We Can Do It!

For the past four months, my priorities have included: playing with my one-year-old, Atticus, growing a fetus, laying in the sun, and preparing freezer meals for the time said fetus is born. That’s it. Next week, I return to full-time university study and also my university job (teaching tutorials/grading for a first year class). Baby #2 is due three weeks before classes finish and five weeks before exams commence. Needless to say, I’m a bit apprehensive. There is something in me, though, that tells me ‘this is normal’ and ‘all women do this’. I feel like as women, we have something to prove…that having babies does not and should not ‘interfere’ with our lives. 

I think it comes down to this: I have been raised to believe that working women are selfish. If a woman’s work is so important to her, she shouldn’t have babies. Further, if she can’t take care of the babies herself and work, she shouldn’t work. Obviously, all the pressure is put on women and not men for multiple societal reasons. The thing is, it’s not just men, but women also putting the pressure on each other. Sure, I do feel like I need to perform at my normal perfectionist level this term all while birthing a child and taking care of a second one (with loads of help from my amazing full-time working husband, I might add). However, it’s women like me who do not admit to this actually being a struggle that silently condemns other women to feel like they could or should be doing so much more. We fear that if we admit that we need help, that we will look weak or worst of all….like bad mothers. The truth is, there is a lot in that old proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”. Whether we continue to work or not, we need help. Raising a child is a big job. It has taken a long time for me to not just realize, but admit all of this. Even after this realization, it’s hard to not feel like a bit of a failure for starting Atticus at daycare next week-regardless of the fact that it’s ONE day a week. It’s support I need and other mothers need…but also we need honesty. We need other mothers to come alongside of us and say “this is hard” and “I need help too”. It’s the silence that is giving voice to our own self-destructive inner-monologues telling us we’re not ‘enough’. 

How to Pinterest without Feeling Terrible about Your Life

I recently read an article about how the media pits women against each other (namely thin vs. curvy) as one being the ‘ideal’ while the other is ‘unhealthy’. As a matter of fact, I HIGHLY suggest you read the whole thing-it’s really good. I know, I know, I hate reading long articles online too; but, trust me, it’s worth it: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lexie-kite/fitspiration-isnt-inspirational_b_1524706.html

The article focuses mainly on the new trend of ‘fitspiration’. If you’re on Pinterest at all, you’ve undoubtably seen photos pinned of a woman’s torso reading something like ‘PUSH yourself, nobody else will do it for you!’ As stated in the article, these types of images often don’t exactly inspire, but make the viewer feel shame and guilt over their own body and self-image. Self-loathing. I would like to take it a step further and say….well….that’s Pinterest in general. Whether it’s a gorgeous fully stocked kitchen, DIY mason jar string lights, perfectly staged family photos, or thighs that don’t touch, the bulk of ‘pins’ on users’ boards are unattainable dreams that do little more than make us wish our lives were like that. Let’s face it, Pinterest can make us feel bad about ourselves and our ‘inadequate’ lives. The thing is, I it makes me feel shame sometimes to say that I still love Pinterest. I’m telling you…my cooking has really kicked it up a notch. Being an ex-pat, I’ve even been able to find some copy-cat recipes for those times I miss home. I’ve had great cleaning and parenting and gardening tips that have really improved the way we work things around this house. There are still so many benefits. I think I’ve been able to navigate my way through Pinterest without hating myself thanks to a few simple rules I set up for myself. Maybe they can help you too.

RULE 1: ONLY PIN THINGS THAT ARE REALISTIC AND ATTAINABLE
As amazing as the pictures are of the backyard pool that looks like a river…I will never, ever in my life have that. I won’t pin it to my ‘Dream Home’ board, because I don’t have a ‘Dream Home’ board. I do have a board of house stuff like the bunk beds we want to build for our boys when they’re a bit bigger. Stuff that is realistic and we 100% fully plan to do.

RULE 2: MAKE A HABIT OF REGULARLY COMPLETING & DELETING PINS
Thanks to what I like to consider mild OCD when it comes to organizing, I have an almost obsessive habit with organizing my boards. The feeling of deleting a pin after completing it is so ridiculously satisfying to me. I have a general guideline of trying to complete at least one pin a week. If it’s a not-so-busy time (summer holidays, etc), I’ll try to do at least one meal and one other pin a week. Being proactive and actually completing goals helps take the ‘self-loathing’ out of Pinterest, because you’re actually doing things. 

RULE 3: PIN ONLY WHAT REALLY MATTERS
Make sure you have a healthy outlook on life and what matters. Having a baby? Great! Pinterest is full of the latest baby gear, maternity fashion, kid’s fashion, nursery trends, how to lose baby weight, etc. On the other hand, it is also full of great tips for how to prepare for labour, how to adjust to your new life as a mother, how to care for your body post-birth, and great activities to do with kids of all ages. What is going to make you a better mother, have a better pregnancy/birth experience,  and give you and your child a more fulfilling relationship? Pin those things. And adapt to every part of your life (house, children/family, health fitness, etc)

There are probably more rules that can be added, but those are the basic ones to keep me grounded. And I know that this post is focused primarily towards women, while men do have some of the same behaviours on Pinterest as women. The difference is women are pitted against each other and taught to be dissatisfied with themselves and their own life from a very young age. Do you have any tips on keeping grounded while using social media like Pinterest (or craftster, etc)?

On Sex and Gender

To be clear, when I speak about sex, I mean the physical male or female parts that people are born with. When I refer to gender, it is the characteristics that society ascribes to an individual and/or their behaviors and traits (ie what is “masculine” and “feminine”). 

Last week, I had my 20-week pregnancy scan. As much as I told myself, “it doesn’t matter” and that I’ll “honestly be happy with either”….I knew I had to find out. Would we have a girl (and therefore be inundated with a whole new wardrobe of “girl” clothes from friends and relatives) or would we have another boy and brother for Atticus? There is something about knowing the sex of the baby that mentally and emotionally helps me bond with my unborn child. I think I also like to be “prepared”.

With this sentiment, many people liked to challenge my convictions regarding sex and gender. If I am truly fine with my sons wearing pink or playing with dolls and my daughters playing with monster trucks in the mud, then what do I need to “prepare” for. Well, contrary to popular belief, preparing for a child includes more than shopping for a tiny wardrobe, decorating a nursery, and coordinating my personal baby gear in the appropriate color. 

I desperately hope to raise my children into self-actualizing adults. I think my desperate need to know boy or girl is a need to know what I will be dealing with. Will I have a child whose existence is most likely to be filled with society demanding them for politeness, complacency, and beauty or one whose sole requirements are emotionlessness, bravery/brutishness, and dominance? We expect different things from our boys than our girls….and that isn’t fair. I want my sons AND daughters to know that they don’t have to be the prettiest, smartest, toughest, or nicest person in the world. I want them to know that their priorities are to be honest with themselves about who they are, what they want to become, and not to prevent others from doing the same. What I want to “prepare” for is not necessarily what I will need to teach my children, but what I will need to “unteach” them. My biggest fear is that my children will be cookie cutters MALES of FEMALES based on what society tells them to be instead of fighting for what/who they truly are.

“Promote what you love rather than bashing what you hate.”

The above quote is interesting, because I feel most of the world’s commentary (including my own) is cynicism about “their” views and actions and ideals. In all of this, we forget to actually give an example of a better alternative. About a year ago, I tried my hand at blogging, and got into it a bit. I found myself in a rather odd position, though, as I was actually very much promoting what I hate.

Don’t get me wrong, simpler living and encouraging others to do the same is definitely something I want to promote. The whole young-trendy (not that I’m anything resembling on-trend) girl with a blog full of DIYs and recipes that makes its readers feel somehow inadequate is not what I wanted. You know the type….the blog that will teach you how to sew your own entire wardrobe, build a house out of mason jars and chalkboard paint, and grow/process/refine your own wheat all while homeschooling five kids and working 40 hours a week as a fashion designer. Maybe not to that extreme, but close to it. After a while, google decided for some reason, that I wasn’t 13-years-old and would therefore delete all of my accounts. It was a small blessing to have no choice in the matter.  I’m glad I’ve had the last year to reflect on the type of blog I would like to contribute to.

See, as women, we have a certain cultural obligation to be lady-like. We are meant to look good, work hard, and do everything just right without complaint. When we see someone else doing “more” than us, we quickly feel somehow inadequate, but we mustn’t reveal this to the outside world. We can only internally bemoan the fact that so-and-so is clearly happier, more loved by her family, and leads a more exciting life than us. We can complain about others shortcomings (actually, rivalry is encouraged), but reveal a blemish on the surface of our own perfect world is unacceptable. That myth of femininity is not one I want to help perpetuate. I am in no way perfect, and I don’t want those around me to ever feel like they do “less” than me. I am constantly blown away by the women in my life and what they accomplish. However, it is not more or less…it is simply, different. This is something I need to remind myself of often. DIYs and recipes are something I love and would love to share, but I also want to share random thoughts and musings and confessions about my own life. I want us all to be a community sharing rather than comparing. So hopefully this time around, things can be a bit more personal and less show pony.