Still A Good Mom

We’ve been home a lot the last few weeks. First L. got croup, so we were home for a week waiting for the worst of the symptoms to pass. Then it was a long weekend, and then after three days of work, both my and L.’s classrooms were closed due to a positive Covid case. Ever since, there have been more and more cases added on, and now that we’re close to L.’s return date…G.’s classroom found a positive case. Now I’m looking at even more time at home. We aren’t able to really go anywhere; the children aren’t symptomatic, but L. is a close contact so we’re being careful just in case. We’ve gone to the beach a few times, early in the morning before anyone else came. We go to empty parks. We go for drives for coffee and just to get out. But mostly, we’ve been playing at home. It hasn’t been awful. G. learned how to ride her bike. We have a sandbox and a climbing structure and a swing set. We have lots of things to do outside. The problem is, first it was 30+ degrees outside, and we could only handle being out for short periods of time, and then it started raining every day.

This is worst case scenario for my anxiety. Long blocks of uninterrupted play time with my children, with no buffer, no escape. (Isn’t that an awful thought, being alone with my children flares up my anxiety?! That’s a whole other thing to unpack, some other time). The mess. The noise. The chaos. I was dreading it.

In actuality, it hasn’t been awful. We’ve had moments, but that’s it. Just moments. Not days anymore. Just moments.

I have a very specific kind of guilt. When I get overwhelmed, I tend to disassociate. I want to disappear. Usually by mindlessly scrolling. Which means I leave my children to play independently for blocks of time, and then I feel guilty for leaving them unattended for blocks of time, for ignoring them. They usually start to whine for attention, I start to snap because I’m interrupted from my disassociating, and then everyone feels awful. So, I always feel the need to be playing with my kids, which overwhelms me and kickstarts the whole cycle all over again. Cue the guilt. Because we’re home and she had no kids to play with here, G. asks me to play quite a bit, and it all came to a head when she was constantly telling me I was doing it wrong, and changing everything I touched, and telling me what to say, what to do, how to play. I was annoyed, and told her, no. I’m not going to play if you’re constantly telling me what to do. It’s not fun for me to be bossed around. And ever since, she’s toned it down. She lets me join and actually play. It’s so much calmer, and much less tortuous than it had been. It feels wrong, to not like to play when my whole career is based on playing with children. It makes my skin itch, a little. Like sometimes is wrong. But that’s part of the issue. I don’t like to play the games that four year olds like to play.

This issue of independent play still bothered me. I still feel so much guilt for saying No, you can play alone for a while. In an intellectual, professional way, I know that long periods of uninterrupted, self-driven play is important for creativity and problem-solving and brain development, but it was so hard for me to leave them alone to do their work. As much as people knock on Instagram culture for creating unrealistic standards, it’s actually what’s really helped me. In an earlier post, I mentioned an account that I follow, and she had really settled a lot of the contradictions in my head. She laid out how she handles independent play in her house, and it made so much sense to me. She talks about setting time for connection – genuine connection – and then setting time for independence. That’s when she gets her own work done, and spends time on herself. And it makes sense to me. A lot of my children’s behaviours aren’t attention-seeking, they’re connection-seeking. By spending uninterrupted, focused time with each of the kids, they started looking at me to entertain them less and less. They still ask me to play, but they accept the boundaries a little easier when they know that it isn’t forever, that I will be available to them in a little while. And now they play. They play alone, they play with each other, but they play. The screen time detox that I set into place weeks ago has helped (and so has losing the tv remote) and they start their day off with quiet place, and I start my day off in a quiet place, instead of immediate stimulation. And they play, without constantly asking me to join or to help, or to direct. They just come in and out of play. When they need sometime from me – food, a drink, a few minutes of connection, they come, we hang out, and then they play again. It’s been liberating in a way, but there’s still residual guilt with it.

I’ve started telling myself, I can let my kids play alone. I’m not ignoring my kids and damaging my bond with my children by letting them play independently. We find new ways to do things that we both enjoy. My counsellor suggested it, to find ways to spend time together that feels comfortable for all of us. We go for walks. We colour. We snuggle and read books. We make TikToks together. But we don’t really play together. We connect in other ways. It doesn’t make me a bad mom if my kids play alone.

This is my new mantra.

Not playing with my kids does not make me a bad mom.

Not playing with my kids does not make me a bad mom.

Not playing with my kids does not make me a bad mom.

Fantasy play and Screen Time

I am a mom of contradictions.

After a 6 am whining session that ended with L. throwing my TV remote at me, I decided we needed a screen time detox. No cartoons before 9 am. No cartoons for longer than an hour. Only ones that aren’t just bright colours and noise.

And then at nap time G. got her tablet and watched YouTube for 3 hours. C’est la vie.

It’s important though, to have balance. I hear it all the time in the discussion around food. Try not to give junk food power. Don’t make it forbidden, that makes it more enticing. No one food is inherently “bad” or “good”. It’s all just food, the important part is finding the balance. Some food feeds your body, some food feeds your soul, and both should be acknowledged.

In my work, I’m a play advocate. I’m 100% play focused. I don’t do “crafts” unless the kids want to. I don’t do circle time. I don’t have any academically inclined activities like letters and numbers unless the kids are interested in it. My classroom plays and plays hard. I talk a good game about the negative effects of too much screen time on young children. I know how it affects eye muscle development. I know how it affects neural development. I know how it affects speech and language development.

At home, I know that if I don’t get a break, I will lose what little progress I’ve made. Quiet time where I can choose what I want to do rather than follow what my children want to do is important for my own mental health.

However, I have discovered an interesting consequence of G.’s screen time that I didn’t see coming. She has been watching a series on YouTube of a girl who plays barbies and acts out all kinds of scenarios, different characters, different life experiences. Even since, G.’s own dramatic play has grown exponentially. She has new conversations, new experiences, and she’s more willing to play by herself for much longer than she ever has been. She’s always kind of been the kid who wants to roughhouse, who jumps all over everything, who wants to ride bikes and climb and yell and dance. Which is fantastic. I love this about her. However, I have a house full of toys that have never been touched because she had no interest in independent play. Now she’s playing. She’s world-building in a way that she never has before.

There’s a well-known researching on children’s play named Vivian Paley, and I’ve been re-reading her work on fantasy play in children, and it’s fascinating watching it play out in real time right in front of me. She talks about how fantasy play is universal, they follow the same themes and the same scripts. I’ve heard the phrase “mom, pretend you’re… and I’m….” so many times in the last month that I’ve lose count. And it’s the same phrase that Paley observed in her research. There was an interesting point made though – we have lost touch with the story tellers of our culture, the elders and grandparents who used to pass down fairy tales and other stories. Now, children get these stories from the play of others. I’ve also been following a respectful parenting Instagram account that shared a reel about worthwhile TV shows, what makes a TV show overstimulating and how to find shows that are better for your children, and they made an interesting point about how high quality children’s programming can actually build on children’s dramatic and fantasy play skills. This isn’t a point I ever really thought about beforehand. Outside of daycare, G. has no one to play with other than a one year old brother. It isn’t like before, where we played with older cousins, or neighbourhood children. Covid meant that we have been alone for so many months. For such a social child, this has been especially hard for her. In screen time, she has found a new way to play, new narratives to explore, new fantasies to play out. She has found a new source of story telling that wasn’t accessible to her before. Who am I to say that this is a bad thing?

So yeah. We screen time. But, we do it responsibly. And when we notice it’s too much – when they have a hard time transitioning away, when they start to stare obsessively like someone on a heroin high, when it causes tantrums and becomes a NEED – then we take a break and we detox for a little while.

It’s balance. It’s a contradiction. It’s finding a way to parent in a modern world with modern tools and limited access to social supports. It’s life. I’m still going to preach limited screen time, but I’m going to do it in a realistic way, offering realistic suggestions. Because I’ve seen the benefits of how screen time can affect play, and it isn’t all bad. Come join me on the dark side.

WAP for Preschoolers

I had an interesting conversation with my husband a few weeks ago about societal views on female sexuality, morality and children.
In other words, we discussed WAP and whether or not it was appropriate listening material for our 4 year old.

Me, I’m all for it. I have never once censored her music. She listens to rap, she listens to heavy metal, she listens to pop and classical. She loves Five Finger Death Punch, and Blue by Eiffel 65. She does ballet to the Nutcracker Suite and twerks to Britney Spears. She’s got the most well-rounded music taste of any 4 year old I’ve ever met. I’ve always been a big music lover and that’s one thing I really wanted to instil in my kids. And not once have I any issue with G. using inappropriate language.


For real though. She’s been learning that there are things that are appropriate and okay to say at home, and things that are not okay to say at school, and I think that’s a good thing. She’s learning context. She’s learning to read her audience. It’s my job as a parent to teach her these things. It’s not their job as an artist to censor themselves for my children. If I wasn’t prepared to teach her these things, and think that she was capable of learning these things, then I would make different choices. If you parent otherwise, that’s what works for you, and all the power to you. Your family, your choice.


So back to WAP. My hubby decided that it was not appropriate for G. to listen to. I hit him with the “Missy Elliot is okay but this isn’t? So she can listen to Work It, but not this?” “Yeah, but this song is just gross.”
Turns out, the word pussy is gross. What about it makes it gross? The fact that women are owning what they want, what they like, and what they need? It’s okay for countless men to sing about all the things they want us to do to them, what they want to do to us, but we can’t take ownership of that and say what we would like? I can hear “Slob on my knob” but not “pussy’s wet, come take a dive”?

Bitch Please. For someone who makes fun of “snowflakes”, you’re getting awfully offended.

We’ve been having lots of these conversations lately, especially because we are raising both a boy and girl. The expectations are different, but the outcome is the same. My daughter will learn to protect herself and my son will learn to protect others. My children have and will learn consent at a very early age. G. is allowed to say No, I don’t want hugs right now. Or I don’t feel like having cuddles. I was very firm on that. She has always had the right to say no, and I have always respected that right. I’ve modelled it for them. If I don’t want them climbing on me, or if I’ve had enough of the game we are playing, I say stop. I tell them this isn’t comfortable for me anymore and I end whatever is happening. Doesn’t matter. Stop always means stop. If G. has had enough of L. climbing on her, she has the right to say stop and we will stop him. If L. isn’t laughing anymore when G. is pulling him around or messing around on the couch with him, we tell her “Look at his face, he isn’t having fun anymore. Time to find something new to do.” They are learning to respect the word no, and to use it. I am determined that they will never be scared to use the word no.

The flip side of this is that I do not want them to be scared of hearing the word no. No does not mean that I don’t like you anymore, or that you’re somehow less than because someone said no to you. They are saying no to the situation, it is not a rejection or reflection of who you are as a person – how you react to the word no is. What comes next is the true measure of your character. Are you going to lash out? Will you name call? Claim that she’s playing hard to get and double down on your advances? Or are you just going to say okay and find something else to do that you both enjoy? Will you take the rejection personally or see it for what is it, a boundary that they have asked you not to cross?

I don’t like everyone I meet. I don’t want to fuck everyone I see. How can you ever assume that every other person wants to fuck you? How does that even make sense that you are allowed to have preference but others cannot, especially if that preference excludes you? Not all feelings will be reciprocated, but that doesn’t make you less. And it’s my job as a mom to make sure that my children understand that. Their worth is not tied up into how much other people want to fuck them. You are more than your body or your ability to score chicks. You are more than a notch on someone’s bedpost. You are more than someone else’s judgement on you, and others are more than your judgement on them.

So my kids hear the words stop. They hear I don’t like this anymore. They hear I don’t want to do this anymore. And they listen. They know that no means no, and that they have the right and the privilege of using it anytime they need to. L. will learn as he grows that he will be intimidating just by the fact of his existence and that even if he knows he’s a good guy, others can’t know for sure just by looking at him. He will learn to be patient. He will learn to be understanding. He will learn to respect boundaries. His sister will learn to set them. She will learn that not every person she meets has good intentions, and she has full permission to leave any situation that makes her feel uncomfortable. But she will also learn basic self-defence, because not everyone will respect her boundaries and that thought makes me sad. It makes me worried for what she can and will likely experience because of the reality of being female-presenting in today’s society.

Let’s circle back to WAP one more time. When females take control of something that’s “a man’s game”. How does that make you feel? Is it the word itself? Does that make you uncomfortable? Or are you just uncomfortable with the notion of giving up a modicum of power? You big sexy man beast, make the girls weak in the knees, panty dropper, you. Don’t like the idea of us dropping our own panties? Deal with it. Don’t like the idea that we don’t want to drop our panties for you? Maybe it’s time to do some self-reflecting. There are conversations to be had around songs like this. About power dynamics, consent, the power of word choice, and why this song is triggering. So until you can tell me why my child can listen to men sing “face down, booty up, that’s the way we like to fuck” but not women sing “give me everything you got for this wet ass pussy”, you can keep your opinions to yourself, because they’re likely not welcome here. I’mma raise a girl that takes as much as she gives, and a boy that gives as much as he takes. Welcome to the 21st century – your women have rights now ✌🏻

Different Actions, Same Intentions

My challenge from therapy this week was to put myself out there more. Challenge my negative thoughts more. Be more open to possibilities. Here’s how it went:

  1. Try to initiate more sex with hubby – or at least be more vocal and up front about when you want it and encourage the actions you want to have more of.
    Result? My period started the morning after he came home. It’s the first one since I got preggo with L., so it’s not really an area I want any contact with at the moment. Nothing is going there that isn’t absorbent. Nuh uh. Nope. Not unless you want to get shredded by the cheese grater currently attacking my uterus.
  2. When you get negative thoughts about your body image, counteract them with something positive. So, I asked a friend to come to a yoga class with me. It was a low-intensity class, as per Covid regulations, and I figured it would be a good way to ease back into yoga in a group setting where other people could see me. It was my closest girlfriend, so there’s no worry there about judgement, but I also invited a new friend, one who does spin class and has no babies and has that tight little body that I have never, EVER had so I was intimidated. What is she going to think about my flabby arms and my gut that hangs over my tights when I bend.
    Result: the class was actually…easy. I took the harder option every pose, and I could get pretty deep into the stretches. I was so proud of myself. I could feel that muscle memory from all the nights of yoga I’ve been doing. So yeah. I might not be losing any weight, but my flexibility has grown, and my muscles are slowly getting stronger. That’s my mantra. The weight will come with time. I just have to be patient, like I said I would be back in January but am struggling to keep now.
  3. Get more into the zones of regulation with G. and start to find strategies that help her (and I) get back to regulated
    Result: We ended up watching Inside Out, as per the recommendation of my counsellor. And we talked a little bit about how Anger is the red zone, when you feel like you’re going to blow your top any minute. Fear is yellow, when you’re twitchy and worried and you can’t seem to calm yourself. Joy is green, when it’s all happy and bubbly. And Sadness is blue. She seemed to kind of get it, but also to not care that much. But the idea is there. We also talked about how all the emotions are good, but we can’t let one dominate over the other. We have to feel all of our feelings but not let them take over. We’ll see how that plays out once Daddy goes to camp and Mama’s home alone with the kids for four days straight.

It’s been a good week, all in all. Shane is helping more around the house because our dishwasher broke and my eczema is too bad on my hands to do dishes. G. has been playing more with Daddy because she lost tv time due to some misbehaviour at bed time. L. is miserable because he’s teething but what else is new, it just means he wants to snuggle more. I’ve been coasting, it almost feels like. I feel like I’ve stepped back and just let Shane take over most of the parenting duties, sort of. Or not parenting duties, but house duties. He’s been doing the majority of the cleaning, he plays with the kids. I do bedtime, I do the morning routine, I pick up the kids from school and take them to all of their appointments and cook their meals, remember who needs a bath and who needs their hair washed and what we need from the grocery story. It’s getting more and more even, which makes it feel like I’m slacking because I’ve been doing all of everything for so long. It’s hard to let go, or at least to let myself let it go. Mama is the only identity I’ve been holding on to for so long that I’m finding it hard to step back and trust that it’s okay to let my husband do some of the cleaning and some of the parenting. I can’t do it all. It’s okay to take time away in my office and write, or go to the basement and go for a run on the treadmill, or go out for a drink after a yoga class with girlfriends. I’m not a bad mom or neglecting them. I’m not dumping them on my husband to get away. It’s okay to take that time, because for so long I haven’t allowed myself. I’ve always been too scared of what would happen when he leaves again, and I have to start taking it all on again. I want to say that I”m storing up some me time for when I don’t have any, but there’s that little inner voice that says I’m doing it for the wrong reasons, that I’m just finding a different way to escape them. Rather than hide behind my phone, I’m hiding in my office. Different actions, same intentions.

So how true is it? Am I finding a way to give up some control, take back a bit of myself again, or am I just disengaging in new ways? Something to bring up at tomorrow’s session, I guess.

Til then, cheers bitches.

How a Children’s Show Convinced Me to Go Back to Therapy

I was reading an article today on Scary Mommy, and the author was talking about how much she loves the show “Bluey”. She had all these amazing things to say about it. Now, I’ve watched A LOT of kids shows, but I’ve never seen this one, so I thought, ‘Why not? Let’s check this shit out”.

Guys, she was right.

It was like seeing the parent I want to be – and used to be, not that long ago – play out on the screen in front of me. No life lessons shoehorned in, no weird tie-ins to “learning”, just pure unadulterated play. With both parents equally. There was so much joy, and fun, and pure imaginative play that every ECE dreams about.

So why did it also make me feel so sad? The author I read wrote about how she used it to inspire her own parenting. I want to be that parent. It made me feel like all of my shortcomings were on full display. This was everything I wanted for my kids, for myself, for my marriage, and it was all playing out in front of me and it just made me feel jealous, and disappointed in myself for not being able to provide that for my kids anymore.

I tried so hard today to be more like that. I let them have water play, and let L. sit right on top of the coffee table and feel the water on his whole body. I took G. to the park and pushed her in the swing and let them run wild in the mud.
I also yelled because G. tried to steal her brother’s chocolate by pouring it in her bowl when he wasn’t looking, and then shoved it in her mouth when I called her on it, and I didn’t stay to cuddle as long as she would like at bedtime because all I could think about was the mountain of stuff I needed to finish before I could finally sleep tonight.

I ‘m trying to keep perspective. I’ve been telling myself “Baby steps”. I can’t change everything all at once, I can’t fix what’s wrong in my brain with 12 episodes of Bluey and a trip to the park. But I’m trying, at least. I’m not letting myself drown in these thoughts of “you’re not good enough. You’re going to give your children issues because you have so many issues. you’re a horrible mother because you yell. you make G. feel like shit and she’s going to resent you so much growing up and she’s going to have self-esteem issues and anxiety because she can never predict which version of me is going to come out of my mouth”.
This is the first time I’ve ever verbalized this. It’s been in my head for a long time, but this is the first time I’ve ever written it, and acknowledged it flat out. I’m scared of how my illness is affecting her, what damage I’m doing to her. I don’t want to be that mother, the unpredictable one, where you have to walk on eggshells because you never know how they’re going to react. I want to discipline with love, be firm but fair, but I’m struggling with that line.

So maybe that’s why I’m watching Bluey. I’m going to try to be more like that. Let them interrupt the dishes. The worst that’s going to happen is that I’ll forget about them and they’ll pile up and then I’ll have to spend time doing two loads instead of one and then I’ll stress about how the kitchen looks and how the house smells and then I’ll just turn turtle and ignore it all until it’s just a crushing weight on my anxiety. That’s not so bad, is it.

Or I could just spend five less minutes scrolling the Netflix screen trying to find something to watch after they go to bed and do it then, when the exhaustion hits from trying to parent and work and yoga and school and it feels like it’s impossible to move my body even just one more inch. It’s doable.

I know, mentally, that these aren’t real reasons not to do things. My life won’t all fall apart if I decide I’d rather make a fort than fold laundry, or if I play pretend with the kids instead of forcing them to clean their room. I know this. Things always get done, eventually. However, knowing it doesn’t make it feel less real, or make me feel less overwhelmed at how much there always is to do.

The only thing I took out of my sessions with my first therapist was “You can do anything for 5 minutes. Even if you don’t get it done, at least its started and you can give yourself permission to rest because you’ve made that start. And usually, once you start, you’re more motivated to finish. So whenever something feels overwhelming, just do it for 5 minutes.” It’s been my life saver. I’ve discovered just how much I can actually get done in 5 minutes – and honestly, she was right, I’m usually invested enough after 5 minutes that I just finish it. Maybe that’s the answer then. Play for 5 minutes, no distractions, just play. Or clean for 5 minutes, right after they go to bed. Find 5 minutes, and just do one thing that needs attention.

I think I’m going to stop putting it off and find a new therapist, if a children’s show brings up all this.