It’s Just Brunch

When you first had your child did you worry about when you could return to activities you enjoyed prior to becoming a parent?

When I first entered motherhood, I had two realizations: I love my son, and I loved my old life, how can I honor both?  I was stumped. As a new parent, I thought sacrifice was paramount to being a ‘good parent’, and anything else was selfish. This kind of understanding and thinking was a rookie mistake on my part. What I learned was that while parenting requires sacrifice, it also requires taking care of yourself so that you can give your child the energy and attention they need from you.

When my son was young, my husband and I were lucky enough to be in a PEPS group (Program for Early Parenthood Support) and were surrounded by other families who were just starting out as parents like we were. We were encouraged to have a Moms Night Out (MNO) where the dads would watch the kids while the moms had dinner, and vice versa, so the dads had an opportunity to do the same. I lived for those MNO in the early days and looked forward to them. But as our kids got older, and required less of us physically, the need by all the moms for these MNO diminished. We probably haven’t had a MNO in years.

In those early days, I needed a reprieve from being a parent. I needed to be with others my age for adult conversation and interaction. I was very mindful of this need in the early days of being a parent. I’ve gotten a bit away from it as my children have grown and become independent.  That is, until, a girlfriend of mine reached out to go to brunch. As a working parent, she realized with all the stresses from work and home life, she needed to connect with others and became proactive about doing so. Thankfully, I was one of the friends she reached out to. “Let’s do brunch,” she said. Oh, brunch sounded nice. I hadn’t done brunch without family members present in a long time. I mean a loooong time. I loved the idea, and eagerly accepted her invitation. I loved having brunch with my friend. She reminded me that it’s okay to start reclaiming your independence and take time for those activities that are important to you — like keeping up relationships and having a good meal that is kid-free.

What kid-free activity have you reconnected with since becoming a parent? Or what activity do you want to? What helped you or what’s holding you back?

Playdate

When my boys were young, I longed for when they would have playdates…at their friends homes. I have to admit I liked the idea of them developing friendships outside of daycare and school, but wasn’t so sure if I wanted to host these occasions. Cleaning the house, making sure we had the right food (and understood any allergies and parental preferences), and having some activities in my back pocket in case we needed to keep the kids entertained (e.g. deter them from destroying the house) created a lot of anxiety, and made me tired just thinking about it.

As I reflected on this recently, I thought about playdates we have as we mature, though we don’t refer to them as that. By junior high it’s called “hanging out” and changes into “date night” or “grabbing dinner or a drink with your friends” as we become adults. Adult playdates seemed must easier to do before my kids arrived. Much like coordinating a kid playdate, coordinating an adult one can be just as stressful: who can we get to babysit, can we squeeze in a “relaxing” event with our busy schedules, and juggling doing something “fun” that may take away from my sleep.

But, I love my friends, and my husband, and know while stressful, scheduling activities with them are necessary. It’s what keep me connected and gives me energy back (though it does take energy to plan). Similarly, my kids need to have playdates to develop friendship skills and practice their manners.

Presently I’ve probably hosted as many playdates as my boys have attended. It’s fun to see them play with their friends and good to meet their friend’s parents. It does take some work, but the ultimate payoff is their smiling faces.

How often does your child have playdates? Do you prefer to host or have your child hosted? Do you live for playdates or dread them?

The Pumpkin Patch

Our tradition of going to the pumpkin patch each October started after our children were born. Prior to this the idea of getting in a car and driving a long distance to get a pumpkin or Christmas Tree had always seemed silly. Why go the distance when I can just get the pumpkin at the grocery store. I know. I know. How very practical, right?

When we first went to a pumpkin patch, I felt like I had been transported. Hundreds of families were all around, grabbing wheel barrows to cart their pumpkins around in, there were hay rides, a petting zoo, a corn maze and all the wonderful smells of Autumn. After being given a hot apple cider, my husband and I took the scene all in. I felt alive. I was in the moment, watching my children enjoy the pumpkin patch and fully experiencing it the wonder that was going on around me.

How often do we get to make these memories with our very busy lives? It felt good to make the time for this special adventure.

Going to the pumpkin patch has become an annual tradition for us. There is nothing new per se about the trip that happens each year, but it’s quality time we get to have together. It’s precious time in that we’ll only get to do this as a family for so long.

I take my cider and sip on it slowly as I try to make the moment last longer. It really is a special time.

What special fall traditions do you and your family partake in?

Breathe in Breathe out

Have you ever had a week where stressors seem to pile up? This week I did. It started with the normal stuff: school forms that needed to be sent in, and schoolwork my children needed to complete (of course, the homework required parental involvement, which was fine). Next throw in a stressful work situation or two that becomes escalated, find out that not one, but two family members have serious medical situations going on, and have a spouse who is away on a business trip. It can start to feel overwhelming.

How do you handle such weeks?

As the week unfolded, each day seemed to bring a new strain and I’d think to myself, “It’s got to get better,” only to have another stressor added the following day. “I’ll get through this,” I’d tell myself as I tried to cope on my own. I was sharing my situation with a trusted advisor, who in turn asked me a great question, “What are you doing to take care of yourself?” Now, several years ago, that question would have just made me mad. I probably would have responded, “Nothing. There’s no time!” But since I’ve learned so much around the importance of it since then, it was a good reminder. What am I doing to take care of myself? I thought. I realized that I wasn’t doing anything. I was running on auto-pilot trying to get through each day and not allowing myself time to feel anything too strongly or think too much about any one concern. Instead I was seeking out downtime and rest.  As I realized this, I was first disappointed. Why wasn’t I seeking out more self-care? Then I thought, Cut yourself some slack. You’ve had a heck of a week. 

We all have stressors in our life and some weeks are better than others. What I noticed most about this past week was how much I longed to be comforted and held by my husband (I needed someone to tell me everything is going to be okay), and I needed rest. I needed to listen to my body’s cues and give myself permission and time to process and work through all the things I’m dealing with. I also realized that I wasn’t being fully present with my children. I was trying to get through each day, not interact with them as authentically as I would if I didn’t have this stresses hanging over me.

This came to a head when I was trying to read a book while in the same room with my older son. He was watching a college football game. Something he and I both enjoy. He was very excited by what was going on in the game and kept trying to engage me in what was taking place. After realizing I was missing an opportunity to engage with my son (I could read the book later), I put the book down and took a deep breathe. I’m not sure what prompted me to do this, but it felt good. Breathe in, breathe out. It helped bring me back to the present. My son saw that my attention was now on him and the game and he came to my side with the widest smile. “I can’t help how much I love this, Mom,” he shared. And while I suspect that he was referring to his excitement in watching the game, he reminded me how much I love spending time with he and his brother too.  Just one breathe brought it all back into focus.

I was grateful when my husband arrived home a few hours later and grateful when the week that the week is behind me, but possibly most grateful for the gift of a simple deep breathe, and how it brought me back to life. What a simple tool: breathe in, breathe out.

How do you take care of yourself when you have stressful situations? What brings you back to being fully present?

Hidden Messages

My husband is a self-proclaimed non-romantic. A bummer, I know. I have often dreamt of him having a romantic-switch buried deep down inside just waiting to be turned on. Of course, I’ve tried everyway I know from hints to outright asking him to try to be more romantic, attempting to will the switch on, and unfortunately the magical switch has remained dormant.

I used to think that him not being romantic had everything to do with me, as if there was a hidden message I should be reading into about me (e.g. perhaps I’m not worth being romantic for), instead of it having anything to do with him. I have learned over time and from some very wise sources that my husband is who he is and while romantic notions may be how I envision love being shown to me, he shows me his love in many others.

I started to think about hidden messages and how we can easily misconstrue what peoples actions or inactions, words or lack of words mean. This can occur not only between spouse or partners, but also between friends, and with our children. Specific to our children, meaning can be derived in the tone of voice we use, in the words we say or exclude. Do your children understand what you are communicating to them and why? Or are they reading into what you are saying without verbalizing it, much like I was reading into my husband’s non-cues?

While coming to the terms that having many romantic experiences in my life may not be in my future, I’ve recently learned that I may be wrong and that there is hope. Before my husband left for a business trip, we discussed how to stay connected while he was away. I told him how much I valued his observations or acknowledgements he makes about me or our relationship. He shared how much being able to see me and our boys meant to him. We connected via video chat each day after his departure, and he unveiled a hidden surprise. He left me notes hidden around the house. One for everyday that he was gone. How romantic! These hidden messages mean more to me than he will ever know. They not only helped carry me through the time while he was away, but have created a wonderful memory for me that I will treasure. The message was received loud and clear — I am worth being romantic for, and I still have a lot to learn about my husband.

Are there hidden messages in your relationship with your spouse or child? How do you ensure they are receiving your intended message?

Marriage IS Work

In SNL’s season finale, host Ben Affleck talked about hosting for his fifth time, and also poked fun at his acceptance speech at the Oscar with her wife, Jennifer Garner. She joined him on stage to discuss the famous comment from his speech that “marriage is work”.

While he worked to explain himself and what he meant by his comment to the audience and his wife, the unspoken message came through loud and clear—anyone who is honest about marriage will agree with what he said: marriage is work. Any relationship worth holding onto takes work. Think of the work we put into connecting with our parents, our children, our friends and each other. In some relationships the work seems effortless, in others it can be exhausting.

When I met my husband, I instantly liked him. We shared a lot in common. It was easy to make a connection with him because he was easy to relate to. After being married for several years, we learned that while we could relate to one another, we weren’t connecting as deeply as we wanted to, or stated more accurately, how I wanted to.

We have worked on connecting more deeply in recent years. Making ourselves more vulnerable to each other, and freeing ourselves to speak more honestly. While uncomfortable at first, it has become easier for both of us with time. Being accepted as I am, truly as I am, is really freeing. I am able to love my husband more deeply and we are able to enjoy each other more fully. That’s not to say we don’t occasionally hit a bump in the road. We know that’s not possible, we may have disagreements, and we just work through them.

Marriage is work, in the best sense. Parenting is work. Life is work. Sometimes the work seems effortless, sometimes it can seem exhausting, but it always feels worth it.