Remember when I said our family wasn't perfect? I know it never will be, but I have made it my mission to work hard to make our relationships stronger, which is how this blog came about.
One relationship I never expected to suffer was the one with our first born; our daughter.
For almost four glorious years, she had her parents all to herself. Again with my romanticizing real-life, I imagined her being the "perfect" sister. In many ways she is an amazing big sister to her brother - but that resentment is still there... towards me,
Here is where some of that "mom-guilt" comes in. (And FYI, dads get "mom-guilt" too, I've seen it in action!)
I feel guilty that we are a family with two full time working parents. I KNOW in my heart that I would feel guilty if I decided to stay home and not bring in an income. I feel guilty that we all have different schedules that doesn't allow for enough family time. Schedules that have us rushing around, jobs that are mentally and physically draining, and the stimulation and activity of school and daycare that make our kids exhausted. It was a miracle if one of us didn't fall asleep during our Friday Family Nights.
What I didn't expect was to have our eldest feel like she was left out, after we tried so hard to make family time a priority.
I thought I did everything right: as an educator and an ex-nanny, I thought I knew what we were doing when we added one more. From day one. I made sure not to be holding the baby when she walked into the hospital room and greeted her first. I made sure to include her in the baby's life by helping with his routine and buying him things. Amazing hubby made sure she got one-on-one time with him so that she got lots of attention.
Last week, while we were having a girl chat (which is far and few between now-a-days) she revealed to me that she missed doing things together - just the two of us.
Before her brother was born.
Three years ago!
I had been working so hard to make sure that both kids felt included and that we did everything as a party of four - I didn't realize that I could be making one of them feel like they weren't getting enough of me all to themselves.
The immediate thought I had was to make her a promise, that after the work week was finished, on Saturday, we would spend the entire day together. We will have a girls day and Daddy and Brother will have a boys day.
After all, there are things that we share in common - things she and I love that her father isn't interested in: like art museums... and tea.
My daughter's words completely made me rethink this project of mine!
I am not the perfect mom. We are not the perfect family. This blog is not perfection. We don’t get to travel to exotic locals every month like some of the other families you can find on Instagram. It’s a struggle just to make it out the front door most mornings. Ok... fine, every morning is a struggle. And yet, I still dream about having “perfect” family time with my family.
Last week marked our first “vacation” since I have started our blog. It was a bit of a last minute affair, but still I had time to research, plan, organize and dream about the all the lovely time we would get to spend together. I didn’t think that getting that family time was going to happen when so much was going wrong...
What went wrong? I planned a camping trip (in a tent) during a heat wave. A heat wave that claimed more lives than Ice Storm 98. Hubby forgot his favorite camping essentials. (Namely coffee, as well as the camping coffee pot.) We were eaten alive by every fly native to Canada. Each family member had a fight (or more) with each family member present. I injured my thumb. My son threw a rock at my daughters head. A grand parent ended up back at the hospital. Tantrums. Children tantrums AND adult tantrums.
At the end of the day (read: at the end of ALL the days), the kids were handed the phones for screen time that I had planned to abolish for the entire trip. We left the campgrounds 2 days early.
Upon returning to the land of wi-fi, I posted a picture of the kids, hand in hand wading in the water as my profile picture on Facebook. Everyone commented how much fun they looked like they were having. Needless to say... I didn't happen to capture the moment when my daughter got the rock to the head minutes later...
This was a good reminder as to how people share photos of the good times. Just remember of everything that happens that isn't captured on camera, what happens behind the scenes. No one is perfect.
But especially, remember YOUR imperfect family moments. The ones where you don't have time to take out your camera because you have to check your child for a concussion. Those crappy moments between the picture-perfect ones. Because those moments are still family time. They're learning moments, and reminders of how resilient your family is. They might just be the best family time spent together.
I was so lucky growing up. My mom worked from home, so my summer vacations as a kid were really relaxing. I would spend hours on our deck reading the books I chose at our local library, biking to and from our friends houses, and swimming in the lake.
Do you remember the excitement you felt at the end of the summer and you were excited to buy your new supplies and see your friends that you haven’t seen in a while? That’s when you knew that your vacation actually did you good - you looked forward to going back to routine.
Now-a-days, because most families have both parents that are at work, daycare, day camp and sleepaway camp is more the norm. But it’s not only the summer months that can be of concern. Because I work with preschool aged children and volunteer at the school-aged level, I often see parents use their entire vacation time away or simply staying at home while children continuously follow their routine of being at daycare.
I completely get it. I am one of those parents that will turn on Paw Patrol just to get in a few minutes of silence so I can drink my coffee in peace, or put a meal together. I am with 2-10 children from the moment I wake up until the moment I fall asleep at the end of the day, so the thought of having a weekend or week away just me and my husband with zero kids is a dream of mine. However, in a society that is seeing more anxiety, stress disorders and depression than ever before, kids are feeling it too! Not only do they have an innate sense of their parent’s stress - they have their own stressors too.
Yes - it’s hard to imagine. For example, I have often heard in parent-educator meetings: “What does he have to be worried about? He’s three!” Well, a lot actually. We as adults have adult size worries, and a three year old has toddler worries, and each set of worries can have the same impact on each person's health.
Have you ever been to a child’s birthday party? Can you imagine sitting at your desk while a birthday party with 8-10 children is happening in your cubicle? Five days a week? That’s the energy that a child experiences in an early childhood classroom - 8-10 hours a day, 5 days a week. It can be overwhelming.
For fun, let’s put ourselves in a toddler’s shoes and compare their possible stresses during day to an adult’s stress-filled day at the office:
And these are just a toddler's worries. Can you imagine adding homework, tests, bullies, sports, extra curricular on the elementary and high school levels? AND add in that these are just minor stresses and not something life-altering like divorce, abuse, loss, poverty...
I feel like it is part of my parenting duty to model and provide ways for my kids to learn how to relax and have fun while being away from their rigorous routine at school and daycare. Even if we aren't able to afford a luxurious vacation every year, I started this blog to encourage myself, and maybe others, to take that break and make it work with what little money and time we have - even if it is just to sit at home watching TV in our PJs. For my children to be relaxed and happy and enjoying what this life has to offer, I have to do the same and be their guide.
Melissa is a mom, wife, and early childhood educator who blogs about her journey looking for new experiences for family time.