The Secret to Holiday Magic is Self-Care

christmas-2910468_640I read an unsettling article on The Huffington Post entitled Holiday Magic Is Made By Women. And, It’s Killing Us.

The writer is honest about all of the ways in which the holidays, more importantly, preparing for the holiday magic, tug at her, until she is left feeling depleted, empty, with nothing left to give.

I felt so sad and helpless as I read about her experience. I also felt anger.

Most of us have been her at one point in time as we try to make everything perfect for the people we love. We do it so they can enjoy this festive season and have memories to cherish as they grow up and grow old. There’s so much magic to the holidays and we want those we love to experience all of it. We do this out of love. It’s a beautiful thing.

What’s not so beautiful is the cost. When was this unspoken expectation that it’s mom’s job to make the holiday magic born?

I asked my husband if he would do half the things the writer listed in her article for the holidays. He responded with a resounding “No fn way.” “Why not?” “Why?”

Why? indeed. It seems men understand the magic of the holidays, but aren’t prepared to burden themselves with it. Because my husband also doesn’t expect me to do it, when I prompted him further. So, why do I feel the need to do it?

December is upon us, and while some are completely ready for the holiday magic, others (like me) are still in the midst of preparing. This article served as a reminder that unless I take care of me, slow down and enjoy the holidays myself, no one around me will either.

So here’s to all the moms that make things happen. The extra touches are always nice, but are they truly necessary? Perhaps, if you’re feeling stretched during your holiday preparation time, take a moment to ask yourself, is this truly necessary?

The holidays are a time for magic, however they are also a time for family and friends. Hopefully this will help when we are in the midst of wrapping, baking, checking off the to-do list. And, in that moment of self-care, when we fill ourselves up so we can fill up the others who need us, we will feel the holiday magic.

How do you plan on making time for yourself during December? Tell me in the comments!

Wishing you a great, restful and magical few weeks before Christmas!

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Journey Into Vulnerability: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

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A very inspiring woman (lookin’ at you Jackie), eagerly/enthusiastically/totally/robustly recommended Brene Brown’s TED talk. And, now I’d love to share each one with those of you who like me, until very recently, had no idea who Brene Brown is.

I went home and immediately watched both of her TED talks on Vulnerability and Listening to Shame.

The next day I found myself at Indigo as part of my kids’ P.A.Day/Fun Day (we went to watch Coco afterwards, which ended up being awesome). We all left with a haul of books. My haul was Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection and Rising Strong.

I’m into the third chapter of The Gifts of Imperfection and will review it when I’m done…but I think you can already tell that I’m absolutely loving it. I’m feeling the fierce pull between gobble it up and go slow…take it in…a friend (who is a life coach, you can find her at Joanna Durkin) out in Alberta said she makes it a yearly read. And, I can see why.

Why Vulnerability?

I didn’t realize how damn frightening this word is for me until I started reading about it and began to feel so squirmy. The more I read and think and look at my life, it has become clear that I’ve been keeping vulnerability at bay because it means exposure.

The invitation to take a trip into my own vulnerability has been extended. And, I accept. Stay tuned for more on that topic.

Please use the links above to watch each of Brene Brown’s TED talks (about 20 minutes each). There are beautiful insights which I think we can all bring into practice with ourselves, our spouses, our children, our families, our students (for my teacher friends).

Who knows…it may spark your own vulnerability revolution.

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6 Things I’ve Learned About Motherhood

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#6. The laundry.

Oh, the laundry! If you’re just starting your family, invest in the best & largest washer/dryer set your budget allows. Stock up on your favourite brand of stain remover and be prepared to rewash a load which has been sitting in the washer for a few days or wear wrinkled clothes that never quite made it to the hanger because life.

#5. Your Calendar will never be your own again.

Play dates, birthday parties, dentist, doctor, eye doctor, practices, rehearsals, games, recitals. Curriculum nights. Due dates. Is it library or gym day today? Book orders, fundraisers, spirit days, food drives. Pizza orders, milk orders, lunch pails orders because making lunches is the bane of my existence (I wonder if that should be it’s own category?)

#4. You will shop incessantly, except not for yourself.

Because growing bodies need new clothes for every bloody season. Shoes can’t be so big they’re a danger to everyone or so small they’re outgrown in a month. You must analyze weather patterns, predictions for how cold or warm fall/winter or spring/summer will be and then say “f*%! it!” and buy whatever they’ll wear anyway because who has time for arguments about clothes in the morning. Regardless if you go thrift, mall, online, discount stores…you will shop. For them. (And don’t even get me started on gear for sports which need to be purchased months in advanced because by the time the sport is in season, every store everywhere will have every size available except the one which fits your child).

#3. The hostile take-over of your home.

Everywhere you turn there will be evidence of the people you created. And, I don’t mean the play pen, high chair, bouncy chair kind of take over because you decide where those actually go. I mean the toys. The toys! In every corner. And you may swear you will never spoil your child with toys, but everyone else will. And, of course, you will too. Regardless of how many times you sing the damn clean up song, or swear to throw it all away each time your foot is impaled by a sharp object in the middle of the night, or create a game or rewards chart or simply threaten the entire household…the toys will take over your home. (Add to that every single piece of paper they scribble on at school; the problem exponentially grows before your very eyes).

#2. The energy it all takes.

Motherhood is a continuous ebbing and needling and prodding for attention. Everyone needs something. So it’s important to put your energy where it matters.

Weaning them off needing you takes work, too: “You can pour your own cup of milk” “Try the step stool” “Did you check the dishwasher?” “The milk may have been pushed to the back of the fridge” “There’s more paper towels in the storage room downstairs”.

One thing to remember is that every battle doesn’t need to be fought: yes, you may wear a t-shirt and shorts to school on the first cold day of autumn because the cold will get you into warmer clothes faster than I ever can.

Everyone needs something. All the time. And while daddy is sitting right next to them, willing to address their needs, mommy is always the first resource. Even on the good days, the energy required to mother two children, maintain a home and a career is almost miraculous. Never mind this ambitious endeavour of writing on the side.

#1. Self-Care is paramount.

I always loved going to the gym and having “me” time…who doesn’t? I didn’t realize that it would become vital to my very survival. Making time for myself is the only way to keep from breaking down. I do that by (in)consistent yoga practice, (not so) daily meditation and writing, sprinkled with a few outings with dear friends when I can get away. I can feel my entire being rebelling when I haven’t spent the time on my mat, at my keyboard or chatting away with someone I love who is not a part of my family. It’s easy to be swept up in the feeling of being needed by your family, of being indispensable to them…but one day, they will be their own independent people (because that’s the goal, right?) and I want to still have something that’s mine, that can’t be taken away when they’re continuing their journey without my everyday care & guidance.

I think I could write on this topic forever because with motherhood the learning curve has been steep…and, oh so worth it. After all, I wouldn’t be the woman I am without my two and I have to admit, I kinda like her.

Any lessons you’ve learned you’d care to impart? How do you self-care in order to keep going?

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Saying Goodbye

I’ve been inundated by waves of nostalgia of late.

The babies are gone. An incredible little person in the form of a 7 year-old boy greets me every morning and awes me with stories of learning, friendship and growing up every evening. An incredible little person in the form of a nearly 3 year-old girl shows me the power and strength of will in a larger than life personality. Both are so very loving. Both are so very courageous.

I am humbled by the privilege to mother each of them.

Watching your children grow into themselves is nothing short of miraculous. As exciting as it has been for me, I can’t help but feel haunted by the ghosts of the babies I once cradled in my arms for endless hours – quite often in the middle of the night.

I find myself lost in memories of the cooing, the first recognition of their extremities, the gurgling laughter bubbling out of cherub cheeks when their favourite stuffy reappeared from behind the cushion again and again.

I find myself projecting into the future. What will their future selves be like? Who will they grow up to be? Above all, my only hope for each of them is happiness. As long as they are happy and at peace, everything else will fall into place.

But, then I have to nudge myself out of these reveries because I’m missing them now. These days which sometimes seem so long, are fleeting. Losing myself in their past or in the possibilities of their future prevents me from enjoying them NOW.

I don’t know if all parents experience this kind of nostalgia. And, I never in a million years thought I would fall privy to such sentimentality. But here I am.

So, rather than hiding from my feelings, I’m owning them with the intention of being able to lovingly say goodbye to the past, to the babies which brought so much joy into my life, and embrace the present. Be with the children who light me from head to toe. I can see now that this will be a bit of a state of being for me in this whole parenting business.

Nonetheless, every night, once they are fast asleep after a day full of adventure and fun, I indulge in a brief moment of mothering by tucking their blanket around them, ensuring their favourite stuffy is cuddled up close, and after a soft kiss on the cheek I quietly whisper good night. Another day has passed taking them farther and farther away from the babies they used to be.

That’s when I realize, I couldn’t be happier because it means I get the chance to witness these beautiful people unfolding and growing into themselves.

And, that is something I don’t ever want to miss.

 

Mommy Mondays: Gentle Parenting

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I am going to link today’s post with the meme Musing Mondays by MizB at Should Be Reading. On Musing Mondays she asks several questions about books and reading. Today I will answer this question in my Mommy Mondays post:

What book did you recently buy for yourself and why you chose it

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One of the books I recently purchased is Raising Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe. Keep reading for the why I did:

The words of wisdom passed along by other mothers when I was pregnant did nothing to prepare me for the way an infant, and then toddler and then preschooler would uproot me into a topsy-turvy world that in no way resembled what was once the serene landscape of my calm, orderly life.

I feel better prepared for the waves of change that my second child has started. Smug. That’s it. I am actually smug at how well I have adapted to said changes and how well I have managed a new life with baby #2.

Now that my first born is well into age 5, I feel caught in a storm of change. Again.

My son is very articulate. He reads. He adds and subtracts with ease. He does simple multiplication. He has mad soccer skills…is social and boisterous and sweet and fun and respectful and outspoken. He is everything I dreamed my five year old son would be…and everything I didn’t.

Wow. The Rage. Impatience. Frustration. The sheer force of emotion that I feel. Yes. Those are my emotions when his will is unbending, unyielding, impregnable just because he can say no and mean it. It’s impressive really. And, when I am sane again I can’t help but admire his tenacity – his strong sense of self.

Except, when I am sane again, I also can’t help but feel…like I should handle this better. How on earth can one little 5 year old with gorgeous brown eyes whom I simply adore bring me to my knees with frustration? After a few episodes of intense disagreement…every cell in my body screamed at me that my relationship with my son would suffer greatly if I kept us on this path of daily confrontation.

I needed a way to connect with him again. To remind him that I’m on his side. To remember that he is getting older and I have to adjust my parenting.

And the universe responded by bringing into my life the philosophy of gentle parenting.

Gentle parenting is not about giving in…it’s about tuning in. It’s about authentic connection with your child so he feels validated – not controlled, not belittled, not unimportant. I honestly believe that emotional health is critical to a child’s well being and education. It is my responsibility to ensure that my children are emotionally healthy – and that starts at home…with me…with their dad. As a family we can connect and do this without so much struggle.

It all sounds so lovely on paper – validate, connect, empower. And, it is. It is. It is easy during …well during the easy times.

I just hope I can remember to breathe and create the space within me to help us through the stressful, challenging times because I refuse to let the beautiful and amazing experiences I’ve had with my son turn into daily battles and power-struggles.

Will it work? I hope so. Will it solve all the challenges that parenting brings? I wish it so.

In any case, I love the idea of raising my children without the gripping frustration that they can so innocently (and not so innocently) cause. There will be hits and misses…I just hope the hits will make the misses easier to bounce back from.

I don’t believe any one book or any one strategy will solve all parenting dilemmas. I do believe that the more educated I am then the more resources and tools I will have to at least feel like I can give my children the best of myself and help them along their path. And, when all else fails…there’s always that stash of chocolate in the pantry that makes us all smile.

Have you tried any gentle parenting strategies? Any advice?

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