Author Archives for Lindsay@RaiseAMother

Asking for Less ‘Stuff’ without Seeming Like a Grinch

Hello, dear villagers!

I am a winter holiday kind of person. I want to start listening to my favourite jingly, ho-ho-ho-ing tunes the day after Halloween. The only thing that keeps me from putting up a tree mid-November is the fact that the grocery store near our house doesn’t sell them until now. First weekend of December, my house looks like this:

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Singing carols makes me happy. My favourite holiday movies make me sigh, weep, and giggle with nostalgia. Twinkly lights on houses all over town, reminding us that there is cozy, hopeful goodness shining through at the darkest time of the year, is one of life’s greatest pleasures for me.

And yet this year, I got a little anxious at the thought: Christmas is coming.

Because I have two small kids.

And I spent 2018 trying to get through Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. (I still haven’t made it to every category yet, but I will, even if it takes me twice as long as she said it would!)

The thought of not even being finished purging my home of extra stuff once and suddenly getting bags and boxes of lovely gifts made me feel – I’m sad to say – defeated.

I know I’m not the only one who struggles at this time of year at the intersection of seeking a less cluttered, more minimal home environment and loving the excitement, festivity, and participation of the BIG. FAMILY. CHRISTMAS. WITH. KIDS.

So I decided to write a letter to my family and friends, asking for their help. I posted it as a Facebook Note on October 1st titled, “A Humble Holiday Ask.” I wanted to share it here too, in case you or anyone you know is going through the same thing and wondering, How on earth do I SAY this stuff without coming off like a big ol’ GRINCH??

Here’s what I wrote (insert your own favourite local shops/haunts/etc):

Dear family members, friends, and loved ones who thrive with gift-giving,

 

I have a request this upcoming holiday season. I’m hoping you can help me with something I’ve been working on this year and that I’m really happy with. I’m writing this early because I know that unlike me, many of you are way more on-the-ball, early-bird-gets-the-worm types. (I admire and envy you for that!)

 

For the past year, I’ve been working hard to purge our house of extra stuff. I’m still not quite done, but almost there, and the results have been good for me. Having less stuff gives me more physical space to move around, more metaphorical space to think, more time to enjoy my family, and an increased sense of calm. (Some people thrive in cozy spaces full of souvenirs of treasured places – turns out I thrive with nearly blank walls and shelves, lol.)

 

So I humbly ask for your support in this process, which I know can seem at odds with our holiday culture. In return, I also want to support your preferences and wishes at holiday time, and don’t want to dismiss the joy any of you get from gift giving.
  • If you prefer not exchanging gifts and instead all you want for the holidays is to spend some time together, let’s make plans!
  • If you prefer to give gifts, but are okay with the less tangible kind, here are some things I/we would be ever so grateful for:
    • Gift cards for consumable treats – Fireroasted Coffee, Black Walnut, Plant Matter Kitchen/Bistro, Starbucks, Tim’s, Swiss Chalet, Five Guys, LCBO, etc…
    • Passes for things to do in our area – Storybook Gardens, Play Away, Junction Rock Climbing, movies, Clovermead, Port Stanley train events, Spectrum activities, etc…
    • Experiences you want to invite the kids to – it’s a double gift: fun and time spent with you!
    • Gift cards to stores we use regularly – CostCo, Once Upon a Child, Superstore, Ellen’s Children’s Shoes, Mastermind Toys, Plato’s Closet, Curiosities, Quartermaster, MEC, Farmboy, HomeSense, Home Hardware, Indigo/Chapters…
    • Contributions to the kids’ RESPs (we can never have too much invested for their futures!)
    • Charitable donations in our names to organizations that warm your heart and ours.
  • If you get joy and cheer from giving presents wrapped up with a bow, I appreciate that and would never want to take that from you! If you’d like to help me with my goal of a less-stuff-life while doing that…
    • Feel free to ask me what types of clothing the kids currently need if you’re thinking of clothes for them (often we’ll have way too many of one type, but be desperate for another by laundry day)
    • Know that an in-home children’s library is the ONE collection of items that can never be too big for me!
    • Consider multi- and longer-use kids toys – many toys spark in-the-moment joy but then are forgotten a few days or a week later
    • Aim for kids’ items that encourage imagination, creativity, problem-solving, and confidence
    • Remember that our little guys are spoiled in the best sense of the word – they are surrounded by so many people who love them, and the smaller the overall collection of new items is, the more attention they can pay and the more appreciation they can have for each gift they receive
    • Check out this registry I’ve started for the family, if you want more ideas (we’ll add to it whenever we think of something we need/would love): link here to an Amazon wishlist
Many thanks for ‘hearing’ me out. If you have questions or concerns, I’m always happy to talk. And if you think I’m being ridiculous and want to ignore me, you have that right, too!
Love,
Lindsay

I was scared to write this, but I actually got a huge amount of support from my near and dear ones. Which, in retrospect, I’m not sure why I ever doubted – I have awesome people in my village!

How about you?

Have you struggled with this? Have you successfully made the kind of thoughtful asks you want to so that you don’t feel torn at holiday time and can just enjoy the spirit of the season?

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How to Get Authentic Authority?

Have you, like me, sometimes wondered if authentic authority is even possible? This idea’s been at the pinnacle of my #parentinggoals since before my first child was born, and a recurring struggle. Continue reading

Domestic Labour 101 for Kids

As a feminist parent, I’ve thought a lot about gendered role models, what I’m teaching my boys about women, the effect of the current political climate on gender issues, and domestic labour issues. Recently, I had an interaction with my barely-four-year-old that smacked me in the face with the need to start re-framing the way we do domestic labour in our house – and it’s not, I was surprised to realize, through hammering in explicit ideas of equality.

I asked A a simple question: “Can you pick up your toothbrush?” It was on the floor of the bathroom.

He responded equally as simply: “Oh, no, Mommy – Daddy actually knocked that over. And you always say, ‘If you make the mess, you clean it up,’ right?”

I paused. I do always say that – when I want him to clean up a mess instead of expecting me or his dad to do it for him. I don’t want to raise no boys to men who don’t understand that they are responsible for their own actions!

At the same time, I realized instantly that I’m contributing to a very patriarchal ideology here: every-man-for-himself, avoidance-based individuality.

In this very small pause, I understood intuitively that if I really want to raise my boys to be equal partners with another human someday, I need to teach them not just equality, but community and nurturance. I need to teach them not just accountability, but helpfulness and generosity of spirit.

“You’re right,” I said. “I do say that. And now I think you’re old enough for me to explain to you that three different things are all true at the same time in our house,” and I explained to him the following rules, which my beloved and I have since talked about and agree that we want our kids to internalize as part of the fabric of our family:

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So much of what I’ve seen of domestic labour organization and rules, both in my own life and in the stories I’ve heard from others over the years, comes from such a place of negativity or avoidance. We emphasize personal accountability for one’s own things in order to avoid someone else having more than ‘their share’ to do. We emphasize cleaning up a mess you made to reinforce warnings about undesirable behaviour and instill a sense that you are ultimately responsible for your own actions. We focus on division of tasks in an effort to make things ‘fair’, only to find that people become attuned to doing the bare minimum required. We use rewards and allowances with kids to inject some positivity into ‘chores,’ unintentionally perpetuating the dichotomy that work/helping = necessary evil, leisure/no responsibility = ideal end.

What bothers me most is that using these methods operates from an assumption that in our families and close communities, we will be taken advantage of, and we will be unfairly burdened with ‘someone else’s’ mess or consequences if labour is left unchecked; and that the ultimate goal of human life is to avoid effort and work – especially work we don’t deserve.

I’m trying to start from scratch. I’m hoping I can begin instead from a place where we’re all in it together, where we’ll all help whenever someone else is working on something, and where we understand that together, our efforts knit the beautiful fabric of our home and our life. If each member of our family follows all three rules, there will be less work and stress for all of us, and we’ll all feel supported.

If someone’s going to be a jerk about it, take advantage of others, or shirk responsibility, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, and my attention to that will, likely, be swift and relentless (I have zero patience for that shit!). But in the meantime, I’m going to assume the best, and try to teach my boys a way of life that I hope will serve us all well.

Since I’m new to this, anyone else have some strategies, framings, or words you use with your kiddos in this light? I’d love to hear them!

Daring Greatly: All We All Really Want

Hello, lovely villagers!

This blog has been oh-so-sporadic in recent months, but I couldn’t not share this. I’ve just finished what is perhaps one of my favourite books of all time (how often does a non-fiction make me tear up with joy??), and certainly my favourite book related to parenting.

Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. Continue reading

On Love Day, Love Yourself, Too

Valentines’ Day, or as I prefer to call it, Love Day, is upon us. Absolutely, it is a contrived, silly, excessively-commercialized “holiday” that often causes more sadness and distress than happiness and contentment.

However, it seems to be here to stay, and now that I’m a mom, it’s harder to ignore. I almost never do anything out of the ordinary for Feb 14, but this year, with A being three and in a childcare center for part-time care, it’s different. He received a story book called “Franklin’s Valentines” and has asked to have it read repeatedly in the last couple of weeks. His childcare teachers provided a list of all the kids’ names, when one parent asked specifically for the occasion. Valentine’s Day is creeping into his consciousness, so I can’t just pretend it doesn’t exist anymore.

I’ve put it out there to my social media circles in past years that on Love Day, we can expand our understanding love beyond romance. I know (and I’m glad!) that I’m not the only person doing this re-framing – just think of the popularity of Galentine’s Day, for a start!

Yet one type of love that stands out to me as particularly absent in Love Day discussions is self-love. I’m not talking about cliched notions of “self-care” (read: “me time” of the bubble bath/wine night/spa date variety, though these are lovely!). I’m not talking about selfies on social media proclaiming to other people that we love ourselves/aren’t ashamed of our stretch marks, under-eye circles and less-than-taut bellies post-motherhood.

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I’m talking about real, deep, feel it in your belly self-love.

I’m talking about staring yourself in the eyes in a mirror and knowing that you truly love the person you’re facing, in the same way you love your best friend, your sister, or your partner.

I’m talking about hugging yourself and feeling sincere, not silly.

I’m talking about laughing with tears in your eyes that you still have so much love to give yourself, even when you think you’ve given all you can to your partner, your children, your friends.

I’m talking about knowing that love is infinite, even when time and attention and patience aren’t, and that you radiate love all the time, even when you’re mad (sometimes especially when you’re mad).

I’m talking about seeing the beauty in yourself that the ones closest to you see, and more – not in a vain way, but in an honest way.

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If you’ve never thought about self-love this way or felt it so deeply, don’t worry – our culture doesn’t teach us to, as women or as mothers. This is an inside job, and it’s one we have to do on our own, because the world at large isn’t always telling us we’re worth it.

But we are. We so are.

Happy Love Day, you beautiful, wonderful, radiant mama, you.

 

 

When I Get Advice, Maybe It’s Worth – Ahem – Listening.

Sometimes, it feels like self-sufficiency is the name of today’s mom game. We’re supposed to know how to do it all, anticipate it all, and get it all right – nevermind that it’s our first time around the block. Trying to figure out how to navigate this is a catch-22, because it seems like there are lots of people around who’ve been down this path before – namely, women of the previous generation, our foremothers – but it also seems so obvious from the neverending slew of emails to our inboxes and posts in our social media groups, that the parenting game has so dramatically changed since their day that there’s no way they would still be valuable sources of information. They’ll probably let our babies taste sugar! and sit in a wheeled exersaucer! and drive the car!

Well, I had two experiences last week that were excellent reminders for me to not fall into that yucky little trap.

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my tiny lobbyist

I was in a place where I was at the complete end of my rope, friends – with toddler behaviour. (I can hear the sympathetic groans from those of you also in the trenches of your own threenager battle from here.) Oh, the neverending resistance! It seemed no matter what I said, the first words out of his mouth, before I’d even finished speaking, were “But Moooommmmy –” or “No, Iiiiiiiiii wanted…” or just a horrifying, whiny “Eeuuuuyynnnh!” that led straight into to a tantrum. Everything had to be his way, and I was FED. UP. I was tired of not having anything MY WAY and I was, frankly, starting to act like a three year old myself.

 

Thankfully, just at this juncture, I got to speak with two quite different, very lovely women, both of whom happened to have spent a great deal of time caring for me as a small child.

One afternoon, I had coffee with my bestie from childhood’s mom, with whom I hadn’t spent much time in the last several years, but at whose house I spent countless mornings before school, weekend sleepovers, family dinners, and game nights. Our chat inevitably turned to parenting, and I described my struggles with A: “I just don’t know what to do when he gets like that, when words, reason and logic aren’t his language,” I said.  She looked thoughtful and then said, “Have you tried sending him a picture?” I was confused, to say the least, and more than a little skeptical as she explained that he might have other languages I wasn’t using. She said I could form a picture in my mind before bed, of what I wanted to see in A’s morning the next day, and then ‘transmit’ it to him (no precise instructions on how), so that we’d be on the same wavelength. I would never, ever, have even thought of something like that.

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A couple of days later, my mom was over, and it was a particularly trying bedtime. A had been resisting and whining almost constantly since dinner ended, and R was crying through an uncharacteristic and seemingly endless battle over being alone in his crib. On one of my many, defeated slumps back down the stairs between checks on my small, wailing boy, my mom put her arm around my waist as I stood next to the armchair where she was seated. I sighed and asked, “Any tips?” She paused, the way good mothers do when asked for parenting advice. “Honestly?” she said, “At this stage it’s about picking your battles. I could tell earlier tonight wasn’t the time to tell you, but you seemed to want to die on a lot of hills, honey. I’m sure you had your reasons, but you’ll probably be happier with fewer. And so will he.” She squeezed me and said, “You’re a good mama.”

When we get advice on parenting, especially from women who’ve done this before, it can be easy to feel offended or questioned, to dismissively shake our heads the moment they’re out of sight and think, yeah, whatever. But in these particular instances, I didn’t feel offended, or dismiss their wise words. Instead, I followed their leads.

After my mom left that evening, I made a decision – I was going to say “yes” the whole next day to anything Arlo asked for – unless it was unsafe or impossible. I wasn’t going to engage in any battles unless absolutely necessary. It was quite difficult, and I slipped up a few times, saying “no” reflexively when my patience was worn thin or I momentarily forgot my goal. But it was better – decisively better. Whining was shorter lived and less frequent. And no, he didn’t spend the whole day watching television or drinking chocolate milk.

 

And yes, I even tried sending A pictures. I don’t have any claims to make about whether or not it “worked,” but I do know that some of the things I focused my energy on at night, creating those pictures, did seem to run more smoothly the next day. The bigger shift, though, was a newfound consideration that maybe A and R have some other languages  I can use to communicate with them, more important than “words, reason and logic.” I considered body language, eye contact, and touch. For the next few days, when A began to wail or whine, I tried not to reason with him or convince him with words that everything was actually fine. I got down on his level and relaxed the tension from my body. I waited quietly next to him, offering him my arms as a cozy place to hunker down until his feelings passed. I spent long pauses looking into his face with all the kindness and empathy I could muster, rather than straining the words, “I know you’re mad. I’m here.” And let me tell you, A absolutely responded; I feel we are regaining a closeness that I had felt starting to slip away, which I had assumed was just part of his growing independence.

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my sweet, funny, creative kiddo

Sometimes I think the momosphere would have me believe that if I have a community, it’s limited to the women of my own generation, my fellow travellers on this new and rocky terrain, who are the only ones who can really understand me and the only ones who really ‘get’ what this is all about these days. But it’s not true. Some things have changed – laws about car seats, or recommendations about screen time, for example. But what has not changed are some pretty important things, too – like connecting to and loving a tiny person who’s just figuring out the world, keeping your cool in a strenuous moment, or learning how to maintain your sense of self and to give unconditionally at the same time. How remiss we’d be to not realize that there is, for those of us lucky enough to have some foremothers in our village, a potentially vast wealth of knowledge, ideas, and seemingly-strange new things to try. What have we got to lose by listening?

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What’s a gem you’ve gotten from one of your foremothers?

 

 

SPOTLIGHT ON: Sarah Kowalski – Motherhood Reimagined

Sarah Kowalski is a fertility doula, life coach, and author of the recently published memoir, Motherhood Reimagined: When Becoming a Mother Doesn’t Go As Planned, which chronicles her journey to motherhood when she realized at almost-forty that she actually did want a child – but she still didn’t have the partner or the white-picket-fence life she’d always pictured. Now, Single Mom By Choice and raising her beloved son, Sarah’s making it her mission to reach out to other women looking down the same poorly-lit path she embarked upon – and hoping to shed some light based on her experience.

I jumped at the chance to read an advance copy of Sarah’s book, and to chat with her about her quest, life as a Single Mom By Choice, and the guilt and self-care struggles so many moms face, partnered or not. Sarah’s book is personal, fascinating, heart-wrenching, funny, and oh-so-relatable – even though I got knocked up the old fashioned way and am raising kids with a partner. Continue reading

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