Like Mother, Like Son

I always thought I hated poetry. Figuring it out in school was tedious: “What did the author mean in this verse?”, “What are 5 reasons the author chose the word “blue” in this stanza?” As a teenager, it was cool to like music and the lyrics of rap songs, but reading poetry was for losers. 🤷🏻‍♀️ And so I declared to hate poetry to be one with my peers and it wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I picked up a poetry anthology and said with each page I turned, “ooh I love that poem.”

For Christmas this year, my mother-in-law gave me a copy of a most beloved book of poetry that her father gave her and that I have read from almost every time I have visited their home. I’ve taken it out many times from the library and am glad to finally have my own copy.

I have poured over many of its poems, but one poem that has particularly resonated with me lately is Like Mother, Like Son by Margaret Johnston Grafflin.

Do you know that your soul is of my soul such a part,
That you seem to be fibre and core of my heart?
None other can pain me as you, dear, can do,
None other can please me or praise me as you.

Remember the world will be quick with its blame
If shadow or stain ever darken your name.
“Like mother, like son” is a saying so true
The world will judge largely the “mother” by you.

By yours then the task, if task it shall be,
To force the proud world to do homage to me.
Be sure it will say, when its verdict you’ve won,
“She reaped as she sowed. Lo! This is her son.”

To me, this poem is both uplifting and stressful. I love the sentiment to send my son out into the world to do good and make me proud. I strive to be the kind of mother who fills her son’s soul with generosity, goodness, humility, kindness, and love. But then the stress of it sinks in – what if, because of the world we live in and in spite of my best efforts – he grows up to be a miserable, angry, greedy man?

In Silicon Valley, especially among the high-tech circles, I notice there is a lot of emphasis on pre-school. When DK was ten months old, other moms were asking me which preschools I’d toured.

“But he’s only ten months old…” I’d respond.

“I’ve toured seven, and I’ve got my name on the waitlist at six of them,” one mom told me.

“But she’s only a year old!”

“If you want the right preschool, you have to get your name on the list now,”

“That’s insane.”

“Maybe. But if you want to get into the right private school, you need the right preschool. And forget Stanford without the right private school,” she said matter-of-factly.

Stanford?! My son couldn’t even use a spoon yet. I was stressed enough about his interest in learning to walk, let alone heaping on the pressure of an ivy league admission.

The thing with high-tech families in Silicon Valley is that often at least one parent is ivy league educated – so the pressure to raise a child who achieves at least an ivy league education is very real, and the pressure on teens in this area “to force the proud world to do homage to me” is intense, even culminating in a devastating suicide cluster a couple years ago.

It brings to mind another poem in this anthology, “Making a Man” by Nixon Waterman.

Hurry the baby as fast as you can,
Hurry him, worry him, make him a man.
Off with his baby clothes, get him in pants,
Feed him on brain foods and make him advance.
Hustle him, soon as he’s able to walk,
Into a grammar school; cram him with talk.
Fill his poor head full of figures and facts,
Keep on a-jamming them in till it cracks.
Once boys grew up at a rational rate,
Now we develop a man while you wait,
Rush him through college, compel him to grab
Of every known subject a dip and a dab.
Get him in business and after the cash,
All by the time he can grow a mustache.
Let him forget he was ever a boy,
Make gold his god and its jingle his joy.
Keep him a-hustling and clean out of breath,
Until he wins – nervous prostration and death.

I’m not saying an ivy-league education is not valuable or worth pursuing – but it’s not  something I’d trade DK’s childhood for.

While I think the sentiment of pride in your children’s achievements is nice in Grafflin’s poem – I think the pressure she speaks of is very dangerous, both for the mother and for the son. I do not want DK to feel like my happiness is dependent upon his success. I do, however, hope he is a moral and just human being. My challenge as a mother will be to listen to my thoughts above and let DK be DK – not hover, not manipulate, not try to mold him like playdough, as described by Mary O’Donnell in Promise.I try not to cast too much shade.

I try not to cast too much shade.
Sin would be
to use the excuse
of her growth in my womb,
to imagine her as a limb of myself.
She is her own tree,
late-winter’s indomitable shoot.
She takes cupfuls of sun.

I stand well clear
as the branches stretch
like flutes playing allegros.
Not for anything
would I poison her
with an act of possession,
conceal her from the woodsman
whose task is to make room for all.

RinkydinkMum in 2018

Becoming a mum for the first time is a rocky transition.

When you’re pregnant, you’re sooo looking forward to meeting your little bundle of joy and becoming a parent and you want to punch every well-meaning truth-speaker who tells you to “enjoy life while you can”, “you can’t even understand how much your life is going to change”, and “be selfish now!”

I know I hated people who said that to me. Of course I know life is going to change. Why do you think I signed up for this in the first place? I can’t wait for my life to change. Enjoy life? My life will be even more enjoyable once I welcome my baby into the world. Seriously, I hated those people. But now, 17 months in, with daily 3 am nightwakings, mopping my floor every day from far-flung-food, and listening to the constant frustrated whines of a young toddler – I find myself saying to my pregnant friends, “Congratulations! You’re about to walk off a cliff of delusion. Enjoy your life while you still can.”

Once you become a mom, shit gets HELLA-REAL and you realize very quickly that while you thought of yourself as a pretty selfless person – happy to give your time and energies to others – you didn’t even know how to spell the word before becoming a mother.

In the newborn phases, people say “Oh the newborn phase is the worst, the sleep deprivation is just killer.” But you read Happiest Baby on the Block and you and your newborn are coping just fine. So you start to find your identity as a new mom, deciding to set up camp as an attachment/baby-wearing/co-sleeping/positive discipline/no-screen-time parent and you truck along not realizing that again, the parents who are a year or two ahead of you on the parenting trajectory shake their heads and think, “She just doesn’t understand. Just wait until ___”.

I’ve made some big mistakes this past year in my relationships with some other mothers. And I’ve paid the price and been hurt in retaliation for some poorly chosen words.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately of what I want for RinkydinkMum – do I want it to be a sounding board of my ideas/opinions on parenting (No!), do I want it to be a place where I highlight my parenting achievements and showcase myself as a supermom? (BARF, ABSOLUTELY NOT). I want it to be an honest, authentic account of being a mom. My successes and failures, information I’ve found interesting or helpful, and perspectives I don’t know that I agree with, but can wrestle with in an open and honest way. Lastly, and most importantly for 2018, I want my blog to be a place where I lift up the triumphs and trials of other mothers in the thick of this confusing, exhausting, ever-changing, loving, infuriating journey.

Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!

Sometimes I feel like I don’t really know *who* I am exactly. Am I this kind of mom? Or that kind? Is my personal style classy preppy or boho cozy? Am I a bangs girl or full-of-regret bangs girl? I waffle a lot. My interests change constantly. I’m into blogging right now…but in six months? Might be time for some watercolours….just gotta ride the ship of my fleeting fancy.

But, one thing I do know without a doubt about myself is that I love Christmas. I love everything about Christmas. I love the good deeds and the feel-good spirit. I love the cookies and candy canes. I love red and green and silver and gold and glitter and snow and fluff. Christmas cards and carols and the smell of cinnamon and cloves. I love setting up my Christmas tree, stringing twinkle lights, lighting candles and snuggling on the couch, sipping a Christmas tea while reading a good book. Wrapped up in all this joy is my all-time favourite hobby – giving people presents. I literally Christmas shop all year. I’ve had my father-in-law’s gift picked out since May.

In California, it is definitely harder to get into the Christmas spirit because it’s still over 20 degrees (Celsius) in November, but I don’t let that stop me. I let tradition guide the way, and if there’s another thing I love just as much as Christmas, it’s family traditions. So here are some traditions that we have started in our family to welcome autumn and usher in the holiday season.

1) We host an annual Friendsgiving Party on Canadian Thanksgiving (the second weekend in October). This year I asked friends to bring a dish of something that reminds them of home and/or brings them comfort. One of the cool things about living in diverse Silicon Valley is we had culinary traditions from all over the world at this feast. We had Palak Chole Tikki (an Indian spinach garbanzo patty), a French olive loaf, and Canadian butter tarts. We had mac and cheese and mashed potatoes and meat pie and bbq chicken. This themed potluck was a lot fun and not a lot of work for me because everyone contributed, so I could also socialize and spend time with our friends instead of stuck at a stove top!

2) We don’t have family in California for American Thanksgiving and most of our friends head home to different corners of the country to celebrate with their families or they are immigrants like us and don’t really celebrate the holiday. Some years we have been invited to friends’ feasts but usually my husband takes the on-call shift at work over thanksgiving which means he has to be internet connected at all time and ready to solve a software glitch at any time, which makes travel tough. This year we opted to stay home and have a four day staycation over the thanksgiving long weekend and have some quality family R&R before the craziness of holiday parties and Christmas travel. And instead of making a huge turkey dinner for two people and a baby – we made homemade pizzas and this was so fun and tasty I think maybe we will do it again next year!

3) We set up our Christmas decorations on Black Friday

It takes a lot of self control to not set up our tree November 1st. I love the beauty of the Christmas tree – but I also know that I can over-do it by going too big too soon and by December 24th, I’m ready for Christmas to be over. So I have to hold back and we set up the tree the day after American Thanksgiving. One thing I LOVE about the house we live in is it has this huge space above the fireplace that fits the Christmas tree. This is awesome with a toddler in the house because he can’t grab at the tree and constantly take the ornaments off.

Another favourite of mine for Christmas decor is these tiny santa hats I found at Michael’s a couple of years ago. They fit perfectly on my existing mantle figurines, so I can dress them up instead of hiding them away.

4) I host a Christmas Pyjama Breakfast for my mom-friends and Devon’s baby-friends. This is the second year that I’ve done it and I find it really fun. We have breakfast, we wear our jammies, we take pictures of the kids, and we play Pass The Present. This year I gathered up some little self-care gifts (tiny bottles of alcohol, single serve bags of coffee, chocolates, face masks) for my friends and I bought a pack of Christmas cards and puff-stickers from the dollar store for each kid (who were all between 12mos – 2 1/2). Then I alternated between mom-kid gifts and wrapped them one on top of the other until I had a giant ball of presents and wrapping paper to pass around. This was the perfect game for the age-group – the kids loved passing the present and unwrapping each layer. The cards were also the perfect little present for this age group – they liked opening the envelopes, pulling out the cards and pressing the puff stickers.

5) We have our little family Christmas with just the three of us before we head home to Canada to celebrate with grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends. Usually we go out for lunch after we open presents and weather permitting (which it pretty much always has) we sit outside on the patio because we can!

What about you? What are some family traditions you’ve started to bring in the holiday season? Would love to hear your comments.

From our family to yours we hope you had a wonderful December and a great 2018!

Merry Christmas!

Barfmas 2017

It could have been worse. It could have been so much worse. We could have been on a plane, for instance, on Christmas Eve at 3 pm when the first eruption occurred; vomit bursting out of my son’s mouth onto the floor.

“Uhhh Heather, DK just barfed,” said my husband.

“Like a lot?”

“Yeah”

“Ohhhhhh nooooo.” Time stopped for a second and my mind zoomed in to macro-focus on my son’s mouth and shirt.

Yeah. It was a lot. Fuck.

It was Christmas Eve at my family’s house – we alternate every year and this year was my year. We had old friends coming over in a couple of hours for supper. I had been helping in the kitchen for much of the day. And now….the next 24 hours flashed before me as ones sitting with DK, covered in vomit. Whyyyyy?!?!

We moved to get the old towels, strip him down, wipe him off. And then another explosion – this time my husband completely covered.

Okay. So really not good. 2 bouts of barf in 20 minutes. Not good.

This was DKs first stomach bug. My own stomach flipped when I realized that the day before we had been at a family reunion hosted at a community centre in a small agricultural town in rural Alberta, and while the place seemed very clean and DK had the time of his life scampering around with his toys, there was very possibly traces of farm animal feces on people’s shoes who came into the hall….the bug was probably related and maybe I shouldn’t have been so lenient letting him explore every nook and cranny. But then again, you can’t protect your child from every bug. It happens.

Thirty minutes later, another stomach attack. I’m trying to remember what the BRAT diet is, and how many wet diapers he’s supposed to have, how to make sure he doesn’t get dehydrated, how to get barf out of the carpet, and how to protect myself from getting hit. Thankfully I was at my parents house and my mom knew what to do.

And so for the next 12 hours, I nursed DK on demand, held him close while he puked back up most of what I fed to him, cleaned him off, gave him some sips of water, and watched Winnie the Pooh as he fell asleep. Our Christmas Eve dinner guests hardly saw me.

Thankfully, although I didn’t know it at the time, (at the time I was in tears from exhaustion and having to change my shirt again) he started feeling better around 4 am, fell asleep for a few hours and aside from being tired, was back to his usual happy self by mid-morning, keeping down breastmilk, apple sauce and saltines, ready to open presents, and play with some new toys.

So yeah, it could have been so much worse.

Update: A friend of mine who is a family doctor commented that norovirus is the likely culprit as it was just barf (not also diarrhea – thank God!) and resolved pretty quickly.

Flying Solo with a Baby

When I relocated to California, one caveat was that we always go home to Canada for Christmas. I love Christmas. I love celebrating Christmas at my parents’ house. I love snow. I’ll be darned if I miss out on that in California and do Christmas among the palm trees.

This year, however – my husband didn’t have quite enough vacation time to go for as long as I would have liked – so DK and I flew home a week early so we could spend more time with my friends. The Christmas season is hella-busy with family, so unless we get together early – I sometimes don’t even see my friends before it’s time to go back to California.

And so DK and I departed a week early for Canada. It was DK’s first time flying since becoming a mobile toddler and my first time flying alone with a child. I had nightmares of a screaming child running around the plane covered in his own feces. My stomach was in knots thinking that our flight might be delayed or cancelled. I worried that we’d end up sitting next to an unsympathetic grinch. I panicked that we’d have problems at the border because DK and I don’t have the same legal last name.

Sitting with these anxieties, I got busy preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. And thankfully – the travel day went surprisingly well, in spite of a mechanical delay.

Here are some things that I prepared that helped us get through the day, as well as a few things that I did prepare as worst-case-scenario-Andrea:

1. A notarized letter signed by my husband giving his consent that I travel across the border with our son.

Perhaps the most important provision I packed for us – it would be pretty awful to be detained at the border for kidnapping…

2. I wrapped a bunch of little gifts from the dollar store as well as his snacks. Unwrapping the toys and snacks took a few minutes and then the joy of a new toy to play with or snack to eat occupied him for quite a while. Putting them all in a ziplock bag gave me a spot to put the ripped wrapping paper afterwards.

IMG-9801

4. I put some goldfish crackers in a weekly pill-organizer I got at the dollar store. Then I wrapped it.

IMG-9804

5. I didn’t take a stroller, but carried him in a Tula carrier.

As much as I love my compact travel stroller, I can’t push it with one hand – making it impossible to push a cart-load of luggage at the same time. Therefore, I opted to take only my tula carrier, and I’m glad I did.

6. I wrapped a pack of post-it notes…peeling and sticking them to the tray table and seat occupied him for 30 whole minutes!

7. I can’t claim credit for this, but I got lucky and was given a row to myself as our plane wasn’t full. DK entertained himself for a while with the seatbelt.

These ideas worked great to keep DK busy without a screen (although we did watch about 15 minutes of Winnie the Pooh too). By the time we landed and were supposed to get off the plane, I had one tired boy!

Holiday Food Challenge

After Thanksgiving in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I make a lot of plans to celebrate the season. Parties to host and to attend, big meals to cook – and in the midst of all of this socialite planning, I like to also finish off the year by finishing off the food in my house. Part of this is that we will be going home to Canada for Christmas and would prefer to not have a bunch of rotting food when we come back, and part of it is that it feels good to return home in January, turn over a fresh leaf for cooking and fill my fridge with healthy ingredients for new recipes.

To start, I clean out my fridge, which is a true horror story. I’m not sure if the cheese is blue cheese or just unrecognizable brie. I can’t remember buying this soy mirin, but it’s the third year in a row that I’ve thought “does this go bad?” during my annual purge and shuffle it back further in the middle row of shelves. I hold up a bottle of super spicy szechaun sauce that not even my husband could enjoy and the lemon tamarind salad dressing that tasted like a foot and I give myself permission to get rid of it – because let’s be serious, I’m not going to use it again.

Then I prepare my remaining produce. I’m way more likely to snack on celery and carrots if they are cut into bite-size pieces. I’m more likely to add green pepper to an omelette if it’s already diced – hells, I’m more likely to use my eggs to make an omelette if I have a diced green pepper to add to it.

Next, I take stock of my freezer to figure out which meats I have in there that can be turned into meals. I feel like cleaning out my freezer is a time for self-reflection when throwing out freezer-burnt muffins I made from freezer-burnt bananas that surprise-surprise DK nor I ever ate, and I make a promise to myself – during this challenge, I will eat what I make as it is fresh. I will not add more individually-wrapped “burritos” to the frozen pit to feel like I “used” up a can of black beans. Because I know me, and I know I won’t remember to eat them and my freezer will be too full for ice cream. And so I issue myself an I-love-me-commandment: Thou shall not make any more freezer muffins/burritos/pancakes/baby purées/casseroles under the guise of being economical. The exception to this commandment is soups because dang I love a good hearty home-made soup for lunch, and that is the one thing I will pull out of the freezer and reheat for myself.

Then I go through my pantry and re-familiarize myself with my impulse-Costco purchases. 12 cans of lentils? Check. 100 pounds of pasta? Check. 5000 kg of rice? Check. Canned tomatoes, canned tuna, canned chickpeas, cereal, tortilla chips, sloppy joe seasoning, granola snack bars – the list is practically un-ending.

I make a list of the ingredients I want to use up before I leave for Canada (I love lists!) and I start brainstorming/looking in cookbooks for things I can make with them.

Some ideas I’ve come up with:

  • Sloppy Joe Sandwiches
  • Hamburgers
  • Shrimp and pea frittatta
  • Pan-fried tilapia with braised brocollini
  • Spaghetti squash, sausage and lentil stir-fry.
  • Western omelette
  • Chicken taquitos, Chicken tacos, Chicken quesedillas
  • Chicken cesar salad

The thing I like about this exercise is before I started it, I was almost afraid of my fridge and ashamed of what I’ve wasted. But in going through it, starting fresh, and making a plan to not be more wasteful as we head into the holiday season, I’m actually looking forward to mealtimes again and trying these new ideas.

What about you? What do you do in the weeks leading up to Christmas? How to you eat-it-up before you feast-it-up?

Motherlode, a poem

Happy Tuesday after American Thanksgiving! I’m told we are officially allowed to start celebrating the Christmas season, my FAVOURITE season of all. To kick off the season, I thought I’d share with you a little poem inspired by The Night Before Christmas.

Motherlode

‘Twas early one morning
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Not even a mouse.

Mum and babe nestled quietly,
The babe on her breast.
She smiled down at him
A perfect moment blessed.

And then a rip roar tore
through the silence.
The gastric distress
startled like a siren.

Babe’s diaper filled with
A substance nothing like sand,
And mom hopefully prayed
she bought the leakproof brand.

And then came the truth
The diaper wasn’t ready for war
With the hot putrid liquid
That exploded galore.

It trickled down babe’s legs
And shot up babe’s back.
Mum’s outfit was compromised;
Even her hair was full of crap.

Dad came in to do
A post mortum analysis
Of the diaper’s construction
And limits of “infant”esimal calculus

A final report was concluded
But no one is confident
If it was the diaper
Or parental incompetence.

 

 

Long Road Trips with a Baby

We are from Canada but have been living in the SF Bay Area for the last 3 years. We try to get home every summer and every Christmas. We didn’t make it last summer because I was too pregnant, but this year we headed home to celebrate DK’s first birthday with family and friends! And we drove. A 23 hour drive. With a baby. Yeah, I’m sure you’re not jealous.

But actually, it went remarkably well. We are super lucky to have a baby who is not afflicted with car sickness. If we did, we’d probably never leave home. Thankfully that wasn’t an issue, so we already had a head start on the long drive.

But it was still a long time for a little guy to be in the car. Here are some things that we did that I think made it doable.

1) Swimming, swimming, swimming every day

DK loves swimming. He will kick kick kick in the pool until he’s pruney and blue. The BEST thing we did (I’ll admit, by accident) was book hotels with pools. Before we left in the morning, we’d pack up the car and then we’d take him for a swim, which would exhaust him. We’d get him changed and then I’d nurse him and he’d be so drowsy that one minute into the car ride, he’d be asleep…for 3+ hours. It was a great way to get in a chunk of driving.


2) Not overdoing it

Before kids, my husband and I would do long road trips. Like long. My husband is a long-drive enthusiast, happily doing 16 hours at a time. I can go about 9 before I’m squirrelly. Thankfully, I planned this trip and I tried to make sure (through the help of Google maps) that we were only driving between 5 – 7 hours per day.

3) Packing strategically

We needed two suitcases to fit a week’s worth of clothes for three people…one for me (hey, I like light layers) and one shared between DK and my husband. This works for airplane travel…but it is not effective for car travel. You have to lug too many things in from the car to the hotel room. So I got smart and re-packed it all so that we could fit 4 days of road-trip clothes and essentials in one suitcase and the other suitcase for everything else.

4) There’s an app for that! 

The PlayPlaces app maps according to your location where the nearest restaurants with PlayPlaces and rest stops with bathrooms are located. This app was a life saver on the long sparsely populated drive across northern Nevada and southern Idaho. We ate at McDonalds A LOT. But they have change tables, and a place for DK to crawl around, and McFlurries. Enough Said.

5) Toy bag

A few weeks before our trip I gathered a bunch of small toys and books and put them in a bag out of DK’s sight. I also bought a few small new toys to include for something new and novel. After a few weeks without those toys, everything was exciting again! I passed him one toy at a time and when he threw it away or stopped playing with it, he could then have another one. This worked well for most of the trip. The final 3 hours both directions he was definitely DONE with the car seat and the toys – but we got a 20 hour run with them…so I consider it a success!

6) The Honey Song

I don’t know what it is about this Youtube Video, but it’s like a psychedelic baby drug. DK loves it. We downloaded it for offline viewing and in the final 20 minutes of every day when he was just NOT COOL anymore, we’d watch it on repeat. Sometimes we also just played the soundtrack song for him on Google Play on repeat, and that would also work without the screen-time!

 

7) Snacks

So many snacks. Just think of how many snacks are reasonable, and triple it.

 

 

Mental Load and Equality

A few weeks ago a friend of mine shared an article about the mental load many women bear in running a household and how labour is never really “equally” divided between spouses because of all the additional planning, administering and remembering that falls onto the plates of wives and mothers.

I have this love/hate relationship with feminism, and reflecting on what I expect of myself as a feminist and what other women/feminists expect of me as a feminist is an entirely different blog post or, frankly, series of blog posts. So for this post I’m just looking at what equal division of labour and mental load of household management means to me in the context of raising a son who believes in the equality of all people and whose actions reflect it.

So back to the article, the comments and discussion that this article generated were prodigious and I shared the article with my husband late one night as it really did reflect a lot of what I was feeling.

I don’t think of myself as someone who needs a lot of verbal reassurance. Generally I’m pretty confident, probably to a fault. However, the thankless and unnoticed work I do behind the scenes to keep our home running sometimes grates on me. Something simple like taking DK to the pediatrician is not just the time travelling to and from and at the appointment – but the mental exercise of finding the pediatrician in the first place, scheduling the appointment, calling our insurance company to make sure the provider I found was “in-network”, paying the bills afterwards, remembering the correct dosage and timing of his medications. These were all “background” things my husband did not realize I spent any time doing.

My husband works full-time and he provides for our family so that I can stay home with our son. This is what we both want and I’m happy that I have the opportunity to be with my son every day. As such, I don’t really have an issue with taking on the huge bulk of the household management. I’m better at it than my husband and I’m home all day, so it makes sense that I would take it on. But that doesn’t mean that sometimes I don’t need some recognition for how much work it actually is and it doesn’t mean I want DK to grow up assuming that household management is “women’s work”.

We’ve talked about me one day going back to work and my husband has always been keen saying we’d split chores more evenly when that day comes, but I’m honestly scared to go back to work because I know that even though the intention will be to equally divide the labour, I’ll still be the one managing the household and deciding, organizing, planning, delegating, asking, reminding, and remembering all of the things on top of my for-pay job. That thought is exhausting and this article was helpful for us to open up dialogue on these real fears.

And then our dishwasher broke. And for three straight nights my husband patiently siphoned gross water out of the bottom of the dishwasher and solved the problem, only for it to come back again with the next wash cycle. The third night after he got home from work he spent over three hours fixing the problem, pulling out the dishwasher and dealing with mucky water.

And I realized that I did not give him enough credit for his mental load in household management.

Yes, my jobs are constant everyday small things – but his house-tasks are usually at super inconvenient times, unpredictable, time intensive and expensive problems often involving grey water or sewage and multiple trips to Home Depot. Toilet clogs? My husband is on it. Shower won’t drain? I don’t even have to ask him. Our bike tires never need to be pumped up because he always makes sure they have air. Our car almost always has gas in it.

I think I am just as much to blame for not noticing all the mental load he carries and all the little things he does around the home for us as he is for not noticing my mental load and all the little things that I do.
When it comes to how we raise our son, I want DK to help around the house because he’s a part of our family, but I don’t know that equality has to mean getting my husband to do my traditionally female jobs and me to do his traditionally male jobs. While hypothetically I like the idea of raising a son who doesn’t consider chores “pink chores” and “blue chores”, but just “chores”,  I think the chivalry involved in picking up a dead mouse in the yard or unclogging an overflowing toilet is nice. It makes me feel loved as a wife and thankful that my husband will protect me from ugliness.  I would be honoured to raise a son who takes his future spouse’s disgusting hair ball out of the shower drain without being asked because he knows that’s what husbands do. And if this means that as a result of teaching him this he fails to learn how often one needs to clean a toilet – I’ll still feel like I succeeded as a mom.

Treating my phone addiction with clocks

Do you remember life before you had a smartphone? I barely remember.

I got my first iPhone in 2010 when I was in grad school studying social cultural anthropology. I needed an audio-recorder for doing interviews and a way to take quick notes in the field for my research. I decided to splurge on the iPhone 3G, which was the previous year’s model when I bought it.

It was probably the most life altering purchase I have ever made.

Before my iPhone, my Samsung flip phone was almost always dead. I would only text the bare minimum because I didn’t understand how T9 worked and typing out messages on a 9 digit keyboard was excruciating. When my phone was charged and turned on, the voicemail blinky light would always be flashing. I never checked my voicemails because I had to enter a passcode and most of the messages were just from my dad saying, “Hi, it’s dad. I’ll try calling you again later.” I remember feeling so irritated when I checked my voicemail that I lost 2 minutes of my time listening to that message.

Image result for samsung flip phone

Now, I waste dozens of minutes per day just checking the homescreen of my phone to see if anyone has contacted me.

I used to be hard to reach; but when I was with you, I was with you.

Now, I’m quite punctual in responding to people. It bothers me to have an unread notification – and if I read it, I have to respond because otherwise I’ll forget and that person will think I’m ignoring them. But I’m distracted when I’m in the flesh.

I used to manage a full-time university course-load and a part-time job. I used to hang out with friends daily, date, read books for pleasure, scrapbook with my mom, and watch TV with my brother.

Now, I take care of a one year old, clean up after 3 people, maintain this blog (and we know that I’m pretty infrequent with that), and check my phone. I rarely read entire books for pleasure anymore. I hardly find time to cook. And I’m horrified to say that my husband and I can spend entire evenings sitting next to each other both looking at our phones.

Something had to change.

When my brother was visiting, he noticed that my phone would send me notifications for absolutely everything: “The University of Calgary (my alma mater) retweeted the Calgary Herald”; “Sally Stranger posted in Mom Group”; “You took 6789 steps today!”; “Have you played 2048 recently?”. It was too much. My phone was buzzing every few minutes, and I’d look at it to see if it was important. But all that brain power, all that distraction for interruptions that I didn’t even care about was sapping me of my time. My brother suggested I turn off all notifications and when he said it, I looked at him like he had three heads.

“You can do that?!”

“Yeah. Just go to settings.”

It was seriously mind-blowing to me that I had the power to affect incoming information like that. Such a tiny action and already my smartphone dependency was becoming more manageable. I turned off notifications for every single app except iMessage, Hangouts and Messenger, because I wasn’t quite ready to become the kind of person who is hard to reach, especially being abroad. And let me tell you, it has been liberating! The impact was immediate – I was looking at my phone less. I was spending less time on Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter because they weren’t constantly asking for my attention.

A few months went by, and I adjusted to this new freedom, but my phone still felt a bit too much like an appendage. It was always at my side. It was my best friend, in a way, because it was my support system – linking me to my friends and family back home in Canada. I was constantly pressing that home button and looking at the home screen, like a nervous tick.

I went to my friend Sarah’s house for a playdate and I asked out-loud what time it was, motioning for my phone. Sarah looked at her wall (not her Facebook one, her actual wall) – there was a clock there. A great big clock with a white face and black hands. And this blew my mind. A clock? On the wall of your living room? Like as decor? Is that a thing?

And then it dawned on me that the next stage of separation from my phone was to no longer treat it as my watch.

I used to wear a watch, before DK. After he was born, I found it impossible to transfer him from my arms to his crib without his head chaffing on my watch, so I took it off and began relying on my phone for the time. I put my watch back on.

I used to have an alarm clock on my nightstand that glowed red digits in the dark. But one day I spilled water on it and it died. I had started charging my phone next to my bed, you know, in case someone got in an accident in the middle of the night and I got a phone call. And so my phone easily replaced my alarm clock, my night-light, and my bedtime-reading all at once. I bought a $14 alarm clock on Amazon with big red numbers so I could see it without my glasses on in the middle of the night and not have to check my phone for the time, inevitably seeing middle of the night notifications. I started turning on my lamp for my bedtime reading.

And I bought a $10 wall clock to hang in the space between our kitchen and our living room. Next to it I hung a Gilmore Girls-inspired poster, “In Omnia Paratus”, which means “Ready for Anything”, and a painting of a girl with her nose stuck in a book, as reminders of what I wanted to make time for. And I check the clock – all the time.

I still have a long way to go weaning myself from this life-changing technology. I don’t want to go back entirely to the way things were before I had a smartphone. I think I’m a better daughter, friend, sister and wife when I’m reachable. But I do want to stop putting everyone else in the wide world of the internet on a higher pedestal than my son, my husband and myself.

My next steps to cure myself of my smartphone dependency are to move its night-time charging spot off of my nightstand. Reading on my phone late at night keeps me awake. I know it keeps me awake. Scientific research knows it keeps me awake. And yet, night after night, I decompress from the day lying in bed staring at a tiny glowing screen in the dark looking at Taylor Swift gifs on Tumblr.

Next, I need to determine a resting spot in the house where I will keep it during the day instead of always within arm’s reach and allow myself to check it a specific intervals. The thought of it makes my palms sweaty, which is why I know it needs to happen. Perhaps perching below In Omnia Paratus will be a good spot for it – and then I really will be Ready for Anything because my mind won’t be buried in my phone.