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Solo-Parenting; What Solo Feels Like

walkingI’ve been darn lucky to raise such a really good kid.

I spent a lot of days worrying about how I would put food on the table, afford medicine when he got sick, and whether or not I was doing all I could to give him what he needed.

I stayed home for so many sick days I thought I’d lose my job. I stayed up late cooking and putting loot bags together for Hallowe’en parties and Valentine’s day parties, and Santa surprises. And I loved every single minute I’ve had with my child.

As one of my older and wiser gal-pals told me one day while I was laying like a beached whale on the sofa, pregnant and sick, “Guilt will be a constant for you once this baby is born. You’ll feel guilty about everything. You’ll always think you can do better.”

I remember thinking that I wish she would just shut up. I remember thinking that all of these little nuggets of wisdom were huge warning signs during what should be the happiest time of my life. But they were right. As a mother, you never stop worrying that your child is happy, warm, well-fed and as they get older, not being a little shithead.

Becoming a mother was the single-most amazing and terrifying thing that ever happened to me. I felt strong and  fierce and terrified and vulnerable all at the same time.

So here we are, on the cusp of having this child officially become an adult, and it’s all been worth it.

Luckily both parents get along as well as possible, and I believe we’ve provided him a good solid foundation for making decisions and embracing life.

Friends have been a wonderful support, surrounding my son and I with time, listening ears and rounds of congratulations.

But as a single parent even moments of joy and success have been bittersweet. For the most part, I attend all of his activities alone.  I feel great pride, joy and a sense of accomplishment with no one really to share it with. Information about new opportunities comes and goes, and at the end of the day, it’s on my own that I wonder about them, rationalize, hope and dream for my child. There is no partner to turn to for another perspective.

What I have learned during the past few months is that not only have I done my best as a parent, but I’ve done well in general, helping my child make decisions that will hopefully result in greater happiness and success for him.

You will walk home from first days of school with no one to reassure you that they will be ok. You will send them out on their first time away from home, watch them perform in plays, the band, sports, on their first date, taking the car for the first time, with yourself being the only cheering section.  You will do this alone, with no one to witness these passages from child to adult. Sharing great joy is what makes joy so wonderful.

If you are on your own I have two pieces of advice; don’t second guess your intuition when it comes to what’s right for your kids, and don’t settle for good-enough. It’s all worth it. Every single minute that you worry and wonder, and spend alone.

 

 

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All Souls Day – Remembering the Good & the Bad Gives us Strength

grandmothersToday is All Souls day. This is a day to remember our ancestors who have died, and to honour them.

Today it was my grandmother whom I remembered. All Souls Day is special, but I remember my granny every day.

No one would ever accuse her of being delicate or fragile. She was strong, fiercely protective, and one of the most fun, free-spirited people I have ever known. Living life fully is the legacy she left her family.

There was always room for one more at her table, and enough food in the pot for one more. She was generous and giving, and thrived on adventure and curiosity. She gave us tradition, taught us the true meaning of love, and backed down from no one and nothing. She was simply amazing.

As a single woman, I could not have asked for a better role model or mentor. She has been gone almost 15 years, and she remains the strongest influence in my life. She was the mother I never had.

Today a friend of mine had to make funeral arrangements for her own mother.

My mother died this year too.  These two women never met, but seem to have one thing in common; they had terrible relationships with their daughters.

The only thing I mourned when my mother died was the long-forgotten hope that perhaps one day I would have a loving, caring mother, instead of the one who knowingly allowed the sexual, emotional and physical abuse of her child.

On the day of her funeral, I woke up, wondered at what an absolute waste her  life was, and toasted her  with a mimosa. I prayed  that her soul might finally be set free from the misery of her own creation.

Had my classmate not let us know her own mother had died, I would not have been thinking of the woman who gave birth to me either.

All Souls Day offers us a chance to remember the difficult relationships in order to appreciate the good ones.  It offers us a reminder that one day, we will also be gone, leaving nothing but a memory with those whom we love the most.

Raise a toast to those who have challenged you and even tried to devastate you.  Get down on your knees and give thanks for those who raised you up, lived a life of purpose rooted in love, and gave you that little kick in the ass we all need to keep being kind and fabulous.

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An Open Letter to Mothers With Young Children

"Mothers are the people who love us for no good reason. And those of us who are mothers know it's the most exquisite love of all." ~Maggie Gallagher~
“Mothers are the people who love us for no good reason. And those of us who are mothers know it’s the most exquisite love of all.”
~Maggie Gallagher~

I was you once – giddy with affection and unconditional love for my child.

Every moment was a miracle, and every second I could kiss, cuddle, snuggle or coo my little one, I did. Unapologetically.

I see you out there, proud as punch as you push your strollers and post your photos on social media of your naps, and first steps, and messy little-helping hands of your budding cookie bakers.

Don’t stop.

That’s right. You read that correctly. Don’t stop falling in love with your babies.

I’m the middle-aged woman you pass at the coffee shop, or in the shopping aisle who stops to tell you how beautiful your baby, toddler or young child is. I’m the woman who coos over the outfits and little faces, and even the tears.  I’m one of the kazillion middle-aged women who look at you through their newly increased lens prescription and says; “Enjoy them while they’re young.”

Don’t stop being amazed at every new stage. Ever.Don’t stop wondering how they are when they head off to school, and don’t stop bothering them for a hug, or stories about their day when they become teenagers. Trust me, they will challenge you sometimes.

Whatever happens and whatever they get up to, don’t stop being the ferociously loving mother that you are.

I’ll be honest with you. When my child turned three, I was tempted to see what the return policy was. Four was better. Like a light switch being turned on, the ‘terrible three’s’ (it was three not two) turned into the fabulous four’s, and I had my angel back.

It’s true, every age and stage holds some surprise. Some stages, much like the prize your potty-training-darling hands to you while proudly shouting, “Poo-Poo”  are less satisfying than others. Sometimes you will despair at how you will get through the day; emotionally, physically, financially. Sometimes, you will have nothing left to give. But that’s when us older gals come in.

We’ve been there; the smiling photo-posting-proud-as-pie times and the lonely-how-am-I-going-to-do-it-times. Pick up the phone, talk to us in line at Starbuck’s, or at the grocery store. We’ve been there sister, and lived to coach you through it.

For now, just keep doing what you do. You’re great at it, even when you’re not sure you’re doing it right, you are.

~Enjoy them while they’re little. They grow up too quickly.~

 

 

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Consumer Coffee Cats Cash in on Fall

“Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime, nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.”~John Donne~

Long, long ago and far, far away, it was the heady scent  of decaying leaves crunching underfoot that was the first subtle messenger that let us know Lady Autumn was on her way.

Today, it was the Starbucks tweet that heralded a change from summer to fall. Today was the first day  pumpkin spice lattes became available  in 2012. Lady Autumn has had her people call our people to  arrange her debut at your local Starbucks.

Besides the promise of yummy pumpkin spice lattes, I had to send my giant, nearly 6′ tall teenager off to school for the first day.  Which also means that it’s my last day off before humping the fall run of work days leading up to my Christmas holidays. The french Canadian part of me thought, “Le sigh.”

Besides cooking a nice hot meal for my son tonight, and the traditional first-day-of-school-triple-chocolate-chip-cookies, I had the rest of the day to myself ( a total of 2 whole hours before I pick him up). What is a mother to do with all of that spare time, besides vacuum, post the mail, empty the dishwasher, feed the cat and fold laundry?

Originally I had a spa day planned. You know, a day at BodyBlitz, just me and my wiggly bits. Then I thought about it, and figured I didn’t want to drive all the way into the city. More accurately, I didnt’ want to drive out of the city during what is surely to be one of the busiest traffic days of the year, what with all of us ‘mommies’ rushing to pick our babies up.

Then I thought I would just settle for a haircut and a mani-pedi. Nah. Forget the haircut, I’m trying to grow my hair long so it’s not perpetually in my face when I run or bend over.  A manicure would never last given the work I have to do in the kitchen today, so I might as well just skip that too. Oh, and the pedicure.

Well ladies, I have a confession to make. Currently I’m sporting a paper-mache toenail in an effort to make it to sock season. That deserves a blog in itself, and maybe if you beg, I’ll write that one so you have something to laugh about.

Anyway, I decided that I’d just settle for heading to the Starbucks drive-thru to pick up my first non-fat-decaf-pumpkin-spice-latte-please, and  then having my eyebrows waxed.

I also decided to splurge on a new herbal tea my friend told me about. I planned on coming  home to drink said tea while reading an extended September horoscope (while the cookies bake) that I will forget as soon as I’m finished reading it. I direct you to Susan Miller’s Astrology Zone for thorough, monthly  astrological readings. 

Since I forgot to ask for the ‘decaf’ part of my coffee, I’ve zipped through my mommy-chores, and am now pounding out this blog. Caffeine is my bitch.

Ah-hem….back to nostalgic reminiscing about the changing seasons….

Yesterday I mourned the end of another summer. It was a wonderful few months. The sunshine was soothing, the exercise on the river was refreshing, and watching my son play baseball almost every night of the week made me happy. 

Fall. Autumn. The end of hot days, lazy afternoons by the pool falling asleep listening to the dulcet tones of my favourite singers (Willie, Leonard, Blake,Adam and a bit of Bob).

I was so busy holding onto summer that I forgot how much I miss fall, not the least of which is enjoying a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (non-fat, of course). As I drove home this morning, a few eyebrow hairs less, I remembered how much I love broody autumn afternoons.

You know, the kind where the sky hangs low and grey. It rains just enough to make you stay inside bundled up in warm fuzzies, and cuddling just a little closer to the ones you love.

The kind of days good for cooking slow roasts, hearty soups, and sipping weighty cabernets. The kind of nights when I’m happy to have my hunky piece of man-steak cuddled up to me in front of the fire-place (usually he’s sizzling because the fireplace gets way too hot – it’s my sneaky way to get him down to his undies).

 Even though today it’s advertising, not the scent of piles of smouldering leaves which rings in the season of autumn, it’s still a beautiful time of year with loads of magical promise.  So, although  technically we have a few weeks before the autumn equinox, I can smile as I wave a good-bye to summer, and all of the fun I had.

After all, it’s time to welcome fall, and get cozy.

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Fashion Magazines Will Save the World – Or – Don’t Believe Everything Your Mother Says

My mother forced me to wear a fuchsia pink full body jumpsuit to my grade nine hazing day, effectively launching her plan to keep me a chaste, untouched virgin until my arranged marriage husband would make appropriate love to me through the crocheted hole of new linen sheets on our wedding night. Little did she know that senior high school boys in 1988 had x-ray vision and didn’t even notice the fuchsia pink jumpsuit.

My mother also thought that reading women’s magazines was the intellectual equivalent of 1920’s Paris salons.  Actually, I retract that. I don’t think she would know about Parisian salons.

Politics, religion, philosophy, history, literature; these were not the domain of women in the little century old home where I was raised. Eyeshadow, hairstyles and how to keep your man via the household menu were the topics in which I was tutored. However, I was a curious, stubborn and contradictory child.

I was more intrigued by the evening news than I was by Phil Donahue or the afternoon soap operas.  I followed politics, and often, to my immaculately turned out mother’s chagrin, often left the house without make-up (gasp!). Even at a young age, I was very matter of fact, which must have been a nightmare for my 1950’s housewife style mother.  Youth does not fair well in the land of grey, only in black and white/right and wrong.

Mother bought most of the women’s magazines that came out every month, and by the age of 13, I was buying and reading Cosmopolitan as a habit.  We always had magazines in the house, articles about make-up, clothing and hairstyles often dog-eared, circled, or torn out and folded up inside Mom’s gargantuan purse. A broken nail was a five alarm emergency which would send her out the door and to the aesthetician immediately.

One could argue that it’s the finer things that women appreciate, the beautiful aesthetic that we maintain and honor in the world that grounds our homes and families. I can’t argue with that. If we could all go home to a peaceful and comfortable retreat, the world, indeed, would be a better place.  We all know that’s not the case for most people. Even if affluence is present, presence may not be present.

So, I moved beyond the smut of home and fashion and the promise of  no-effort, no-fail weight loss miracles on the cover of  weekly rag mags. I educated myself by reading the newspaper, or several from various politically charged landscapes scattered around the globe. I continue to question what’s reported on, and more importantly, what is not.

Am I a better person for it? Does simply being in-the-know make me a better person than my mother?

What do I do with my knowledge, my questions, my human instinct for justice? How does it come into my seasonally decorated home? These are the things that my mother never taught me.

I remember her advice as I moved out on my own, ” Always buy magazines, and you’ll never be out of style. Be careful who you make friends with – never trust another woman around your man.”  She also told me I was fat, ugly, and getting a university degree was a selfish waste of time. Great advice.

Despite ditching mom’s advice, I must admit that I still have a magazine addiction. My grade 11 English teacher Ms. Madeleine Horton eyeballed my Cosmopolitan one day, and said, “Kemina, you’re far too intelligent to read that. Try Vanity Fair.” She was sure to ask about the articles every month. 

I have been very fortunate in this lifetime to know several older women who have tutored me in intellect and the presence that I mentioned earlier. I have been blessed to engage in conversations with older, more experienced women about real life issues. I’ve been given advice about relationships that my mother would have never thought of. Beyond losing weight and looking too good to be true, I was not nurtured in the value of maintaining my own ideas, personal ethic and independent thought. All pretty flipping sexy qualities don’t you think?

I still love some of the more girly periodicals, and buy two or three every month. I even love my mother because as a woman, I have to respect that she did the best she could with the resources she had.

It was my relationship with my “other mothers” that lead to my appreciation of magazines like The Economist, The New Yorker, The Walrus and Mother Jones.  Fashion magazines are to me what sports are for most men; a safe way to connect and bond.

I’m not a guerilla warfare style human rights activist, but I do stay up to date, and engage my peers in conversation about things that matter. As I mature, I hope that some day, somewhere,  young women say, “You know, I learned a lot from that Kemina woman.”

One final maternal thought to leave you with. When I was six years old (1980ish), my mother loaded me in the car, and drove me to her friend’s house who was a very kind, chain-smoking hairdresser. She was going to transform her long, blonde haired kindergarten aged daughter (moi) into the clone of little Orphan Annie. As I sat through two hours of bungee cord curlers pulling my hair, and perm chemicals stinging my eyes, my mom didn’t ask if I was ok as she chatted in the haze of the smoke-filled room. She looked at my tearing eyes and said very matter-of-factly, “Kemina, it hurts to be beautiful.” I think I remember some kind of evil laugh after that, but  passed out from the fumes. Anyway, my point is that I think it is more accurate to say, “It hurts to think you are not beautiful.”

Confidence is beautiful. Staying informed and educating yourself is beautiful. Mentoring and encouraging other women is our nature, not a danger. This, not fastion magazines will save the world.

Be kind. Be smart. Be informed. Be Fabulous, and remember that you are beautiful-always.