I’m Not The Mom I Thought I Would Be.

We all have a picture in our head of how we think we are going to raise our children, even before we have them. I’d say a large percent of that is based on the way we were brought up as kids, as naturally, we tend to model our parents – willingly or not!

I grew up on a plot. I played with newborn sheep and ate fresh apples out of the bowl. A weekend treat was a glass of Halls juice concentrate and once, after 7 days of solid begging, my parents actually took us to the shops – Fourways Mall – so I could buy a glass tank and some hamsters. I always had the best lunchboxes – gigantic sized things, several ice-cream tubs stacked on top of each other kinda size. My grocery-box consisted of morning, afternoon, lunch and in between treats. Fresh toasted sandwiches still warm and in foil. Individually cut slices of veggies and a homemeade dip. Frozen water that began to melt perfectly in time for hockey practice and thermos’s of soup in winter and for after early morning swimming training.

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Fast forward 31 years and I’m 9 months pregnant and so organised you could hear a pin drop on my day planner. Carters little newborn outfits are packed into individual zip locked bags, labeled, colour coordinated and sized. Clothes smell like baby scented Sta-soft and his room is the nicest place in the house.

Maternity leave was also quite peachy. All that time (ha!). I specialised in martyr and in between baby yoga and baby massage and baby reflexology I baked from-scratch cakes and whipped cream for the top, I hosted and wined and dined and exercised and maintained a home. I blogged and studied and got a diploma or two. I was practically the Martha Steward of Mothers, folks.

Things actually carried on quite smoothly even after going back to work. Barry and I passed like ships in the night – we still do – but we still each got to gym once a day, cook, parent, socialise and not drop any balls.

And then suddenly I was working and studying and training for a Half Iron Man and planning a first birthday party that had to be Pinterest-worthy and then planning my mom’s 60th and interviewing for a new job and maintaining a large circle of friends and then somewhere, something just cracked. It wasn’t a monumental explosion or a giant noise, I just suddenly lost the ability to do everything, all the time. If it hadn’t been for our full-time nanny who started in April I think I would have thrown myself off the nearest Pappachinos jungle gym before Winter hit.

The thing is, I take after my mom – we carry a specialised ‘A-Type gene’ where we are totally convinced that people will simply not like us if we aren’t perfect, all the time. The other thing is, that when we are like this we tend to alienate the people closest to us in order to make space for almost relative strangers. I often find myself moaning at my mom that we never do anything just the two of us, but the same can be said for me. I feel like I’m alienating my own son to try and make room for everything else. I’m missing his last day of school today because I have a career. He has never been to the zoo. On weekends I find people to watch him so my husband can ride his bike and I can go off to do my photography to try earn more money to buy him things out of guilt. We don’t have bowls of fresh apples (very often) and he eats more Marie biscuits than I could begin to remember.

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I feel like I’ve become lazy with the most important person in my life – my son. This past weekend I cleaned the sheet on his cot and was appalled to see that it had a face (literally) shaped hole in it. I’ve defrosted more frozen meals than I’d like to admit and the greenest thing on his pate at the moment are frozen peas. He doesn’t like books and I need him to like books. I don’t push it though because I’m always in a hurry, always rushing from one thing to the next. We both end up in frustrated tears every morning as I’m clipping him in his seat and he can feel the tension vibrating off of me. Meetings, traffic, late late late. I’m sure that’s all he ever feels.

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Oh, sheet!

I’m inconsistent in my discipline. I go from a smack on the hand to a ‘no’ to a ‘here you go’. I put the iPad on when I should be teaching him rhymes and songs. I beg him to play on the jungle gyms at restaurants so I can have half an hour to eat my food. I don’t feel like I’m doing very well at being a great mom.

Don’t get me wrong, my love for this cheeky little human is so big I wonder how it fits in my heart. He is my greatest achievement and my greatest blessing. But I need to treat him with more respect. I need to make the time to spend with him and have the patience to just be with him. Not looking for an out, or a distraction, or picking up my phone, just to be.

Last night we did something totally out of the norm and took him to a Christmas themed event and pantomime. It was late, and out of his routine and quite a drive. It was one of the happiest moments of parenting. The venue was decked from top to bottom in lights and decorations if every shape, size and colour. Carter was mesmerized and after about an hour decided he was brave enough to explore. He made a beeline for a display on the lawn. A few hundred lit up flowers. And for close to half an hour, he moved between every-single flower and stopped to smell each and every one.

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My little wonderful 18-month-old literally showed me how to slow down and stop and smell the roses.

So, my commitment this Festive Season is to try and take a deep breath and find some special time where it can just be us, our little family. Where we can take it all in and remind ourselves of just how lucky we are.

 

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Are Moms Born Martyrs, Or Does Society Make Us That Way?

It was my turn to train this morning. My husband and I alternate days, so while he parented hard and got Carter ready for crèche, I hit a spinning class while it was still dark. I always keep my phone on me when training (because, mom) and at 6 am it beeped with a WhatsApp from my husband. (A bit of context to the story – last night I mentioned that Carters eye had flared up a bit at crèche and his teacher said if it got worse he shouldn’t come to school) So, 6am, me nowhere near the vicinity of my child, the following ensued:

Husband: “What are we doing about Carters eye”?

Me: “So-and so, so and so’s mom, has said she has eye meds (a mom on my WhatsApp group from crèche). She says she will bring to school for Carter

Husband: “So, do I take him to school?”

Me: “Your call, I don’t know how bad it is”

Him: “It’s fine now but it might build up”

Me: “Ok…”

Him: “So how do we get meds?”

Me: “Well, what I would do is to go ask his teacher if so and so’s mom dropped off the meds like she said she would. Otherwise, go to a pharmacy”

Him: “Ok, but if he doesn’t go to crèche then I won’t get the meds”

At this point, my spin had turned into a static as I frustratingly smashed out responses to what I considered to now be the world’s most frustrating conversation.

Me: “I’m leaving gym, I’ll be home in 20.”

And THAT my friends is where we turn into martyrs. Because after 15 minutes of a back and forth conversation that was going nowhere, I felt that unless I went home and sorted it out, it wouldn’t get done.

The thing is, in my husbands defence, he knew exactly what to do, because he’s a magnificent parent – in some ways better than me – but I think, like a lot of husbands, they rely heavily on us to take the guess work out of everything because we just make it so easy for them. Because of course last night I asked a mom group for advice before bed because this is what we do – we plan ahead. All the time.

There is always food in the house, handmade baby dinner is stockpiled in the freezer, toilet paper magically appears on the roll, spices and herbs don’t just finish and there’s always a tin of ‘how did that get there’ dog food just in case we run out of pellets.

I think as women, and moms (and yes, I am absolutely generalising) we take on everything for everyone and because we have been doing it for so long that it’s just become absolutely standard to let us run dry and bleed all over the floor, because we will still get it done.

If I think about the list of every-day items that are on my to-do list, I could vomit. Keeping the family alive aside, scope creep items such as presents and gifts for everything from Fathers Day to birthday presents for that colleague that no-one likes you but you feel sorry for. Dog vet visits, thank you notes, mentally prepping the hors d’ouvres  you’ve committed to making for a party that starts exactly 8 minutes after your work day has ended, restocking the fucking tomato paste. It all comes down to us. Even then, if someone rattled off a list as long as their arm to me I would still then offer to help, because this is what martyrs do.

So, manic bitching aside, what’s the answer? I think the only solution is to just actually trust in someone else to do it if they’ve said they will. But let’s be honest, that is a lot easier said than done, especially when the person (ie me) is an A type OCD control freak who likes things done properly, and done yesterday.

So, starting today soon I’m going to try my damndest to empower those around me to get their own shit done, and to learn to trust in the abilities of other people – because I know that they can do it – I just need to let them. This applies to all aspects of my life – personal and work. No more fixing everything for everyone, no more doing everything when I don’t have to. Except Googling ‘how to clear up a 1-year-olds gunky eye and prevent near-divorce in the processes.’

I feel like that should probably be top of my list.

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