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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Fondant Pigs And Other Fun Reasons I’m Falling Apart.

It’s been a year, don’t you think? With economic crashes, dickhead presidents and the death of several entertainment leaders, we are all feeling a little “what the fucky”.

On top of the state of the nation and all that drama, work is the busiest it has ever been, my child is almost one – so I’m trying very unsuccessfully to plan a Pinterest-worthy party, I’m studying a pretty intensive course and training for Half Iron Man. So yes, a massive pity party for one happening here, except it’s not really a party, because that would involve time, and music and probably applying makeup.

Being a working mom is so hard. And I think you only ‘get’ that when it happens to you. I now have a KZN approach of zero tolerance, and try my best to manage my time like a German soldier – but every so often (read, every day) something slips. And the more it slips, the more it feels that I’m going to start cracking.

Yesterday I bought a tin of formula for Carter. No big deal – he’s been on the same formula for 9 months. Except, the formula I brought home yesterday was a completely different brand to the one he has been using for nearly a year. It doesn’t even look remotely that same. It’s a small thing as exchanging it is minor, or so I thought until I arrived at work today without a handbag, and the till slip I needed to swop out FOOD TO KEEP MY BABY ALIVE. Thank god I keep a tube of lip ice and a tampon in my back pocket, because that’s pretty much been what’s kept me going the entire today. Finding gifts and snacks for a dinner party I’m attending this evening though is another story. Reckon I’ll steal a 2l milk and someone’s tuna from the work fridge and hope for the best.

Let’s not even get started on the errands I need to run just to keep my house and life ticking over. When do other working moms get to these? I’m talking about grocery shopping, downloading photos from an 18-month-old memory card or going to the dentist? Is there a secret? Tell me, quickly, before my teeth fall out (it’s been 3 years since I last had a checkup).

And then there’s traffic, and money (or lack thereof) and getting home after a stressful day to start my 3rd job (yes, I have a 2nd job writing for these guys) to feed, clean, love and bath my baby. Then fit in a run of sorts and spend the next 5 hours standing in sweaty running gear making fondant icing figurines for a first birthday cake which generally ends in my downing fondant and picking up my laptop to carry on with work that just never seems to end.

And then someone – without a kid, a stressful job, a race or a party to plan looks at me and says ‘You have no idea how busy I am’ and I want to simultaneously fall to the floor and weep while punching them in the face with my notebook.

Then, I count to 10 and count my lucky stars that I have a supportive husband, a (newly acquired) domestic helper who works 5 days a week (thank the baby haysus) and a child who I love enough to spend 4 hours making an icing pig for.

icing pig

But still, it’s hard, and not because of one thing, but because of everything, and suddenly a pound of flesh needs to be 10, and 24/7 needs to be 365 and burning the candle at both ends means your candle just doesn’t have enough wicks.

Moms, fucking hell. Way to go. Good job. Pat yourselves on the back – because I’m pretty certain I’m not alone in feeling like I’m breathing in water and treading in mud. Every single day.

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How To Travel With An (Almost) Toddler.

“Never again” is what I whispered to myself this weekend as I tried in vain to quieten my screaming child. Screaming so loud, might I add, that he woke up the dogs on the neighbouring farm. And the roosters and a handful of pigs.

We were away for a wedding, four hours out of Joburg, and the shit had hit the fan. I suppose it was unfair to uproot this little 10 month old, especially after having only been home for two nights post a beach/diving holiday in Sodwana for the week before.

When we first accepted the invite to the ‘child friendly’ wedding, I was pregnant, and the most issues my little cherub had given me was a bout of McDonalds induced diarrhea and some heartburn. Naturally we assumed – like all non-parents – that the fetus would be equally well behaved when he was a baby, and so we gleefully RSVP’d, for all 3 of us.

Fast forward to 10 months and a few days and said fetus turned baby turned satan had decided that no, he would not just sleep after a bottle, and no, he definitely would not scream unless held. And so we did what every sleep deprived, frantic parent did – we bought him into our marriage bed, looked each other in the eyes, and vowed to still love him, despite the raging tantrum currently happening under the duvet.

So whilst we may be to blame for dragging him all over the country, we have also learnt a serious lesson: Your baby will always act out at the most inopportune times. Your baby will also wake up at 5 am after a drunken wedding that ended at 2 am. But I digress.

So, if you are currently an owner of a small human, and are thinking about taking a ‘holiday’, then here is my advice:

Don’t.

If it’s too late, and baby is a certified plus one at your chosen destination, then here are a few more pearls of wisdom:

  1. Pack all the medicine. You will readily think of a valid reason why baby needs Stopane with codeine at 3 am.
  2. Don’t expect smooth sailing. Your child may be the poster kid for routine, but even a slight imbalance (read: camp cot, strange noises, parents having fun) can trigger the antichrist.
  3. Snacks will save your life. Every 5 minutes of silence was courtesy of Flings, Cheerios and biltong. Never underestimate the power of the coolerbag.
  4. When travelling long distances try leave over a nap time, and always pack several changes of clothes and a bottle of wine (I feel I should clarify that the wine drinker should probably be a passenger)
  5. Stay in a venue where you child can still have some sort of a routine – trying to get them to sleep in their pram in a loud restaurant is fun for no-one.
  6. Tag team. Even if it means walking to the edge of the bedroom and quietly banging your head against the door frame for 5 minutes – let your spouse take over when it’s getting too much.
  7. Enjoy the good bits – because I can promise you they far outweigh the bad bits. In the last 2 weeks my son has met the ocean with joy, gazed at silken cows, sat silently through a beautiful wedding ceremony, watched monkeys from the stoep and bathed in a shower. When at a loss, fill that memory bank!
  8. Lastly, have some empathy. I can’t imagine how overwhelming the last 2 weeks must have been for my kid. He was in the car for 30% of it, in strange rooms, around strange people, and yet most of the time he was perfectly behaved. A little tolerance works wonders when you are at your wits end.

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If all else fails, plan a holiday for immediately after the holiday with your kid. And plan it for just the 2 of you, where late nights can be blamed on too much wild monkey sex.

I jest, we all know that leads to more babies.

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From One Martyr, To Another

Happy International Women’s Day for yesterday.

Did you get spoilt, woman? Gosh, I did. I woke up at 5:30, went for a run (with a male friend, because one can’t simply run alone these days), fought my way through traffic, paper work, emails, rude people and unappreciative humans. Fought my way back home after an incredibly stressful day. Fetched my child, went grocery, fed my child, bathed him, made dinner, put him to bed, did some work and then designed an invite for his first birthday party. Then I climbed into bed to sleep, but instead was kept awake by feelings of guilt, exhaustion and long lists of to-do items that are nowhere close to being checked off.

I’m so tired. And not in a jokey ‘a glass of wine and 5-day nap can cure anything’ way. I’m tired to my bones. My face aches from the constant tension in my jaw, I’m tired of constantly fighting my way through life, deadlines, traffic, to-do lists. I’m tired of the feeling of ‘what exactly did I achieve?’ that I feel at the end of every single day. I’m tired of feeling like I take it all on, and that I alone am responsible for the world.

I know I’m not alone, ladies everywhere are feeling the immense and massive pressure of being this ‘does it all, has it all’ woman. I hate to say it, but we have become our own worst enemies. We are all martyrs, and it has to end.

Recently, I read something in a novel that resonated with me, deep in my core:

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“But if a man and a woman work equally hard at things outside the home, who will ensure the children get to the dentist, eat the right foods, have vitamins, get dewormed and learn to share and be kind to others? At the same time, that person needs to ensure that there is toilet paper, shampoo, colouring pencils and three types of cereal….So, by this unquestionable logic, if men do 50% and women do 50%, and men (try as they may) are unable to take over more than 20% of the mothering, that’s another 80% heaped on you. Which is why us women are often not coping, and we need to find a way to fix it” – Jami Yeats-Kastner (Sam, Me and The Hard Pear Tree)

My wish for you all, this Women’s Day (snort) is that you give yourself the respect to just let irrelevant shit go, to rely on a partner or colleague to do their bit, and to be kind to yourself.

My wish for myself it to not take it all on, all the time. It’s to delegate chores and try not have an internal meltdown when I get let down, again. It’s to give myself a pat on the back and remind myself that I’m fucking great. I’m a great mom, I do great work, I have brains in my head and I don’t need anyone to validate me or my actions.

So, short of burning my bra (because it’s expensive, and I rely heavily on it to keep my mom boobs above waist level) I’m going to take a bit of a stand against modern society and tell you all that it’s OK to not always be everything to everyone. Be good to yourself, and go from there.

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I Need A(nother) Stiff Drink.

I’m tired all the time, my hair is falling out in fat chunks and I’m living on wine and carbs. No, not pregnant (thanks everyone, for naturally jumping to that conclusion) just exhausted and in a bit of a quarter year slump. Not surprising that the last few months have been CA-RAZY! In the last 4 months so much has happened and gone down that I’m not surprised my scalp resembles a Chinese Crested Powder Puff (Also, does the dog on the right not look like Bon Jovi??). Here’s whats been happening:

Powder Puff

1. We got Married (Two piccies, because, I can)

Married! Married!

2. We got back from Honeymoon to the news that my mom in law had suffered a very bad stroke after the wedding. The next few weeks were severely stressful with tears, hospital visits and scary ‘what ifs’. (Side note – she is 100% recovered :))

3. We were broken into on Christmas.

4. So…. we decided to sell our house

5. I turned 30 and felt like this (except I didn’t even get a cake)

Birthday Cake

6. I sold my house on my 30th birthday

7. We found our dream home, put in an offer, lost the offer, put in another offer, and got it!

Look – garden, pool, space for actual people!

House

New House

8. We are moving to said house. Tomorrow. And I’m working. Which means poor husband is going to be multitasking the bejaysus out of the day.

9. I’m going on an adventure weekend with Mercedes Benz as part of their launch of the new GLA. This weekend. Moving weekend.Look ma – I’m famous! —> http://www.glaadventure.co.za/the-bush-adventure

10. We gained a little niece. World – meet Emma (also, isn’t my nephew the cutest??)

Daniel and Emma

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