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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I’m a Mommy Blogger? really?

My children have changed my life. There is never any doubt about this. Of course, it has happened in the most obvious ways – I get woken in the middle of the night, I require childcare arrangements before I can make my child-free activity plans, my home is cluttered with toys and items strewn about where they left them…

But I tend to talk about how they changed my life in more obtuse ways. I used to be very controlling. Now some might argue I still am, but I know otherwise. 😉 Becoming a mother has meant that eventually I started to let go of that control, little bit by little bit. At first I totally bucked it, and everything that my ex-husband did that was counter to what I wanted to control became a much larger problem. After we split up, I was forced to let go even more. I *could* attempt to control the way things work when they are not at home with me, when they are at their dad’s on weekends and vacations, but to what end? While I have mostly let go. (I’ll admit to lapsing a few times and making a big issue out of something I deemed worthwhile). I’m not saying it was easy, but it has gotten easier.

My children have also helped me to get better at setting all work aside and just being. We will take days and do nothing but spend time together as a family. Of course, being a mom has brought about much work that forces me to not be so care-free, but I value the time spent simply living life, so much more, especially when I do it with the people who I care about most in my life.

They have also given me a much greater appreciation for the ability to care so deeply for another person that you are willing to sacrifice anything for their protection.

Many people define themselves as a parent first, a person/woman/man/other identity second. I have done the same on many occasions. And depending upon the circumstances, I sometimes still do today. When it comes right down to it, being a good mom is the most critical part of being me today. But something being a mother has taught me, is that I need to be ME, first. I can’t be the best mother/spouse/friend/etc. I can be, if I don’t allow myself time to nurture my being.

It is through this need to take care of myself that I re-started a lot of activities that I love. I started running through a need for self-care during a critical time in my (unofficially, still – but that’s another story) former marriage. I went back to school, as a single parent, to improve my chances at a meaningful career. I re-started my hobby with photography when I graduated from University recently. I started writing again because I realized that the exercise of writing once was an integral part of my being. It is because of my children that I had the motivation to be a better me.

So, it is ironic to me, that most people would refer to me as a mommy blogger. While I do occasionally write about my experiences as a mom, or about my children; and while I AM a mother I do not think of myself as a mommy blogger. I blog because writing allows me to ground myself. I write of the many things that I value. I write as an exercise in separating my identity from my outward responsibilities. I think of myself as a blogger, yes; as a mother, without doubt; but as a mommy blogger? I just don’t think it fits.

Do we identify ourselves as mommy nurses, mommy doctors, mommy bus drivers, mommy teachers, mommy police officers, etc.? Generally the mommy descriptor only applies if it is integral to the work we do. Sure I’ve blogged about being a mom. But I also have blogged about running, fundraising for a cause, photography, Nova Scotia, Halifax, poverty… the list goes on. I don’t think anyone would define me as a running blogger (I once blogged only about my efforts at fitness, so at that time it may have applied); or a photography blogger (by any stretch). If I were to define my blogging it would be about life, and perhaps leaning on the edge towards social change.

When I blog I am hoping to connect with people from all walks of life. People who care about life. People who want life to be better for generations to come. This applies to mothers, to be certain. But it also applies to fathers, grandparents, aunts & uncles, friends, caregivers, children, and on and on and on…

Yes, I am a mother. Yes, I am a blogger. Must they be one and the same?

Is beauty skin deep?

Beauty. Is in the eye of the beholder. This may very well be true.

To me beauty is in the moment. It is not defined by a physical appearance, or even a personality, not an object, or an action. Beauty is in the culmination of the experience. In the moment. It is what I see, what I hear, what I smell, know, feel. It is the interaction of all of these, with whatever leads up to them. How I felt prior to the moment, effects how I will interpret the moment I am in. No one can define it for me, no one can interpret it, and as hard as I may try, I can never entirely repeat it.

I don’t experience the same photograph in the same way twice. The smell of the fragrant lilacs as I walk past them smell different, better (?), now than in another moment. My daughters’ expression of “Momma” is music to my ears, and each song varies ever so minutely from another. The words “I love you” and the gaze from a lover have a varying depths and hues. The beauty is in the changes, the experience of each moment… beauty is in the living and being.

It is my hope that I can convey this expression and reflection of beauty, and the experiences of it, to my children. I want them to believe that it is not the pretty hair, the fancy dress, or even the shape of their face or body that is beautiful, but the experience of each moment. It is in the sparkle in their eye as they tell a mischievous story; in their gaze of adoration as they watch their sibling make a perfect dive; and in the sound of their voice as they sleepily say “Goodnight”.

Beauty is in the act of kindness, in that moment when one realizes the full impact of their action. It’s in the pride shown on a child’s face as he comes to realize the accomplishment of a skill for the very first time. Beauty is in my mother’s voice as she shares the memory of her own mother’s joy at the news of my birth.

Beauty is revealed to me when I least expect it, and when I’m least likely to overlook it, but sometimes it just slips right by unnoticed. Beauty comes in fleeting instances, but also in serene wrinkles in time when everything seems to halt while I experience it. I can try to hold onto it, but beauty is as slippery as it is engaging.

Everything is more beautiful to me, when I am feeling the experience of beauty within (and about) myself.

“Five More Things”

I decided to try a new strategy with the 7-yr-old-who-turns-into-a-monster when the words “clean-up your room” are uttered. I’ve tried “pick up your things”, “start with the…”, etc. All result in a meltdown and me standing hovering over a crying child forcing her to attend to the task at hand while I do most of the work.

I’ve found an approach that eliminates the meltdown, but it is a very slow moving sort of progress (one step forward, two steps back). “Before you move onto the next activity, please go to your room and pick up “Five More Things”.” The problem is twenty things end up on the floor again before I can send her back to pick up “Five More Things”. I guess the next step is to determine what the ceiling is before the meltdown happens… seven things? Ten things? Then we’ll have to start working on expanding the limit. It’s a long arduous process in which the bedroom floor never seems to become unearthed.

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.

What our family has learned from a loved one’s deployment. (2004)

As I was preparing lunch one day, just weeks after daddy’s homecoming, I heard my daughter from the other room.  She had been watching Franklin on CBC Kids, and I hadn’t noticed it was over.  The news was on when I heard her saying “My daddy was in Haiti!”  I walked in the room to see her intently staring at the TV where the entire city of Gonaive was mud.  I asked her if she knew why Haiti was on TV, and told her that the people there have now lost their homes.

I was amazed that our three-year-old made the connection between our family and what she’s seeing on TV happening across the world.  When her daddy came home, after I told him about her reaction, he asked her if she saw Haiti on TV.  She went on to regurgitate the story of how “the people lived in the houses and then the water came, and then their houses blowed down into the water…”  She said that he should go there and make them new homes, and that while he was back in Haiti she would have jellybeans.

Now you may be asking yourself – Jellybeans?  How does a three-year-old’s connection to such worldly things lead to jellybeans?  After my husband had left on tour six months earlier, I was still unsure of how to help her ‘get’ the concept of time, and how long daddy would be gone.  I didn’t want to use paper chain links, and tear one off each day, because the original deployment was for 90 days, and I felt certain it would be extended as long as a six month tour.  How would I suddenly add double the chain links, if she wasn’t getting the whole time thing?  It was suggested to me that I use a jar of jellybeans, one per day.  I thought it might be easier to sneak extras in if necessary.  So daddy in Haiti equals a jar of jellybeans…

How many preschoolers have enough world knowledge to understand or even consider what is happening so far away?  My daughter has not only gained knowledge she likely wouldn’t have had about the world, but one day I hope it will extend to a humanitarian concern for things globally.  I have realized that my daughter still doesn’t grasp all of what is happening in this world today, she still needs concrete connections.  Five months after the disastrous tropical storm struck a country our soldiers had just left, after months of trying to assist an already ravaged nation back on its feet, my daughter still talks about when daddy goes back to Haiti to build those people new homes…  She doesn’t understand that there are other places in this world that other children’s mommies and daddies are assisting while their families at home are missing them.  Perhaps one day it will hit home with her, when daddy leaves for another lengthy absence on another tour to some place else in the world.  Or perhaps his absence won’t occur again until she’s already figured it out by grasping more abstract concepts.

I could write about many things that others cannot truly comprehend the depth of, without experiencing them. But I hope that most, whether connected to the military or not, at least consider the sacrifices being made everyday by children who did not choose to see their parents go off to war-torn countries and play their small part in making peace in this world.  It is obvious that a parent’s absence for large blocks of time have huge consequences on a child’s life.  We will never now how our daughters’ development in their formative years would have been different had daddy been here for every day of it.  Daddy will never get back those missed first steps that the infant he said goodbye to just months earlier took, only for him to return to a toddler racing after her sister to greet him.

What I do know, is how their lives have been impacted, and what opportunities for learning this  has brought them.  At a time when separation anxiety could rear its ugly head, our youngest daughter learned that even when she has difficulty remembering, daddy does come back – and her attachment to him only grew stronger upon his return.

I have always believed that “what doesn’t break us, makes us stronger”, and I have born witness to it in my own life.  We could have let this time apart come between us, but we’ve learned from our mistakes, and not only did “absence make the heart grow fonder”, but my husband and I also found a way to grow closer to one another each day that passed.  We are so fortunate to be a part of today’s’ Canadian military.  Gone are the days of years at a time, away at war, with little to no contact.  I cannot imagine how families coped with letting one another back into their lives after so much time and so many events had taken place separate from one another.  Canada is not at war, but the risks of making peace in war-torn parts of this world are still great.  I am thankful for the lines of communication and support made available to military members and their families today.  And I am proud that my children can grow up with a unique understanding of how the rest of this world needs us, Canadians.

We must start to give a damn!

Considering sending this to our local paper(s) as a Letter to the Editor type piece.  I would value feedback to help me polish it up:

We must stop paying lip-service to caring and giving, like we all do. Sure we believe we live in a fantastic city, province, country and society where we all care about one another. But is this really true? Do you care about your neighbors? …regardless of whether they live the same lifestyle as you?

I’m not just talking the neighbors next-door to your stable home, but the neighbors you see when you walk/bike/drive down the street, the neighbors who work near you, the neighbors you see on a daily basis and look right through.

Do you care about the people who aren’t related to you? Do you care about those who practice different cultural traditions? Do you care about the people whose skin color is different? Whose native tongue is not the same? Do you care about the neighbors of varying abilities? Do you care about those who are unemployed? How about those struggling to get by on social assistance? Do you care about the homeless?

I want you to really think about this for a minute. We all say we care. We say we live in a society where no one should have to go without the basic necessities of life. Not all of us agree that society should look after one another. But we all seem to agree that we wouldn’t want our children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, grandparents, or even friends to go without.

Yet, still 1 in 10 children in Canada have lives that feel the direct impact of poverty.

There are a lot of groups out there lobbying government to provide better support to help eliminate poverty, to help children break the cycle and get a start in life. However, I maintain that until citizens as a whole understand and view poverty and those effected by it with compassion, until we all take a stand and say “ENOUGH!” governments will not do enough. I know it’s often difficult to believe, but our government can do very little if it is not the will of the people.

Why must we make it our will to eliminate poverty?

I recently read a memoir of a child of poverty, named Tiny. Her book “Criminal of Poverty” gives a very clear picture of how it is next to impossible to climb out of the depths of poverty when growing up homeless in America. The deeper the depths, the harder it is.

Not having lived it, I can only imagine. When I think back on times when I was struggling to make ends meet, and how stressful it was to not be able to pay the bills, I recall just how much of my energy was drained of me. To be without food, housing, healthcare, etc. could only leave me entirely without energy or time to do anything. Being consumed with thoughts of where the next meal is coming from, how I am going to keep a roof over my family’s head one more month, week, night… Then to further escalate that with additional requirements for those I care for, I can only fathom the despair I might feel.

It is a documented fact that poverty breeds health issues, in a BIG, BIG way. It is the number one determinant of health. We MUST find a way to end the cycle and make a better life for our next generations.

Just consider if that person you walk so quickly past while turning your other cheek were your daughter or son, mother or father… and that the stranger walking by not giving a damn were someone other than you. Would you not hope, that someone for just an instance would see your loved one as a human being with needs that they are simple unable to meet, for whatever reason that may have befallen them? Would you not be grateful to that stranger for offering your loved one a hand up? Even so much as a hot drink, a kind word, or perhaps something much much more substantial?

Next time you walk on by, remember the person you see right through, has loved ones who only want the best for them too.

A concerned citizen,

Trish McCourt, BSW, SWC

Daycare Divide – an interview

Article that I was one of the interviewees for.