Getting rid of me, myself and I to become a mother

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I always wanted children, at some point in my life. I never really had a specific age at which I wanted it to happen, but I just knew that I loved children and would become a mother, one day.

In spite of my love for kids and my desire to have them, before my son was born, I started to fall into a place where my life was comfortable and children seemed like such an inconvenience.

I was single, I lived abroad, I worked late nights, I travelled with ease when I wanted to. I was accustomed to my lifestyle and children just seemed so … needy.

They depend on you for EVERYTHING and you can’t do the things you want to do, when you want to do them. Say goodbye to sleep, girls’ night at the clubs, my body without stretch marks and sagging skin and most importantly me time.

Every time I thought about it, it seemed dreadful, scary and made me wonder if I would ever really be ready to be a mother.

Then I got pregnant.

I was thrust into motherhood. The sleepless nights, no more wild nights with the ladies, no more date nights, no more me time. I won’t be able to do this ever again. I can’t go here. I can’t have that. Everything that ran through my head had to do with me, myself and I.

Russell Brand, in an interview on The View, recently said something that describes perfectly the epiphany that you experience after having children:

“A baby is the materialization of I’m not the most important person in the world.”

Since having my children, I was forced to stop being self-absorbed and selfish. Every decision I make and everything I do can no longer be about me because there are two little lives that depend on me to keep them comfortable, happy and alive. I am no longer the center of my little universe.

I know that for some people, making such a sacrifice is unthinkable. I get it. Like I said, I was in the same place that you were before my sons were born. In addition, it doesn’t help that we now live in a world in which being self-involved is the norm and when you are accustomed to looking out for just yourself the thought of shifting all of the attention from yourself to your children can be daunting.

However, not being able to maintain your single lifestyle should not be the only reason for deciding to not have children.

Now I am not saying that you are a bad person if you don’t want children. Absolutely not. The decision to have a baby is a huge and personal decision that should take several factors into consideration. Not everyone is meant to have a family and being a parent may not be your particular calling and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

In fact, if you genuinely do not like or want children, then don’t have them. Don’t feel as though you should “compromise” (I have heard people use this term when referring to their kids) just to make your family or society happy. Then you may end up raising your children in a household filled with resentment, regret and possibly neglect which is just unhealthy for both you and the children.

What I am saying is that the decision not to have a baby, should be an all-encompassing decision and not solely based on our selfish desires.

Yes, before kids I enjoyed travelling by myself, where I wanted, when I wanted. But now, even though planning a vacation involves several more steps and a lot more preparation than when I was single, I enjoy seeing my kids get excited about flying in a plane and being able to provide them with experiences that would last a lifetime.

Yes, it was the best feeling in the world to sleep straight through the night in my own bed with no one kicking me in the face (man I miss that). But now I enjoy cuddling those little bodies when they have a bad dream in the middle of the night and need comfort.

Yes, I loved the fact that I could exercise whenever was convenient for me and was able to keep my body in some sort of order. But now I enjoy having impromptu dance parties with my kids and hearing them laugh until their stomachs hurt.

Even though I thought I wasn’t ready for kids, when my boys came into my life they changed me. They changed my priorities, the things I enjoyed doing and the way I viewed the world in general. They opened my eyes to what was really important and if I hadn’t let go of my fears and dared to open my heart to someone other than myself, I would have missed out on having two of the best things that ever came into my life.

 

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The harsh realities of life – kindergarten edition

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From the moment your children are born, you try your best as a mother to shield them from the harsh realities of life.

Things go pretty well for a while, that is until kindergarten. Kindergarten is where things start to get real. And sometimes ugly.

My eldest son is now in the equivalent of a US kindergarten class (they have a different name for it in his school) and, apart from the expected reading, writing and arithmetic, he has also been receiving some other, unexpected lessons.

My son is a very energetic, fun loving and intelligent boy. He makes friends pretty easily and is a comedian extraordinaire. At school, he has always been well-known and well-liked. Life was good.

Enter the new kid at school.

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The new school year brought with it new children and, apparently, a new rival, we’ll call him Frank. Now, remember, this is kindergarten, so the rivalry is less “punch you in the face” and more “he is a poopy head”. But, Frank is a rival nonetheless.

For the first time, my son is experiencing the fickle nature of humanity. Today they are friends, tomorrow they are not. And when they are not, anyone who chooses to be friends with Frank, will also be on my son’s list.

Frank has even been attracting the attention of some of the girls in the class who were once my son’s “devoted fans” (it is way too soon for all of this).

Even though my son has done a pretty good job in ignoring the rivalry  (overall he has impressed me with how mature he is being about the whole issue), I can still tell that, on some days, it bothers him.

I think what bothers him most is that for the first time he can’t seem to figure out how to make this person like him.

Yes, they are “friends” sometimes and that changes as the wind blows, but, for the first time, he has met someone who does not naturally march to the beat of his drum.

For the first time my son is learning that not everyone is going to like him and he cannot force people to like him (something some adults still have not learnt).

Many people still feel the need to do anything to get the validation and admiration of other people. They hover over Facebook and Instagram monitoring their likes, follows, comments and views so that they could feel a false sense of acceptance, importance and happiness.

But these things are not real and do not last.

As my sons get older, I want them to know the joy of genuine friendship. I want them to know that genuine friendship usually comes in smaller numbers and that it is perfectly fine to only have two “ride or die” friends rather than ten “friends” you could never count on or who really don’t have your best interests at heart.

I want my sons to be confident enough to never feel the need to compromise who they are, what they like or their whole belief system just to be accepted into a particular group because by doing this they lose the very things that make them special.

Likewise, I want them to understand that they should never try to change anyone into what they think is “better” and that friendships cannot or should not be strategized.

I imagine in time the rivalry between my son and Frank may disappear and who knows, they may even grow up to be the best of friends later on. But for now, let the life lessons continue.

 

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30 day declutter challenge fail

At the beginning of August, I boldly proclaimed that I was going to embark on a 30 day declutter challenge.

This was going to change my life. I was excited and completely fired up to get started. I was going to share my progress on Facebook and Instagram weekly so that I could inspire others. It was going to be awesome.

42 days later and my house seems to be more cluttered than when I started.

Day 1 went off without a hitch. I decluttered a junk drawer. I posted that picture on Instagram and Facebook. Things were looking good.

Day 2 to 30 – never happened.

Not for a lack of trying though. Life and my kids just did not want me to declutter my house. Between running around trying to get all my errands out of the way and being occupied with my kids, I was never able to (in the mood to) do any of the other things on the list.

Somewhere around day 15, while my kids were napping, I tried to accomplish the day-2 task of cleaning out my closet. As soon as I sat down to begin, those little, beady eyes popped open. So there went that plan.

For some reason, no matter how deep in sleep kids are, they can always sense when you are going to do something important and completely turn your plans upside down and inside out.

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So after my immense failure at this challenge, I decided that I will not be doing any more challenges. At least not related to decluttering, organising or cleaning my house. It just doesn’t make sense. The forces that be will not allow me to be that organised about being organised and I will be setting myself up for failure.

If you had a more positive experience with a similar challenge, you are my inspiration first of all and please let me know how you did it.

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Share some of your easy to make back to school meal ideas

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I have always been that mother who gives her child sandwiches for lunch. They are quick, simple and nutritious, depending on what you put in them.

To be very honest, I always loved and believed in the idea of sandwiches because I was always too busy/tired/lazy to make a full meal for my son to carry to school and I figured that he would just eat a proper meal at home for dinner.

Well, I now have an almost 6-year-old, opinionated son who is no longer satisfied with having sandwiches for lunch. I was given strict instructions to start packing “nice food” for school because he and one other boy are the only ones who get sandwiches.

Apparently, I am that mom.

So, against my better judgment, I agreed to give him “proper meals” for school this year. And I am sure you all know that when you promise a child something, they never, ever forget.

So, in the spirit of community, I am reaching out to you mothers who are brilliant in the kitchen to share some of your best and simplest back to school meal ideas.

Help mummies like me to stop being that mom.

 

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How to survive back to school mornings

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Whether you have a regular 9 to 5 job, you work from home or even if you are a stay at home mother back to school signals the return of rushed mornings, hectic schedules and losing your sanity.

We may not always admit it, but secretly, we love when our kids are not in school for the simple fact that it eases up our morning chaos.

There are no lunches to pack, we don’t need to spend 30 to 45 minutes getting the kids (and husband) out of bed so that they aren’t late for school (and work), all the while trying to get ourselves ready for our own day.

But, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Our little ones have to get back to expanding their minds and we have to get back to running around like headless chickens in the morning trying to get it all done.

Generally speaking, I am a pretty organized person, however, I do still struggle with morning time management and getting my son to school on time. These few tips, however, have helped me to minimise the stress of the weekday rush.

Re-establish bed times and wake up times

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If you are like me,  during the vacation, your kids’ bed times and wake up times have been all over the place. If they had a long day of activities they may fall asleep as early as 6 pm and wake up even earlier at 5 am. Or they may stay up until midnight having a “boys’ night” with daddy and wake up some time around 9 am.

These new internal clock settings could lead to problems when school starts.

To avoid this, get your kids, and yourselves, reacquainted with the back to school sleeping and waking hours a couple of weeks before the start of school. This will re-sync everyone’s cycles and hopefully will eliminate the need for a crazy, screaming mummy alarm in the morning.

Do your preparation from the night before

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When school does start again, preparation is key to keeping your mornings chaos free.

This includes packing lunches and school bags, selecting outfits for both you and your kids (if they don’t have a uniform) and other little things that could take up time in the morning.

For other tasks, such as ironing, which, if you’re like me, you absolutely despise. I actually avoid buying clothes that require ironing because I hate it so much. But if you do have to iron, do the entire week’s worth all on a Sunday.

Get everything out of the way so that your mornings are clear.

Wake up an hour before everyone else

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Although this may mean cutting into the already little sleep that you do get, waking up an hour before the rest of the mad house is awake, allows you to have a brief moment of peace and serenity to start your day off right.

During this time you could meditate, exercise, pray or even use the full hour sipping at your much-needed coffee. Anything that helps you relax and gives you the boost that you need to survive your day.

Out of all of the tips, this one has proven to be the most useful for me. The little bit of me time that I get during that one hour before everyone wakes up, makes the world of difference and prevents me from becoming the grumpy, mean mummy.

So as we start yet another school year, here’s to mornings filled with less stress and chaos and a little more peace, order and caffeine.

 

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How to raise kids who excel in school (and in life)

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I know from the title you are probably expecting a post on how to make sure your kids get straight A’s, are on the honour roll, become valedictorians of their class, go to ivy league universities and become the world’s top brain surgeons or rocket scientists.

Well, this is not that kind of post.

From the moment our children are born, our kids are competing. Whether they know it or not, they are.

Think back to when you were a new mother, and you met up with other new mothers and that inevitable, loaded question was asked:

“So, what is insert baby name doing now?”

I refer to it as loaded because the person asking the question typically doesn’t really want to know what your baby is doing. They want to compare and, if it so happens that their baby is doing, what they consider, “more” than your baby,  brag.

Fast forward to the school years and the competition continues.

In this case, instead of comparing whether or not our kids are saying mama or dada or have taken their first steps we are comparing what grades they received at the end of the school year and what universities they get into.

Without even realising it, our need to compete with other parents and our skewed ideas of what success means puts so much pressure on our kids. They begin to feel that to make us proud they need to be the best, the smartest, the most athletic, the funniest. We push them towards careers that we think are acceptable (in other words careers that will make them rich or give them a level of prestige); doctors, lawyers, Presidents; not necessarily for their happiness, but for our uncontrollable need to brag.

While there is nothing wrong with having dreams for our kids (I mean I already have my dress picked out for my son’s inauguration), we parents need to, firstly, stop comparing our children, because they are all unique and have their own individual strengths and talents. And secondly, we need to change the narrative that we have with our kids about what it means to excel and be successful in life.

Always give your best effort

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I am not going to pretend that I don’t ever brag about my own kids because that would be a flat out lie and besides, I’m a mom. My sons are both very intelligent and the way their brains work will always continue to amaze me.

However, in our home, rather than focusing on the grades that my elder son brings home (my second son is only 1 so he isn’t bringing home report cards just yet), we focus on whether or not he tried his best.

There have been days when my son brought home work in which he got all his answers correct but everything was scrappy and rushed. And there have been days when his work was well written and you could tell that he took his time, but out of ten questions, he probably got three or four answers correct. Even with three answers correct, on these days, we may still find a note from his teacher letting us know that he did make an excellent effort and tried his best.

This makes us very proud.

In our family, the expectation is that every thing we do we must do it properly and, although we do commend our son when he gets good grades, we never allow him to get away with giving less than 100% of effort, especially when we know what he is truly capable of doing.

It is OK to make mistakes and to admit when you don’t know

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Part of the reason my husband and I do not only focus on letter grades is to let our son know that it is OK to make mistakes and to admit when he doesn’t know or understand something.

Too many people walk around pretending to know everything because in their minds it breaks whatever persona they are trying to portray.

What we teach our son is that no-one knows everything and the only way you can truly open your mind to learning is to first admit when you don’t know and then take the necessary steps towards enlightenment.

Never give up

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Life can be “poopy” sometimes. There are good times and there are difficult times. There are times when you win and times when you fail.

For our kids, these lessons should start from now. When faced with difficulties or failures; a math problem they can’t wrap your head around, not making whatever team they had their hearts set on, learning to ride a bike or even when they just can’t seem to get the hang of tying their shoe laces (looping those bunny ears is difficult); it is important for our children to understand commitment, how to just keep trying and to never let anyone discourage them from achieving what they want to achieve.

Don’t be a bully and look out for those who are being bullied

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Bullying is one of those hot topics that everyone advocates against. It is heartbreaking when you hear some of the things children go through as a result of bullying and the feeling that there is no one they could turn to for support.

Although many parents may focus on teaching their kids about dealing with bullies, we hardly ever think about the alternate reality, one in which our children are the bullies.

My husband and I have noticed that sometimes our elder son may bully our younger son. He doesn’t bully in the sense of hitting him or causing pain or anything on that level, but he does sometimes find humour in watching him struggle to reach things rather than help him or he might do something to annoy him just to hear that glass breaking, eight octave scream of anger that only babies could make, which he also thinks is very funny.

Even though he is not necessarily inflicting harm on his little brother, it is bullying in the sense that he is taking advantage of someone who is smaller and weaker than he is and that is not OK.

Apart from not being a bully, we also teach him to look out for those who are being bullied. We always stress the importance of being kind to others and helping others when you can. You never know, a simple act of kindness could change the course of someone else’s life.

Do what makes you happy and work hard to achieve your dreams

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Even though my inauguration dress is already picked out, all jokes aside, I don’t actually force any future career expectations on my children.

Growing up, my parents only had two requests of me, to get an education and to do what makes me happy. They never forced me in the direction of one career or one lifestyle over another and were always proud of my achievements.

My husband and I try to raise our sons in a similar manner. If my son wants to be a doctor, a chef, a firefighter and a ninja (which he does by the way), we say go for it. As long as he is willing to work hard for what he wants to achieve and is happy with his decisions, who are we to stop him.

My father always had a saying, “the only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary.” As corny and as much of a dad joke as that line is, it is true. To achieve anything in life you must remain focused on what you want and work towards it.

The true definition of success

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Yes, of course, my husband and I want our sons to excel in life, to be well educated and to be financially stable so that they are never in need of anything. We wouldn’t be parents if we didn’t think this way. However, we acknowledge that excelling does not necessarily mean earning two undergraduate degrees, three masters and a doctorate.

Everyone’s path in life does not always take them to university and not everyone could be doctors or lawyers with million dollar cars and houses on every continent.

All we wish for our sons is that their lives are filled with happiness and that all of these lessons that we are trying to teach them now, will continue to guide the choices that they make when they are adults.

 

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This post was featured on Blunt Moms.