To The Mama... [A Love Letter As School Begins]

To the mama with the crying kid. The one with tears streaming down his face, holding you with all his might and begging you not to leave him at school. The one with screams rising in his throat and you turn to leave, calling your name over and over again through his tears. The one who is being coaxed into the room by his teacher, carried even, as his tear-filled voice fills the hallways.

I see you.  I support you.

To the mamma with the with a cling-on that won't let go. The one that furrows her brow while having a death grip on your hand, and begs you not to leave her. The one with the sweaty palms, currently wrapped around your leg, saying she won't go into the classroom without you. The one who started telling you she wasn't going to go back to school way back in July when summer break began.

I see you.  I support you.

To the mama with the new child. The one who looks around and doesn't see a single familiar face, and swallows hard with fear. The one who has no one running up, after months of not seeing them,  breathlessly recounting their summer of fun. The one who looks at his shoes, scuffing them back and forth, maybe even leaning up against you for a bit of moral support.

I see you.  I support you.

To the mama with the excited little one who is just bursting at the seams to get back to school. The one who is first in line, excitedly waiting for her friends to arrive. The one who skips and bounces into the playground happy as can be, without a care in the world. The who doesn't look back, even when you call her name, even when you beg her for a hug goodbye.

I see you.  I support you.

To the mama with the one who has become too cool for school. The one who doesn't want you to walk her there on the first day. The one who would rather die than admit you are his parent. The one who has all but stopped the hugs, kisses & 'I love you', even when you're alone at home. 

I see you.  I support you.

To the mama who turns her own head and wipes away her own tears. The one who swallows hard, letting her child go and turns her back despite her child's tears and pleas. The one who still sees her growing child as the baby they were not that long ago, relying on their mama for their every need. The one who wants nothing more than to wrap her arms around that baby, holding her close, telling him that everything will be absolutely fine. The one that takes a deep steadying breath and closes her eyes in a silent prayer, simply hoping and praying that things will go well. The one that races to her car to cry and simply release it all.

I see you.  I support you.

Know, mama, you are not alone. Know that I see and understand that tears that well up in your eyes as your child turns away. Know that I see and understand that pain in your heart, that longing to be with your child, the desire to scoop them up and just run home with them. Know that I see and understand the fear of letting go, of allowing your child to begin the journey of finding their own wings and learning to fly in this world. Know that I see and understand your heart - your mother's heart - and hold you closely in my own silent prayers. 

You are not alone.

Know, mama of that child, that you are not alone. Letting go is hard. Sending this baby that you have poured yourself into out to the world is so hard, no matter how capable the hands you pass them into. Know that they will gladly [at times] still need to hold your hand and steal your heart. Know that they will [yes, it's the truth] stop the tears & the fears eventually, and learn to hold their head high. 

You are not alone.

Take solace in the knowledge that you are not alone, dear mama. Take solace in knowing that you have joined a sisterhood of moms who understand that letting your baby go [no matter their age] is harder than you ever could have imagined.

You are not alone.

Hold your baby [even if they squirm] a little tighter when they get home. Listen to their stories - even if they involve tears - about their first days back at school. Kiss their forehead and tell them that it will be the best year, that they will be the happiest they have ever been, that their success will be greater than it has ever been before.  

And hold back your own tears, mama, until they've rested their head for the night. You've done a great job, you've prepared them as best you can, and it really truly be a wonderful experience for them. 

Know that they know you are by their side, you are their biggest cheerleader, you are their constant rock, a solid foundation of support. 

And pat yourself on the back mama, for a job well done. You got them here. You have raised them well. You have shown them love and compassion. They will be ok. You will be ok.

Take a deep breath and exhale it loudly.

We are all in this together.

You Can't Teach What You Don't Know

The Hero’s Journey of Parenting Hard to Handle Kids
Guest Post by: Stephanie Renaud B.A.Psych., B.Ed.  Energy Coach for Parents

So your kid is a screamer.  When he loses his cool, he loses control.  He’s defiant, angry, maybe even aggressive.  You’ve gotten calls from the school, maybe weekly, reporting that your child has gotten physical (again) with another student.  Maybe she has been disciplined, removed from the classroom or even suspended. 

Mama, have I ever BEEN THERE. 

I remember early on when this started happening, my instinctual response was to blame myself.  I mean seriously, where did I go wrong?! The feelings that accompanied this of guilt, shame, fear, and inadequacy were overwhelming.  They felt so TRUE.  It must be my fault, I feel it so strongly, and so it must be the truth.  That’s how it felt. 

I am here to tell you that IT”S NOT YOUR FAULT.


It IS your responsibility.

You see, our kids come into this world as their own people.  They are their own beings with their own paths.  Who they are and what they choose to do has nothing to do with you.  As their parent, however, the response to their choices falls to you. 

How will you respond?

With anger? Rage? Shame? Punishment? Endless lectures?

These are not responses.  They are reactions.  A reaction is never considered and carefully chosen, it is ACTED, often in motion before we even realize what’s happening.  Ever had that experience of being in the middle of freaking out on your child and feel almost as though you are watching yourself from a distance? A reaction was in motion and your conscious mind was not in control. 

A response is a different things altogether.  It’s considered, chosen, and never comes from the heat of the moment.  It is never rooted in strong emotion and certainly never yelled at the top of your lungs.  It comes from a place of wisdom and love, never from a place of anger and shame.  When I say it is your responsibility, what I mean is that it is your duty to respond. 

This is the ground where you can begin to understand your child.  Why does she lose control? Why does he yell and scream and lose his mind?  Because he hasn’t learned how to tolerate strong emotions and maintain his self control.  Because she is acting from a place of anger, fear, guilt or shame and has no idea how to act otherwise. 

And you know what that’s like because you have been there too.  Parenthood is handy like that because it brings out your deepest self. All those parts of you that need to grow, mature and evolve are brought to the surface when you become a parent.  You will come face to face with your own shadow parent.

Because here’s the thing; you can’t teach what you don’t know. 

If you have no idea how to choose a different path than blowing up when you are angry, your child has no one to teach them how to do that.  If you are clueless as to how to handle your own blow ups with compassion and forgiveness, you will be completely unable to teach these skills to your kids. 

Parenthood is equally about raising yourself as a parent as it is about raising your children. 

Because when you freak out on your kids out of fear, or shame, and then beat yourself up for it, this will be mirrored in how to deal with your kids when they freak out. 

So, what to do?

For starters, realize that parenthood is one of the worlds most difficult and challenging roles.  There are so many expectations placed on parents by themselves, their friends, their parents and society as a whole.  And at the same time it is one of the least understood roles.  We all know what we are expected to do (everything right) and be (perfect). Do we really know who we are as  parents? Or who we want to be? We can’t know how to get there until we are clear on those things.  Like, crystal clear, with the most raw and authentic honesty available to us.  From this place we can begin to shape ourselves as parents, as we see who we are, and know deeply who we wish to be, we are empowered to make choices about the direction we take in any given situation. 

Like when that call comes from the school that your child has blown up, and you need to come in for a meeting.  Again. 

A parent who is in control, is in control of themselves.  They feel and are aware of their instinctive reactions, but they are present enough and clear enough on their desired outcomes to not allow those things to drive their choice of response. 

Mastery of this takes work.  It requires doing the work to train yourself and your mind to be present during difficult moments so that you are able to exercise your power of conscious choice. Work like daily meditation. It requires recognizing and healing your emotional triggers as they come up.  It also requires shameless and often uncomfortable emotional honesty about who you are as a person. 

It’s truly a hero’s journey. 
And it’s all possible.

* * * 

To find out more about meditation and beginning your own practice, join Waking Up Mama, a Facebook community of women doing the work of courageously and consciously raising themselves as parents. 

To read more about Stephanie, visit her Facebook page and her Blog

Power More Summer With a Rustic-Themed Night Out [+ WIN!]

I really don't want this summer to end.

You're probably nodding your head, but this summer has felt extra special for me in so many ways. Maybe it has been the amazing number of super hot days we have experienced, but I feel like this summer has been a rich time of connecting with my family and friends.

As August is upon us and summer starts to wind down, I want to hold onto summer more than ever.

I have written about this before, but so much of my life has changed since becoming a mom. One of the biggest changes has been my friendships. Many of my pre-kid friends didn't join me in motherhood for quite a few years. As a result, I felt very alone in this whole 'mom life'. It took many years [and some failed attempts, if I'm being honest] to cultivate new friendships.

Having friends that understand who you are, what struggles you are facing, and what being a working mom is all about can be extraordinarily tough,  but I feel so lucky to have met a group of moms who just seem to get the struggle of the juggle.

The best part? They all live on my street! [I know! I know! So lucky!].  We met at the bus stop our kids were all assigned to, but those daily interactions have led to really significant friendships that go beyond the surface level of the daily "how are you doing". I count myself as one of the lucky ones who gets to have true friends in her every day life.

Taking the opportunity to get together with our mom friends to eat, laugh and hang out is such an important part of that illusive balance we are all searching for. There's something so cathartic about letting yourself go and completely relaxing with others.

Each month my friends and I take turns hosting a "mom's night out". While we don't go crazy with planned activities, we sure do try to make the monthly experience something special. We don't get out much [rather, I don't get out much] so the time we have to hang out kid-free is something we all hold very sacred.

This month, it was my turn to host our "mom's night out" and I wanted it to be an evening that helped us hold on to summer a little longer and really enjoy the warm temperatures, bright evenings and the beauty of the summer months!

You know what? It was an absolute smashing success!

But what I think really helped was that I didn't make the evening difficult for myself. With a clear focus on holding onto summer, and holding onto friendships that I hold so dear, it was simple and fun to put together our mom's night out.

I want you to have the same experience with your best girlfriends. To do that, here are my tips for hosting the perfect mom's night out in your own backyard (with some serious help from Duracell Quantum batteries, helping all of us #powermoresummer):

Host it at home
Although it's fun to go out, there's nothing like the comfort of home when you're hanging out with friends. I love creating a relaxed setting so I chose my own backyard - where better to take advantage of the extra warm temperatures and tons of sunlight we have been enjoying here in Canada. You don't need a fancy backyard [I certainly don't have one!], you just need a table, some chairs and enough  space to sit comfortably. Truth be told, I have previously dragged my kitchen table out into my backyard when my current outdoor furniture just wouldn't do. Hosting at home also saves you money (big bonus!) and gives you the opportunity to make quick changes or grab extra snacks on the fly.

Create a theme
I never want anyone to go all out when it comes to planning a get-together for friends, but a theme is an easy way to create a special night. For my mom's night out, I wanted a rustic theme. Nothing too fancy or elegant, but something that was still pretty and inviting for the girls.

My rustic inspiration was the European tradition of dining al fresco on a patio with friends, food and wine.  It might have a little to do with my European obsession [I've never been, can you believe it?!?], but also a lot to do with my love of gatherings that feel natural - nothing too polished, fussy, or pretentious. I want all my mom friends to arrive, kick back, have fun and stay as late as their eyes will stay open.

Shop your home for decor
Listen, if you're hosting a memorable mom's night you don't need to break the bank. Save your pennies and shop your home for decor. Everything I used to create my rustic al fresco themed table actually came from right inside my home. And let me tell you, it was an absolute hit!

I decided to focus on three main components for the table: wood, glass, greenery.

To take care of the wood and glass, I used a rustic wooden bowl & serving spoons (that I had purchased about 7 years ago and never used...eep!), a wooden serving dish that I picked up at a local thrift store, glass candle holders, and crystal drinking glasses [there's no need to save your best stuff for a super special occasion, am I right?]. 

But the greenery is where I really hit it out of the park. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on flowers and decor - which I absolutely have done before - I grabbed potted herbs that I had on the window sill in my kitchen, specifically parsley and dill.  They added that perfect rustic ambiance that I was going for and - BONUS - they cost me absolutely nothing!

I added long grass from my own garden to a less than beautiful vase & then added a huge bunch of big, bold & beautiful sunflowers [generously donated by my neighbour who would likely give you some too because, in his words, "these things grow like weeds & I can't get rid of them"].

Finally, because I love a kick of colour on a table I threw on a large bunch of radishes, still bundled with an elastic band, that I had picked up at a local farmers market that morning. They were absolutely the icing on the cake and although they seem to be slightly out of place when I write about them here on my blog, they were truly the perfect pop of colour to a rustic table setting.

Don't forget the lighting!
Because summer nights are synonymous with sunshine until 9:00 pm, we often forget the need for lighting as the sun starts to set. I cannot overstate the importance of soft and beautiful lighting because, if your friends are anything like mine, the setting of the sun does not equal the end of the night - not even close!

I have seen too many accidents with candles to ever use them for anything more than simple, unlit table decoration (which I did & absolutely love). Instead, my go-to is always battery-powered flameless candles. They give off the same beautiful glow as candlelight but they don't leave wax or cause a potential fire hazard. 

I also added a large lantern (the one I used from Coleman's is amazing) to the end of the table. As it neared a cloudy midnight hour,  this lantern cast significant light and made all the difference for our mom's night out. It kept the table illuminated and gave us enough light so we could actually see each other's faces as we laughed and talked well into the latest hours of the night.

Here's a pro tip: put fresh batteries in everything before your guests arrive. Duracell Quantum are my choice and let me tell you, they lived up to all the hype!!

Be prepared for ANYTHING!
Ok, so I'll be honest, there were a few moments where our perfect rustic backyard night out was slightly interrupted by some unexpected rain. But you know what? That's ok, because when you're a host, you're prepared for anything that could be thrown at you.

So to mitigate the unexpected, here's a few things I keep at the ready:
  • Umbrellas - Phew! Thank goodness I actually had these on hand. I went to the dollar store and grabbed a bunch of umbrellas to have on hand just in case the forecasted rain came our way. Good thing I did!
  • Flashlights - I don't want to name names, but there may have been a mom in our group that tripped and fell on her way home a few months ago because she didn't see a kids toy that was lying on the sidewalk [it was me]. Since then, we have always had flashlights for our walks home - it just makes sense.
  • Bug Zapper - Not the most attractive item to have at a party, I know, but neither are bug bites:)  And in all honesty, once the rain subsided and we ventured back out to the backyard the mosquitos were something fierce. We could not have been more happy to have had that bug zapper on hand.
  • Extra Batteries - It is so important to not just have battery-powered lighting at our fingertips (like those flameless candles and lantern), but having extra batteries on hand. Specifically, Duracell Quantum batteries helped us power more summer (#powermoresummer) during our mom's night out in my backyard. They're built to last and let me tell you, they absolutely live up to that hype! 
  • Cooler with Ice - If you're going to be hosting a rustic backyard party, you're going to have to include a cooler. I attempted to make it fit with my decor and appear more rustic-looking with some sunflowers and my bug zapper on there but, let's face it, it's a cooler full of ice and it's doing it's job. Enough said:) 

My friends, let's not allow summer to slip away quietly! Let's take it for all we can get from it!! 

Now that you are armed with MY tips and tricks for hosting the perfect rustic-themed night out with your best girlfriends, Duracell Quantum batteries wants to equip you to do the same. 

To do that, they're giving away everything I used to make my night out in my backyard a smashing success, including:
  • Duracell Quantum batteries [only the best for you!]
  • Coleman lantern
  • Coleman flashlight
  • Flameless candles
  • Bug zapper

This amazing prize pack care of Duracell Quantum can be yours by simply entering below! 
I know you will be as obsessed with the lasting power of Duracell as I am and hopefully a bit inspired to invite over some neighbourhood friends & power more summer (#powermoresummer) in your own backyard!

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Duracell Quantum batteries, as part of the #powermoresummer program. In exchange for this review, I have received special perks in the form of products and/or compensation. All opinions on this blog are my own.

Preparing for the First Day of School [With Checklist!]

Can you feel it?

Yes, I know we are in the throes of summer and a little blinded by the bright sunlight and warm temperatures (I swear the sun is frying my brain) but school is just around the corner.

If you're like me, then you have spent the summer carting your kids to day camps, working feverishly during the day and trying to squeeze every last minute of family time that I can get during the weekends. I always long for just a bit more time out in the sun, out on the water, or lazing around reading a book while the boys play [though truthfully this doesn't happen as much as I would like!].

But school will be upon us before we know it and because I work I find that starting my back to school preparations early makes all the difference in transitioning back to our daily school routine as smoothly as possible. I try to break up my shopping list into bite-sized pieces (or into stores) so I can get the biggest bang for my buck all in one shot! You'll find what works best for you, but heed my advice won't you? Download my checklist [find it at the end of this post] and start shopping now!

Oh, and a pro tip from someone who knows? REMEMBER WHERE YOU KEEP EVERYTHING YOU PURCHASE! Because I know how much it sucks to search for lined paper and pencil cases that you know you've purchased when you're also preparing for a big meeting the next morning [not that I have ANY experience in that...ahem].

ONE: Make a 'Back to School' supplies list

I cannot stress how important it is to make a list and check it twice (or three times even!). You can use my checklist at the end of this post, or one supplied by your school, but it will never hurt to invest in the standards:

  • 250 sheets lined paper (with holes)
  • one package blank, white paper
  • 2-3 three ring binders
  • 2-3 coloured duotangs
  • one package crayons
  • one package pencil crayons (pre-sharpened)
  • 10 pencils
  • pencil sharpener
  • 5 erasers
  • 2-3 pens (blue)
  • 1 pencil case
  • 1 ruler
  • 1 calculator
  • Water bottle 
  • Zip top bags (freezer sized)
  • Tissues
And if your child does not have a uniform to wear, this is the time to invest in clothing as well [don't go crazy - shop their own closet before buying anything new!] including at least:

  • 5-6 pairs of jeans
  • 8 short sleeved tops
  • 8 long sleeved tops
  • 5-6 pairs of shorts
  • 8 pairs new underwear
  • 8 pairs new socks
  • 2-3 hooded sweatshirts

TWO: Double up!

All those school supplies you were purchasing? I want you to buy double of everything. Yup, you read that right. One item for school, one item for home. Why? How many times did you have to sign your child's agenda with a stray pencil crayon or a sharpie? How often was your child on the hunt for paper or a sharpener or something that they needed in order to get their homework done that you just didn't have at home? Save yourself the hassle and while you're already out shopping for school supplies, purchase extra of every single one! [pro tip: buy an extra backpack as well! It will save you the hassle of trying to scrounge for another bag or MacGuyver a zipper that has suddenly broken out of the blue!]

THREE: Buy a sturdy, durable backpack

I'm not saying that you need to break the bank [seriously, I get all my backpacks at Walmart!], but I do think it's important to pay a little bit more to get a backpack that is going to last. As a former teacher, I can tell you first hand that backpacks get thrown, tossed, stomped and destroyed in the blink of an eye. Get one that has extra support around the straps and at the bottom. Extra bonus if it is reinforced on the bottom and has a special place for a water bottle! [and if I were you, I would buy an additional "cheap" backpack for home just in case your kid is like mine and manages to break their durable backpack mere months after school begins!]

FOUR: Don't forget printer ink

If your children are old enough to do projects at home, printer ink is a must. And I PROMISE that you will only run out of printer ink when you are trying to print out a project due the next morning while you're answering work emails and struggling to slap together lunches. Have extras sitting in your desk drawer for those moments that the ink runs out halfway through a printing project.

FIVE: Buy a lunch bag that fits food AND in their backpack

I have made this mistake and I want to save you from it! Many schools (and families) are adopting a litter-less lunch policy, which means you are going to have a whole lot of reusable containers in your home and stuffed into your child's lunch bag. There are tons of great products out on the market right now that help us busy parents with attaining a litter-less lunch BUT [this is a big BUT] you need to be sure that whatever you choose is big enough to fit all the food your child will need to eat during the day AND will not take all the space in their backpack. I made the mistake last year of purchasing a really popular litter-less lunch container that ended up being not nearly large enough for my kids food & barely allowed him to do up the zipper on his backpack. It was $80 (per kid!) that I could have saved myself and a whole lot of hassle that I just didn't need at the beginning of a school year!

SIX: Don't break the bank on shoes

This is straight-up based on my personal experience: don't spring for expensive shoes. Unless your child requires a very specific type of foot support, buy decent running shoes that are sturdy and fit their feet. Why? Well, especially if your children are like mine, running shoes get ruined. They could be high end Nike shoes or $20 Target shoes - they're going to be ruined. Your kids are running and jumping and scuffing and playing. They're bouncing and chasing and being straight up hooligans in those shoes all the live-long day! And, even more, their feet are growing. Both my boys were in new shoes by December last year simply because their feet had grown. By the end of the school year, my kindergarten boy's feet had grown 4 sizes!!!! 

And here's a tip from a mom of boys who lose things a lot: buy 2 extra pairs of running shoes to keep at home. Why? It's enviable that you are going to have shoes go missing...better to be prepared with too many extras than try to find a pair of shoes that may or may not fit your kid while rushing out the door to school!

SEVEN: Start your "Back to School" routine NOW!

Summer is all about ice cream at 8pm and lazy mornings where no one changes out of pjs until 11am (if at all!), but i'm going to [gently] encourage you to slowly start getting back into a school year routine. I know, I know, but it is the absolute best thing you can do for both your littles and yourself. Start getting up around school time. Start going to bed at your regular school year bedtime. Get them used to eating at "normal" intervals (especially if your kids are like mine and like to snack all day long!). It's going to a pain in your butt but it will make the transition back to school so much easier on all of you!! I promise!

EIGHT: Prepare for the emotional impact

Back to school is pretty overwhelming. There's so much to purchase and prepare for in advance - but it can also be emotionally overwhelming. Regardless of how long your kids have gone to school (or if they have never gone before), starting a new school year with a new teacher, new kids in their class, and new expectations is scary. Some kids thrive and some kids crumble (I have one of each so I've experienced both). Spend some time really diving into the beauty of a new school year with your kids. Talk to them about what they're afraid of and come up with a plan to deal with their nerves. Encourage them!

You've got this mama! School is an exciting and scary time for everyone in the family, but being prepared and organized will not only help YOU as your wade toward a new school year, but it will help your school-aged kids feel more confident and prepared as they walk through their new classroom doors!

And, hey, just to make it a bit easier for you, I've created a downloadable + printable checklist. Click on the picture below and it's yours!

The Truth About Maternity Leave

Bless your heart Meghann Foye, because I actually quite like the idea of a "Meternity". 

You know exactly what I'm talking about right? 

It's a revolutionary idea that women who don't have kids should be granted the same amount of "time off" as women who take maternity leave. They, of course, will use that maternity time to really reflect on who they are, where they're going, and where they want  & need to be. 

Sounds a-freaking-mazing! 

In fact, it sounds like something we all should have. We live in a world where we are defined by our gender, our jobs, and our marital status -  uninterrupted time to ascertain if we are truly happy with the way we are steering our life would most likely make a huge difference in our happiness and our choices as we navigate our late 30s and beyond. It's a fantastic idea.

Comparing it to a maternity leave, though, is where you lost me. 

Now I know, I know that, really and truly, your main objective with all these ideas is to push your fictional novel (aptly called Meternity) and may not even mean a word of what you have said. 

And yet. 

The idea of a "meternity" has kinda taken off, whether Meghann meant it to or not.

Here's the thing. I know how hard most women work and how much they deserve a break. 
I absolutely believe that non-parents end up doing the crap at work that the parents couldn't or wouldn't do because they had to leave to do a daycare or after school drop-off or pick-up. They are forced to field after-hours calls from an annoying client because the other members of their work team are at home with their kids. Even weekends are probably delegated to the one without kids. 

Believe me. I know they get the crap end of the stick when it comes to work.

I absolutely know that you, Meghann, mean well as a writer, basing the following solely on your own personal experience or what you imagine maternity leave to be. As you said:

[T]he more I came to believe in the value of a “meternity” leave — which is, to me, a sabbatical-like break that allows women and, to a lesser degree, men to shift their focus to the part of their lives that doesn’t revolve around their jobs. 
For women who follow a “traditional” path, this pause often naturally comes in your late 20s or early 30s, when a wedding, pregnancy and babies means that your personal life takes center stage. But for those who end up on the “other” path, that socially mandated time and space for self-reflection may never come.... 
It seemed that parenthood was the only path that provided a modicum of flexibility. There’s something about saying “I need to go pick up my child” as a reason to leave the office on time that has far more gravitas than, say, “My best friend just got ghosted by her OkCupid date and needs a margarita” — but both sides are valid.

But I think it's important to be crystal clear about what maternity leave really is and is not for new mothers. 

There is such a misconception about life post-baby and what maternity leave is and is not - and I'll be the first to admit that I had crazy misconceptions too! I was going to write a novel on maternity leave! I was going to have a house that sparked and shone! I was going to build a retaining wall around my garden! [oh how I laugh at pre-maternity leave Sarah].

So let's straighten a few things out.

Maternity leave is not restful
I did watch a lot of television - in fact I watched tv day and night for the first 3 or 4 months. It sounds better than it was because I was glued to my couch with a baby who wouldn't sleep unless he was in my arms. I had a house that looked ravaged by a tornado or some savage beast. I couldn't grocery shop, I couldn't clean and I couldn't shower. It might sound great when your new mom, on maternity leave friends talk about all the Netflix they watched, but believe me, I cannot remember a single fun thing about it. I was a blurry-eyed emotional beast who couldn't string together a full sentence let along feel "rested".

Your post-birth body betrays you & consumes you during maternity leave
I gave birth to my first son and was home within 24 hours. I was bleeding from childbirth (and wearing full out Depends plus an industrial-sized pad to deal with it). My feet had swollen so much that I could not walk. My breasts were so sore and engorged that they did not fit into a single bra I owned and I could not even touch them without screaming in pain. I had less than 3 hours of broken sleep dealing with a baby who wouldn't latch, a lack of milk production, and just plain old new baby crying. I couldn't eat because I was still throwing up (it seems my body didn't get the memo that the baby was out and the all day barfing could stop now) and I couldn't seem to hold my pee in when I sneezed, coughed or even moved. I had stitches, nausea, and swelling - and a new baby that needed every single thing from me even though I had absolutely nothing in me to give.

You'll never feel as lonely as you do on maternity leave
I was the first of all my friends to have a child. I want to say that my friends were there for me, the way they would have been if I'd been ghosted by an OKCupid date. But the truth is that they weren't. They wanted pre-baby Sarah - the one who was up for a good time and ready to listen to their problems - not post-baby Sarah - the one who was bleary eyed, exhausted and could only focus on that little life that had grown inside her. My friends didn't get me (much like Meghann doesn't get her parent friends I assume). They didn't understand that someone once so focused on her career now worried about the poops and cries of a little redheaded baby boy. Within weeks of giving birth the majority of my well meaning friends stopped calling and texting & they honestly didn't come back until they too were on a maternity leave and understood what I had been going through. Losing those friends and the loneliness that came with it was just as painful as childbirth, I kid you not!

You'll never question yourself & your ability to perform simple tasks as much as you will while on maternity leave
Let me paint a picture: formerly capable Sarah, the one who fixed all the problems at work and did stacks of paper work for others simply because she could do it faster and with fewer errors than anyone else, tried to open a jar of pickles while on maternity leave. But the jar lid wouldn't budge, no matter what formerly capable Sarah did. And that new baby she had was screaming and crying at an alarming volume. So maternity leave Sarah, in the midst of a fully blown panic about opening those pickles, did what any sane person would do. She smashed that jar of pickles into smithereens, watching pickle juice fly.
Sounds like the logical thing to do right?
Post-baby, my formerly smart brain couldn't figure out how to do the simplest of tasks. I would bawl in frustration, I would lay on the floor exhausted from the stress of trying to do easy things. Part hormones, part exhaustion, part whatever - there was nothing that I could do correctly and no decision that I could make that came easily. I did not finish my maternity leave with any feeling of clarity, as you would assume in a "meternity" scenario.  Instead, I went back to work more confused and (to be frank) dumber than ever.

Your work life will change post-materinity leave (and not in the way you're thinking)
I felt the distane of my co-workers every time I got a call from daycare that my son was sick and I had to pick him up. I saw the glares of my bosses as I slinked into meetings a few minutes late because we had a delayed drop-off that morning. I had a boss mention that I needed to lose the baby weight faster than I was (edited to add: I was working in television at that time) and that no one would take me seriously if I kept putting my baby in front of my job. I can tell you, without question, that I lost out on promotions and opportunities that pre-baby Sarah would have had handed to her on a silver platter. In fact, I would say that in many ways taking my full [one year] of maternity leave spelled the end of a career I had worked my butt off for. 

Listen, I get it because I was a working woman trying her darndest to make it in the world and feeling so overwhelmed by my career that I couldn't see past it. I would have killed for a "meternity" leave [in fact I still would!]. I think the idea of time for introspection, true thought, and silence could make all the difference for any of us that feel overwhelmed in life. 

But I promise you, I pinky swear, that maternity leave is simply not that time. Neither is post-maternity leave work. There is no break, no room for rest or relaxation, no introspective time on maternity leave. Rather, there is a screaming baby dictator, a torturous lack of sleep and non-baby human contact, and a ridiculous amount of poop, pee and vomit. 

Meternity leave? Sign me up! 
But let's be honest, maternity leave? I'm happy those days are far behind.

Top 5 Parenting TED Talks

I used to have a job that I found dreadfully boring. I would have hours and hours of time with little or nothing to do while I waited for decisions to be made or paint to dry [not literally but, sheesh, it sure felt like it]. 

It was during these times that I found and fell madly in love with TED Talks. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure I had ever watched a TED Talk before. In fact, I wasn't overly fond of what I assumed was hokey, rah-rah, 'you can do it' cheerleading with little substance or actionable steps. 

But once I listened to Gever Tulley's TED Talk (see the link below), I was just a little bit [ok, a lot a bit] hooked. 

Here's the thing. Parenting is really hard. REALLY, REALLY HARD. And while so many of us spend time focussing on improving ourselves at work through additional reading or courses, how much could we benefit from improving our ability to parent and handle our children through the same time of learning. Going to the experts, learning from research, and simply opening our minds to the possibility that there is a better or different way to raise our children. 

That's actually how I view the following 5 parenting-focussed TED Talks: they're like my parenting homework/therapy/mastermind group. I don't always agree with everything I see/hear, and I certainly don't implement everything they speak about, but I do feel better equipped to either support my choices or make necessary changes in the way I'm raising my kids.  

So if you're like me and you need a little bit of a push, some parenting inspiration, or a challenge to stretch your mind and think a bit differently, than these are for you:

ONE: Jennifer Senior: For Parents, Happiness is a Very High Bar

The parenting section of the bookstore is overwhelming—it's "a giant, candy-colored monument to our collective panic," as writer Jennifer Senior puts it. Why is parenthood filled with so much anxiety? Because the goal of modern, middle-class parents—to raise happy children—is so elusive. In this honest talk, she offers some kinder and more achievable aims.

TWO: Gever Tulley: 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do

In his humorous and uplifting style, Gever Tulley debunks classic myths of childhood safety. With rampant fear mongering, is it any wonder that children are actually over-protected? Instead, Tulley believes the most effective way to keep children safe is to give them a little taste of danger.

THREE: Stuart Brown: Play is More Than Just Fun

A pioneer in research on play, Dr. Stuart Brown says humor, games, roughhousing, flirtation and fantasy are more than just fun. Plenty of play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults — and keeping it up can make us smarter at any age.

FOUR: Rufus Griscom + Alisa Volkman: Let's Talk Parenting Taboos publishers Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman, in a lively tag-team, expose 4 facts that parents never, ever admit — and why they should. Funny and honest, for parents and nonparents alike.

FIVE: Bruce Feiler: Agile Programming - For Your Family

Bruce Feiler has a radical idea: To deal with the stress of modern family life, go agile. Inspired by agile software programming, Feiler introduces family practices which encourage flexibility, bottom-up idea flow, constant feedback and accountability. One surprising feature: kids pick their own punishments.

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