Perfect? You are NOT the perfect parent.

That’s right. You are not a perfect parent.

Perfect parent and child care giver

It really shouldn’t be news to you that you’re not perfect. Not perfect in general, not even a perfect parent. If it is, you may be somewhat delusional.

Guess what? Those other parents. They’re not perfect either. Not even the ones who lead you to believe they are. Especially not them.

Many of us hope we’ll be the perfect parents.

Maybe not perfect to every child, but perfect to our own children. Even though many of us know we won’t come close, we want SO badly to be the perfect parent. And when we come to realize the reality of our distance from perfection. It’s a little depressing.

There comes a day in every new parent’s life that we wish those infants came with a manual. A do-it-yourself guide. At the very least, some sort of a description of what to expect.

Real life experiences…

My oldest used to get these fevers, unexplainably. Two days later, she’d cut a tooth. Doctors always say that there was no evidence that fevers and teething are co-related. Fevers are supposed be indicators of infection. Yet, it appeared to be a pretty obvious pattern to me.

And I remember thinking that I would never ever get my youngest daughter to sleep at night. I was *this close* to bringing her to the doctor to see if she was colic. And one day, things just settled down.

Where is the Perfect Parent manual?

A manual seemed like it would be so helpful, but even when I found a few minutes to read the next best thing – self help books about parenting. None of them really quite cut it. One thing I realized though, more from my previous experience as an early childhood educator… you are your child’s best “expert”. That’s right. No one, and I mean no one, knows your child better than you do. Parents, I repeat… no one knows your child better than you do.

You are your child’s best expert

If the doctor says something that doesn’t sit right with you. Ask more questions. If that doesn’t help, ask for a referral or a second opinion. Talk with people and find out what you can about similar situations. That mom who “appears” to have it all together? She may *not* be your best “go to”. But maybe you’ve noticed another child that seems to be in a similar boat… does dad seem approachable? Maybe he’s going through the same thing, or better yet, maybe he’s one step ahead and has some insights to share that *may* be applicable. Just remember that no two children, no two parents, and no two families are the same. Their “answer” may not be your answer. But it may point you in the right direction.

You’ve got thisPerfect parent

I bet you’d like to feel like you have it all under control. I can almost guarantee that will never be the case, at least not for long. With our ever changing lives, our ever changing children, and our ever changing knowledge and experience this will ebb & flow.

 

And if someone tries to let on that they *never* hide in the bathroom hoping that everyone in the house would forget how to find them for just 15 whole minutes… they are lieing.

I don’t have toddlers trying to talk to me under the bathroom door anymore, but I do have cats. Can you relate?

 

Coaching services for parents

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Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Twitter @ceilidhontherun or email me at trish at trishblogs dot com!

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Overcoming the isolation of parenthood

Mommy Connections Halifax

Since recently losing my mom to cancer, the isolation that can accompany being a mom is all the more poignant to me.

 

I may not be a new mom in the general sense anymore, but I am new to being a mom of a tween, and will be new to parenting a teen, maybe a university student, or a bride, etc. And I remember all too clearly the feeling of isolation of being a new mom.

 

Like many new moms today, I didn’t live near my mom or mother-in-law. Sure I could pick up the phone and call my mom when I needed support, but it wasn’t the same as being able to sit down over tea, with her in the room seeing the joy, the frustration, the desperation, the inexplicably devote love, or outright helplessness on my face. As moms we try to be all. We expect to be able to inherently know what needs to be done. When those first few challenges come along, we feel like failures when we can’t just figure it out. It can be a truly isolating experience, whether it be facing struggles with nursing, sleep issues or perhaps with colic.

 

The challenges often leave moms feeling like failures who just can’t do our jobs. My daughter and I had a great breastfeeding relationship from minute one, then suddenly after several weeks she was crying hysterically every time she started to nurse. For days I was so frustrated and upset trying to figure out what was going on. I’d cry while I attempted to nurse my baby who’d until then been so easy and happy. Then after a bit of research figured out that my milk supply was very plentiful and would let down fast and furious as soon as she latched on. It would flood her and she’d choke trying to keep up. I learned a tip that if I manually expressed a little before sitting down with her, the “pressure” seemed to ease off and a steadier slower flow of milk allowed her to keep up. We found our balance and everything settled down, however not without a great deal of beating myself up over it and feeling very alone through the process.

 

I am a well-connected mom when it comes to family supports and services. I have worked in the field and know where to look. Yet, I found it challenging. I know there are other moms out there who struggle as I did, or more so.

 

I want to use my own experiences and education/background to help other moms feel less isolated. I spent a lot of time researching programs and options to start my own business and/or resource connecting moms to one another and the resources and supports that families want/need. I recently decided to start my own chapter of Mommy Connections here in Halifax/Dartmouth. As I spend time getting to know potential partners in the community I am more and more excited about the potential to meet my greatest passion of connecting moms and helping families to become better informed and empowered to get their needs met.

 

What could be better than joining a group of moms who are learning about and engaging in what our community has to offer, before we actually need it? Imagine becoming well-acquainted with moms in our own neighborhood(s) who are experiencing many of the same feelings of joy, excitement and frustration! And imagine knowing exactly where to find that shop that carries those fantastic natural/safe bottles or diapers; or new mom’s yoga class; etc.?!

 

If you are or know of a new mom or mom-to-be in Halifax/Dartmouth area; or if you are or know of a business interested in connecting with moms please follow/share http://www.mommyconnections.ca/halifax to connect!

Mommy Connections

The problem with my bookworm (or how my childhood is biting me on the A$$)

My mother will love reading this.

Do you remember those days when you heard “just wait until you have children of your own”?

This stuff is small potatoes, but I really feel like I’m reliving what my mother went through with me when I was the very same age as my darling 9 year old daughter is.

She’s a bookworm. I LOVE that she is a bookworm. I’m a bookworm.

From 2010JulAug

She’s a big sleeper. I’m an insomniac. Lately she’s been waking with huge dark circles under her eyes and behaving like a bear most of the time. She goes to bed without trouble, she doesn’t get up repeatedly with stalling tactics, she’s APPARENTLY getting as much sleep as usual. Maybe she needs an earlier bedtime than previously?

No. I’ve discovered the cause.

When I was her age, I read so much that my parents actually had to limit my access. They tried turning out the hall light (I would huddle at the end of my bed, reading by the stream of light coming in the crack of the door) and who knows how many other tactics. Finally they removed my bookshelf and all of my books except one. I was so addicted to reading, I’d just read the same book over and over, with a flashlight hidden under the covers of my bed (so that no light would escape and be visible from under the crack of my door).

My daughter has been turning on her bedside lamp and reading. Some nights she gets away with it and has fallen asleep with the book in her hand by the time I go check on her. So I started leaving her bedroom door open a crack, with no hall light on. Last week her Bonus Dad discovered a flashlight being put to use to read. Last night I heard the click of her door closing, so I went up to investigate. She had glow bracelets under her pillow and was attempting to open the blinds and let the light from the streetlight stream in her window.

What could I say? What could I do? I SO understand this burning desire to read. I still fight it to this day, staying up past my bedtime because I just want a few more minutes with my book. Being an insomniac this is not a good thing. I have a strict scheduled bedtime for a reason. But I also know how hard it is to get those good sleep habits back, and do not want my daughter going about her days in a overtired stupor.

I explained to her how much she needs her sleep, and how she can read for as much of the day as she likes, during waking hours. The things is, she can’t possibly read much more than she does. Like me she carries a book around with her everywhere she goes. I believe like me she’d read while walking, cycling and playing, if she could do so safely.

I’m really not complaining. I know this is the best problem we could have if it’s the worst of our troubles. But, how do I encourage her to get the sleep she so desperately needs?

I’m hoping someone has a really great suggestion.

Finding the Right One – the challenge of securing quality childcare

Digging into my archives I found an article that I wanted to link to in my next blog entry. This is several years old, but the still applies. I’ve updated the links, since I can no longer find my own article that was referred to here.

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Finding the Right One

– the challenge of securing quality childcare

I have had many people ask me how to go about finding childcare, what questions to ask, what type of care I would recommend…

I worked in most different capacities of early childhood, prior to having my first child. One thing that cemented my decision to stay home with my children is the challenge of finding the quality childcare.

There are basically three options of childcare to consider: licensed group childcare; home-based childcare (licensed and unlicensed); and in-home care (Nannies).

What age will your child(ren) be when they require care? Space is often limited for children under two years of age.

How many children do you require care for? Once you have 3 or more children in care, it is often more economical to consider hiring in-home care.

Do you require ‘full-time’care (typically Monday to Friday, 7am to 5pm)? Any flexibility required will affect availability of childcare space.

What are your children’s temperaments? Will they thrive in a large group of same-age children? Do they require an intimate, mixed age-group setting? Are they flexible and able to adapt to new routine easily? Do they need their familiar environment and routine to cope well?

Once you have determined the type of care that works best for your family, how do you secure and maintain quality childcare? There are some obvious and some subtle things/questions to help you determine if the care you are considering is quality – you can visit http://childcare.about.com/od/evaluations/tp/questions.htm and http://www.childcareaware.org/en/child_care_101/5steps.php for some suggestions.

The bottom-line is that licensing does not equate quality. While it should give you piece of mind that a centre or caregiver has met the minimum standards set by licensing, it is ultimately up to the parents to monitor quality of care. I am a huge advocate for childcare licensing, however it is my opinion that the standard set by licensing is 1) difficult to enforce, and 2) a minimum standard that any quality childcare centre should strive to not only meet, but to exceed.

I cannot stress enough: if anything about a care arrangement does not sit right with you, go with your gut. This is a very personal decision, and one of the most important you’ll ever make in your child(ren)’s formative years. Taking the time to strive toward a long-term arrangement for your family will benefit your child(ren) to the utmost.

Most importantly, observe your children in care! Even after all arrangements have been finalized, be sure to re-evaluate how the arrangement is meeting the needs of your family!

Trish McCourt

ECE and mother of 2

“Blog-storming” a life plan

“Blog-storming” a life plan

Forming a plan. Not as easy as it sounds. I had this fantastic idea last night, that I just need to sit down and truly plan what I want out of my life. Hell!? Where do I begin? Short term? Long term? What aspect of my life? This isn’t a new idea I had, I’ve talked about it many times before. What makes me think THIS TIME, I can come up with something that makes sense and is doable?

I really don’t think that, but I know I must believe it. I am so tired of floundering and considering my options and my million interests and my assets… and my limitations.

Getting started

So, where do I begin? The big vision? Here’s an attempt: One day I hope to see myself with security, with a good quality of life where I need not worry about the future. Having been a mom and a woman making sacrifices for my family and my ideologies, I have very little in the way of a nest egg. I haven’t socked away a big savings, nor established a promising investment for my retirement years, or my children’s future. I would like to see myself able to travel where I choose, when I choose and how I choose. I would like to see myself able to provide the kind of support my family might need, in whatever form that might take. I want to be confident I can take care of life’s surprises, including my (and my family’s) health as well as humanly possible. I want to know that I contribute to a better, more equitable society.

While I’ve always had a lot of ideas of ways I’d like to contribute to society through my career and benevolence, I know that deep down I’d like to find a way to do that while self-employed. Yet, I do not feel confident taking the full-blown plunge into self-sufficiency (i.e. leaving my job and opening a business). However, I have taken the first step towards making it possible, by securing a part-time job in my field that leaves me with time for my family and my other interests and endeavours. Now what is the next step? How/when do I know to take the plunge into a sea of possibilities and unknowns?

Prioritize

What are my dreams? Realistic options? My priorities? And in what order do I pursue them?

Here’s an in-exhaustive list:
Master’s degree
Social business: bookswap & fair trade coffee
Help to establish a Not-for-profit childcare facility (or lobby for public daycare)
Consulting/freelancing
Politics
Travel
Gardening
Sustainable home (eco-friendly & efficient)
Involved parenting
Significant role in a cause that I’m passionate about
Physical fitness
Entrepreneurship/self-employment
Advocacy/activism
Accomplishment of at least one of my hobbies/interests (photography; learning another language; musical instruments; etc.)
an orderly, yet comfortable home

What comes first?

What are the immediate priorities for me? I don’t see this as numbered in a sequential order, but more organic in nature. Parenting is at the top of the list to be certain – and with this means juggling the unique needs of a family that is non-traditional: 4.5 years separated/soon-to-be-divorced; and shared custody with their military dad who lives in a neighboring province. Self-employment is something I’d like to begin working towards, and think some of my other dreams fit in towards realizing this (i.e. consulting/freelancing). Advocacy/activism is inherent in my life, but I would like to make it a bigger part of what I do outside of my job – it’s time to assess where my greatest passions are. Physical fitness has to be one of the top priorities. Self care is of course a priority. Aside from my physical health, I acknowledge the need to make time for me. I will pick just one activity to pursue further, a little bit at a time – photography.

Down the road

Where does that leave some of the other dreams? The Master’s degree is something I’d like to pursue sooner, rather than later. I can table this consideration to a slightly later date – deadlines for Canadian Universities are somewhere around December or later for entry into the Fall 2011 start cohort. The social business, may or may not happen – something to keep in my back pocket for now. The childcare centre may fall into the advocacy work that I want to do, or may be something to consider becoming involved with down the road. Consulting/freelancing could easily be an avenue for some of my top priorities and should be a strong consideration for immediate future/present work. Politics is definitely a down-the-road consideration for personal participation, but again could fall in with some advocacy work in the near future. Travel is always something I do, if only in small ways (i.e. daytrips & short vacations). One day when I do not have two young children whose lives would be so greatly disrupted, this will move up on the list of priorities. Gardening can happen when we find the time/money to make some changes to our property. For now, I make small progress in the bits that currently exist. A sustainable home is something that we take baby steps toward everyday. We do the manageable pieces like recycling, changing light bulbs and turning off lights, flushing selectively, etc. One day I’d like to make a bigger investment into equipment that will allow us to reduce our footprint far more substantially. This too will have to wait until we have the financial resources to pursue it further. Playing a significant role in a cause that I’m passionate about, will happen as my advocacy work unfolds. At some point, I will know that I am really making a difference. First I need to find my focus. Accomplishment of at least one of my hobbies/interests is something I can make small steps towards, but I may need to table the really big work until a later stage in my life. Having an orderly, yet comfortable home is something I am continuously trying to achieve. I never feel like I’m “there”, but do feel like there have been big steps in the right direction. With so many other interests, I just have to accept this will never entirely be, without the financial means to hire someone else to maintain it for me. 🙂

So not exactly a plan, but the first step in forming one. After a short break, I will come back to this (today) to try to eek one out.

To recap, my main focuses will be (in no particular order): parenting; becoming self-employed; activism; physical fitness; and hobby: photography.

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Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Twitter @ceilidhontherun or email me at trish at trishblogs dot com!

I invite you to subscribe to my blog using one of the options available on my page (email, rss, Google Connect, like my page on Facebook, etc.)

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Eye on the Prize ~ Reflecting on life as a single mom

When I first became a single mom, I turned to running to maintain my sanity. Single parenting has been a lot like endurance sport training. I must pace myself, sustain myself, take cut-back weeks and most of all, keep my eye on the prize.

How do I pace myself at this? Sick kids, challenging behaviours, overwhelming sense of responsibility. Something I continue to learn about: not taking on too much, not in the things I choose to do, nor the emotional sense. Just as training plans sometimes call for something beyond my current limits, so too does life. What then? How do I keep on moving? There are times, when I simply have to grin and bear it, but for others I must learn to say no. Perhaps it’s saying no to that playdate arranged last week, or giving myself permission to serve PB sandwiches for supper. Perhaps it’s a much needed soak in the tub while my children watch more TV than usual, or letting go of the guilt when the boyfriend sneaks in after bedtime.

Sustenance comes in many forms. Balanced meals, nutritious snacks, and tide-me-over-fuel-to-go-the- extra-mile energy drinks. But there are also recovery workouts when I take it easy but keep my muscles moving to prevent them from seizing up. I needed to figure out what sustains me, especially mentally and emotionally. For me it is literally running out the door away from it all to focus on no one but myself. It’s rarely easy. Sometimes I have had to sneak minutes (and even a little “crosstraining”) here and there. I had to learn to ask for and accept help when I needed it.

Taking cut-back weeks have been challenging. There is a fear of losing ground. But studies have shown that athletes are much better off when they take them, than when they don’t. In parenting it means, I try say no to some of the regular activities and demands. To make a conscious effort to be less busy for one week out of four. No playdates, no favours for friends, no stressing over bills, no arguing with the ex, no, no and no. This is one that I am often less successful at.

Keeping my eye on the prize can be the most challenging part. I am no elite athlete. But I will finish, and in a goal time that I have realistically set to challenge myself. As a single mom, my prize is a little harder to quantify, but is so much more rewarding. It’s the smiles and hugs from the two who love me unconditionally no matter how much I mess up. The ones who know that whatever I bring, is the best I have to offer in the moment, and is everything they need. And sometimes it’s in the secret rendezvous. 😉

Children & divorce

I’m going to offer just a handful of my observations as a soon-to-be-divorced parent: children are far more insightful than we ever give them credit for; there are considerable differences in how siblings view their lives; as the primary parent with whom they reside for more than 85% of the time dad’s weekends when the kids are away CAN (and should) be spent doing whatever suits my fancy.

My nine-year-old was five when we split, my seven-year-old, just three. For more of Seven’s life her dad and I have not been a family, than for the portion of her life that we were a nuclear unit. I rarely hear lamenting from her of how much better it would be if we were all still a family. Her sister says it less now than she used to, but it’s still ultimately what she would wish. I’m not sure what that picture looks like in her mind, but suspect it’s a slight distortion of reality as we once knew it.

Seven’s artistic renditions of family pictures almost seem to include her dad as an after-thought. She’s never been one to talk about him in any serious sort of way. She thinks nothing of skipping one of her bi-weekly weekend visits (he lives 3.5 hours drive from us), and she doesn’t miss me when she’s gone, even for extended stays. Someone once asked her recently if she missed me while I was away on work travel for a week. Without hesitation she reported no. This is just the way it is. It’s really the only way she knows.

Her sister on the other-hand, not only would have missed me, but would have wanted very much to assure me that she did, so I’d know just how important I am to her. Seven just has the confidence that she doesn’t have to tell me, I’ll just know.

As we’ve all grown accustomed to our new lives things have changed. While I struggled for the first year with being “on” 24/7 and needed those weekends to myself so desperately, now we’ve all come so far. There are less crying jags (on all of our parts). We all feel more settled into our new routines. And I miss my babies terribly while they are gone. Don’t get me wrong I still need and appreciate having a little time-off when someone else gets to be the primary parent. In fact I probably take better advantage of the time, but I find myself wishing more for the normalcy of a single household where our lives are less divided. It’s difficult to describe exactly. The more content we all are with our new lives, the more I want of it.

Daycare Divide – an interview

Article that I was one of the interviewees for.
http://www.todaysparent.com/lifeasparent/article.jsp?content=20030903_135500_3888&page=1

Kids & Food issues

What is it about kids and food that has such huge emotional stress attached to it? Are they eating enough? Do they get enough variety? Can they even sustain themselves on such the inconsistent diet kept by many preschoolers and schoolagers?  Let alone grow? Is the sudden onset of non-stop eating a growth spurt? Are there underlying reasons they won’t eat that ought to be addressed? How much is too much?

I’m sure I’ve had every worry along the way, except perhaps if they might become obese from eating too much and doing too little.

For about a week now, one lunch box has come home virtually untouched, yet breakfast and supper are not a concern. I don’t think she’s really coping well on the 2 meal-a-day diet. With it has come moodiness and crankiness (to put it kindly). But how to deal with it?

So far the discussions and making a fuss over food left in lunchboxes have done nothing more than bring on tears. Still the issue persists.

Do we ignore it? Is it really not that big a deal? And if that’s the right course of action, why is it so hard to do? Why do I get a sinking feeling in my stomach when I see all the untouched food? Why do I get so angry at all the waste? Why do I feel I’m at such a loss to address this?