Life is complicated – and there’s no “perfect time”

Life is complicated. Being in a “good place” is not just an issue of having marital satisfaction, or having it all, or balancing work and family, or having more sex, or mental and physical health… It’s all inextricably linked.

These are all front-and-centre issues on my plate. When I try to address one, I find I can’t fix anything in isolation, but when I try to address everything together I feel overwhelmed.

We’re once again discussing the possibility of baby #2, but there are many things we’d like to “fix” about our lives first (putting our relationship first more of the time, being in a good place with work, not feeling the need to work overtime, wanting and having more sex, being mentally and physically healthy). But every time we try to fix one of these things, it’s a temporary fix. That’s because you can’t address one thing without all of the others. And also, you can’t expect to live a perfectly satisfactory life on all of these dimensions all of the time. I don’t think so, anyway.

It all reminds me of the common expectation we (as Western society) put on ourselves to be married and have stable housing and employment before being “ready” to have a baby. Sure, having all of those things MIGHT make your journey into parenthood easier, but it also might not, and it also might all fall to shit when you actually do have a baby.

So, yes, we would love to have a perfect marriage, perfect jobs, and perfect health before having another child, but what I’ve learned from having one child without all of the boxes ticked is that there definitely is no perfect time. There’s no perfect life situation. There’s benefit to having some financial security, but nothing is certain anyway. Also, we have pretty darn OK marital satisfaction, job satisfaction, and health, for the record.

I don’t know if we’re going to come out of this round of discussions with a decision to TTC again. I’m not hopeful. I’m frustrated by the process – by the back and forth, the hashing out of worries and fears, the conditions and ultimatums. I wish we could just have an accidental pregnancy. An “oops! My dreams came true.”

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Matching aprons

My heart can’t handle the love I have for this little one. Sometimes I feel like my heart is going to explode (do you know that feeling? Your heart skips a beat and flutters and you can’t catch your breath – why do we feel that sensation in our actual hearts, when the love hormones have nothing to do with that organ??) Anyway, I’m so beyond thankful to be the mommy of this little bug. I must have been a saint in a past life to deserve this girl.

My wife got us these matching aprons for mother’s day (and all I got her was a lousy beer t-shirt 😂). My life is a dream.

Mother’s Day

It’s almost that time of year again… I’ve hesitated to write about mother’s day previously because I don’t want to sound entitled or whiney, but having to share mother’s day with your partner kind of sucks. I know I sometimes need Hallmark to remind me to treat my wife to some affection and attention, but I’d also love it if mother’s day could be a day where I don’t have to plan a gift and a special meal and make sure my partner is feeling special. It’s crappy of me, I know, because my wife is a mom, too, and she rarely gets recognition for it.

We’ve talked about one of us “getting” father’s day instead, but I would also feel weird expecting pampering on a day called father’s day. So in the end, being in a same-sex parenting partnership seems to mean that you’ll never get a special day all to yourself where you don’t have to explicitly think about the well-being and happiness of your family.

And that’s all I want, really. I want to sleep in, drink coffee by myself, in my yard, and then spend the day gardening and doing my own thing. I’d love it if meals appeared in front of me. But instead, it’s just an ordinary day in the life, except my wife and I exchange gifts (a practice I don’t like but my other half does), and we have some sort of special meal, that we either make together, or go out for.

I suppose one day when our kid is older she can pamper us both, but at this stage in life, it’s just another Hallmark obligation for me.

The Tantrum

Martini in hand, I’m sitting on the kitchen floor, as far away from the sounds of my tantruming child as possible without leaving the house. It’s my wife’s turn to do bedtime. Our 2 year old has been showing us the meaning of “terrible two’s” over the last two nights (not to brag, but tantrums aren’t exactly an every day occurrence over here). She’s in a phase of screaming “NO” in our faces just to see what will happen – just to see how much power she has in this family, and to see what it takes to make us cave. We’re blundering through this phase, as I’m sure most parents do, just trying not to fuck up our child – in my mind, it’s all about striking the balance between disciplining the bad behaviour while making sure she feels loved unconditionally.

These evenings of bad behaviour bring out the parenting tensions between us. Usually we’re on the same page, but certain things seem to highlight our parenting differences (mostly just sleep issues and disciplining tantrums). We’ve learned to save our heated discussions for after our daughter has gone to bed, and that has two benefits: 1) our daughter won’t hear us disagreeing about how to discipline her, which would weaken our stance, and 2) our strong opinions and emotional reactions have had time to settle and we’re better able to discuss logically, without getting upset. So currently, I’m letting my emotional reaction settle and my wife is carrying on doing bedtime routine with a wildly disobedient child.

Is it weird that one of my favourite times to be with my child is immediately following a tantrum? It’s like the biggest payoff of parenting. You put up with the absolute worst that your child can give: the hitting, the scratching, the demon-voiced scream, the dead eyes that make her look like a zombie, the sweating and the snot and the absolute inability to reason – or even to hear another human voice. And then it breaks – like a demon was exorcised from her body and my real daughter was released from its clutches. Her gaze changes, and she looks around as if she didn’t know where she had landed, and she reaches out to me for comfort. I imagine that a tantrum is a scary experience. It seems that she loses control over herself, and that the emotional reaction is bigger than she is. Lately, when the tantrum ends, she has started to say with a mix of pride and disbelief, “I calmed down!” She holds me tight, she chokes out the last of her sobs, and sometimes she even says “sorry” for the outburst. It’s the closest bonding we have now that she no longer breastfeeds.

So maybe I’m a little possessive over how I deal with tantrums. I want to be close to her for comfort. I want to model how calm I can be while she’s flying off her handle. I want to See the clarity in her eyes return. I want to be there for all of it.

Close cousins

We had an amazing family weekend. We took our nephew to the Royal Ontario Museum for his birthday – we’ve been giving experiences as gifts and it has been so much more appreciated by the kids than toys would have been. Our nephew is 3, and Avery is 2.5. we were concerned that the museum might be too “old” for them, but it was a huge hit. They were in awe over the dinosaur skeletons, and there were lots of interactive kids things like a bat cave (that they ran through half a dozen times…), play stations where young kids could run wild and play with toys and dress up in costumes from all cultures of the world, and touch-and-feel stations where they could touch things like a taxidermied polar bear paw (while learning about global warming). The kids were amazingly behaved for all 4 hours we were there – without naps. I think a leprechaun must have sprinkled lucky dust on us to get through such an event without a single toddler meltdown… After the museum we went to my sister-in-law’s house for the rest of the weekend, and Avery got to spend great quality time with both of her cousins.

I’m so thankful she has her cousins to grow up with, and that they’re close, considering we live over an hour apart. However, watching her with her 8-month old cousin, our new niece, makes me yearn to give our only daughter a sibling. She loves babies. She helped me soothe the little one, she strokes her cheek and brushes her hair out of her eyes, she brings her baby appropriate toys and expresses her adoration and love for the little one.

She asks for us to have another baby. I wonder if that will be enough to convince my wife to take the plunge and do this baby making thing with me one more time…

We’re still one-and-done until further notice, but the urge definitely hasn’t gone away for me. However, my wife’s anxiety and very legitimate concerns also still haven’t gone away. Only time will tell….

Quiet time activity ideas?

Ok amazing online community of parents, I need some brainstorming action.

Avery recently started doing longer days at daycare, and our provider wants her to have quiet time while the other kids nap. Unfortunately, all she offers for quiet time is TV. I don’t want my kid to be babysat by a TV for 2 hours at daycare every day, so I’m trying to suggest good quiet time options for her to try. Luckily Avery is a generally quiet kid and tends to respect the notion of being quiet while others sleep, but I want to come up with activity ideas both to sell the idea of no TV to our daycare provider, and to give Avery something to get excited about for when her friends take a nap without her.

What are your favourite quiet time activities for your kids?

Thanks!

in this new place

We’re still living in this new place of being one and done. Done having kids. Done with the idea of trying to conceive again. We still haven’t told our donor the change of plans because when we start to plan how to tell them, we start to worry that we’ll change our minds again in 6 months.

Technically we’re still open to trying for a second child one day, but we’re not both 100% on board right now so we’re halting all plans for trying. But I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person. I jump into whatever I’m doing with both feet, no questions asked, and I make the best of whatever situation I find myself in. I’m a planner, but only once I know a future is inevitable do I plan it out. I feel like I’m wasting mental energy by planning all possible outcomes, knowing full well that only one of those outcomes will come to fruition.

Once I accepted that we were going to stop planning for a second child, I was OK with it. I went through plenty of cry sessions and doubt and regret, but then I came to a place of feeling refreshed… I want to get rid of all of my maternity clothes, all but the most precious keepsakes of Avery’s outgrown clothes, all the baby swings and chairs and stuff. Having them in my closet makes me feel like I’m in limbo still, and it’s uncomfortable. I jump into new directions with both feet.

Since leaping into this one-and-done future, I’ve felt energized in my work again. I’ve even started looking for jobs (to start in 2020 when I’m done my degree). I’ve also been cherishing what I have with Avery to an even more intense extent. I’ve been spending half of the night sleeping with her in her bed just because I enjoy being next to her. I tell my wife I fall asleep in there and forget to come back to our bed, but really, I’m soaking up every ounce of night-waking baby cuddles that I can get before there are no more of those in my life. Avery’s already two and a half. She’s playing with her independence more and more, and now that we’re much more confident that she’s going to be our only baby, that independence brings me mixed feelings. It signals new beginnings for my daughter, and endings for me.

To be honest, I do still cry when I think about my fondest memories of being a new parent: The baby kicks from inside my womb, the life altering experience of child birth, breastfeeding and those oxytocin surges while nourishing a new life and gazing into their eyes, the first laugh, the first steps, the first hilarious thoughts they can articulate with words, the “I love you mommy”s, the bear hugs with tiny arms…. But I can miss it (dearly) without needing to live it again. I think. I hope.