Happy Mother’s Day

As today closes, i wanted to take a moment to honour the day. I know there are some of us that today would have been hard – both for our own relationships with our mothers and also because we are not mothers as we wish we could be.

I work with women who are mothers but don’t have their children in their lives. I support women who are wanting to be mothers but haven’t yet be given this gift, i also am a mother who has experienced miscarriage as so many of us have. There are families who have had to go through IVF and advocate for their right to be parents. And there are more still of us who have lost our own mothers. Today may have been a ‘made up holiday’ as some are quick to mention. But it is a special day nonetheless, where classrooms, storefronts, and TV spots alike all highlighting the fact. It definitely makes it hard for those of us that are triggered by today.

I read about the history and significance of Mother’s Day. Did you know it has some roots in peace and anti-war work? While it has been celebrated for even longer, our more recent version was created by a mom in the late 1880s who was frustrated that she had to mourn the loss of her child. In fact, the first era of Mother’s Days was to acknowledge the loss mothers feel when their children die. It sure has changed since then.

This year, i made a point to request (demand?) what i wanted to do for today. I got to stay in bed and read. I got a delicious homemade brunch in the comfort of my own home, and we got to stroll around a neighbourhood i love. Yes there were sibling squabbles between the kids, yes there was a near-disaster when having dinner out, and yes i had to remind the kids it was my special day. But for all that, i did create that time for me. I am one of the lucky ones. And i got to hear that i was the best mommy from both my kids. My son’s tooth fell out, and i got to carry my 5 year old for a few blocks more than i should have. All in a day’s worth. And very fitting for today.

I bought this shirt recently. It was a gift to myself. I love the way it calls to me – both that it reminds me that i am strong and that being strong to me is a personal thing. I don’t want to be strong like anyone else, or to feel that being strong means to not cry, to be invincible. I also know that mothers can be strong for using an epidural, for not using any meds during birth, for adopting, for nursing for 3 years, for weaning when it was best for us, for yet another month without conceiving, for challenging someone’s oppressive view of who a parent should be. Strong means sometimes asking for help, and it can also mean just letting go of our own expectations and giving in to the tears. Strong mama does not mean being strong like a man. Whatever that means.

I wear this shirt to remind me to be strong when i don’t feel like it. And it remind you too, that we are in this today – we can be ‘strong like a mother’ in any way that works for us. It’s a good mantra. We may need that reminder at times, and that’s okay. Being strong is knowing what we need, and doing what we have to do remain strong. It doesn’t have to mean stubborn, but rather staying true to what’s important to you.

How can you be strong as a mother? I encourage you to find a way that fits for you. Happy Mother’s Day to all of us.

A Day to Recognize

Today marks World Maternal Mental Health Day. It’s part of Mental Health Week that is honoured here in Canada. I wanted to take a moment to honour and play tribute to the many women and parents who have experienced any form of hardship, pain and suffering in their identity as a parent. It can be ugly, isolating, and scary at times for sure.

Our society definitely still paints an unjust and judgmental lens on mental health issues in general. This makes it so hard for new parents to reach out for support. New mothers are told that they should be in love with their newborn at first site, that the pain is worth it, that they will get sleep when their kids are teens, and that we are to suck it up.

That is so far from the truth and the opposite of supportive. As a mother myself, i definitely had to learn as i went when my children were newborns. I feel like i was a lucky one when it came to my postpartum life, even with a somewhat traumatic birth of my first. That said, there are still things that i felt too scared to voice and ask for support with. Like i was supposed to love being alone with my baby all day long. Each and every day. Like we were supposed to nap all the time, and i never felt (internal or external) pressure to have it all and do it all.

I’m not sure if it’s because i am immersed in supporting new parents now, or if it’s really the case, but i appreciate seeing all the blog writers, the celebrities, the ads and documentaries on this topic that is do dear to me. Maybe it was there 8 years ago when i was pregnant with my first. But maybe not and we are doing better now.

In my work, one thing that i really love is helping the women i support to build a wellness toolkit for themselves. I know one of the hardest things is to feel like we have or deserve time for ourselves. But we do – we can’t give from an empty cup (oh how i love that quote!). So, my gift to you today, on World Maternal Mental Health Day is this tool: Building Your Wellness Toolkit. Feel free to download and print it. It’s a worksheet that helps you look at ways you can provide yourself with some good self-care. When you need it. When you deserve it. Each and every day. Fill your cup.

The Resilient Butterfly

“Perhaps the butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness and still become something beautiful”

I’m not sure who the source to that quote is but i love it. And, i love butterflies. Not just because part of my name stems from the word butterfly, nor because they are pretty and whimsical – though both are true. But, rather, they are a perfect symbol of resiliency, vulnerability and exquisite risk.

I recently updated my logo to connect to this path that women take when finding themselves, re-finding themselves, and taking time to take care of themselves. The butterfly is you, and it’s perched on my name, as i feel like i am here to hold space for you while you are on this journey to heal. I act as a tool to help ground you, but really believe that you are doing the work yourself to heal, connect, move forward, and take risks. I am so honoured to be a part of this journey with you.

I like that the butterfly is perched and yet still in flight. Like she is ready to take off when needed, and to hold the power of her own safety and path. Very symbolic as it connects to our journeys in healing and being in therapy. It’s not by chance that i landed on this butterfly image. I had lovely and long chats with my pal who is a creative designer to get to this place that feels like it speaks to the work i do.

A few years ago, i attended a training on post-traumatic growth and resiliency. The presenter is a social worker from the States who shared more about the steps we take in order to heal and hopefully reach resiliency. She spoke of the butterfly’s journey from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. To think of how such a fragile and yet strong creature can show such strength and resiliency!

Recently, Tara Brach posted a great podcast where she spoke about the exquisite risk people take when actively engaging in their vulnerability. I loved how she too connected the narrative of a butterfly and the path they take. She goes further to say it’s actually arrested development when we don’t take these risks in being vulnerable. Take a listen when you have a moment.

I’m starting to see the Spring moths and butterflies dance by me as i’m outdoors. I love to take a pause in what i’m doing to say hello and thank them for their trust in the world. I know that may sound cheesy, but their greeting is also a chance for me to slow down, take stock in my day, and to honour my own journey too.

Next time you see a butterfly, say hello!

(image above by From a drawing by W. I. Beecroft: THE SILVER-SPOTTED SKIPPER)

Spring is in the Air – Baby Blessings

I walked by 2 robins this morning on my way to work. And it seems like it was overnight that crocuses (is that the plural form?) started to sprout out of the Earth. It gave me pause to notice that Spring is here, even if in baby steps.

Speaking of baby steps, i shared a vulnerable post for my last blog entry and am so moved by all the wonderful feedback and support i received. My daughter has since turned 5. We tell her birth story each year on her birthday, and this year it seemed to mean more to her. Things are starting to take shape in her memories and the women who have been my village have now also become hers.

About a month before she came Earth-side, i had wanted to have a blessingway for myself. I know it’s not usually the pregnant lady who hosts her own shower, but i didn’t want a traditional baby shower this time around. I had already had one with my first child and really treasured it. But as i didn’t need more stuff, i wanted to be able to honour the pregnancy, labour and birth in a more spiritual and holistic way.

So, after during some research (like reading this helpful book), i asked a lovely friend and community organizer to help me. She offered her home as host. With a circle of about 10 women we danced, we ate, we chatted, and they made this beautiful Blessing Necklace for me. I wore it during the final days of my pregnancy, and i had it close by during the labour and birth. It still holds space for me by my desk. The necklace is made of special beads that each friend brought – buttons from their own grandma, crystals that bear meaning, and beads that bring joy.

I’m sharing this part of my own birth story as a way to remind us that we have a choice in how we honour our birth stories, right from when we become pregnant to after we bring our baby Earth-side. If you don’t want to do a baby shower, don’t; if you don’t want to cover your belly in a belly cast, don’t. But if you want to dance and have a foot bath in rose petals – the world is your oyster. Having choice in your story allows you to feel more present in the birth and postpartum.

I am NOT Your Servant

bunniesI’m going to share something with you that feels a bit vulnerable. As a therapist and someone who helps others keep their shit together, I want to be authentic that I also make mistakes. And that self-care is something that is right up there in importance to me, but I too need to work on creating a better balance.

My youngest is about to turn 5 in a mere few days’ time. She is my sidekick mini-me. But she is also the one that can push my buttons like no other. I relish the idea of her being fierce (my eldest child’s favourite word to describe something powerful), and I also feel so torn that she is displaying her fierceness at me.

I love the new saying “…nevertheless she persisted “not only for the feminist in me, but also because it describes the relationship I have with my fierce and strong-willed little girl. I can’t wait for her to release this power on others as she grows up, but until then, her dad and I are getting the brunt of it.

This weekend was a busy one for our wee family – I think we had a record 3 birthday parties to take the kids to. I know it was also a special New Moon this weekend, with an eclipse that was told to pull our energy and resources. So…I know all this in theory.

But, come 4:00 on Sunday, my energy was tapped. And my sweet girl’s body was feeling the tug and pull of sugar highs and lows. As a parent, I like to think I have a good insight to why my kids act they way they do. As a therapist, I like to think I know how to take care of my own personal needs too.

As a human, I did not listen to either of these wise hats but rather reacted with pure raw emotion. My daughter’s incessant need for me to get her bag, feed her, make her something, fix something, carry her finally released my own fierceness. Not in a way I wanted but in the way that can come out at times.

So, in my anger I yelled at her “I need a break! I am not your mommy for the rest of the day.’ Knowing right away how awful that sounded, I promptly took that back and yelled instead ‘I’m not your servant for the rest of the day. I will make dinner and eat it with you but that’s it.’ Gotta draw the line somewhere right?

Well, we were both shocked. But she heard me somehow. Somehow she realized I needed some time to myself. So, while I baked cupcakes to feel better, my daughter kept herself busy for over an hour by making herself some new stuffies. She found the paper, staple, stuffing, and made 3 adorable little bunnies all by herself. For an hour I had the time I needed to work on decompressing.

I’m not going to bore you with the details of the other argument I had with my kids later that night, that ended up with no one eating the cupcakes I made. It was ugly but I can look back and see that I needed to let this out – to take care of myself and to show myself and my sweet kids that I too have a limit and my window of tolerance was too small.

I share this to show that no one is perfect, and to also highlight why self-care for us as parents is so important. I love the analogy of the oxygen mask on airplanes – we are indeed supposed to put the mask on us first so that we can better care for others. I share this with you to show just why we need to.

I blame the New Moon Eclipse in Pisces.

Live What You Love

IMG_3690
While at my local dollar store to get goodies for the kids’ Valentine’s Day crafts,i walked by this lovely painting. It really spoke to me. On this day of love, it’s a good reminder to ‘live what you love.’ What it looks like for me may differ what it means to you. But, it is a great reminder to hold onto what we love. When we are losing ourselves to our children. When we are repeating the daily grind over and over (and over) again. When we have changed yet another poopy diaper.

At the end of each day, take a moment to think about something you did that you love. It might be a new thing that you enjoy to do or eat. In order to move past the Groundhog Day of daily life with children, it is a great activity to add in the mix something for us.

For me, i made a point to get myself flowers i love. I am sitting here in my cozy dining room, and while writing this post, i am peeking at my new bundle of ranunculus flowers. No matter what happens today, i know i gave myself a dose of self-love. That will give me a little boost in my step. What can you do today to give you some self-love?

Happy Day of Love.

Acts of Self-Love

It’s February already. The month of L O V E. I like to call it the month of self-love, so I appreciate the movement that is going around to acknowledge this. Here in Canada, February is a cold and dreary month. As today is February 2 (aka Groundhog Day, Candlemas, Imbolc), I like to set the intention to do some gentle and relaxing things for myself this month. It’s a good month to experiment with things that give you love and also times of rest and comfort.

I recently discovered a great site, and the writer has put together a pledge to do daily acts of self-love and blissful activities. Since that is in tune with my own intention, I’m following her plan. Here is a link to it so you can read more.
flowers at work
For instance, yesterday we were to find something beautiful and keep it within eyesight or our reach. That way, we can see and notice it more readily. For me, I was wearing my new favourite pink top and fun necklace. I was constantly looking down at this pop of fun colour, and it was such a nice treat for me. Like secret pick-me-ups. The photo above is a capture of the plant i have at my office. I just noticed today it has sweet pink buds forming. Of course, i moved the plant over to my desk to keep it closeby.

Today, she encouraged us to think of a teany tiny habit that makes me feel happier. For me, it’s making my bed. I love being able to dress and walk around my room with my bed all made up and inviting. It takes no time and I look forward to being enveloped by it later tonight. I can picture my bed throughout the day, and can’t wait to be there.

I don’t force my kids to make their beds, but they see my ritual in doing so each day. And so, when my son makes his own bed without prompting, my heart is full and I’m overjoyed that he made the step to do that for himself.

We are also doing this lovely activity as a family. Each night (or close enough to this, who am i kidding), I’m asking my family to share 1 thing they love about each of us. We had a fun time doing it last night. My daughter wanted a heart for herself – as she reminded us that it is important to love ourselves too. I couldn’t have said it better. I am keeping them answers on a sheet of paper and we have it on the ready, to read anytime.

What are some things you can do as acts of self-love? Simple, gentle, inexpensive prompts that remind you that are loved and important: you deserve moments of bliss and beauty. In this ugly time in our world, it’s a quiet act of rebellion to be a self-love warrior.

We Marched

IMG_3620
This Saturday, we joined the masses in the Women’s March. I definitely didn’t want to miss it and my daughter was happy to attend as she has learned already (at 4) that ‘Trump doesn’t like girls, and we’re girls mama!’ She made a sign, i knit pussyhats, and packed snacks.

More importantly, we had a good conversation with her and her older brother about what it means to be a feminist, an ally, what privilege means, and how to make our voice heard. My son joined us for the march too, as we have been talking about how language is powerful and about consent. As a white woman, who is currently able-bodied and partnered with a man, i know i have a lot of privilege. I work on being an ally and to unlearn the mis-truths i’ve been taught. I know it’s also my place to teach this to my children. We don’t know yet who they will love, but we do know that they need to learn more about being an ally and about consent.

Both my children know about consent and the correct words for their bodies. My daughter in fact used her knowledge of consent recently when she wanted to cut her long hair into a bob. I was suggesting just a trim, but she wanted more – ‘my body my choice mama’ is what i got. Of course i couldn’t challenge that. My daughter is also a hugger and a really good one at that. We are working on reminding her too about needing consent from others. It’s a continuous conversation surely.
IMG_3621
My daughter decided against carrying a poster so she wore our Vagina Activist pin proudly. We have discussions about gender fluidity often. Miss M has a good understanding of this, so she wore the pin in reference to her own vagina and her rights. I appreciate that. We’ve been talking a lot about gender and labels, and my son is quick to remind us that he has pushed boundaries with his clothes in the past. In the context of my work, my kids know too that not all women are mothers, and not all parents who birth babies or chestfeed are mothers. This will be an on-going conversation too as they get older and unpack things more.

It was a peaceful march, a walk really. My son called it a ‘standstill’ at one point for all the standing we did too. They learned some powerful songs and chants, and read some great posters. My daughter took notice of all the other Pussyhats that looked like ours. For these reasons, i believe whole-heartedly that there is a place for children at marches. It teaches this new generation that change is possible, and that we can be at the centre of making change.

The people united will never be defeated.

The Art of Living

art-of-mothering

Happy New Year! I hope you had a restful holiday season and took some time to yourself. I know how hard that can be, so i don’t take my saying this lightly.

This past weekend, we went through our Gratitude Jar (see here for a reference ). It was just what we needed after a busy week, to sit down together and read summaries of each week of 2016. While there were some lows, we were able to sit and laugh and reflect on the highs more.

I think this gave me some insight to the above quote: “The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to your children.” I saw it recently and it really sat with me. The author of the quote is Elaine Heffner and she writes on Good Enough Mothering.

I know that i am like so many others when i say ‘i had such a hard day’ but when i sit and reflect on it, sure one part was AWFUL (like when my son bit my daughter, when my daughter had a high fever and all our plans had to change, when my son called me a fricken’ stupidhead, you get the picture) but other parts were fantastic. Like when my kids went rock climbing for the first time, or when we had a blast bowling. Each day has some good parts in it. And if it hasn’t yet by 8:00pm, i make a point to do something nice for myself intentionally.

I’m not one to do New Year’s Resolutions as i think it puts a lot of pressure on, but i like the idea to set an intention or to use a Core Word that helps motivate me. This year, i’m going to focus on Breathe – to breath in and out before i respond to my kids’ when they are entering Bananas Zone. And for myself when i start to feel like a chicken with her head cut off.

I think this will help me teach the art of living to my kids – to stop and take a breathe, to notice things around me, to bring joy into the mundane parts of my life. I am working on creating a balance with what i need as a woman, and to be present for my children. It’s my job as a parent to teach this balance to them. I think this is the ‘art’ part of living. Kids can teach us about being mindful too – i love watching my daughter draw forever, and my son is devouring books. I need to remind them that it is important to create this balance so that our needs don’t collide. It’s a good lesson too that our children can teach us the adults about living as well.

Expectations Versus Reality: The Sugar Plum Fairy Didn’t Make the Cut

img_3201
The month of December is a whirlwind of busy-ness – holiday parties, things to make, presents to buy, school concerts, and more. It also marks my birthday on top of everything else. This year i thought it would be great to introduce my kids to The Nutcracker ballet.

I was wrong.

Now, to give me some credit, my kids already know the story. We read the book numerous times over the year, and that much more in December. We also have seen the New York City Ballet movie production of it, complete with a young McCauley Caulkin. We have even acted out the play at home, where i got to wear my old ballet shoes and wedding dress. Yes my wedding dress! And we listen to the sweet audio story by Sparkle Stories where the big brother Martin (age 7) gets to go to see the ballet with his mom. As my kids are similar ages to this story, i was sure that they could sit through a dance school’s production of it.

Oh, and i need to mention that my kids also attend dance classes themselves and have been in dance recitals. So, let’s just say i did my research and thought they were ready to share something that i love and was so eager to invite them into.

If i may back up a bit, i also had a birthday party out on the town the night before, which means my kids stayed up late too with their babysitter. My son (i’m sure) did not get enough sleep. So, in his excitement and with lack of proper sleep, he is not the most cooperative of folks. Who is, right?

At intermission i should have taken their behaviour as a clue to leave – they were irritable, loud, whiny and agitated. But i truly just wanted to sit through the second half and bear witness to the lovely Sugar Plum Fairy and company, and to see my kids excitement of it all.

Needless to say, i was that mom who had to shush her kids loudly many times, and to tell them to get their feet off the chair in front of them, and to sit still and be quiet, and to cuddle/hold them down from leaving their seat. It was rough but i also refused to leave.

It was a lovely show and i’m so glad that we chose a small dance school’s production as their initiation to the ballet, and not the professional dance company. I’m also glad we were in the cheap seats surrounded by other young families.

As we walked out of the theatre, my son declared ‘i never want to do THAT again.’ After my heart fell a few inches, i agreed with him that this was a bad day to choose to go. Who knew but hindsight. And then my sweet boy backtracked and said ‘well, let’s not do that after i stay up late and have a bad sleep.’

I couldn’t agree more.

Next year we may not go to see the ballet in person but i’m sure to be more mindful both of their need for sleep as well as my need to have the birthday i’d like. That may mean doing things a bit different as the mom to young kids, and that may mean i get to celebrate my birthday on another day and over the course of a few days. And not all if it with my kids in tow. That’s ok too.