Author Archives for Shannon @RaiseaMother

Overcoming “Be Careful”-itis

Roald Dahl quoteThis past week, I was listening to a recent episode of One Bad Mother. The conversation was about struggling with reflexively saying ‘no’ to your kids – even when you don’t really have a problem with what they want to do.

My son is young enough that I’m not yet struggling with being a ‘no’ machine, but I do find myself reflexively saying something else. My personal catch phrase? “Be careful”.

I cannot seem to stop myself from saying “be careful”. “Be careful with the cat”. “Be careful climbing on the couch”. “Be careful on the stairs”. “Be careful”. “Be careful”. “Be careful”. All. Day. Long.

Obviously, some of this is justified. My son is not yet two. We still have a baby gate for our larger staircase. He starts to lose his balance and run into things when he’s tired. He is definitely not at stage where he doesn’t need any reminders to be careful.

At the same time, my son is already a fairly cautious child, as toddlers go. He is not particularly anxious. He gets a kick out of being a little bit scared, like when his dad jumps out at him from behind a corner. But he is thoughtful and deliberate, and you can see him thinking through how to tackle a new feat before he actually tries to tackle it. When he was a baby, he routinely practiced new motor skills in the safety of his crib before he would dare to try them anywhere else.

I, on the other hand, was an overly cautious child. My mom had to convince me to let go of her hand in the grocery store when she needed both of her hands to lift something (or to stop my sister from running off). I was scared of climbing and hated hanging upside down. And while I would not consider myself an anxious adult, I do still fall into the camp of: “I’m cold, so you need to put on a sweater”.

It’s definitely not my favourite part of myself. Even as a kid, I wished that I could find a way to just let go a bit. Now as a parent, when I hear myself say “be careful” for the seven-hundredth time that day, I can’t help but wonder if my worrying tendencies are at risk of stifling my son’s independence.

I feel like Marlin in the movie, “Finding Nemo”, the parent whose over-cautiousness is holding back both his child and their relationship. He tells his friend Dory, “I promised I’d never let anything happen to him”. Dory responds, “Hmm. That’s a funny thing to promise. You can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.”

Not much fun, and not a great way to learn, either. Roald Dahl once said “The more risks you allow a child to take, the better they learn to take care of themselves”. This makes a lot of sense to me. After all, who among us doesn’t credit our biggest risks and/or failures with our best learning experiences? Either we rise to the challenge and boost our self-esteem in the process, or we find out what doesn’t work and try to do better next time.

And this is really what I’m talking about when I’m thinking about ways to get over my “be careful”-itis. I’m not going to avoid saying “be careful” when my son could really hurt himself or when he can’t reasonably be expected to understand the potential consequences of his actions. But I do want to try to avoid reflexively saying “be careful” in circumstances that he can navigate on his own.

Maybe it’s ok for him to learn that if he’s not paying attention to what he’s doing, and a board book lands on his foot, he probably won’t like it. And he’ll learn to take better care of himself the next time he’s at his bookshelf. I mean, how else does a little bird learn to fly than to start by falling? It’s not like mama bird kicks them out of the nest right from day one. She watches and waits until they’re ready. After that, there’s really no other way to do it.

Even typing this makes me feel a bit guilty and gets the worry machine going in my head, so I know it’s probably something I need to work on. In the meantime, I’m just going to try to channel my inner Dory and just keep swimming.

Baby Bird Try To Fly

Confessions of a Hot Mess: Hamster in a Wheel

hamster-wheel-03-600Hello, dear mamas. Long time, no see. Once again, I have been remiss and Lindsay has been holding down the fort here at Raise a Mother. She’s been doing a fantastic job, I’m sure you’ll all agree. If you haven’t yet read her post “Letter to my Post-Partum Self“, do. It’s lovely and thoughtful, just like her.

Lindsay also wrote recently about bonding, and about how many of us are allowing ourselves to become “too busy” to connect with the people in our lives, instead collapsing at the end of each day in front of a screen. Reading this post made me feel uncomfortable and guilty, though I know that wasn’t close to Lindsay’s intent when writing it. You see, I am the hamster in that wheel.

Ladies, I have a confession to make: I am a hot mess. I eat more than I should, drink more caffeine and wine than I probably should, and weigh more than I should. I don’t sleep, or exercise, or floss as much as I should. I may or may not have finished the last bits of peanut butter from the jar by pouring in some chocolate chips and then scooping it out with a spoon (I totally did).

My absence from this blog comes down to one thing – I am terrible at taking time for myself. I work through my lunch break on a regular basis. I feel a compulsion to make sure that all my chores are done before I do something fun. Of course, with a toddler around, my chores are never done. They’re on an endless loop. I constantly feel “too busy” and collapse on the couch at the end of the night.

Here’s the thing, my lovely mamas: all things considered, I’m doing ok. I might personally feel sometimes like a human disaster, but I know my son, my husband and my family feel loved. I do need to do better on making time for myself, and I am working on it. At the same time, I know that my slightly OCD tendencies mean that I need my house to be tidier than many people need their houses to be in order to feel truly relaxed.

I know I’m not alone. We all have our quirks that shape the challenges we face in balancing our lives. I’m sure I’m not the only one of us to feel like I’m currently on a bit of a merry-go-round.

And so to you, my fellow hamsters, I say: You are not alone. You are doing a wonderful job and your kiddos love you. This particular marathon won’t last forever, so just do the best you can to make it all you want it to be. In the meantime, I’m waving from the next wheel over.

A Gratitude Journal

piglet_gratitude_winnie_the_poohYears ago, Oprah Winfrey began a recurring segment on her talk show about keeping a gratitude journal. The concept is simple: each day, you take a moment to write down a few things in your life for which you are grateful.

As a young pre-teen, I started keeping a gratitude journal alongside Oprah, and kept it up for a few months. At the time, I found it to be a great way to take a mental “re-set” and re-gain some perspective after a rollercoaster-y day of adolescence.

With everything that’s been going on for me professionally — and with American Thanksgiving just around the corner — now seems like the perfect time to start keeping a gratitude journal again. So, here are a few of the things I’m thankful for today:

  • My husband – who is kind and supportive, and who I love watching with our son.
  • My son – who brings light to each day with his smiles, kisses and ever-expanding gibberish vocabulary.
  • The comfort of warm blankets on cold nights.
  • Friends who send you messages “just because”.
  • Chocolate – especially mint chocolate.

Have any of you kept a gratitude journal? What are you thankful for this week?

The (Un)Working Mom

UnWorking MomHey Mamas – I’m back! Lindsay has been doing a great job of holding down the fort here at Raise a Mother, but I’ve still missed touching base with our village.

The truth is, I’ve been a bit dumbfounded as to what I should write. I lost my job on October 19th, a consequence of the Canadian election results. The fact that it happened was unexpected and the fact that it happened in a very public way — I literally watched my job (and those of many of my friends and colleagues) slowly slip away on national television — have made it particularly difficult. Almost a month later, I am only beginning to stumble out of a sort of fog that has surrounded me.

The reality that I no longer have a job that I loved is hard to take. The other day I told Lindsay, “I’m supposed to be at my office right now, doing my job”. Because that’s how it feels to me – like it’s my office and my job, and that fact that I’m not there doing it is what’s wrong with the picture.

Of course, what’s really wrong with the picture is that it isn’t my job at all. Despite all my best efforts — the long and tiring hours, the weekends away from my family — I lost my job. Someone else is sitting in what is now their office, doing what is now their job. I am sitting in my house, trying to figure out where to go from here. That’s a bitter pill to swallow.

I am definitely results-oriented. I like planning, organizing and checking off lists. I am the person who will add something I have already done to a to-do list, just so that I can have the satisfaction of crossing it off. And like many people I know with this type of personality, I place great value on these aspects of my character. They are intrinsically connected to my self-worth.

This has probably been the biggest personal challenge that I’ve faced in becoming a mother. During maternity leave I had an ongoing to-do list, to keep my mind busy and give me some structure. But I also had to learn to accept that the list was not going to get completed as quickly or efficiently as I might like. Some items might not happen at all. Because no matter how well you prepare or organize, life with children does not always go as planned. In fact, it very often takes you in a completely different direction.

Now I need to learn that same lesson in my professional life. I planned to still have my job and worked hard to keep it, but I can’t cross that goal off my list. I am actively reaching out to my network and applying for jobs, but until I land a new one, I can’t count that as a task completed. I need to find new ways to feel like I’m contributing, and I need new ideas.

One place I know I’ll be spending more time is here with you mamas at Raise a Mother. Have any of you gone through losing a job? How did you cope with the challenge of being unemployed, especially with kids? 

We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section, or in a guest post! 

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