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

 

family

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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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!

 

photo credit

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.

The Motherhood Scene’s Top Posts of 2014

Two moms stand next to each other with their babies in strollers

It’s hard to believe that a whole year has passed and that we are in 2015. Where does the time go? The top five posts of 2014, ranked by number of readers, show that there are a lot of you interested in attending meetups for moms:

If you are looking to start your year in the best possible way for both you and baby, sign up now for a meetup in your area. I can promise it will make the difference between enjoying mat leave and enduring it!

 

photo credit

Connect with a passionate meetup community for Pickering moms

There’s nothing quite like motherhood to bring strangers together! I always considered myself social, but never enough to join a meetup group of strangers. That was, until I had a baby in winter and felt lonely all day inside my house. As soon as any new mom discovers how much of a difference meeting other moms can make, it’s very easy to develop a passion for connecting women on mat leave and beyond.

Mamalicious Mamas is a group that plans events for Mamas-to-Be, Mamas, infants and toddlers.

Mamalicious Mamas is a group of such women who created a not-for-profit social network to provide moms within their community access to peer support and inexpensive events. They host meetups in Pickering that range from playtime groups, trips to the zoo and frozen yogurt dates. With such engaged community managers, it’s well worth checking out for any Pickering mom.

 

pic via facebook.com

Get active in the New Year with mom and baby yoga

New Year can be a motivating time and I’m here to guide you to some of the best opportunities Durham has on offer! If you’re still looking to hit your stride in your mat leave, Mom and Baby Yoga can help you get there. It’s got the trifecta of benefits: feel-good exercise, a chance to make mommy friends and a reason to get out of the house.

The Mom and Baby Yoga Flyer for Moksha Yoga Brooklin

Sessions run weekly on Tuesdays at 9.45am for an hour in a series of eight sessions. If you’re feeling a little shy, signing up for a sessions like this can help you interact with the other moms as you will see each other so regularly. These sessions are best for babies up to the crawling stage, so chances are you’ll meet other moms in a similar stage as you.

There are still spaces left so it’s not too late to sign up! Registration can be completed online or in person at the Moksha Yoga Brooklin studio (31 Baldwin Street, Brooklin). Mom and Baby Yoga begins January 6th, 2015 and continues up until February 24th.

Cost: $105 + hst (Approx $13 per class).

What to do with baby’s old clothes: VarageSale.com

What it is: VarageSale.com is an online an online marketplace similar to Kijiji.ca and Craigslist with more of a community feel. It has the trustworthy elements that you’d expect to find in an eBay listing (i.e. seller reviews and profiles) and social elements of what you’d expect to find in a Facebook buy and sell group (strict rules on group/posting behaviour, moderation and the ability to start discussions with members).

How it works: All users (both buyers and sellers) must use their Facebook account to use the service. Once you have logged in and set your location, a list of Buy/Sell groups are displayed, and you can choose which areas nearby you would like to sell to. An organizer within this group will then review your request to join the group. Once you’re approved, you’ll see that listings are posted in a timeline much like you would see on Facebook. Users can rate each other based on how each person follows through on a sale, and these ratings are made public for other group members to view. Buyers are able to like and watch listings depending on their interest in an item, and these Like and Watch numbers will be shown publicly within the group. As a seller, your profile will have a summary displaying all items that you are currently selling. Buyers also have the ability to follow your profile to keep updated for future items that you list for sale.

Listing your items on VarageSale takes only three easy steps

Listing your items for sale with VarageSale couldn’t be easier with only three steps in this form

Pros: More personalized and secure than options like Kijiji.ca and Craigslist. This site comes with a set of rules for each community, similar to that of a Facebook buy and sell group. It’s a step up in terms of navigation compared to that of a Facebook buy/sell group, so in theory you’ll get more eyes on your items this way. This app or website (depending on how you use Varagesale) will walk you through every step of listing your items, making it easy to get over any feelings of procrastination when it comes to selling your stuff.

Cons: It’s yet another social media site to join / or app to download. It does a lot of the same things that a Facebook buy/sell group does with the exception of having a better browse and search function.

Value Potential: 2 out of 3. The mechanics of this community encourages buyers to interact with you more if they like the type of items that you sell. Listing your items is fast so you won’t lose too much time and you get control over pricing your items.

Cost: There are no costs involved with using VarageSale.com.