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.

 

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: Resale Store

What it is: A resale store is different to that of a consignment store in that they are able to offer cash (or store credit) outright for any clothes that they offer to take.

Racks of childrens clothes

How it works: You do not need to make an appointment to visit a store and have your clothes looked at. Staff will review your items on the spot and you can wander round the store while they review your items, or you can wait up front while they go through whatever you bring in. Buyers will then pick out the items and make an offer on these based on the style, condition and the current stock levels in-store. If you accept the offer you will receive either cash or store credit. As a general rule for all resale stores, clothes over five years old will not be accepted. Typically, clothing with any holes, fading or pilling will not be considered. Below are some of the child-specific resale stores in the Durham region:

Pros: This option is perfect for moms that don’t want the hassle of selling their old baby clothes themselves. You’ll be saving time as it only takes one interaction with a store (not multiple interactions with sellers like you would get with Kijiji or Facebook buy/sell groups) and you are compensated immediately. You do not need to make an appointment to have your clothes reviewed by a buyer, so you’ll be selling on your own schedule.

Cons: Stores will pick and choose what items they want to take based on the kind of brands you have, what’s in style, and what stock they currently need. You will most likely be out of luck if you want to offload summer items at the beginning of winter. Not all stores will take certain items like socks or cloth diapers, so you may need to visit a few resale stores to get rid of everything or offload your remaining stuff another way. To save the most amount of time when you visit a resale store, you will have to prepare your clothes for easy sorting in advance. This includes sorting clothes by brand or by age group.

Value Rating: 2 out of 3. Your potential for cash is very low than if you were to sell the items yourself or take them to a consignment store, but if you value the time saved managing the sales on your own, then this is the option for you.

Cost: There is no cost involved to bring your clothes to a clothing resale store.

 

pic via brendawritesablog.com

What to do with baby’s old clothes: Facebook Buy, Sell and Swap groups

What it is: There are multiple groups in the Durham area that have been created solely for parents that are looking to buy, sell and swap items that they no longer need. Items range from household items to furniture to baby clothes.

How it works: Locate and join the relevant Facebook groups and familiarize yourself with the rules for each group. Each group will have their own rules for how to post your listing so be sure to check this out too. Once you are satisfied with the photos that you have taken for your listing, upload the photos to a post within the group and include any information that you find relevant for potential buyers. Sizing, clothing condition, brand and asking price are all important to buyers.

Sample Baby Outfit Listing in the Facebook Buy Sell and Swap groups

As a general guide most Facebook listings will look something like this

Below is a list of all the Facebook classified groups for the Durham region:

Pros: You’re able to manage all interactions with buyers through Facebook. This is handy if you have the Facebook app installed on your phone so you can respond to any questions wherever you are. Interacting with someone else over Facebook is also great for security – being able to see someone else’s photo and profile helps screen sellers to make sure that they are legit.

Cons: The number of notifications you receive might bother you, selling through your account may be uncomfortable for those of you that like privacy, any posts you make on the group timeline will get pushed down (out of view) by other people in the group that post.

Value Potential: 2 out of 3. Time is an investment here. You may have to interact with multiple potential buyers asking questions about your items, also consider how much time you have to meet up with buyers to check out whatever you sell. The money you can potentially get for the clothes is high (compared to what you’d get in consignment or resale stores) if you find the right buyer, but it may take time to find this person.

Cost: Listing within these groups is free.

How to manage a baby meltdown when you’re not at home

Ah, we’ve all been there at some point with baby meltdowns. There comes a time when the cries begin to sound like requests rather than just noise. This is when you begin to hit your stride as a mom and realize you know your little one best. When a baby meltdown hits, I like being home to have everything I need handy. Nursing pillow is always near, there are lots of places to lay down for quiet time, and even a roomful of toys in case baby boredom has struck. But being out of the house with a meltdown on my hands? That takes a special kind of resourcefulness that only a mom can understand.

A baby crying

It takes time to build up the confidence to leave the house for any period of time with baby, especially as you’re learning that perfect mix of items to keep in your diaper bag to help you while you’re out. Here are a few strategies that I’ve learned from my many meltdowns so far:

  • Scan the area for a sympathetic face. If you’re somewhere public like a supermarket or shopping centre, someone will be empathizing with what you’re going through. See if your baby is interested in interacting with this person. The change in energy can lighten the mood for both baby and you.
  • Show baby an item they haven’t seen before. I bring toys with me for baby wherever I go but sometimes even this doesn’t work in my favour. There are usually plenty of items available out of the house for baby to see which always ends up being far more interesting than what I bring along. These don’t need to be other toys either – A kitchen spatula at a department store or a bright red fire extinguisher may catch the attention of those curious little eyes.
  • Consider removing or adding a piece of clothing. If baby is hot, then loosening a onesie or popping open a few buttons on a sleeper can help cool them down. If baby is cold and you don’t have extra layers on hand, consider using a sweater or shirt of your own to drape over them.
  • Find a quiet area to recharge. Overstimulation is tough on a little baby, and what calms them down will depend a lot on their little personality. Public washrooms may seem like a good idea but I’ve found that the loud sounds in a washroom (hand dryers, multiple toilets flushing) can be disruptive. Instead, ask an employee to direct you to a quiet area in a store or venue so that you can be alone with your little one and give them time to calm down.

What are some of your strategies for baby meltdowns? I’d love to hear what’s worked for you in the comments below.

 

pic via earlyinterventionsupport.com

Helpful tips for attending your first mommy meetup

Mom walks on a footpath with a child in the stroller

To help ease any worries you may have before joining your first meetup, here are some tips that I’ve learned along the way:

  • Find out where the group is meeting in the location that’s listed. e.g. If the meetup is at a playground, where in the playground will all the moms be?
  • Check out the profiles of the other moms that have RSVP’d to the event that you’re attending. Usually moms will include information here about the age of their babies and what they are looking to get out of the group. This is a nice icebreaker for when you arrive and you’re looking for a way to start a conversation.
  • Bring supplies. Having sunscreen or wipes on hand when another mom has been in need has helped me start conversations when I was feeling shy.
  • Take along a carrier or lightweight stroller. Unless you’re part of a mommy stroller group, having lightweight equipment to navigate a new space will help you to focus on spending time with other moms rather than worrying that your stroller is blocking someone’s way.
  • Check in first with the person who organized the event when you arrive. Let them know you’re there and that it’s your first meetup. Meetup organizers are usually passionate about helping other moms get out of the house and will be more than happy to introduce you to others within the group.
  • Give it a chance. Some weeks I went to meetups and I was zombie tired (barely functioning or talking) and other weeks I was buzzing from having such a good day with baby. The same goes for all the other moms there. Give them a chance before you decide if a certain meetup isn’t for you.
  • Lower your expectations. If you expect to come out of one meetup event with a playdate partner you may be disappointed. Focus on using this as an opportunity to get out of the house and be proud when you do it! It’s not easy to get out of the house like we used to when we have baby in tow.

Now that you’ve got an idea of how to get started and what to expect, you’re ready to take the plunge!

 

pic via pgeveryday.com

What to expect at a mommy meetup

When I first went to a meetup, I felt a little awkward putting myself out there. I desperately wanted to have some other mom friends who were also going through the same thing as me, and I had no idea where to start. For as long as I could remember, friends either just happened or developed through interests that I had outside of work and school. Finding a partner online has become the norm, but finding a friend online? This was a whole new world for me.

A group of moms stand together with their babies in strollers

In my experience attending meetups, I’ve learned that every mom has the same reasons for being there as you do. Many of them are dying to talk with someone who gets what it’s like to be a new mom, but they may not know how to begin a conversation about all that they’re going through.

Meetup groups vary in format because they are organized and hosted by moms who are all as individual as the next. Generally speaking, meetups are very informal. There aren’t name tags or introductions where you have to face the group and find the right words to avoid sounding stir-crazy. Meetups are usually held in public places and from the outside looking in, it can look like a big group of friends getting together. At first it may look like there are some cliques within the group and this is normal. The moms that know each other well are most likely the regulars which is a good sign the meetup is worthwhile. There’s a reason they keep coming along!

If the meetup you choose to go to is held at one location (like a playground, or cafe) then punctuality is not an issue. Being anywhere on time as a mom is tricky enough, so if you are running late, know that no one is judging you for it. There are lots of ways to start conversation but one of the best is to introduce both yourself, your baby and to mention your baby’s age. This often means there are a lot of names to remember at a meetup but, most moms there will do their best to get to know everyone there and learn their name. With conversation, you’re able to talk about anything so long as you reserve any judgement. What may surprise you is how easily you can talk about all the stuff you can’t say in front of your friends without kids. You can talk about diaper blow outs over coffee and most moms wont bat an eyelid. They’ll laugh along with you or nod in understanding.

If you find yourself enjoying spending time with another mom there, take the opportunity to ask her to catch up again. If you know of another mommy meetup, baby program or stroller trail, invite that mom to join you. She will probably appreciate the chance to do something different and get out of the house. Swapping phone numbers and keeping in touch over text is recommended before taking the plunge with a Facebook friend request. Do I almost sound as if I could be talking about dating? Well, it can feel like that. Most new moms will feel that way when they’re making new mommy friends!

If you’re still feeling a little hesitant, in my next post I’ll be giving my tried-and-tested tips for attending your first mommy meetup. Stay tuned for more!

 

pic via readysteadymums.blogspot.ca