Duty Calls: Balancing work & family

We’ve been away every weekend this summer, we’ve been sick a lot making for a lot of missed daycare, and our daycare provider is on holidays this week. I haven’t been getting work done. Tonight, my wife is primary caregiver while I sit at a restaurant/lounge and do some work over a pint.

It feels different than it used to to sit at this place and work. When you’re a parent, part of your brain is always on your child(ren). I can’t get lost in my work like I used to. I know my wife will be totally fine with the full bedtime routine because she has been doing so well putting Avery to sleep since we weaned, but I feel shitty about the way I had to leave Avery tonight – I had to sneak out. I tried saying goodbye in a casual, non-chalant way – “see ya later, sweetie, I have to go do some work,” but she started screaming and clung to my legs begging to be picked up. So we got her distracted with some fun task and I snuck out.

She has been very sensitive about my absence lately. You can see her get nervous as bedtime approaches, not knowing if she’ll get me or her Mo. We have yet to settle into a new routine regarding which one of us puts her to bed. I’ve put her to sleep twice now, and it has gone fairly well both times. We’re going to settle into a two-nights-on two-nights-off schedule so that bath night (which happens every other night) isn’t always the same parent’s responsibility. The parent who gives her her bath and gets her ready for bed won’t be the same parent who reads her books in bed and lays with her till she falls asleep. She’ll get both of us every night. She just has to get used to the new normal.

I’m still in a “I miss breastfeeding” phase.I feel like I’ve lost a superpower. But I know it’s not a real regret, just nostalgia. And Avery only asks for milk once every other day or so now, and doesn’t get upset when I remind her that it’s all gone. She has been such a strong little person.

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I am not a breastfeeding parent.

We had planned for Sunday night to be our last time breastfeeding, but I got cheated out of that one last time, and my sick and vomiting child had to get through the night with no milk earlier than we’d planned. And now there’s no turning back. Let me explain…

Saturday night was my wife’s night to do bedtime. We were at the cottage. Avery seemed to understand what we’d been telling her about the milk supply soon coming to an end. She seemed to be starting to accept the fact that her Mo would be putting her to bed more and more. Usually, when my wife puts her to bed, she cries and calls for mommy for about 5 minutes before giving up and happily reading books and cuddling with her Mo until she falls asleep. The easiest way to get her to settle is for me to say a super quick goodnight and leave. I can’t even hug her goodnight or she’ll cling to me like super glue and it’ll make my departure much harder.

But Saturday night, she sat on her bed next to her Mo and turned red in the face as she held in her tears, and she extended her puckered lips toward me for a goodnight kiss. I got to kiss her goodnight and leave the room and she didn’t cry, for the first time.

While my wife did bedtime, I was watching the sunset over the water and drinking Prosecco (because cottage and no breastfeeding duties). I’d had 3 drinks. My wife rejoined me after Avery had fallen asleep. All was well with the world.

And then we heard a cry. It’s now unusual for Avery to wake up again in the evening, and we knew it was a cry of “something’s wrong.” My wife investigated. Minutes later, I was called to the scene to change her vomit-covered sheets. Avery had a stomach bug (thankfully a mild one). She vomited three times. I quickly changed her sheets while my wife changed Avery’s pajamas and washed the vomit out of her hair and off her face with a damp cloth. Avery reached for me. Because of the situation, my wife and I agreed that I could step in. I hugged her. I sat with her until we knew the vomiting had stopped. I laid down with her. She asked for milk, but I couldn’t give it to her because I’d had three generous glasses of alcohol. I simply said “I’m sorry, I know you want milk because you’re not feeling well, but there’s no more milk.” (She did have water and almond milk right beside her). She didn’t even whimper a protest. She simply wrapped her arm around my neck and snuggled.

She lay there with her eyes open for about 15 minutes, and eventually fell sound asleep, for the first time (with me) not on the boob.

So we decided to take that win and not turn back. If she can fall asleep next to me without freaking out for milk when she has a stomach bug and has just vomited all over herself, she can fall asleep this way every other time.

Theoretically.

For now, I miss her intensely at bedtime. I ran an errand at bedtime last night just to get out of the house, and I cried in the car.

And although bedtimes have been going well so far, our first nap (not in a car) did not go well. That’s on me because my wife is at work over nap time. I’ll wait out the week before writing about the nap situation.

A few of my favourite Avery-isms right now

The way she exclaims, “woooow!” at things that impress her. Example, our new neighbours put up a fence dividing our back yards over a weekend we were away, and when Avery walked into the back yard to see it for the first time, she said, “wooow!” with such a sense of awe and wonder. Seeing me cleaned up and dressed up also gets a “wooow”, which says something about how I usually look…

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How she kisses my “ouchies” so lovingly. Since we started “kissing it better,” she finds any little red mark on our skin, says “ouchie,” and kisses it better. This started in earnest with hand-foot-and-mouth disease when we all had a lot of ouchies 😣

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Just started saying “love you” in response to us saying “I love you.” But she’s also in a repeat-after-me phase where she repeats pretty much everything we say, so she might not know the meaning of it yet.

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Although she knows the word “outside,” she still usually asks to go outside by saying “boot, mit, hat?” Even though we’re in sandal (and definitely not mitten) season right now… She does the gestures of putting on boots and mits and a hat, too. It’s cute.

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She tickles us. She wiggles her fingers all over our bellies and laughs and laughs at the hilarity. I hate being tickled – I freak out and instinctively will punch or kick someone who is tickling me. But when Avery does it, somehow it’s cute.

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Naming her toys. I’ve been waiting for the day when Avery would be into playing with animal figurines. That was always my fave as a kid. Not only is she super into her animal figurines now, but she named one of them, ALL BY HERSELF! She has been really into horses lately (her grandma has horses), so I surprised her at daycare pickup one day with a plastic horse figurine (Tractor Supply Store has great ones), and as she accepted it she said “wow, horsie! Umm, Apple!” Apple is the name of one of the horse’s at her grandma’s place. The toy didn’t really look like the real Apple, but she decided that her toy horse needed the name. When you ask what her horse’s name is, she says Apple.

A totally life changing thing happened

Life has been pretty stagnant lately, which I’m totally ok with; but, it does mean I’ve had a lack of blogging material. Today I’m going to update you on a couple of less-than-exciting things in my life, and if you can get through that, I’ll tell you something that happened recently to totally change my life.

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We have a basement apartment in our house (separate entrance, pretty high-end space), and our quiet, never-there tenant just moved out. My wife and I spent a couple of evenings after Avery went to bed scrubbing the place down from ceiling to floor, and I filled up an entire week of almost back-to-back showings. The second showing, 9:30am Monday morning, submitted a great application for tenancy and gave us a cheque for first and last month’s rent just an hour after seeing it. She SEEMS perfect. How could it be this easy?? Hopefully not too good to be true. She moves in next week. I’m thankful it went so smoothly, but still, it’s a change. It’s a big deal to have a stranger moving into your basement, even if you don’t really ever have to see them.

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The day after I recovered from hand-foot-and-mouth disease, I came down with a cold. It’s just a cold, but the frustration level is sky high. I haven’t slept for more than an hour or two at a time for weeks, most recently due to not being able to breathe through my nose. Today I soaked in the bath while Avery was at daycare and just cried. I’m tired, and so frustrated with being sick. Yes, I’m a whiney sick person. But also, I think I’ve earned a good frustrated cry. And a soak in the bath.

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Ok, ready for the life changing news?

When my grandmother passed away, she left me and my one cousin on that side of the family an inheritance. I had no idea how much it was. The cheque finally arrived last week, and it was life-changing. It entirely and absolutely covers my student loan amount, with an extra grand to put back into the savings I depleted trying to make loan payments. I can’t even describe the sense of relief (and awareness of priviliege) that washed over me when I opened that cheque. We can now move forward in life debt-free (until we get a mortgage, which we can now do sooner thanks to not having to pay off my student loan). Thank you grandma, you changed my life even after your death.

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And here are two pics of the child who makes my eyes well up daily from the sense of overwhelming love I feel for her.

Mom chat on the beach

I met up with some summer cottage friends this weekend who both became moms recently – one has a 6 month old, the other a 2 month old. We chatted about birth stories, life, and our babies while Avery played in the sand and the other babies slept or cuddled on their moms. It was nice to be surrounded by other fresh moms. I felt like I was among kindred spirits, in a tight group who shared a common understanding of just how hard motherhood can be.

But then our differences in experience started to make itself known. One of the new moms (with the 6 month old) talked about how there’s so much free time with a baby – she had just been reading a good book while her baby laid next to her on the beach. She had been able to take up baking and had been making all kinds of bread. She takes care of herself, and has leisurely showers in the afternoon. The other mom, with the 2 month old, said her baby sleeps a lot, in his own room since birth, sometimes all night without even a single feeding.

I started to feel alienated. I tried to nod and pretend like I knew what they were talking about, but I’m not good at keeping feelings bottled up. I declared that I was so happy for them, but that wasn’t my experience at all. I told them I felt like the first 6 months almost killed me, that I sometimes went 5 days without showering. They were great about it and said that every baby is different, but I still felt like shit.

Was it me? Was it my baby? What was wrong with us to make our experience so hard (on both of us)?

The next day I saw the newest mother on the beach while Avery and I built sandcastles and dipped our toes in the water, thoroughly enjoying everything toddlerhood has to offer. She tried to tell me about her night and she broke down crying. Before I could offer her support, she left in a hurry, apologizing that she was just really emotional right now.

I felt for her – SO HARD. And I also felt better. Even if your baby sleeps well or will happily bounce in a bouncer for hours on end, motherhood is still hard. The emotions are always going to be intense. The responsibility crushing.

I suppose I feel fortunate that (I believe) the hardest is behind me. Sure, the tantrums in public places sometimes give me a run for my money now, but since those first 6 (maybe 12) months were so hard for me, it just keeps getting better and better and better. And I’m also fortunate that I have that group of moms who really get my experiences here in the blog world. With that, I can’t feel alone. 😉

Day in the Life with a 20 Month Old

It’s time for my every-5-month DITL post! Here’s a taste of what my life is like as a part-time WAHM (work-at-home-mom) with a 20 month old toddler.

5:00am Avery woke me up with a demand to “EAT!”. I looked around me and realized I was in her bed (oops, must have fallen asleep in there after a middle of the night wake up). She was pulling at my shirt hoping to get milk. Although we haven’t offered morning nursing for months now, she’s been sick, and she always wants it more when she’s sick. But I offered her a banana instead, and so downstairs we went to get a banana at 5am.

We played and fed the cats and let the chickens out and ate breakfast and washed dishes and watched some Paw Patrol and coloured for the next 3 hours. I’d rather not have the early morning wake ups because I’m so tired, but at least we have a leisurely morning together before daycare starts. I drank half a cup of yesterday’s coffee, and didn’t get around to finishing it.

My wife stayed home sick today, so she watched Avery while I was able to shower before daycare drop-off, which was a nice treat. However, Avery screamed for mommy at the bottom of the stairs the whole time. She’s all about her routine and doesn’t like it when we mix things up.

Despite having 3 hours to get ready in the morning, in the 5 minutes before we had to leave Avery spilled a cup of almond milk on herself and on me and all over the couch. She freaked out over being wet. I changed her pants. Then she pooped. I changed her diaper. Then we had a disagreement about what shoes she would wear. Typical morning with a toddler.

She was emotional at daycare drop-off. She hasn’t cried over it yet, but her lip quivers and she doesn’t want to let go of me. It’s weird, because she has ALWAYS loved her daycare, and nothing has changed there. I think it might just be because she’s still not feeling 100% better from her last bug.

8:30am On my way home I picked up my wife’s dry-cleaning. I also got a mother’s day card for my wife and could only find one card written for a wife that didn’t say inside it that it was from a husband. WHY. Why can’t they just leave the sender out of it and let them fill that in by themselves?? Anyway….

Yesterday our damn cat ripped a hole in our duvet with his nail and tiny feathers had been puffing out of it all night. I sewed up the hole when I got home and then threw it in the wash. I put away a load of laundry. I stripped and remade the bed. I vacuumed the upstairs because there were tiny feathers EVERYWHERE. I cursed the cats.

Then I hurriedly tidied up all the toys all over the house that Avery didn’t have time to put away before daycare (because of the milk spilling and last-minute diaper change). My wife was in the bath from the time I left until the time I finished the morning household tasks. I couldn’t help but feel a little jaded (even though I want to care for her and let her rest so she feels better) because I was just as sick 2 days ago and I DID NOT get a break. But it all comes out in the wash because I never have to sit in an office for 8 hours a day doing work that isn’t always inspiring.

9:30am Pulled out my laptop and sat on the deck in the sun and got to work. I’m working to get ethics approval for my dissertation research right now. After 2 reviews by the ethics board, I have a few more small changes to make to my application and then I expect to get that golden ticket to go ahead and start programming my data collection materials.

12:00pm Left to pick up Avery from daycare. She went down for a nap as soon as we got home. Wife was napping too, so I headed outside for some garden therapy. I got our outside water turned on for the season, planted a second sowing of peas and carrots, tended to the chickens (who were being ridiculous all crowding into one nest box), and topped up some gardens with compost. My hands were dirty, my lungs full of fresh air, and it was wonderful.

When I came inside my wife was awake and we cuddled on the couch and watched an episode of our newest Netflix show, Peaky Blinders. Afternoon grown-up tv is a rare treat these days!!

2pm Avery usually has an hour-and-a-half long nap these days. Right on cue, she woke up asking to eat. I think she’s going through a growth spurt. We immediately went outside and played at her water table, went for a walk, coloured on the deck with sidewalk chalk, and went for a bike ride with Avery in the child seat on the back of her Mo’s bike. She had so much fun that she was really upset when we had to stop, and she refused to take her helmet off.

4:45pm I headed to the kitchen/BBQ to make dinner and wash the day’s dishes. I spent the next 2 hours in the kitchen with a 20 minute break to eat. Avery gets steal cut oats every night before bed, and they take half an hour to make. She also requests fresh hot tea (mint tea) to take to bed with her. While I cooked and cleaned my wife played quietly with Avery. When it’s time to eat the oatmeal we always watch something calm on tv – either Puffin Rock, or lullabies on YouTube. Tonight she requested Puffin Rock.

6:45pm It was bathnight for Avery. My wife and I both participated in bath time because we’re trying to do less dividing and conquering and more team work. I put Avery to bed, which is now one of my favourite times of day. We snuggle in her bed while she nurses to sleep, usually for 45 minutes. It’s peaceful, relaxing, and a great way to reconnect after a full day.

8:00pm Since we’re both under the weather, my wife and I watched TV in bed and were asleep by 9:30. Our evenings are usually pretty uneventful because our days are exhausting.

And that’s it! A day that was full of little things: work, errands, playing, cooking and cleaning, ended with a lot of nothing. Laying in bed, recouperating, getting ready to start it all over again tomorrow.

Signs of Avery

The tiny sock swimming around under my bed covers.

The puzzle piece wedged between the couch cushions.

The red tricycle that lives on the verandah.

The baskets of toys that sit where our boring old grown-up books used to sit.

The tiny forks and spoons in the cutlery drawer.

I observe these signs of Avery’s existence throughout the day when she’s at daycare and they make me so happy. So thankful that we were lucky enough to become parents to this amazing little person. She has fully infiltrated every fiber of our lives, and I love it.

This post is a response to a daily prompt.