It takes a village to raise a child-Reflections of Influences on Motherhood

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Last Sunday was Mother’s Day. As I sat at dinner with my adult children I pondered how well they had turned out. It got me thinking about the influences I had growing up that had shaped the mother I had become, the mothering style I had employed raising my children and the values that were instilled in me that I tried to instill into them. Mother’s Day is about recognizing mothers and the work they do raising their children. But as I sat in the restaurant I realized that moms don’t do it alone. I’m not talking about dads here. That’s a post for Father’s Day. I am talking about the other women in our lives that we are exposed to as little girls, young women and eventually as mothers. The women who we sometimes hear ourselves emulating as we go about the day to day job of raising our kids.

Of course there was my own mother. She was not without her flaws, as are all of us, but she was also a very strong minded lady. In an environment that was far from idyllic, my mother managed to successfully raise two children who, by her strong influence, became inherently good adults. Knowing the hell I must have put my mother through with my rebellious ways, I think my mother did an amazing job. The fact that she did not murder or abandon me is proof of that! Many of the values that I hold dear today were modelled by her daily throughout my life. Good work ethic, honesty and the importance of family are but a few. One of the most important ones was to always be there for your children. Even when they are naughty. And especially when they are adults trying to find their own way. That is when they often need you the most to help guide them through the many obstacles in their path. But she also taught me to let my children make their own choices, without fear of judgement from me. She never turned her back on me, or made her love conditional and for that I will be eternally grateful. I never understood how challenging this was for her until I had children of my own. Hopefully I have been able to instill those values into my children too.

Mom wasn’t the only woman to influence the type of woman and mother I would become. There were friends and family who would help along the way. For instance, her own mother. My Nan, who became a single mother when her youngest of twelve was only an infant. My mother was around ten when my grandfather was hit by an automobile and killed. My Nan raised up those children on her own, along with an additional four of her grandchildren. When I think of strong women, Nan is one of the first ones that comes to mind. And she was a huge influence on the mother I would become.

For as long as I can remember we would go to see my Nan regularly. Usually on a Sunday after church. On those Sunday’s there would always be a large dinner, with enough food to serve anyone and everyone who stopped by after church. Nan always invited the older bachelors to her house for a Sunday dinner, stating that the poor old buggers must be starving half to death with no one to cook for them. We would eat in shifts in her small kitchen and I don’t remember her ever running out of food to serve. Everything would be made from scratch and cooked on a wood burning stove. I honestly don’t know how she managed to pull it off every single week but it provided an environment where I learned that charity to those less fortunate is always a possibility regardless of your lot in life.

She taught me organization skills, discipline and routine are important components of raising children. Having raised sixteen children in her house, she showed us all ways to manage our children in effective but loving ways. I have employed those methods in my own home with excellent results (although now that they aren’t small children anymore routines have become lax and my house is a disorganized mess as a result). And I suppose the really important lesson I learned is that you can live simply and still have a long and happy life. I will be thrilled if I can get to 100 years old like she did. I have, in turn, taught my children that they don’t need every new thing that comes along and that what you do get you will have to work for. Every time I think life is getting too hard to handle, I think of her and tell myself to suck it up because really I have it pretty easy by comparison.

And then there is my mother’s sister who’s house I call home as easily as my own. I lived with her for a while as a toddler when my mother was too ill to care for me. One of her brothers flew back to Newfoundland with me and I lived with my aunt. I adopted her in-laws as surrogate Grandparents. Not that I had any shortage of my own but simply because of the proximity of them to my aunt’s house. Their house was just a small gravel parking area away and I loved to spend time with them.

This aunt would welcome us into her home every summer giving us the opportunity to grow up and experience the same country childhood that most of our cousins in the neighbouring houses enjoyed. She gave love and guidance to a niece that was often times difficult to handle and who loves and respects her all the more for it. She taught me the importance of being there for your family when they need you. She showed me that all children, and especially the naughty ones, need love. And part of that love includes a healthy dose of reciprocal respect. She also showed me the value of having pride in your roots and that family history is important information to be passed down to future generations, treasured as an important gift. She continuously shows me the importance of respecting your body by staying fit while enjoying the outdoors. And even when you are not feeling the greatest, you should live your life to the fullest and not wallow in self pity. There is always someone out there who is much worse off than you are.

Growing up I had other influences from the friends of my mother. These women had children the same age as my younger brother and we spent a fair bit of time in their company. One of these ladies was my idol for many years. I loved her attitude! She was small but she was a fireball and when I was younger I aspired to be just like her. She taught me that a woman can and should be a lifelong friend to at least one other woman. Women need each other! We need someone without familial ties that we can vent to without fear of retribution and who will be there for us right until the end. This helps us to be better mothers, by allowing us to vent our frustrations elsewhere instead of at our children. She also taught me not to take any shit from anyone which influenced who I dated and who I chose to father my children, and ultimately determined how my children were raised. This woman helped me become who I am, through her flaws as well as her strengths…just as my own mother has. I am sure my mother noticed the similarities, however I am not sure she liked all of them.

The young man I fell in love with and eventually had children with and married was very close with his aunt and as a result, I had the privilege of a close relationship with her too. She was a more recent influence on my mothering and we were living in an apartment in her basement when I became a mother. I was terrified of delivery and motherhood in general. Being only twenty five when I first became pregnant, I didn’t really have the maturity or experience to give me the confidence in my own abilities as a mother and I relied on her advice many times. She taught me about patience with children. It is one of her most dominant virtues, along with valuing family time. She would spend hours with my first son when he was a preschooler, teaching him to bake muffins. They would sit on the kitchen floor together watching the muffins bake through the glass on the oven door. She taught me the value of being truly in the moment. To really listen to your children and have conversations with them. Giving time to a child is one of the greatest gifts you can give and the return on investment is immeasurable. It was by watching her interactions with my child that helped me to decide that my children would have the benefit of my time. And when it was time to be with them, they would have my undivided attention. She gave children respect and treated them like what they had to say was super important. My children are better for it and I became a better mother from having her influence in my life. For that, I will be eternally grateful!

There would be other women throughout the years that would influence my mothering style. Some modelled behaviour that I would adopt and others modelled behaviours that helped me determine ways I did not want to raise my children. I won’t call them bad mothers, just mothers who had values that differed greatly from my own, while still showing me alternatives that I knew I didn’t want to emulate.

Sitting here at 50 looking back on my mothering abilities, I hope that I have been able to positively influence the next generation of moms raising our future nieces, nephews and grandchildren. If I have a few pieces of advice for these young women, they would be:

  1. Trust your instincts. You are better at this than you give yourself credit for.
  2. Accept advice but use your own judgement. The child is yours and the final decisions on upbringing are also yours.
  3. When help is offered – take it. Other people in your life love your child and want to spend time with them too. The influence of others on your children can be beneficial, and will also give you time to rejuvenate yourself.
  4. Take time to care for yourself. You are not being selfish by having “you” time. You are giving yourself the opportunity to be a better mom to your children. Parenting takes energy. Renew yours.
  5. Be truly in the moment with your children. Don’t let things distract your attention during their time with you. If you want their respect, you will need to give them some too. One day you will want them to put down their phones and be in the moment with you, so model that behaviour for them while they are still young.
  6. Discipline is a demonstration of love. You love them enough to guide them through life. That is also a part of being a mother.

One last thought on motherhood. Any woman can be a mother…even those who have never given birth. Mothering is about the connection and love you give to a child, not about getting pregnant and giving birth. While that is one way to become a mother, it is not the only way. Some women become mothers through adoption and others by partnering with someone who already has children. Regardless of how you become one, it is one of the most trying yet rewarding experiences a woman can have. It is not for everyone, and that is OK too. Every woman is free to make her own choices and they should not be judged for not having children. Women who do not have children of their own can also have influence on the children of their friends and relatives because it takes a village to raise a child.

I Love a Good Challenge!

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Last week I signed up to do the Great Cycle Challenge happening in June. It is a fundraiser to raise money and awareness of the fight to end childhood cancer. I am cycling to raise funds to help the SickKids Foundation continue its work in developing treatments and finding a cure for childhood cancer

I am excited to do my part to end this horrible disease that so many children are fighting (over 1400 children in Canada are diagnosed with Cancer every year). Children should be living life, not fighting for it.

Although I signed up for this challenge to participate in the fundraiser, I will also be reaping the benefits of cycling again.

For the past few years my bike has resided in the back recesses of the garage alongside the treadmill. I have never really been a particularly fit person, but I used to love riding my bike as a way to get a little exercise in my day and to enjoy my surroundings. Then I moved and the bike and treadmill were buried behind some other garage things. For a while now I have been meaning to pull out both pieces of equipment and start using them again.

As I have aged I experienced a progressive weight gain that needs to be nipped in the bud before the damage is irreversible. All I really need is the motivation to get off the couch and do something! The accountability of this challenge should be just the motivation needed to make those small changes that will improve lifestyle.

  1. This challenge is all over social media and so I am accountable to my peers.
  2. I will be collecting money from people sponsoring the challenge and I am accountable to them to complete it. Those people expect me to ride the 50km that I have pledged to ride during June.
  3. In order to succeed at the challenge, I will need to prepare by working my way up to a level of fitness that will physically help me actually get on the bike each day and ride the kilometres needed to meet the challenge.
  4. The challenge will give me a pride of accomplishment once achieved.
  5. As a bonus, the process of hauling out my bike each day will be firmly ingrained in my routine by the end of June, encouraging me to continue riding after the challenge has finished.

I am looking forward to the added health benefits that riding a bike will bring to my body, but most of all I look forward to helping the children facing the diagnosis of cancer.

Please join the fight by either completing the challenge yourself, or by supporting me through sponsorship. Your support will change little lives!

The Great Cycle Challenge

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The Great Cycle Challenge

I signed up this week for the Great Cycle Challenge happening in June to raise funds and awareness about children fighting cancer. I will be posting regular updates as I prepare for this challenge.  I’ve set a goal of riding 50km in June and I haven’t been on my bike in at least two years. So this is a true challenge for me. Sedentary to fit. Stay tuned as I navigate the change from my sedentary lifestyle to one of increased vitality through fitness while helping SickKids Foundation to continue its work in developing treatments and finding a cure for childhood cancer. This challenge is just the thing to get me off the couch and outside doing an exercise I’ve always loved.

If you would like to show support in the way of sponsorship you can follow my link to the donation page. Or you can sign up to participate in the challenge and get on your bike to help raise funds to fight kids’ cancer.  The children thank you!

 

 

The Month Long Road Trip

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When I first found out that I was losing my job; the job I’ve had for ten years; the job I was only going to “stay at until I found something better”; the job I kind of actually like and get paid well to do, I decided that it might be a good time to do the things I always really wanted to do.

I have spent most of my life working away with no real ability to do what it is I would really rather be doing. Turning 50 along with the announcement that my employment would be ending got me to thinking about exactly that. What are the things I have always wanted to do but could never really take the time to enjoy because I had to work? I could never really take much time off because I depend on the income from my employment but this restructuring and job loss might just be the thing that allows me to do some of those things. For one, I have over a year of lead time so I have some ability to plan ahead and save up. Secondly, I’m also getting a salary/benefit continuance at the end as part of a severance package which will provide an income to cover the usual household expenses.

I have always wanted to go on a road trip. A month long road trip.  Alone…or maybe with the Dude. But with no actual set destination, just a list of attractions/places I want to see as I criss-cross the continent. I want to pack up the car with a bunch of clothes, the laptop, the camera and some money and take off.  And when this year of working is complete, I plan to do just that. Head south until I find a temperature I like and just explore. I’ve told everyone that regardless of the time of year, I am going! I don’t care if anyone comes with me because I am going and I have no problem with going alone. I am trying to fulfill a dream that I have carried around for a long time. A dream of freedom to do whatever I wanted. And this trip will give me exactly the feeling I am looking for. I can worry about finding a job when I come back. I can turn this trip into something worth writing about while I try my hand at travel writing.  Anything can happen when you feel freedom!

Have you ever gone off on a long road trip? Tell us about the adventures you’ve had or unique little known places you’ve visited. Everyone has a story of some little hide away they found while travelling and we want to hear yours.

Still having technological issues

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I have not yet fixed the technical issue (I am so technologically inept when it comes to coding!). I have decide that I will go ahead and keep writing anyway because I can upload it all later when I finally do figure out whatever it is that I have done incorrectly. I do have a little bit of writing block today. I am tired from all the overtime I have been putting in at my full time job and I am antsy about getting my sites up and running. So many people in this world are getting their blogs going in a matter of minutes and I am having trouble just getting it so you can even find it. How can something so seemingly simple have me so stumped? I guess I just really need to sit down with the new book I bought about working with word press and work my way through it! But now I think I need to sign off and do some free writing to get the creative juices flowing. I’ll be back soon….I promise!

 

Update Jan 20 2016 – I broke down and asked the hosting (canspace) tech support to assist with getting the site working and the lady I was communicating with fixed all my self inflicted issues. So much stress has been instantly removed from my life! Thank you canspace for helping this technologically challenged woman launch the site.

 

Please share your stories about issues you might have had when first launching your site.  How did you overcome the learning curve? What advice can you give someone else that might be experiencing troubles?

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My Wardrobe Malfunction

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Have you ever had one of those embarrassing moments when your clothes are ripped and you had no idea? That is what just happened to me last night. That wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the hundred or so men that work with me. Some nights I don’t have to work on the warehouse floor at all but last night I was covering an absence of one of my clerks and therefore the majority of the night I was required to do investigations. So there I was, out on the floor, walking around with my ass pretty much hanging out. And I had no idea! Until one of my clerks pointed it out to me in the office lunchroom. I was so embarrassed! I don’t know how many people got to see my comfy pink underwear (thank God they were not torn!) but clearly everyone in our small lunchroom had. So chances are that many of the men on the floor had as well.

Problem #1 – I still had another 5 hours of working because going home to change was out of the question. Not really a problem since my jacket which I could wear during investigations was long enough to cover it. Now that I was aware of the tear, I was more conscious about covering it up.

Problem #2 – I was not going home immediately after work because I had an appointment in a town south of where I work and I live north of work. So I had to go clothes shopping for some new jeans on the way.

Problem #3 – I didn’t really have money to be spending on myself two weeks before Christmas, but what else could I really do? I needed new jeans.

So off I went after work …to the shopping centre…on a Saturday morning…less than two weeks before Christmas. Oh joy oh bliss! Did I mention that I absolutely hate shopping? Mostly because I don’t like the crowds, but also because it is really difficult to find clothes that fit me right and I hate having to try on everything to see how it looks on my oversized self. Well today that store wasn’t very crowded at all (maybe other people are having a difficult time getting into the spirit too? It has been unseasonably warm where I live), but I did have to try on several items before finding pants that fit right. And I just couldn’t help myself when I saw the two sweaters and the long sleeved t-shirt on the racks. I tried those on too – along with several others that didn’t fit right and were left on the put back rack at the ladies wear department.

Of course, once I found items that fit, I had to make the purchase! I have zero self control when it comes to purchasing things that actually fit nice and I like. And here in lies another problem. The spending money on myself today. When I couldn’t really afford it. Less than two weeks before Christmas. I guess it’s a really good thing that I worked overtime lately and will have that money in my bank account before the rent is due. On the upside, I really was due for a wardrobe addition/update and the pieces I purchased can be used interchangeably with a number of other pieces in my wardrobe which makes them all very versatile!

I think it’s time to create a wardrobe plan for myself. I’ve been seeing a lot of talk on social media about wardrobe capsules so it might also be time to do a little closet culling. I have numerous items in my closet that no longer fit, or are just not my style anymore. This is a perfect time to make donations to the local charities. Most of my clothes are still in great shape (except for my favourite jeans which now have the ass out of them). As I begin to cull, organize and replace items in my closet, I will share the results here.

How do you plan for wardrobe building? Do you replace your wardrobe every season? Or do you add to it when the ass falls out of your pants :)? Please share how you keep your wardrobe current while keeping to your budget.

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Technical Difficulty

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So it is now November and I still haven’t gotten this blog to go live. I am having an issue with the technical side of things.  Mainly, getting my web address to go to the correct place. When you type in my web address the page comes up with two small text notices – one is WP which I have to click on for the site to come up. I need to change that so it goes directly to the site by just typing in the web address. It has been very frustrating to say the least. Until I fix that issue, the site will be down and not functioning properly. In the meantime, I will continue to write and upload my posts so that when it goes live it will have some content already. Stay tuned.

 

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The Baby Turns 21

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This week my youngest turned 21. A sobering moment for me as I reminisced about my own 21st birthday. I think I was so much more “grown up” than he is. Or at least that is my perception. He still looks and behaves so young. It makes me wonder at what point these boys will be able to sustain their own lives, on their own, without Mom’s help. I wonder if my own parents had the same insecurities about me when I ventured out on my own.  I was much younger than they are now. At 18 I had a place with my then fiance and we were planning our future together. These boys don’t even have committed relationships. And the way the economy is today, neither has any security available to them in the form of careers. Their independence seems delayed to me. Although when I look at other people in their age range, I see similar situations…twenty-somethings all living at home paying a minimum amount of rent and not worrying about impacts of children or job loss. Their security is their parents, and their parents’ homes.

By delaying independence, are these young people affecting their ability or time span to procreate? Will mankind adapt to these changes in society. Or are most of these young people destined to be childless? I wasn’t able to become pregnant in my forties. Will my children be forced to jump into relationships and parenthood all in one single decade? And what if it doesn’t happen within that decade? Will they close the door to that possibility altogether?

I guess if 50 is the new 40, then by default 30 would be the new 20 and 40 the new 30 and so on. So I guess it stands to reason that my children’s jump into “adulting” would be delayed by a decade. On a positive note, I get to spend that extra time with them, more as their friend as opposed to their parent. And they respect my opinion better on topics of finances and life choices. Maybe mankind is evolving after all. Maybe we are raising children who will make better, informed decisions about their lives. And maybe they will be more successful in the end as a result. A mother can only hope I guess.

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The Kid Needs a Phone

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My youngest boy (who is technically an adult) has only had a cell phone sporadically over his lifetime. They have all been hand me downs except one, and almost everyone of them had some flaw such as broken glass or parts of the screen that couldn’t be viewed. He has not had access to a data plan or anything other than pay as you go texting and occasional calling. I’ve watched the Dude’s children get(multiple)brand new phones , on full plans, while my young adult went without. I have always held the belief that twelve year olds do not need cell phones, so my boys went without…until they were old enough to get their own.

Last year my boy jumped into adulthood and signed himself up for a full fledged smart phone plan, got himself a new cell phone, and was quite proud of himself. His downfall – he signed up for a shared plan with his friend and the friend kept going over the limits of the plan and had not consistently paid for the overage charges, leaving my son to foot the bill since the plan was in his name. And then tragedy…he fell asleep with the phone in his hand and rolled over onto his three month old phone rendering it unusable. And of course he makes minimum wage at his job so he could not afford to buy a new one. Result is – he paid hundreds of dollars over the year for a phone that he could not use and for overages that he clearly had not contributed to. There were some months that he could not afford the excessive bill so the phone company eventually cut the service and charged him the buyout, which he finally paid off using his tax return. One less worry for his young moneyless self. One huge lesson leaned about the limits of friendship and sharing. His friend has promised to pay him back but I will believe that when I see it.

For almost a year now, anytime I needed to speak to my boy I had to leave a note on the counter and hope he found it in time, or I had to hunt him down in the small town where he visits his friends regularly and just show up on their doorstep like an overbearing mother (which I am not). Hunting him down is an easier task than most might think since his unique vehicle stands out in a crowd, but it would be so much easier to just be able to text him and have instant response. So I started thinking to myself that the kid needs a phone. He needs a phone that is fully functioning with all the capabilities that most ten year olds are enjoying daily. We don’t have a home phone so I was constantly worrying that he’s going to hurt himself when he’s home alone and not be able to call anyone for help. The kid needs a phone!

I recently decided I wanted to upgrade my phone and get off the shared plan that Dude and I have with his teenage daughter who has ALWAYS gone over the limits of the plan without any regard to the fact that her Dad had to pay for it. It was time for me to break free and I saw it as a good opportunity for my boy and I to take advantage of the back to school deals and get us both some new phones. After a couple of weeks of researching what he and I wanted, we went off to Costco to speak to their mobile phone expert and get us something new and cool. Success! New phones for free with reasonable monthly costs and a new durable protective cover for my Son’s phone to protect it from the inevitable drop to the ground.

I am confident that he is mature enough to manage this new expense. And now I don’t have to worry that he will have to walk home down some empty farm road because his truck has broken down. I am relieved of endless worry because I know that he is just a quick text or phone call away. I am calm because the kid has a phone.

As time passes he will eventually want to break the mother/son tie of a shared plan and venture back out on his own phone plan…but for now, this works for us. Baby steps. Baby steps.

Life After Work

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I’ve been putting a lot of thought into what I am going to do when my employer shuts our warehouse. When I first heard the announcement, I thought about going back to college full time and finishing a degree. But honestly, the more I thought about that, the more I saw how that might be a bit of a waste of time and money for me. How many young people are graduating these days with multiple degrees and are still working somewhere as a stock person or entry level clerk? I need to do something different. I don’t have the same luxury of time that a young graduate might have. As someone who will soon be over the age of 50, I have to be much more creative in finding ways to earn money. It was precisely this line of thinking that led me to blogging in the first place. I love to write and always dreamed of using my talent as a writer to earn an income. I have been working my behind off for years without taking time to do anything adventurous. It is time that all changed! It is time to take risks and do things I want to do.

Join me as I accomplish goals and go on adventures. What do you want in your life after work?