Working Mom (Sorry, not sorry): Hot coffee at last.

Lady Gains & Life With Littles

Today I drank an extra-large coffee, warm to the last drop! Simple, yes, but it is no small feat for a mom of three young children. For a year straight, I have been a milk maid (dairy cow), snack b*tch, entertainment coordinator, referee, housekeeper, the list goes on…but today, I drank a hot coffee.

I went back to work this week after maternity leave with my third baby. While I am eternally grateful to live in a country that allows us a year off with our babies, a stay at home mom I am not. For a year I have had someone in my space – physically, mentally, and audibly! Yet, I have been so lonely, and isolated. I have to say, it is a breath of fresh air to sit in silence and reflect.

coffee blog photo

It is exciting to begin thinking about ME again! I got to get dressed without…

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Working Mom (Sorry, not sorry): Hot coffee at last.

Today I drank an extra-large coffee, warm to the last drop! Simple, yes, but it is no small feat for a mom of three young children. For a year straight, I have been a milk maid (dairy cow), snack b*tch, entertainment coordinator, referee, housekeeper, the list goes on…but today, I drank a hot coffee.

I went back to work this week after maternity leave with my third baby. While I am eternally grateful to live in a country that allows us a year off with our babies, a stay at home mom I am not. For a year I have had someone in my space – physically, mentally, and audibly! Yet, I have been so lonely, and isolated. I have to say, it is a breath of fresh air to sit in silence and reflect.

coffee blog photo

It is exciting to begin thinking about ME again! I got to get dressed without thinking about anyone else’s needs. No: ‘can I easily flop my boob out of this?’, ‘will this hide spit up and mushed cheerios?’, ‘can I lean over, kneel on the ground, and chase chaos in this?’.  Instead, I asked: ‘does this outfit make me feel fabulous?’, ‘can I tackle my dreams in this?’, and ‘do these glasses make me look like a bad 1950’s yearbook photo??”.

I spent some time considering my own needs and wants. I had my own thoughts. I had a day-date with myself, and I developed an instant girl-crush, love at long-last.

“I missed you”, I said to myself. i missed you self photo

#SorryNotSorryKids

I am not sorry I am a working mom. I am not sorry I do not get to spend 24/7 with you for 18 years. I am not sorry I get to go chase my dreams, nurture myself, and feed my own interests exclusive of you. I love you, and you are my greatest masterpieces! But there is so much in this world for us all to experience!

I know you can survive, and thrive, without me there every moment. I know you will learn things I cannot teach you, and have experiences I cannot give you. You will learn independence, resilience, and adaptation. I will share you and your gifts with others; and more people loving you and supporting you is never a bad thing! You will learn to communicate and bond with new people, be better judges of character, and be more open to the unknown.

You will see your mother setting goals and achieving them. You will learn that we are not bound by traditional gender roles: women can have corporate success, and men can change diapers. Women can be educated, lead companies, and have financial independence; and men can cheer them on every step of the way!

And when I get home, I will scoop you up in my arms and love you fiercely! I will ask you about your day, and tell you about mine. I will revel in the pictures you’ve drawn and the stories you have to tell – and there will be many! I will listen to you excitedly tell me about the dragonfly you found squished on the driveway and admire that you moved him to the grass to get better. I will comfort you and discipline you when I hear of your squabbles with your siblings. I will still do all the things I have always done, in smaller, more concentrated doses. We will value the quality of our time together, over quantity.

There will be many moments that I miss you, and moments that I miss. I will worry about you and cry in my car on the days you beg me not to leave, staring at the empty car seats behind me. But today, I am drinking hot coffee at last.

Your firsts, My lasts: Our last baby.

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After we had our son, I sold everything baby related as soon as he grew out of it. We had 2 healthy kids that took us to the end of our patience and energy every day. It was enough, we were complete. After all, most vehicles are made for families of 4. Hotels are made for families of 4. Most restaurant tables: made for 4. I came from a family of 4. 2 kids, 2 adults, divide and conquer. We.  Are.  Done.

Until a little voice crept in…what if…just maybe…we aren’t? Wouldn’t big family gatherings be fun when we are older? What if we have enough resources to love and provide for one more? What if I can’t bear the thought of not growing another baby inside me, feeling the kicks and squirms? What if my heart aches to nurse a baby again and inhale her sweet smell? What if??

Enter bonus baby #3…and the subsequent (very efficient and permanent) snip. We are ACTUALLY done. But, I am still finding the same “what if?” feelings creeping in. Repeat after me: “You cannot collect babies like kittens; they don’t stay kittens forever!” There will be no Baby #4, of that I am confident. But knowing that doesn’t always stop the ache.

This is my last baby. The last one. So while everyone marvels in and anticipates all her firsts, I wince at the thought of all my lasts. I parent her differently – a little more slowly, a little more lax. I let her be little. I hold her a little longer when she falls asleep – sleep training totally out the window. I miss her a little more when she’s gone (which, let’s be serious, is never since she still nurses 3 times a night….such a gem to let me enjoy her so regularly! But if she DID sleep, maybe, probably, I would start to miss her!).  But in those night time moments, when it is just me and her and the rest of the world sleeps, I give us grace. I know these moments are fleeting, and time really does go SO FAST.

She won’t need me like this forever. Not even for long. Our moments like these are numbered and that makes me SO SAD. For months I craved some independence, some autonomy, only to now feel so guilty that I wished these moments away. Now, 2 weeks before I go back to work (early, as she will only be 10 months old), I am pained with anxiety. This is my last baby, and I am leaving her.

This is my last maternity leave. This is my last extended time off with my kids. I want to cram memories and experiences into the days, hours, and seconds…but also, simultaneously, stop time, cuddle up and soak them in. Every day I spend teaching this last baby how to crawl, to stand, and to eat something other than my milk so she can survive and thrive without me, in my head begging her to stay little, stay still, and never stop needing me.

I want ALL THE THINGS. I want to be supermom, fit mom, career mom, business woman, wife, and my own person. But as we both move toward independence, I can’t help but feel pulled back over and over. I am so scared. I rushed this. I’m not ready. She is not ready. WE ARE BOTH OK and WE WILL ALL BE FINE.

My stomach is in a knot, I want to cry. Why can’t I have my cake and eat it, too? My husband said to me, “Just think, we almost didn’t get any of these moments at all”. That made me feel oddly better. She is our bonus baby, the icing on the cake, an extra lifetime of firsts. She is my last, last baby, and I am going to hold on a little tighter and a little longer this time, celebrating her firsts and desperately mourning my lasts.

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Photo Credit: PurelyFresh

 

 

Bottle it, sell it, and save some for later…

Hey Bloggers!  It’s been a while! I’ve been meaning to write this for two months but didn’t get to it…because life. It is also because, apparently, I feel most inspired to write in times of desperation. This is NOT one of those times. I am happy – more happy and content with ME than I ever remember being.

I decided to attempt another grad school class while on maternity leave, and my sitter had to take medical leave at the same time. So three kids, one of them attached to the boob, grad school, aaaaand the gym and meal planning…blog? What blog? I successfully finished my class, kept the kids alive (albeit one still attached to the boob at 9 months old like an extra appendage), and have completely changed my life. Yeah, I said that: in three months, I have completely changed my life.

If you read my previous blog on shame, you know how much I struggled with how three babies, aging, and life in general had ̶d̶e̶s̶t̶r̶o̶y̶e̶d̶ changed my body. Getting out all those raw feelings of shame and guilt allowed me to reflect on all that this body has accomplished and helped me to gain. I really worked at staying mindful of giving myself grace and feeling pride in the baby steps I was making toward a better me. Whatever I was doing, however good or bad I was – it was better than eating ice cream on the couch.

I recently finished my 12 week fitness overhaul. I would love to say that the weight just fell off. It didn’t. But it did drip away little by little. More remarkably, as the 12 weeks went on, I felt stronger: physically and emotionally. I noticed my body changing, my energy increasing, and my pride in myself growing. I bought some new workout clothes (never underestimate the power of a good outfit in making you feel better about being somewhere you may not want to be!)

Aside from the gym gains, I was making gains at home too. I quickly detoxed myself off refined sugars, processed “food”, and most alcohol (wine is a whole food, right? Kidding, I really did cut back on this, too!). I increased my water intake and I truly believe that was a HUGE contributor to how I was feeling!) I also started getting my kids off refined sugars, not completely but we have made enormous progress.

As the weeks went on I stopped obsessing about macros and calories and have instead focused on just eating real food, and listening to my body and the hunger cues it gives. I definitely relied on MyFittnessPal app in the beginning to retrain my body what 1600-1800 calories a day feels and looks like, and to detox from all the sugar, garbage, and binge eating that had become common place in my life.

This new approach doesn’t feel like a diet anymore. Actually, it is a HUMAN DIET. Diet is defined as the food a species eats. Let me tell you, whatever North Americans are typically eating these days is not a human diet at all. It’s not even real food! New diet: just eat real food, stop when you’re full.

My results from the 12 week challenge in terms of hard numbers? I lost only 8 pounds I think? But I lost 20 inches! My wardrobe has increased dramatically as things are fitting that haven’t in a long while. In the 2-3 weeks since the challenge ended I’ve continued eating real food in portions that reflect the activities I’m doing…we went camping and I ate s’mores, drank some wine, ate junky campfire food – and I enjoyed it all with NO GUILT! When we got home, I went back to eating whole foods, drinking water, playing with my kids. I lost 4 more pounds!

To make physical activity an ongoing part of my life, and not let the momentum fade, I researched some different local gyms but I was not confident I could motivate myself to give it 100% by myself. Instead, I tried out a spin class, which I was previously too scared to even attempt. I even went by myself, and wasn’t at all ashamed of my lack of finesse (you should see my bruises from falling off the pedals!!). It was awesomely hard and I didn’t suck!

I read somewhere (Facebook probably), “Work out because you love your body, not because you hate it”. I love this. I don’t know what changed for me, or how. I wish I could write a recipe for success, bottle it, sell it, and save some for later! I am genuinely happy. I am happy with my progress, happy where I am, and optimistic about where these new life changes will take me, and my family.

Shawn Achor (2010), author of “The Happiness Advantage”, says “Happiness is not the belief that we do not need to change; it is the realization that we can” (p.24). How powerful is that?!

 

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(McDonald, 2017)

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Multitasking like a boss…boob put away for the picture!

 

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This photo is SO out of my comfort zone to share, but I want to show how the scale is so not important compared to measurements  I’ve only lost about 10 pounds….but have gained muscle and lost over 20 inches! The photos, while leaving you vulnerable, maybe embarrassed (maybe ashamed??), are the only way to really see how far you’ve come! Slowly but surely what I am doing is working.

 

References

Achor, S. (2010). The happiness advantage: The seven principles of positive psychology that fuel success and performance at work. New York, NY: Crown Buiness.

McDonald, D. (2017). Train Mean. Retrieved from https://rebeldietitian.us/train-mean

“Me, too”: A note on shame.

I am now two weeks into this fitness and lifestyle overhaul. We are falling into a more comfortable routine. I am no longer panic stricken wondering how the screamer will react. Actually, she has NOT cried on more days than she has cried while I’m gone. I will take that as a win!

I want to give another nod to my village. I cannot stress enough the importance of creating a village in parenthood: find your people, find your tribe. Parenting is SO HARD, so isolating, and near impossible if you live in a silo. We recently moved to a new town and while it may take some effort and stepping out of your comfort zone, it is worth it to put out some feelers and meet people. Exchange numbers, add people to Facebook, plan play dates, wine nights, park meet ups, whatever you like! It is also way easier to find a mom interested in a play date than to find a babysitter…cheaper too!  Just be sure to give as much, or more, than you receive! (Thank you, Village… for all your support, both practical and emotional!)

In just 2 weeks of strength training, I feel stronger, tighter, and less sore. In week one, I quickly realized just how “muscular” I really am! By muscular, I mean I have muscles….many muscles! I know this because every. single. one. hurt! It is a good hurt though, a strong hurt, a productive hurt! It hurts so good! 😉

The scale? It has not budged. At all. That is discouraging because I really have been good about my diet. It is so much work cooking family meals and eating on plan. Not to mention drinking all the water. So much water. I thought the weight would come off more quickly, especially in the beginning. Not so. “Trust the process”. “You’re building muscle to burn the fat”. “Your measurements will tell a different story”. I know all this…I really do. But anyone who knows me knows I am not a patient person. So there’s that.

The main thing I wanted to write about today is really important to me. It’s been a revelation, and is definitely a huge hurdle in personal growth and personal “gains”. I touched on it in one of my initial posts. Mirrors. I mentioned that I hate mirrors at the gym because I don’t like to see myself struggling, sweaty, no make-up. I hate looking at this body I fail to recognize. For the most part, this new gym has minimal mirrors and it is easy enough to avert my gaze to the floor, the wall, the equipment.

But there I stood, face to face with this new me, with nothing but a barbell between us. “You have to look at yourself to see your form; you have to see what you are doing so you don’t hurt yourself.” Locking eyes with myself in the mirror, seeing the disheveled, sweating, mass in front of me, I have never felt more embarrassed or ashamed. I was there, and had a plan, and I take pride in the journey I am on. But in that moment, all I felt was shame. Shame that I had allowed myself to get here, that I look like this. I felt like I was drowning.

I’ve done a lot of contemplating and research on shame in preparation for writing this post. Brené Brown (2013) defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection”. Yup. That’s the one.

If you have never heard of Brené Brown, you are missing out. She is a shame and vulnerability researcher. She is amazing and her TedTalks are extremely thought-provoking.

In processing these intense feelings of shame I felt at the gym that day, I watched a couple videos on guilt versus shame. Guilt is about behaviour, shame about the person. Guilt is external actions, shame is internal identification. I did something bad, versus I AM bad; I made a mistake, versus I AM a mistake (Brown, 2012). Shame is not productive, motivating, or helpful. Shame is extremely harmful and dangerous, and causes people to withdraw, disconnect, and spiral downward.

I thought hard about my feelings of shame as I looked at the woman in the mirror. Is that me? Am I a failure? Is the person I have become physically so unrecognizable and awful that even I won’t connect with her? This has to change.

The truth is, I don’t think I am a failure. I don’t think I am a mistake. I also don’t think I am a fat person. It is my actions, not my being, that have gotten me to this point. I have to reframe my self-talk to move from unproductive feelings of shame and helplessness to productive, vulnerable, self-accepting but change-provoking, guilt.

I am guilty of over eating and making poor food choices. I am guilty of not being active. I am guilty of not loving myself through it all. I am guilty of questioning and doubting the connections I have with others based on my physical appearance. I am guilty of withdrawing from many social situations because I put my worth in my physical appearance. I am guilty, but I am not ashamed (see what I did there??….just keep telling myself that!). I am not ashamed. My actions did this and my actions can undo it. I can grow from this. I am not ashamed.

Related to the gym, (because that is why you’re reading this, right?); only when you accept and recognize where you are, will you later see and appreciate how far you have come. So, today I opened my eyes. I looked at the woman in the mirror with a little more grace, a little less judgement, and a little more pride.

“Shame is an epidemic in our culture, and to get out from underneath it, to find our way back to each other, we have to understand how it affects us, and how it affects the way we are parenting, the way we’re working, the way we are looking at each other” (Brown, 2012, at 18:00). Shame needs secrecy, silence, and judgement to survive and grow exponentially; empathy is the antidote to shame.

The two most powerful words when faced with a struggle are “me, too” (Brown, 2012). So, to my village of supporters, friends, family, (and now, blog readers…who would have thought?!): thank you for reaching out. I hope as you read this, you are hearing me screaming, “ME, TOO!” at you.

No more silence, secrecy, or judgement. No more shame.

 

 

 

 

Seriously, watch the TedTalks. They’ll change your life.

 

References:

Brown, B. (2012). Brené Brown: Listening to shame. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame

OWN (2013). Dr. Brené Brown: Why Guilt Is Better Than Shame. Retrieved from http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/dr-brene-brown-why-guilt-is-better-than-shame-video

Brown, B. (2013). Shame v. Guilt. Retrieved from http://brenebrown.com/2013/01/14/2013114shame-v-guilt-html/

“Krista’s Torture Chamber”

This week I started my “Beast” challenge group. I feel like I was conducting an orchestra in order to make it happen. Alas, the stars aligned: one kid in school, one in preschool for 2 hours, and a heavenly saint of a friend willing to watch the baby who would likely scream the whole time…she did.

On Sunday we had an introduction to meet the trainers, take “before” photos and measurements, and talk about nutrition. I fancy myself a pretty educated momma, I took a university class on nutrition, I can “math the shit out of those numbers” and totally understand macros, g, kg, kcal….if energy burned is greater than energy ingested, you lose weight. Simple as that. But, wow, did I need those reminders. WTF are you putting in your body? And why?

It is amazing the eye opener you get by just simply tracking your food. I eat pretty good, but way too big of portions with certain things. 6 almonds, that’s a serving? 6! Not to mention I had slowly allowed a lot of added sugar to creep into my diet (ah hem….double double coffee creamer??). So, one of the biggest first steps was tracking my food intake on MyFitnessPal, and paying attention to my macros (Protein 136g, Carbs 180 g, and Fat 59g, 1800 cal/day). I am exclusively breastfeeding so have a slightly higher calorie requirement. Yeah, remember when I said “F-you” to those saying “Just breast feed and the weight will slide right off!”. Apparently my daily ingestion of coffee creamer, peanut butter, and kids’ leftovers negated that effect. Noted.

So, food prep, eating, and documenting has pretty much become a full time job around these parts. My kids even ate “cottage cheese pancakes” this morning. Covered in syrup, everything tastes good! Smoothies for lunch, and plain air-popped popcorn for snack. Dieting…I mean, lifestyle changes…are a family affair! 🙂 So far, so good! (Full disclosure: we made Easter treats for their classes tonight. I didn’t even eat one…but I did lick the spoon!).

Monday morning I had my first work out. I had so much anxiety between the workout itself, and leaving the screamer with my friend, that I was so nauseous. I felt like I had eaten a rock and couldn’t fathom eating a pre-work out carb snack. I didn’t know what to wear. I didn’t want to be the “biggest girl there” and I was already assuming I would be the most out of shape!  I was scared.

“Krista’s Torture Chamber”, a sign inside read. Perfect.

The challenge group in my time slot is a mix of mostly women who had completed the program before. But, there is another woman just starting that I feel is at a similar level as me. This made me feel better…even though I know it shouldn’t. Me against Me…but moral support is also nice!

I worked out. During the warm up, I started to get lost in my head space. A familiar dialogue spinning in my mind: “What am I doing? I can’t do this. This is way too hard. I look like an idiot.” But then the warm up ended. I had similar thoughts through the remaining intervals but kept reminding myself: “You have to start somewhere. No matter how bad you are at this, it is better than sitting unhappily on the couch. You can only get better! You can do anything for 40 seconds (or 40 minutes!)”.

And then, it was over. I survived! My “bad back” was sore, but not overly so. My feet hurt for some reason. My arms and legs felt like jello. But, I did it. It felt good, and I can do it again!

Was it the best work out? Probably not. But it was certainly better than sitting on the couch. I can only get better from here!

And the baby? I’m sure she screamed the whole time,  but my beautiful friend said “She had a couple tears, but it wasn’t so bad!”. Find your village ladies, they are worth their weight in gold!  I could not, at all, do this journey alone. Find your people.