Guest Post – Stay-at-home moms, I salute you!

Because she loves us SO much, Julia’s mother-in-law and the Sisterhood’s second mother, Dianne, joins us AGAIN as a guest blogger. WE LOVE YOU TOO! 

As you may know, I am Nana to 7 amazing grandchildren. They range in age from 6 to 2, or almost 2. I gave birth to and raised 4 wonderful children. During that time, I was a working woman.

This kind of working woman…

African American Woman

…not this kind…

Grandma hooker

I recently had the privilege of spending a day in the life of Julia. With Julia comes her accessories, Sophie, Lillian and Isaac. These are numbers 1, 2 and 6 in the line-up of grandbabies, and they are aged 6, 4 and 2 (okay, almost 2).

Unlike Julia, my day started at a leisurely 6:45. We had planned to spend the day together, but hadn’t worked out the finer details. A text from Julia and I was on my way to their house to bring Nana-Jam, have breakfast and coffee, and swap vehicles with Ben. I arrived at 7:30. By this time things are hopping at the Mills’ household. Everyone but Lillian is up having breakfast, Ben is dressed and ready for work while getting toast for Isaac; Julia is trying to manage 13 things at once, including launching that day’s blog post; and Sophie is being the sauciest six-year-old granddaughter anyone could have –  I wouldn’t have her any other way. Lillian emerges from deep sleep before Ben sprints out the house.

I tell Julia “Sit still, have a coffee and just relax.” HA! DOUBLE HA!

We chat about the things we want to accomplish that day: go to St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market to get fresh strawberries to make more Nana-Jam, a visit to the dollar store, make Nana-Jam, a drop-in kindergarten boot camp for Lillian at the library, a quick run to Costco, lunch at some time, nap for Isaac and down-time for both Sophie and Lillian, supper together and bed time before Ben arrives home after footie practice. That is a fully-packed day for adults, never mind dragging along 3 children.

I am so naïve; I think I can handle this day. I forget what it’s like to be kept in line by the terrorists. They have needs and demands. Lunch is not something that can happen whenever, snacking is a necessity and a nap for Isaac is a must. There are the required bathroom breaks; no, Lillian cannot hold it any longer – either stop and pee in the bushes behind the van at market, or you risk having an accident. And that accident, that one is your fault for not recognizing that children have a bladder the size of a walnut.

Undaunted, we start our day. Because not everyone moves at the same pace, we don’t get onto the road until almost 10.  It’s a Thursday – going to market at 10 am should not pose a problem. But, it’s the Thursday after Canada Day, which means it’s a virtual long weekend. Every man and his dog is at market. We had to park in an area I didn’t even know existed!

FlagThere are so many good things about market. Does it get any better than shopping in the sunshine, smelling the produce, sampling local food? Fortunately, the snacks are plentiful. Bananas and mangoes are the snack of choice. Disaster averted.

It was busier when we were there!

It was busier when we were there!

After the market, we should be thinking about the drop-in kindergarten boot camp. Nope, it was off the list before we got to market.

Okay, let’s visit Aunt Toni. Her office is 2 minutes away from the market. Easy. We don’t get lost, we find Aunt Toni. I am grateful that our visit is in the parking lot; my feet are sore, my knees ache and I really need Tylenol. We get to help make Aunt Toni’s day. The visit has elevated everyone’s spirits.

Next stop, let’s visit Grammie at her work and go for lunch!  Before we arrive to pick up Grammie, Isaac has succumbed to sleep.  No worries – some fuel and he will be good to go until we reach my house for a proper nap.

While Isaac is napping, Julia curls up on the couch. The cool of the rec room, the lull of the TV playing in the background, the calm of the afternoon and she is out too! It’s at this point that I realize she has worked for this nap, and she really deserves it. Me, my feet are sore, my ankle hurts and I’m tired, but I can do this! Besides, it’s hard to nap when grandbabies are talking to you and expect an intelligent response.

It is now just after 4 pm. Isaac is scheduled to wake up. We haven’t started supper yet, there has been no afternoon snack, strawberries are not cleaned let alone made into Nana-Jam. There are so many casualties to the list we so industriously made this morning. I suggest to Julia that we get some grapes for snack while I make supper. Nope, there is that Costco run yet. So, snack then Costco. Easy! HA! TRIPLE HA! I AM SO NAÏVE!

Costco without children is a challenge; Costco with 3 children is insane. But, I can do this. In case you missed it, I didn’t mention that we haven’t unloaded any of Julia’s purchases from market yet. We have only been to my house to unload my purchases.  But, let’s go to Costco to buy more! More necessities, more toilet paper in giant packages, more family-sized boxes of cereal, more over-sized bags of chips, more gallons of yogurt, more cases of diapers and all things family-sized.  And, just to add to the mayhem, let’s pick up these things for other members of the family too!

The hunger is starting to overtake the children. Sophie sees sample tables and begs for a taste, Lillian and Isaac are not far behind. By the time we are done at Costco it is close to 6 pm. We have managed to stuff the van with everyone’s purchases in such a manner that we can actually distinguish my groceries. This will be handy since we are off to my place for dinner. I like this idea as I won’t have to unload groceries by myself later that night.

Julia, an expert at squeezing everything she can into a day suggests that we venture to the dollar store. I implore her, we can’t fit another thing into the van. Off to Nana’s house for a quick supper, thank goodness.

If you refuel children, they get their second wind. Dinner is over at 7:15, Sophie and Lillian are looking to sneak downstairs where all the “good” toys are. No can do, bed time is in 15 minutes and we won’t make it home before then. Did I mention that my feet are killing me, my ankle has started to balloon, my knee aches like a son-of-a-gun and there isn’t enough Tylenol to satisfy me? But, I can do this! I have to do this, Ben still has my car.

After dinner is cleared, it’s time to pack up and head for Ben and Julia’s. Julia drives and I am so grateful. I am yawning like crazy. We make it all the way to bed time for the children. I love them so much and I love them even more when they are tucked in.

We unload the van of the day’s purchases. By ‘we’ I mean Julia unloads the van and walks everything to the door of the house, I just need to place things in the kitchen or in an area for pick up by others. I am so tired.

Oh, did I mention that Julia was going to do some freelance writing that evening, after our monotonous day? Just sneak in an hour or two, that’s all. Nothing to it if you haven’t spent every ounce of your energy running after children. I get set up to watch some TV while waiting for Ben, Julia is busy writing. Mercifully, Ben is not late – he arrives shortly before 9 pm.

I’m exhausted. Julia looks relaxed as she easily jokes with Ben. He has a small gift for her. A while ago, Julia ran a half-marathon with three of her best buds. Ben presents her with a commemorative mug – it has a picture of the victorious ladies. Just another day in the life of.

This day has been long and it has shown me that being a stay-at-home mom is not a life filled with bon-bon eating and watching TV. My ordinary day consists of sitting behind a desk to crunch numbers; I’m a whiz with a calculator and a computer. Saturday and Sunday I’m a regular weekend warrior – I cut the grass, clean the floors and do laundry. I don’t try to manage a plethora of duties including child care, household management, first aid, sanitation for the nation, logistics and supplies procurement. I take my hat off to all the stay-at-home-moms. Their job is the hardest anyone will ever do, but it is the most rewarding. It is the job that will determine the direction our nation will take. These domestic engineers mold our future doctors, teachers, politicians, ditch-diggers, farmers and car mechanics. We should never take them for granted.

~ Dianne (a.k.a. Nana)

If you’d like to write a guest post and join in the Weather Vane Sisterhood fun, email us at weathervanesisterhood at gmail dot com. We’d love to have you!

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Days like these

If you had asked me when I was younger what my life would look like in my 30s, as a mother, as a wife, I would never have been able to guess it would be this.

That my house would be a complete disaster every single day, unless company was coming over, and then it was a minor disaster to be put on hold for a small number of hours.

All the dishes. All the time.

All the dishes. All the time. (That dishwasher is there purely for aesthetic.)

That I would go to bed thinking about all the laundry I need to fold, wash, put away…yet never ever get to.

How many loads of clean laundry can I hide behind my couch?

How many loads of clean laundry can I hide behind my couch? (That chair is tipped over because Isaac likes to climb).

That I would be a stay-at-home mom, walking babies to school, cooking all the meals, in charge of all the cleaning, and watching my hard-earned degree gather dust on our wall.

Have you tried cooking dinner with acrobatics happening at your feet?

Have you tried cooking dinner with acrobatics happening at your feet?

That I would be forced to negotiate with the most unreasonable creatures on the planet just to put on their shoes so we could go to the park FOR THEM, or eat their food because they were the ones sobbing at my feet hungry, or to go to bed and sleep because all of the hysterics that they are currently stuck in are because they are tired.

Waiting for snack time...weirdly patiently.

Waiting for snack time…weirdly patiently.

That I would not get a hair cut in over a year simply because I would need to orchestrate a child-care/salon hours/extra time formula that only works once every 15 months or so.

Can you see my kitchen table? I haven't either.

Have you see my kitchen table? I haven’t either.

That I would donate all of my dress pants, skirts, blouses because I don’t need them anymore – my uniform consists of durable material, wash-and-wear ensembles with denim being the star.

Dress pants are no match for a breakfast thrown by Isaac.

Dress pants are no match for a breakfast thrown by Isaac. And the random dirty sock.

That we would not go to church in months simply because we are too sick/too exhausted/too worn-out to get to one more place on time.

That sitting on the couch and zoning out for an hour, followed by an early bedtime is my idea of the perfect night.

That eating hot food is an anomaly so rare that I regularly burn my mouth whenever the opportunity does present itself.

That I would drink and seek out and need coffee to fuel my day, every day.

Sweet nectar that makes all of my efforts in futility possible.

Sweet nectar that makes all of my efforts in futility possible.

That the feeling of not having a body on me or near me or touching me would be more alien than having three children piled on and around me.

That sleep would be the most precious and most scarce commodity in my life, so much so that on days where the babies are overnight somewhere, sleep is all I can think about.

That when planning our 10-year anniversary trip, that it’s a legitimate toss-up between Europe and an all-inclusive tropical resort because all I want to do is SLEEP.

That I would be fulfilled by the feeling of a smooth, not sticky counter, kitchen table, coffee table, floor.

That I would find pleasure in finding miracle cleaning products that worked instead of just made me work.

That I would write more, clean more, cook more, and walk more with babies hanging off of me, screaming at me, crying on me or asking a million things of me, than not.

He's not really a fan of this blog post.

He’s not really a fan of this blog post.

That I would love my babies more fiercely than anything ever. That I would do all of the above and more for them because it’s ingrained in my DNA that they are mine and I must fight for them.

That I would get up and repeat over and over and over again, regardless of the fact I make no money, have no sick days, and no vacation time.

If you had asked me then, I wouldn’t believe you. And yet, it’s the most natural thing today.

~ Julia

Writing…with children

I want to be a novelist. I want to see my books on the shelves of bookstores. I want to talk to people about the stories that are in my head. And I want to do that as my job. That is the dream. It’s a lofty dream. And it’s all the more complicated because I am a writer…with children.

Kids make everything messier.

Leaving the house is infinitely harder and requires complex terrorist negotiations.

Eating a meal is fraught with flying food and temper tantrums about broccoli touching potatoes.

Going to sleep is a perilous activity that can be interrupted at any time by puking, screaming, or banal updates, such as, “I woke up.”

Even simply moving around your house is now an obstacle course with hard plastic or pointy wooden toys ready to stab you at any moment.

Kids make everything messier.

Me trying to be a writer is no different. Writing my book has taken me almost 5 years so far. And while great novels often take a heap of time, mine is taking so long because of children. Children being born. Children not sleeping. Children not stopping. All the children all the time.

If I could sit down and write my novel in larger chunks of consistent time, I feel like it would be more cohesive (I’m dreading reading it all at once…all in a row…oh, the horror) and that it would probably be DONE by now. Or at the very least, in a third or fourth draft phase.

My book is being written, though, and I feel it’s because I’ve come to accept that writing with children comes with its own set of rules. Here they are (as I know them):

1. Be prepared to write at any time. 

I write at night after the babies go to bed. I write first thing in the morning when I can convince myself that writing is more important, more dear, than a couple more hours of sleep. I write in the morning, when Isaac and Lillian are still getting along. I write during nap time under Lillian while she watches a movie during her quiet time, until I ultimately fall asleep because I’ve stopped moving. One piece of advice that is given to writers is to set up a routine, to write at the same time every day, but when you’re writing with children that golden writing time is a moving target…and you’ve got to hit it when you can and nap when you can’t.

In the morning, when everyone is still in pyjamas.

In the morning, when everyone is still in pyjamas.

2. Be prepared to be joined. 

There is nothing my babies love more than to join me in writing. When I pull out my computer, they also want to pull out their toy laptops. When I’m writing by hand in my fancy journal to plot out my book, they also must have fancy journals. And when I’m editing my paper copy of my written words in my binder, they also want to write and print and colour in a binder as well. I make sure that whichever way I’m writing at the time, they also can join me…otherwise, they might try to join me in other ways…

Isaac...helping...

Isaac…helping…

Lillian sharing her writing with me.

Lillian sharing her writing with me.

Sophie and her masterpiece.

Sophie and her masterpiece.

3. Be prepared to be interrupted. 

Life doesn’t stop just because you need to finish a thought, follow through an idea, or wrap up a section. Children don’t look at you and see you sitting and quiet and pensive and decide, “I’m not going to bug her. She looks busy.” They think the opposite, in fact. They see you there, with your super exciting looking pens and paper, with your coffee that might still be hot, with your eyes closed, maybe, so you can drown out the outside stimulation and focus on the voices in your head, and they say, “This is our moment. This is the time to sit on her, lick her, ask her to help me with my craft, my game, the voices in my head.”

Isaac helping me write this blog post...on my lap...with his blanket.

Isaac helping me write this blog post…on my lap…with his blanket.

4. Be prepared for your solo writing to be a compilation. 

When I was in my writing class, we were tasked with providing critiques of the other writers’ work. I would often have to hand back copies of their stories with Sophie’s scrawls all over them, because she wanted to help. Everyone was lovely and said it made the critiques more charming…but in truth, I wonder how many authors would put up with that kind of nonsense. In my fancy novel-planning journal, you will find crayon, marker, pen, pencil and stickers, all from each of my children. And I like to think of it anthropologically, that when my biographer goes through my notes, or when my planning goes viral, like Ms. Rowling’s, they’ll see that I was writing with children. And that that is not for the faint of heart.

Stickers from Sophie...to help make my book look beautiful. Success.

Stickers from Sophie…to help make my book look beautiful. Success.

5. Be prepared for all the rules to get tossed out the window. 

If there’s one thing I know about child-raising, it’s that the rules change, sometimes moment to moment. I’ve had to come to terms with this in my own writing life, and it’s been a hard pill to swallow. I have all of these ideas and all of these words and the characters are screaming and want to be let out, but they can’t because I am a full-time mom, both in work and at home. It’s what I do. And that means that sometimes I’ll get to write on consecutive days. And other times I won’t be able to write for weeks, or even months. That sometimes I’ll nail writing in my scriptorium that Ben built for me in our laundry room and others I’ll be at the dining room table. That some days I’ll have energy and creative fire, and others I’ll want to nap with my free time. It’s the way of parenting, it’s the way of life with children, and it’s the way of writing. Sometimes things go exactly as planned. And others are so far from any plan you wonder if you’ll ever get back on track. At the end of the day, though, I’m a writer. And whether it takes me 5 years or 10 years to finish my book, I will. Because how else will I ever shut the voices in my head up?

~ Julia

A day in the life: Julia edition

I was the mastermind behind the “A day in the life” posts that you’ll see here this week. Mostly so I could spy on my sisters. And so I could see how childless and working and non-working people spend their time. I know how spend my time…and it always seems like a lot of running around for a lot of nothing. At least, nothing you can actually see. So, what does a day in the life of Julia, stay-at-home mom to three kids, ages 5, 3, and 1, look like? Here we go!

My day starts EARLY. Mostly because I need some Julia time in the day and by the end of the day I just don’t have the energy for it. By the time every little’s head hits the pillow, I SO want to join them. So my alarm is set for 4:45 a.m. and I’m usually out of bed by 5.

Then it’s get dressed to get sweaty, have some water and something small for pre-breakfast. The morning in question it was a peach!

Pre-breakfast of champions!

Pre-breakfast of champions

I’m out of my house by 5:15 a.m. and listening to a little CBC radio. This early in the morning it’s BBC programming, but it’s adult and talking and gloriously quiet and CHILD-FREE.

Proof!

Proof!

Then it’s off to one of two places: either running with honourary sister and my sister-in-law, Kim, or walking with my other mom, my mother-in-law Dianne (and Kim…she slept in that day…LAZY BUM).

Hello gorgeous!

Hello gorgeous!

Every weekday morning starts with something active…and I LOVE IT. Then it’s back home for just before 7, where I usually walk into the kitchen to find this:

What the...?

What the…?

My handsome husband Ben gets up with the babies, gets them dressed and breakfasted so that I can have a little me-time right off the hop. LOVE YOU, Sir. From here, I grab a quick shower (no pictures!), if I’m lucky, or get changed out of sweaty clothes into more respectable clothes (you know, hanging out in public with showered people clothes). Then, it’s the sprint for the door.

Multi-tasking babies - making block castles and putting on socks.

Multi-tasking babies – making block castles and putting on socks.

I make sure everyone has what they need for their day: Sophie for senior kindergarten, Lillian for potty training nightmares, and Isaac for eating, pooping, napping, and playing.

Oh, hai Mom! I'm just making a giant mess in the kitchen while you run around. No big deal.

Oh, hai Mom! I’m just making a giant mess in the kitchen while you run around. No big deal.

And I attempt to insert a little food and caffeine into me so I’m not a nightmare myself.

Coffee numero uno (aka most important coffee of the day)

Coffee numero uno (aka most important coffee of the day)

Usually by this point, everyone doesn’t want to leave and we are LATE. So, the fight out the door begins.

Fight number 1 - what shoes to wear. Answer: ANY SHOES PUT THEM ON NOW.

Fight number 1 – I WANT TO WEAR ALL THE SHOES THAT DON’T HAVE MATES. Answer: PUT ANY PAIR OF SHOES ON NOW.

On the day that we’re following me around for, Lillian had speech therapy, so we were driving to school instead of walking. You’d think this would make it easier, faster, etc. etc., but NO. Do not be fooled. Driving can sometimes take INFINITELY longer because of all the added packing into the van and packing out of the van and packing back into the van. Seriously. Walking out the door to go to school is so much easier. A double-stroller, three babies, one neighbourhood kid (who I walk and watch before and after school), the phone, some keys, and we’re off. Easy-peasy. The van? Appointments? SO MUCH MORE COMPLICATED.

Fight number 2: I WANT TO OPEN AND CLOSE THE DOORS AND CARRY MY BACKPACK AND I DON'T CARE THAT I'M CRAZY OR THAT WE'RE LATE. Answer: GET IN THE VAN NOW NOW NOW.

Fight number 2 – I WANT TO OPEN AND CLOSE THE DOORS AND CARRY MY BACKPACK AND I DON’T CARE THAT I’M CRAZY OR THAT WE’RE LATE. Answer: GET IN THE VAN NOW NOW NOW.

We live just over 1 km from the school, which takes us, complete with stick-picking-up, worm-examining, and various temper tantrums, 25 minutes to walk. To drive, 2 minutes. Maybe. With kids? 15 minutes, easy. We leave for the school around 9 to get there for the bell at 9:20. Kids are AWESOME.

Oh, hai, pack mule.

Oh, hai, pack mule.

Parking around the school is INSANE and people are INSANE, so we park on a side street and walk a little. The moment all the children explode out of the van, I become the carrier of all back-packs…which I don’t mind. The kids are so small and the bags are so big. AND they’ll run (not meander) if they’re not weighed down. Win-win.

Notice that the only kid wearing a backpack is Lillian...the kid who doesn't NEED a back-pack but demands to bring one.

Notice that the only kid wearing a backpack is Lillian…the kid who doesn’t NEED a back-pack but demands to bring one.

We drop off the neighbourhood friend first and then we wait with Sophie in her school line for the bell. At this point, Lillian goes to the fire hydrant and tries to scale it. Every. Day. Even though I tell her not to. Every. Day. My life is so glamourous.

After Sophie goes inside, with waving and hugs and ‘Have a good days!’, it’s the short, yet TAKES FOREVER walk back to the van.

Lillian is in that tree. No, seriously.

Lillian is in that pine tree. No, seriously.

On this walk back to the van, I had to flag down another mom to make sure Isaac didn’t roll away in the stroller while I got Lillian out of the tree (no, really), and then we could get in the van. Lillian was a butt. And crying. Because I made her get out of the tree. I’m such a mean mom. No, seriously.

We made it. Alive. Barely. But we're here.

We made it. Alive. Barely. But we’re here.

Once we get to the fabulous organization that provides Lillian with necessary auditory verbal therapy (AVT or speech therapy), the first task at hand is to get Lillian to go pee. AKA let’s pull out all of our sweet and nice and not frazzled voices to calmly coax the shy, ridiculous bomb of a kid who could go off at any moment to put her pee in the toilet instead of all over everything. Super fun times. I swayed her with the promise of pushing the handicap button to open the door. She took the bait and peed. Success. Off to hang out with Heather, our speech therapist extraordinaire.

Lillian and Heather chatting at the beginning of the session. I love that Lillian CHATS. <3

Lillian and Heather chatting at the beginning of the session. I love that Lillian CHATS. ❤

Lillian rocked, Heather was amazing, Isaac was a bum who tried to get into everything, and I cried. No, seriously. I think it’s because I was tired. And I had only one cup of coffee. And my period is coming. And the morning had been stressful getting four kids to school in the van and make it on time for our appointment. And I’m really worried about Lillian and her going to school. But I was talking about the various things I’m planning on doing to help Lillian get ready for school (another post for another day) and voila! Tears. Heather, a mom herself, was lovely and didn’t get scared. She talked me out of my tree and all was well. Whew.

After therapy, we went to the grocery store to pick up some supplies for lunch at Aunt Kim’s house. It was her birthday and we pinned her down for a lunch date so we could love on her. (Note: It’s also Uncle Todd’s birthday (they’re twins) but he had to work because he’s a grown-up and he lives farther away, so no date with him. Love you, Todd!) We got Caesar salad ingredients, a rotisserie chicken, and a giant loaf of French bread. Easy, yummy, and baby-friendly. I got another round of all of that for dinner that night so I wouldn’t have to cook/come up with anything at 5 p.m. Not just a pretty face, my friends.

On a mission for some birthday fun!

On a mission for some birthday fun!

We got to Aunt Kim’s (and Emma’s!) house at around 12:30 (traffic was nuts because of an accident and every route was a nightmare) and quickly set up lunch.

Hungry, hungry babies eating spatulas.

Hungry, hungry babies eating spatulas.

After we devoured the food, we got to eat delicious cupcakes baked by Kim for her birthday (she’s so super fabulous…and ridiculous).

So pretty!

So pretty!

Lillian loved them…

What do you mean icing isn't the same as hand cream?

What do you mean icing isn’t the same as hand cream?

…and so did Emma.

Do I have something on my face?

Do I have something on my face?

Next up, Emma went down for a nap and Lillian and Isaac decided to play with all of Emma’s toys, like the good cousins they are.

Ball pit, anyone?

Ball pit, anyone?

While all of that ‘fun’ was happening, I got to do this:

Hello, coffee number 2. I've been waiting ALL DAY for you.

Hello, coffee number 2. I’ve been waiting ALL DAY for you.

But, did I get a picture of the birthday girl? Nope. No I did not. Super photographer/blogger here.

Soon it was back in the van to go get the Sophie and friend from school. More packing just so we can unpack so we can pack again. Yay.

So sleepy. I feel exactly how they look.

So sleepy. I feel exactly how they look.

We got back to the school with 10 minutes to spare before the bell. You’d think that would be enough time…but some days, you’d be wrong. It all depends on Lillian’s mood. Are we running? Are we crying? Are we exploring? All very different speeds there.

Isaac didn't make it. Lillian had cupcake to burn off. Run to the school it is!

Isaac didn’t make it. Lillian had cupcake to burn off. Run to the school it is!

We made it in time and I got a text saying that our friend had a doctor’s appointment, so we wouldn’t be picking her up. One less kid to pack and unpack on a Friday afternoon. DEAL.

Since we didn’t have the friend and I already had dinner in the bag (literally) and we had the van (which means no walking home), we hit up our good friends the Bakers for a play date. Our other friends, Andrea, Baby Ben and Natalie were also there. It was lovely to catch-up since we hadn’t really had a chance since the beginning of the school year. (Schedules are hard, y’all.)

Isaac exploring the not-so-baby-proofed house

Isaac exploring the not-so-baby-proofed house.

After we played for a bit, it was after 5 and time to get home. Leaving a play date is always dicey. No one wants to leave and everyone is cranky (including me). So, it’s round up children, firmly, and over a period of TOO MANY MINUTES and leave with as few of them in tears as possible (including me). This time only one kid was crying:

I'm the worst mother for making her leave and then for taking this picture.

I’m the worst mother for making her leave and then for taking this picture.

School has been rough on her. The return to the schedule and no quiet time in the afternoons and no sleeping in has kind of run her over. She earns her bedtime every night. I’m hoping in a couple of weeks she’ll be back to normal and the freaking out will stop. Please.

We get home, unpack everyone, and go inside. I attempt to clean up the kitchen in lieu of cooking dinner, but someone wasn’t having any of it:

Dammit, Mom, pay attention to ME!

Dammit, Mom, pay attention to ME!

So instead, I sat down on the couch and chilled out with the babies until our saviour made it home.

Underneath babies, chilling out

Underneath babies, chilling out

Finally, finally, Ben came home just before 6. On days he bikes or takes the bus (because I need the van), he gets home just before 6. On days he takes the van, he can get home as early as 5:25. Those 35 minutes make all the difference in the entire world. SERIOUSLY.

He's here! He's here! PRAISE THE LORD!

He’s here! He’s here! PRAISE THE LORD!

Ben goes upstairs to shower and I return to the couch to wait for him. There’s no way I’m making dinner with Isaac losing his mind. Some days I can. And most days I do. But I’m just as tired as him and it won’t be pretty. Best to wait the 10 minutes and get Ben to help with dinner prep. He comes downstairs, he takes over dinner, and it’s like magic.

Children playing quietly and nicely around his feet. Tricky to walk around, heaven to listen to.

Children playing quietly and nicely around his feet. Tricky to walk around, heaven to listen to.

Then supper, where we talk about our days, the plans for later that night or, in this case, the weekend. A time for knock-knock jokes and I-spy and singing and reminding to sit on our chairs, eat over our plates, stop throwing our cups/food on the floor, get our toes off the table and for the love of god, finish eating! There’s nothing like a family meal.

It looks fairly organized...but don't be fooled.

It looks fairly organized…but don’t be fooled.

After dinner, Ben hangs out with the babies and I tidy up. It might seem like the 1950s have settled in our home after dinner, but the truth is I never get to clean up without ‘help’ during the day and I love the zen of it after a crazy, loud, constantly moving day. So Ben plays, which I do all day, and I clean, which I love because it’s without children hanging off of me or undoing what I’ve just done right behind me.

Just one day of crumbs and dirt and debris...jeepers.

Just one day of crumbs and dirt and debris…jeepers.

And now, the most wonderful time of the day: bedtime.

Isaac usually goes down with the girls. I nurse him while they’re getting pyjamas on, he might make it through one story, and then he’s whisked off to bed when things get too cranky to handle. But on this night, we had no schedule and no long naps, so Isaac was mad and tired nice and early. I left Ben to hang out with the girls…

Snuggle time with some TV

Snuggle time with some TV

…and I snuck upstairs to watch The Queen and nurse my tired fella.

I used to read while I nursed, but then he started grabbing the books...so now he eats and I watch a movie with captions on and no sound.

I used to read while I nursed, but then he started grabbing the books…so now he eats and I watch a movie with captions on and no sound.

After Isaac is down, it’s the girls’ turn. Pyjamas are put on, stories are read, babies are wrapped, blankets are layered in a very specific order, and children are tucked in. I LOVE what bedtime accomplishes. Getting there? Fighting to get them INTO bed? I hate it. But when they actually make it? Heaven.

We MADE it.

We MADE it.

Now, what do two parents whose children are all sleeping do with themselves on a Friday night? Ben always asks me what I want to do. And I never know. Or if I know, I don’t want to tell him because I want him to be able to do what he wants to do before I sway him with my opinion. So, this face happens:

"What do you want to do?"

“What do you want to do?”

And I tell him, I want to vegetate. I want to stop moving. I want to stay still. I want to zone out and watch TV. And that is all.

Out come the treats…

Don't tell Toni...

Don’t tell Toni…

…out come the pillows…

I'm laying down on a couch by myself. HOLLA!

I’m laying down on a couch by myself. HOLLA!

…and we decide on watching Modern Family episodes (they’re quick and not as long as a movie…because let’s be clear…I’m not going to make it through a whole movie).

Look at my date!

Look at my date!

After snacks are consumed and I’ve had enough time to enjoy being by myself, the (G-rated) snuggling happens, which is one of my favourite parts of the day…after bedtime and actually sleeping.

So happy together!

So happy together!

At 10ish, I decide I am all done. We turn off lights, make sure everything is set up for night feeds for Ben (we alternate night feeding so we’re both equally sleep-deprived. Romantic, right?), and head upstairs…which Isaac senses every. single. night. Without fail, he wakes up to eat right before I want to go to bed. BAH.

More nursing, more The Queen, only this time, in pyjamas

More nursing, more The Queen, only this time, in pyjamas

Once Isaac is back in his bed, Ben gets under the covers and falls asleep INSTANTLY. Which is crap, because that usually means he starts to snore INSTANTLY. I, on the other hand, need to read before bed or my brain won’t turn off. It will run every worry, to-do list, every missed opportunity, every forgotten item or task ever, and I’ll never get to sleep. I’ve been reading Annabel by Kathleen Winter, which is beautifully written. I love the language and the way the story is being told. It doesn’t hurt that it’s written by a Canadian woman, either.

Her writing is described as luminous, and I can't disagree

My sleeping pill

And finally, finally, it’s time for bed. I’m whooped. The day has been loooong and full. And tomorrow? Well, tomorrow I’ll get to do it all over again. Yay!

Waaaaay past my (ideal/desired/never hit it but wish and dream about it) bedtime

Waaaaay past my (ideal/desired/never hit it but wish and dream about it) bedtime

~ Julia

Surprises of a stay-at-home mom

Before I had children, and knew everything (ha!), I had ideas about what stay-at-home parents did, what their houses looked like, and what their lives looked like. I also knew (ha!) that I’d never, ever become one. Ever. Never.

I went to a fancy university. I got a fancy (read: expensive) degree. I was a smart cookie. I had plans. I had ambitions. I had ideas. And I was stupid.

Fast forward through four pregnancies, three children, and years of being a stay-at-home mom to today, and let me tell you: I knew nothing. And I still know nothing.

I had some surprises when I became a stay-at-home parent and I thought I’d share them with you. So here, without further ado, are the 10 things that shocked the crap out of me when I became a stay-at-home mom:

1. My house will always be messy. If you do some quick math, I’m home from 10 until 3 every day. That’s five hours of prime cleaning time, you would think. But in reality, I do not have ‘free’ time from 10 until 3. I might have maybe 30 minutes of free time, maybe, and those minutes may not come all at once. They might come scattered throughout the day. So, while one would suppose (like I did before I took this gig) that I would have a magazine-worthy house, the fact of the matter is that there will always be floors to sweep, dishes to wash, toys to tidy, furniture to dust, windows to clean, toilets to scrub, and mirrors to shine. Always. It’s a horrible, self-perpetuating system that never ends.

2. The laundry will never be done. In therapy this week I was lamenting about the fact that my house is in constant chaos (see number 1) and that my laundry is never, ever ‘caught up’. One of the therapists (I had the pleasure of two at my last session!) said, “Unless you become nudists, that’s just the way it is.” She’s right. Even while I’m washing clothes, four other people besides myself are wearing clothes. Dirtying clothes is happening while I’m cleaning clothes. It’s just not fair. And it’s my reality.

3. I will not have a plan for every day. Somewhere in my ridiculous head I thought stay-at-home parents had some sort of social engagement calendar, filled with play dates, book clubs, leisurely coffees in shops, walks in the park pushing a  pram, library visits for grown-up books, or trips to the zoo, beach, fill-in-the-name-of-a-cool-place-here. So not the case. In fact, when we have a day where there isn’t a doctor’s appointment, a speech therapy appointment, groceries to fetch or errands to run, it’s blissful. It’s relaxing. It’s so much better than transporting all of the children with all of the things to the place that they’ll most likely destroy.

4. My kids will not do elaborate crafts every day. Or be enrolled in every play group or activity available to little people who aren’t in school. In fact, the moments where these things happen will be magic and the exception, and will be incredible and awesome, but will also be exhausting to coordinate, too expensive if they’re not free, and will wipe out any energy for anything else that week, making us yearn for days of nothing again (see number 3).

5. I will miss going to work. Before my last maternity leave from my last job, I couldn’t wait to stop working. To be at home and not have to get up with an alarm, or get dressed in fancy clothes and wear uncomfortable shoes, and eat lunch at a desk, and deal with the office politics that float in every workplace. But the reality of my day, complete with God-knows-what on my clothes, my hair looking like I’ve been run over by a tornado, and screaming children bouncing on me at 5:30 every. morning. there are some days, shockingly, that I dream of showering, brushing my teeth, going into work with clean, respectable clothing on, having structure to my day, performance reviews that don’t involve shrieking or temper tantrums, and a lunch where no one touches me. Some days having an out-of-the-house job sounds downright dreamy.

6. I will feel trapped sometimes. There seems to be such freedom for people who don’t have to work. But that’s just the thing: even though I don’t go anywhere, I still have to work. And my bosses don’t quit at 5 p.m. or stop sending demands outside of work hours. There are no such things as work hours. And so, some days, when my Monday looks like my Wednesday, which looks like my Saturday, it feels like I’m on a continuous loop with no end and no reprieve. Some days, there is nothing but boundary and restriction in my seemingly freedom-filled day.

7. I will wonder if I made the right decision. It’s a big decision to not return to work, to stay at home, and yet, for us, it was such a short conversation and it was made with very little debate or fuss. Ben and I talked about a few things: money that we would otherwise make, money we’d save if one of us stayed home, his career trajectory being able to recover in his industry versus mine after an extended absence, Lillian’s needs in terms of appointments at the children’s hospital an hour away, speech therapy weekly (at that time), and hearing aid/implant upkeep, and it just made sense: we needed someone to stay home and the person that it would work best for was me. Although logical, some days I wonder if everyone wouldn’t be happier, better off, our bank account less stressed out, if I were to just return to work. Some days.

8. I believe stay-at-home parents should be paid. I didn’t before. Because I didn’t recognize the magnitude of what they were doing and the positive effect they were having on their families by staying home. It’s a luxury in this day to stay home with your children. It shouldn’t have to be. It should be an option every family, whether single-parented or blended or couple-parented should have. It should be something that everyone has access too, not just the very rich. And let me say, we are not the very rich. I don’t know if we should get paid what people think we’re worth (like the infographic below argues), but I do think we should get something to make ends meet a little bit easier.

SAHM salary

No one is paying me this, let me tell you.

9. I don’t eat bon-bons and watch my stories. A little bit of me (okay, a lot a-bit-of-me) thought that stay-at-home parents had days like working people have when they call in sick – daytime TV, naps, lounging around in your pyjamas, eating because you’re bored, reading, playing video games, taking hot baths and going to bed early. Just like people who think having children is like having pets, I was mega-wrong. Even on days that Ben is home or someone is here helping me, my day doesn’t look anything like the sick days I had when I was in school or when we were just married.

10. I will work hard every day to stay present. It sounds like a fantasy, especially to a new mom or dad facing having to return to work: you get to stay home and watch your children grow up. You won’t miss the firsts that working parents might. You won’t miss out on milestones and you’ll have all the answers and know everything about your baby at appointments or when people ask. You’ll know you are your baby’s everything. The hard truth for me is that some days I want to be anywhere but here. That not every day is a monumental day that I give thanks for because I got to witness the first crawl, the first step, the first word, the first poop in the potty. That some days are bad or boring. Some days nothing happens at all, the minutes crawl by, and there is no end to the poop in the potty. Some days suck. But I know that this gift, this luxury, is a once-in-a-lifetime. That our babies will never be this age again, that I will never have this much access again. That I have a gift that Ben does not. That being home is a blessing. And I will work every day, even those crappy ones, to remember that. And I will accept that some days it will be impossible to remember. But most days it will be the thing that gets us through.

~ Julia

Momfessions

I am a stay-at-home mom. In another life, where I had time to straighten and then curl my hair, where I didn’t drink coffee because I didn’t need it, and where there was far less crazy around me, I was a professional corporate writer. Super sexy, I know.

Now, I wear jeans every day, except bad days or days when the laundry is waaaaay overdue, and then I wear yoga pants. Or pyjamas. All. Day. Long. (Living the dream, right here).

My standard hairdo is a messy bun that inevitably comes apart as I chase babies, sit on couches under babies, and change countless bums. Oh, the poop.

My fancy, or the bit of sparkle in my outfit, is found in the pearl earrings I wear and the eyeliner and mascara that I count as part of my daily uniform. Without these three things, I feel tired, depleted, and run over.

There is an underbelly to this super-relaxed-yet-never-relaxed lifestyle that I want to expose. Things that I feel kind of dirty about admitting. And things that I feel other moms or dads or people whose job it is to chase children will understand. Here are my Momfessions (mom+confessions = I’m super smart).

I brush my teeth in secret. Sometimes. Not all the time, because technically I’m supposed to get my babies to brush their teeth all the time too. But sometimes, when I just don’t feel like hauling out four different toothbrushes, two different toothpastes, and helping one daughter balance on the toilet while the other one hogs the sink, I sneak a teeth-brushing. It’s bad, I know. And kind of sad. But let me tell you – I LOVE brushing my teeth. It’s like a massage for my mouth, it makes me feel fresh and clean even if I can’t remember the last time I had a shower, and I hate having bad breath. Or worrying about having bad breath. So sometimes, I quietly uncap the toothpaste, slowly turn on the water, maybe flick on the bathroom fan to cover me, just so I can brush my teeth without having to help other people spit or clean up the spit that just didn’t make it into the sink.

I have admired Sophie’s hair while she was puking. Sophie, my oldest daughter, is a puker. Any car trip longer than 15 minutes can turn into a full exorcism of everything she’s ever eaten, ever. We have a stock of Gravol on hand and she has become quite adept at puking into a large plastic cup while we’re driving and not getting any on herself. One time, when she wasn’t carsick, just flu-sick, I was holding her hair back as she heaved over the toilet, I noticed the stunning, natural highlights in her hair, the way her hair beautifully gathered and fell in her own version of a messy bun, and how shiny and new it was. And then I got jealous. Of my daughter’s hair. While she was puking.

I can fit a whole Oreo in my mouth. And then chew it without giving myself away. There are moments when the chief cook-and-bottle-washer needs a little treat. And usually those moments require that I don’t share the treat…because who wants to give their kids sugar right before lunch or right before supper or in the middle of the afternoon or ever, really. This skill can be transferred to spoonfuls of peanut butter, handfuls of chocolate chips, or cold chicken wings leftover in the fridge.

I would rather keep driving than go home when the babies are asleep in the van. Waking up sleeping babies is against everything I believe in and the quiet that comes from babies asleep in a moving vehicle is like no other. I wish that gas were free so I could keep driving forever, so that they would be asleep for longer, and it would be quieter for just a few more moments.

I cherish the quiet outside of the van. In fact, it is one of my favourite moments in a day when we have appointments we have to drive to. Normally, Ben has the van and, as a one-vehicle family, we walk or stay put. But on days where wrangling everyone out of the door includes seats and buckles on top of the usual winter clothing and negotiations, my favourite time is when all the doors are closed, when the screaming is contained, and when all of them are strapped into their seats. There is nothing more peaceful than being by myself for a few seconds, no matter how fleeting.

My favourite day of the week is Thursday. And not because of the hot TV on at night (Grey’s and Scandal…SO good). But because of the flyers that come in the local free paper. I love flyer day. It’s the day that I get to sit down and find the best deals on groceries, dream about shopping at the local crafting store with the 40%- and 50%-off coupons, and then satisfyingly recycle all of it, clearing away a pile of paper and clutter. LOVE Thursdays.

I hate that the girls like bacon. There was a time, not so long ago, when both Sophie and Lillian couldn’t eat bacon. It was too chewy for them and either they would choke, or simply chew and chew and chew and then spit it out. So having bacon and eggs meant that Ben and I got some of the delicious salty pig and the kids did not. Now they are older and their eating is more sophisticated and skilled. And they actually like it. In fact, Sophie will often ask for more than one piece and with all of the fabulous counting skills she’s learning at school, she knows when it’s divvied up fairly or not. Hate that we have to share our bacon.

Momfessional over. I’m not sure if I feel better or not.

Anything you’d like to share?

~ Julia