If it takes a village to raise a child, let me show you how to build yours.

 

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Building a happy and healthy family life in Durham took lots of effort and time. Now that I’ve done it, I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

Looking back on my two years of mothering, writing this blog and as an organizer for a local mommy meetup group, my mission has always been to support new moms and build their village when there is none. Creating strong community networks is something I’ve done twice now – once as an immigrant when I first moved to Canada, and again, when I became a mom and moved to Durham when my son was born. It can be done, but for some it takes practice and for others they need a guide.

Let’s face it, mat leave can only be understood if you experience it.

For the two friends that were brave enough to ask, asked me what I did all day with my time. They were lucky in that they asked me on my more patient days, but the words still stung. My answer? Survive. We’d laugh, but they would both be quiet and stare at me as if they expected more. How could I possibly explain that my day would consist of everything and nothing, at once? How there were moments that squeeze tears from my eyes watching my little boy coo and giggle with me when he woke up, to moments where I forgot how to be myself and relax, when I finally got an hour of solitude while he napped?

Looking back, my first year of motherhood was about extremes.

There were a lot of things that I thought I wanted, and always thought that I would do as a mother that never happened. I lived downtown right before I went on mat leave and assumed that because so many families could be found in the suburbs,  making new friends with kids would be easy. I also had this idea in my mind, that I wouldn’t surrender who I was pre-baby, because I didn’t want to be that person. You can see where I’m going with this. A lot of the women I’ve met over the past two years have a story that is similar. The build up of our identities as new moms, and then the eventual letting go of the parts that aren’t working.

Letting go was the hardest part.

I can’t even begin to tell you all the ridiculous fantasies I had in my head about what I was going to be like as a mother. I’m even embarassed to list them all here. I will tell you one, so that you can see how I struggled. I got this idea that I would be a stay at home mom. Not just any stay at home mom. The best goddamn stay at home mom my kid had ever seen. So I busted my ass to be what I thought “the best goddamn stay at home mom” should be, and I was miserable. I kept going through the motions, wondering why the hell it wasn’t clicking for me. I hit a wall of frustration and exhaustion. The good thing about hitting this wall was that it forced me to stop and re-evaluate.

I spent some time in denial, but bit by bit I made more honest choices.

Looking back, this was the time when I was accepting my new identity as a mom. I remember a family friend in Australia point-blank telling me that she didn’t believe that I wasn’t returning to the workforce. I was supercharged with emotions as it was for that trip, so I was hurt when she said that to me. Our meeting  was the first time I’d seen her in years since my last trip back home, so I felt like she had no idea who I was now. The comment obviously irked me enough to keep thinking about it, only because there was some truth in it. I love the work I get to do in my career, enjoy the types of challenges that come with it, being part of an office environment and dressing up every day. Being a stay at home mom had all the parts that I wanted to have, but during my day I couldn’t stop thinking about going back to work and reading up on the latest trends for my job.

It was at this point when I realised it wasn’t meant to be a battle between pre-baby me vs. the mom version of me.

I was still the same person with the same values, deep down. The difference was that there was still a lot of work to be done to rediscover what was important. What is important. As moms, there is never a moment that we’re not making a decision about where we stand with something, whether it be first foods, day cares to gender-appropriate toys. This pressure will only continue to change and grow as our kids do too.

To stay sane, I’ve realised it’s about making choices that are authentic to me. 

My struggle is still the same now and at best, a fairly innocent and misplaced one. I can get caught up in the busy-ness of all the things I think I should be doing (Handmade Pinterest-inspired holiday decorations, anyone?), rather than focusing on the stuff that is truly important to me and my family. I’m working on keeping anchored to who I am and wasting less time getting caught up in the stuff that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t come easy, but it’s worthwhile when I do.

What I’m passionate about is how motherhood can transform YOU.

So much of what gets talked about post-baby are the physical changes we endure, but what needs to happen is more of a focus on the changes we experience to our identity, our self-esteem and our support networks. The stuff that everyone seems to think just naturally catches up, when it’s actually quite the opposite.

Post-partum depression is more common than you may think, affecting 8-12% of mothers [Canadian Mental Health Association].

This number is unacceptable, and there is so much more as a community we can be doing to reduce this. One of the leading risk factors in post-partum depression is a lack of social support. Many new moms in Durham often move to this community in search of more cheaper, family-friendly lifestyle than what they can find in Toronto, but what gets lost in the move are all the support systems that we all need in our first year as mothers.

Too often many moms like us are suffering, alone.

If your mat leave is or was anything like mine, a lot of it felt like it was spent in survival mode with baby and managing life at home. For so many of us struggling to keep on top of day to day life, finding friends and community involvement are way down our list of priorities.

Yet, social support is critical during motherhood more than ever. 

Generating support and connecting readers like you to the incredible network of mothers in Durham will continue to be a focus for me this year. First, through this blog and also through the local mommy meetup group I organize. The more we can work together to help each other build our village of support, the healthier we will all be for it.

Sign up for the Motherhood Scene newsletter and start building your village today. 

This year you can expect new articles that tell the story of moms like you who live in Durham and read their advice on how they built their village. I’m also planning more of my regular posts that include local business tips, day care reviews and inside information from my team of childcare professionals, the Durham Daycarers, who answer your questions honestly about their profession.

It means the world to me when I know that in some way I helped make another mom’s transition to motherhood that little bit easier. 

I want to hear from you. What’s your story? Since jumping in with both feet to what I can only describe as the motherhood scene in my community, I’ve been a better mother, partner and friend for it. Let’s make 2016 the same for you, too.

 

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Meet local moms of multiples

If you’re a mom to twins or triplets (or more!) keep your schedule open during naptime today and join this local group. When you have multiple little ones to look after all at once, joining a support group might seem low on your list of priorities. There’s always plenty of laundry to do and that coffee isn’t going to drink itself, right? Well, don’t just trust my advice on this – there are numerous benefits to joining a group for parents of multiples.

The Durham Parents of Multiples logo

Durham Parents of Multiples (DPM) is a local not-for-profit organization that exists to support parents of multiple birth children with support, advice and resources. Members can connect with their community both in-person and online, to benefit from access to continuous support. If you check out the DPM Facebook group you’ll see they’re growing quickly at 135 members, which goes to show that there are lots of local families in a similar situation.

Cost: Membership is $35 per year for a single parent and $40 per year for a family. This fee includes a basic membership to Multiple Births Canada.

 

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Find support and meet other local moms with large families

Two parents sit with their four children in a park

There is a group for almost everything and everyone online these days, the key is knowing where to look. The Durham Region Big Happy Families Facebook group is one of those hidden gems. This group was created for moms raising large families in Durham to provide support both online and in-person with meetups. This is a great resource for local information to answer any burning questions that apply to large size families – things like what vehicle to buy to fit the family, how to manage family schedules and more. There are no requirements set by the group for what’s considered a ‘large’ family, so if you feel you fit into this description, I encourage you to join and start meeting some other moms in the area just like you!

 

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Get free advice from a sleep consultant

I had no idea sleep would become so important until I had my baby. Boy, does it make the difference between a good day and a bad one for baby and myself included! Every baby will sleep differently, and their sleep patterns will change as they develop and mature. Baby’s sleep patterns can often set the tone for your day – if you have a baby that will only sleep in their stroller, expect to spend a lot of time outdoors. For the baby that likes brief but frequent naps, it may mean short naps for mom to maintain her energy too.

Good Night Sleep Site for Durham hosts an online sleep clinic every Wednesday from 1-2pm EST on their Facebook page wall

If you have concerns about the way your baby is sleeping, or if you find that these sleeping patterns hold your family back from a good night’s rest, a sleep consultant is an effective resource at your disposal. Every Wednesday afternoon from 1-2pm EST, Erin Oliveira, a Certified Sleep Consultant based in Durham, hosts a Sleep Clinic through her Facebook page. Parents are able to ask their questions relating to baby and toddler sleep on the Facebook wall and Erin responds in real time. If you don’t feel like sharing, there are lots of parents that are sharing their baby sleep struggles that you can read about and learn from. Best of all, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home to access this wonderful resource!

Cost: The weekly Facebook Sleep Clinic is free to join and there is no cost associated with asking questions. If you would like a more in depth consultation for your sleep concerns, consultation packages listed on the Good Night Sleep Site website range from $150-385 for first time clients.

Draft a legal will with a local lawyer

Writing a will is a tough subject for many new parents to talk about, but often it’s one of the most necessary conversations to have when a baby arrives. I was more emotional than usual for the first few weeks after giving birth, and scenarios of what would happen to my little one if I wasn’t around crossed my mind. This happens to a lot of new parents, and thank goodness it does too – It pushed my husband and I to create a will for that what-if scenario but, it did take a few very uncomfortable conversations to get there.

A woman's hand writes with a pen

If you are still needing that push to write a will, here are some important reasons to start this process legally, with a lawyer:

  1. To decide who your children’s guardian will be
  2. To decide who will get your property
  3. To decide on the way your family receives your property; protect your children
  4. To avoid conflict and burden on your survivors
  5. To reduce or eliminate taxes

There are many estate lawyers throughout Durham that are available to prepare a legal will. Many lawyers will offer discounts on these type of services to their previous clients, so it’s worth investigating if the lawyer who handled the purchase of your home is able to assist you with writing a will.

Cost: Lawyers in Durham charge between $150-600 for an individual, and $575-950 for a couple. When speaking with a lawyer, it’s worth asking if their fee includes the creation of Power of Attorney documents (if this is something that could be important to you) and/or the creation of a simple trust for your child. As a final note, the cost of this service will depend upon how basic your will is. If you have a lot of assets or considerations, expect to find yourself at the top end of the price ranges provided above.

 

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Take the stress out of being sick and see a doctor in your home

I love my doctor but, there are those days where the thought of sitting in a stuffy waiting room at my doctors office is the last place I want to be when baby and I are unwell. I have a lot of worrying thoughts that go through my mind – What if someone in the waiting room passes on a virus to my baby? How uncomfortable will we be if we have to wait two hours to see a doctor?

A baby is examined with a stethoscope

Until recently, I learned that there are doctors available in Durham to visit you in your home, for an appointment. This is a service that you need to bookmark on your phone because it will save you from a lot of worry when either you or your baby is sick and:

  • The weather is too challenging to take baby out
  • You don’t have access to transport during the day
  • Your usual doctor is not available or;
  • Like me, you’re worried about being stuck in a walk in clinic for an unknown amount of time

If this is something you would like to try, you will need to call early as appointments book quickly. To make an appointment, call the Durham Doctors House Call Service on (905) 619-6641. The Durham Doctors House Call Service is available to anyone in the Pickering, Ajax, Brooklin, Whitby, Oshawa, Courtice and Bowmanville areas. Office hours are from 9am to 9pm, Monday to Sunday.

Cost: This service is free with a valid OHIP card.

 

pic via 3news.co.nz

Take a break from shopping in the nursery room at Sears

Trips to the mall are never just something to do when it’s quiet on Sunday anymore. Now they’re a full blown expedition, complete with planning for diapering, feeding supplies and pit-stops for both mom and baby. I’ll be the first to admit it – In the first few months when my body was changing and I needed new jeans, I put it off for at least six weekends in a row. The thought of being stuck in a mall for hours looking for jeans was enough to keep me in leggings for longer than I wanted.

Nursery Room Sears Oshawa

The Nursery Room in Sears at The Oshawa Centre

In my most recent trip out for baby clothes, I discovered that Sears has nursing rooms for their customers. Add it to the list of things I never noticed until I had a babyNo matter whether you breastfeed or formula feed, knowing that there is a nursing room is available is a piece of mind that you can have some quiet time out with your baby if they’re feeling overwhelmed, want some comfort or a quiet space to feed. The space is large enough to take your full size stroller in with you and comes equipped with change tables and a comfortable nursing chair and footstool. It’s tidy and quiet, which is ideal for little ones that aren’t used to the noise when feeding in a busier area.

Nursing rooms are available on the second floor at the Sears department store in the Oshawa Centre (419 King Street West, Oshawa) and also on the lower level at the Sears in the Pickering Town Centre (1355 Kingston Road, Pickering).

Cost: The nursing room is free of charge.