So all week I have had the letter A stuck in my head, so I figured why fight it, I will work with it to help inspire my blogging.
Absent: My first A word for today’s blog. In case you haven’t noticed I have been absent from the blogging world for over a month now. When I last left our family was just told to assume by the doctor that my daughter has a peanut allergy. So the last month I have been adapting to a life without peanuts, and I tell you it has been hard. I have been attempting to expand my family’s repertoire of menu items. It has been awfully challenging on my son and my husband, but I will expand on that in more detail later. Our family also went on a vacation to Niagara Falls, Ontario (which was awesome). I have also been arranging things for the daycare, and I decided to join Weight Watchers. So needless to say I have not had a lot of free time lately.
Accountability. This word has been in my head for days now, ever since I signed up for Weight Watchers. After my son was born I was able to just run all the weight off, however I never got down to my ideal weight. I looked pretty good, but I was disappointed with myself for never attaining my goal weight. After having my daughter I am a lot busier, I am getting less sleep, and there is just less free time. My husband and I are working very hard to find the time to work out each day, but some days it is just not possible. However, I am sick of the excuses as to why I am the weight I am. They say it takes 9 months to put the weight on, so expect it to take 9 months to come off. Only problem is my daughter is 10 months old now, and I am still carrying around 45% of that weight. So I figured it was about time I held myself accountable. I know that I have an unhealthy relationship with food. It is not that I make unhealthy food choices, I just eat too much. So after being sick of seeing the extra weight in the mirror, and wanting to show my daughter a healthy body image and positive self-talk, I decided to join Weight Watchers. I had success with their online tools in university, and this time I wanted the meetings too. This week was my second weight-in, and it was a successful first week! I tracked everything I ate, even when I had a horrible case of gastro and had to stick to the BRAT diet for 3 days. I am proud to say my accountability translated into 4.4 pounds down, and a few pairs of old pants I can now fit into again! Astounding!
Allergy. We got a cancellation appointment yesterday to see our new allergist, so we took my daughter in to get tested. Despite my husband’s optimism that it was all a mistake, it was confirmed that my daughter has a peanut allergy. So now we acclimatize to this lifestyle change. Yesterday I picked up my daughter’s Epi Pens, and learned how to use them. We brainstormed all the foods that are off-limits now, like Chinese food, peanut butter cups, Pad Thai, and Tim Hortons (not that we ate out much before, or that I would even eat any of those foods since I joined Weight Watchers). I think for me it will be much easier to assimilate into this new peanut free world, especially since I am going through a change in terms of my diet anyway and I more conscious of what I eat now. However this new reality is a lot harder for my son and my husband to accept. My son doesn’t quite understand what an allergy is, or why it means he can’t eat peanut butter anymore. At first he ate other alternative like soy butter (which did funky things to his bowels), but now he is having a real hard time finding things he wants to eat. This kid is the pickiest eater I have ever met, he also isn’t good with change, and now I have taken away his power food. I can’t help but admit that I am worried about how he will adapt, and what he will eat. I have attempted many recipes of things I think he will like; however it is not easy for him to try new things. As for my husband, I feel sad for him, and I am proud at what he is giving up. My husband loves his daughter, and there really is no contest when it comes to the choice between his daughter’s health and peanut butter. I love him even more for giving up his most favorite substance to eat in the entire world without any hesitation. As for my daughter, I am just grateful it is only an allergy. As she grows up, all she will ever know is a life without peanuts, so I hope it will not feel like she has been deprived of something. I am relieved by how accommodating our society has become towards allergies. I couldn’t even fathom how scary this diagnosis would have been 20 years ago before the food labeling standards of today were implemented. My hope now for my family, with this challenge, is that we never have to deal with an anaphylactic reaction. I also aspire for my daughter to grow up without ever feeling like she negatively affected our quality of life. A life with my daughter is more important, rewarding and fulfilling than any peanut.
PEANUT BUTTER or vitamin P as my husband likes to call it. It is The Staple in our house that we thought we could never live without. It was the one stipulation my husband had when I started the home daycare: that we could never be a peanut free or even peanut safe household. We probably have a layer of it on everything my son touches. If my son were to cut himself he would probably bleed strait peanut butter. My husband and I used to joke about what would ever happen if we had a child who was allergic to peanut butter. Before we had kids we would joke that we would give them up for adoption, and then when we had our children and we realized how ridiculous that would be (we love them right). The joke turned into PB would become the dark mistress in our family, and my husband would have to get an apartment strictly so that he could eat endless amounts of peanut butter.
My husband eats peanut butter at least twice a day, if not more. His go to food is always peanut butter. He even starts to panic if we get low on peanut butter. We probably go through a 2 kg tub in two weeks or less. I contribute to our large amount of consumption since I probably eat it at least every other day. Also my son has been limited to only two servings a day, or else he would eat it endlessly. Even those two words, peanut butter, are uttered at least fifty times a day in our house.
However my daughter was identified today as having a peanut and possibly tree nut allergy. So now what do I do? How do I keep my children alive now?! I am worried my daughter will break out into hives just by touching my son. What about all those people she might come into contact with that eat peanut butter without vigilantly washing their hands afterwards. Two days ago I was one of those people, so naturally I am terrified about how that will affect my daughter’s future. What about my son?! I swear the child is the world’s pickiest eater! Now I am afraid he is going to starve to death … well maybe it is not that bad but it is going to be a huge problem. My husband will probably starve for a little. I think the poor man is in mourning right now too. It’s like telling someone they can never drink water again.
Yet I think I need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Yesterday my daughter had an allergic reaction to something she ate. But she could still breathe. All that happened was she got red blotchy marks on her face and had a few hives. She did not go into an anaphylactic reaction, she did not need to go to the hospital and she is alive and healthy. So maybe instead of seeing this as my family’s doomsday, I need to find the positive to this situation. For one it will force all of us to make some changes to our diet, and hopefully it will force my son to eat other things. I know it will definitely make my husband broaden his horizon and maybe that will be the positive role model my son needs to see. I am such a mindless eater also, so I am looking forward to the fact that I will have to be more conscious of what I eat. Since I am still nursing I have been advised to stay away from nuts, which makes sense. This diagnosis also seemed to come at the ideal time. We planned that today I would put paint stripper on our cabinets, and tomorrow my husband, my father and I are going to remove all the old ugly paint. Therefore that film of peanut butter will be stripped away and I will be forced to completely disinfect our entire kitchen tomorrow. So it really is the perfect timing!
I also feel so thankful that my daughter is healthy, despite the allergy. Things at the doctor’s office could have gone much worse today, and I am grateful it is only a peanut allergy. With some careful consideration and a little extra hand washing I am sure she can continue to live a healthy, safe and fulfilling life, despite not being able to eat peanut butter. And while my son and my husband might sulk around the house for a few days they too will get over this because they are healthy and they love our little allergic baby more than they love peanut butter.
How about you? Have you had to make any great sacrifices for your child or children? How about the people with peanut allergies out there: do you have any advice, words of wisdom or suggestions? I would love to hear from you since I am still a little stunned by the whole thing.