Reflections On International Women’s Day: MOTHERHOOD, WORK-LIFE BALANCE IN A PANDEMIC WORLD

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.‚Ķ.It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”
-Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would become a full-time employee and homeschool teacher at the same time. I am not going to deny it, but this was probably one of the most difficult things I ever had to endure. I was exhausted and anxious to say the least. It was definitely challenging trying to work and navigate online learning, but somehow, we survived it. As much as I was frustrated with the situation, I was fortunate in a sense where I had a very supportive spouse, employer and a network of friends online to talk to. The majority of people that I talked to regarding the school closure situation were actually women and I think everyone had the same feelings that I had. We all shared the same worries about our children’s future, we all vented to each other with how challenging it was to teach and work at the same time and how we were all worried about the mental health of our children and ourselves. At the time, I felt it was so important to advocate for the safe return to school and in doing so, I realized it was a very empowering and meaningful experience.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has brought out many inequalities within society, namely within racial, ethnic and indigenous communities, refugees and women. Women, who bare the burden of most household responsibilities, have been negatively impacted as a result of school and daycare closures. This in turn negatively impacts the workforce, creating an even greater gender divide on the economy. But the silver lining in all this is that women’s rights and equity have come to the spot light and change is happening: the conversation has started. In a post-pandemic world, we really need to ask ourselves how can we better support women? I believe the answer is simple.

Everything starts in the home:

I truly believe that any conversation must start within ourselves and within our homes. As parents, we need to start having conversations with our children regarding the value of women within society and provide them with the perspective of the world through the lens of a woman. Education is a key element in teaching our children about the values of gender equality as an important role within a democratic society.

Advocacy and support:

Continuing to advocate for things such as paid leave during an emergency for example or more equitable workplaces are important policies that would help women. Providing women with support, for example, during motherhood, could be extremely beneficial towards women who, for instance, want to further themselves in their careers. Today there is an array of online support groups and outreach services available within many communities to help serve women in such situations. I am also seeing more and more platforms on social media supporting women in various roles of society. It’s important that we continue to advocate for things such as parental leave, child care leave, flexible work schedules to help women move forward.

Supporting women through business:

Today, many women are taking on the roles of becoming business owners and entrepreneurs, however, only a small percentage of women are CEO’s throughout the world. According to Catalyst, although the number of women CEO’s have gone up in 2020, “there are still nearly 13 companies run by a man for every company run by a woman.” However, more and more women are stepping up to the challenge and starting their own business ventures. Today, I ask you to look around in your own communities and go out and support businesses owned by women. Even doing something small, such as tagging a female-owned business on Instagram or picking up a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop run by women, can go a long way in showing our support for women in business. Women supporting women is a very powerful thing!

Celebrating women:

Celebrating women’s empowerment doesn’t have to be only on one day, but rather should happen everyday and there are small things we can do to help celebrate women. Maybe its contributing towards a charity that is geared towards the empowerment of women or learning about an important historical figure within the women‚Äôs rights movement. We can also honour the women in our own lives, such as a parent, grandparent, a teacher or a friend.

In summary, given all the hardships that we have been through this past year, if anything, I have learned that as a woman and as a mother, I am strong, I am resilent and I am fearless. Not only will I continue to advocate for my children, but I will advocate for all women, to help create a more just society.

Who has it better? Stay at home moms or working moms?

From a mother who has done both

I’ve been very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to stay at home with my kids over the past summer. ¬†I am also very blessed to have been on a full-year’s maternity leave twice. ¬†I’ve enjoyed my time away from the office and staying at home with the kids. ¬†It was nice to wake up and hang out in my pyjamas for a while and to spend some quality time with the kids. ¬†But needless to say, it was pretty exhausting. ¬† There’s this huge misconception that staying at home is a paid vacation and the bottom line, it isn’t.

As much as I enjoyed my time off, there were times that I felt like that meme you see on Instagram- you are the chef, event coordinator, cleaner, driver, nurse and so on and so fourth. ¬† It’s exhausting! ¬†Staying at home takes a lot out of you and sometimes you are left wondering if going to work would be a break in of itself. ¬†I definitely drank my coffee cold most days!

When I returned to work, I was briefly excited to “dress up” and to put some make-up on. ¬†I finally got to enjoy my coffee warm. ¬†I was excited to be around some adults and to have some intellectual stimulation. ¬†Then the guilt started to sink in….I felt guilty knowing my youngest would be going to daycare and that someone else would be looking after him during the daytime. ¬† I felt guilty knowing that I would be missing some field trips with my oldest as I couldn’t take a lot of time off. ¬† I then started to experience some anxiety knowing that I had to manage being a mother all while having a career. Did I mention all the other things I have to do?!

It’s hard isn’t it? ¬†This motherhood thing? ¬†

But what I came to realize is that motherhood is hard, regardless if you work or stay at home. ¬†I started to come to the conclusion that it’s¬†all about perspective. ¬†The bottom line is…..regardless if you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, it’s tough. ¬†There is no easy way out.¬† Motherhood isn’t easy and that’s the truth, whether you are a working mom or a stay-at-home mom.¬† I don’t think working moms have it easier than stay-at-home moms and vice-versa.¬† They both come with their challenges and rewards. ¬†Ultimately, you have to do what’s best for you and your family. ¬†In some families, the mother is the breadwinner and she needs to return to that job and for other families its just not financially worth it for the mother to go back to work for a while….and that is okay!

What I realized that is that what works for one family, does not work for another. ¬†We need to end this “working mom versus stay-at-home mom” debate once and for all, because doing what is best for your family takes precedence and that varies for everyone.

Photocred:  Yellow Pear Studio 

Work-family-life balance: myth or reality?

As a parent, I often wonder if work-family-life balance exists. ¬†It’s no joke when I say I feel like I am a chicken running around without a head.¬† From the start of my day to the end, I don’t stop.¬† Ever.¬†¬† Lately my days have been commencing at about 5:30 am and I am lucky to be in bed at 11:00 pm the earliest. My days typically consist of me preparing the kids’ outfits and bags before I head out to work, planning their schedules around mine and trying to stay on top of chores and meals. All while working a full-time job…and have some sort of relationship with my spouse (I didn’t forget about you!)

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Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

I often wonder how other parents do it. ¬†How do they manage to get their kids to their activities on time? When do they have time to fit in a workout between kids and work? ¬†Do they get any sleep? ¬†Do they clean their house or do they hire someone to do it? ¬†Do they have any help? I find myself exhausted on most days. Between the kids waking up in the middle of the night, trying to get them to sleep on time, all while trying to be a good employee at work, I’ve¬†been finding it¬†difficult. Lately I’ve been having a hard time trying to manage it all. It got to a point where I even doubted that balance actually existed.

Until one day it hit me.

I had to change my expectations.

You read that correctly. Change my expectations. Not lower them.

I had to stop for a moment and reevaluate what my goals and priorities were. That started by changing my mindset on life. I had to accept that my life is different now than before kids and that little things like going to the gym for an hour every day was not realistic. I accepted I won’t have my 20-something year old body anymore. I accepted that my house and car won’t be in pristine condition.

I had to create what was realistic for my life in this very moment, which is motherhood.

I found that making little modifications to my life style helped immensely, namely diet and sleep. I realized that between work and my kids, it’s not possible for me to get to the gym every single day, so there are other ways to stay active, like take the kids out for a walk or play with them outside. My husband and I alternate nights on which we go to the gym and it works for us. I also made some modifications to my diet that I found helped a lot.

Another aspect to achieving balance is prioritizing what is important and what can wait. Picking up the toys in the basement can wait (kids will throw it again tomorrow anyways). Putting the laundry away tonight can wait for tomorrow (I am better off reading a book to myself or getting an extra hour of sleep). We created a cleaning schedule at home so for instance, the kitchen and family room is tidied up every night and the washrooms are cleaned weekly. I realized that making things that are valuable for my time such as going for walks with the kids or having a date night with my spouse also helps me attain a sense of balance. Some of my favourite things to do are taking the kids to the park or a local Chapters, or unwinding over a glass of wine after a busy week with my husband, or having a girls’ night out. The point is, making time for things that make you happy should be number one priority. Not picking up those toys for the one millionth time.

Some days are trying and yes that will always be there. But I’m slowly letting go this idea of “perfect” motherhood, body, household and so on. Overall, I really do believe that achieving work-family-life balance is possible, you just have to make it happen.

 

 

Taming the rollercoaster ride of parenthood

Doesn’t parenthood ever feel like a long, rollercoaster ride? Some days go so very smoothly and other days you feel completely derailed? Any parent can tell you that parenthood comes with its challenges, but that the rewards trump them all. I won’t dispute that fact. But sometimes I just can’t help but feel overwhelmed. Currently, my 2 year old does not want to go to sleep on time, despite being very tired and my oldest is still adjusting to junior kindergarten. My boys are very active throughout the day and sometimes I feel as if I am just holding the fort down.

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Lately, my days are spent running around, from 6:30 am until 11:30 pm. I just don’t stop. Ever. I keep trying different things to keep my stress levels at bay- going to the gym, trying to eat better, trying to sleep earlier, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen, or that I am not consistent. Its so much easier to just crash right? Sometimes I try and be a supermom and do it all – work, cook, clean, raise two little boys, take them to their activities, all while trying to take care of myself and have some type of relationship with my husband.

Sometimes I am conflicted: Am I making excuses for myself or am I truly at a roadblock?

I often wonder- how do people do it? Do others feel as tired as I do? Am I doing something wrong here? Sometimes I feel guilty for not working out or eating properly because its so much easier to have that glass of wine at the end of a long week than go to spin class. Sometimes I feel like there’s just not enough time throughout the day and that other tasks are more important, such as preparing lunches, cleaning, laundry…. With that being said, I am not trying to throw a pity party for myself. Instead, I am trying to tell myself its okay to feel like this and its okay to try to step back and regroup. Perhaps I am at a crossroads in my life and trying to accept myself for who I am and tell myself that its okay to feel this way and know that I am doing my best.

When I was young, my parents made it seem easy, or maybe, it just felt like that because I was after all, a small kid. I often wonder, did my mom feel overwhelmed like myself? Were my parents ever worn-out and tired? I don’t remember them being this way, rather, I remember them as loving parents who did their best to raise my brother and I. They gave me a wonderful childhood which I am so ever grateful for. My hope is that one day my children will look back at my husband and I and say that we did a good job too.

For the love of coffee: A look at Lola’s Choco Bar and Sweet House

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Yesterday after my hair appointment, I decided to end my “me time date” with a little java at this relatively new spot in Burlington’s Village Square: Lola’s Choco Bar and Sweet House. Being a busy mom, “me time” is important. Sometimes, we just need a little reminder that mom’s are people too with our own personalities. We get so lost with everything that involves being a mom: driving kids to school, activities, working, cleaning and preparing meals.¬† Sometimes its overwhelming and its okay to feel like this.¬† During those moments when we do feel like that, we just need to remind ourselves that it’s okay to press the pause button, have a break and reset.¬† Yesterday was my “pause and reset” day.

I heard about Lola’s through a friend of mine, and fell in love with the place. Yesterday’s visit was now my third to date. However, last night I did it right.¬† I actually decided to sit down, at least for a few minutes to enjoy a coffee before I headed home to my little ones.¬† The weather was on point- it was about dusk and the sun was about to set. It was warm but breezy out and as I sipped a macchiato, I felt that I was in Europe for a brief moment in time.

The cobblestone and stone buildings surrounding the cafe takes you to places in Europe- France, Italy, Croatia and Greece comes to mind. Chocolate is available on tap, as well as a variety of gelato and European pastries. For a little piece of Europe closer to home, look no further to Lola’s in Burlington, a quiet area tucked in the Village Square¬†near the waterfront.