I’ve read a number of items lately about post-baby surgeries, tummy tucks and boob lifts, and the lure of fixing yourself up to get back your pre-baby body. I know people who have had procedures and are truly happy with the results. I know people who want these procedures but can’t afford them. And I know people who wouldn’t dream of having anything done to their bodies.
My immediate reaction when I read about the rise in post-baby surgeries is one of sadness. What are we telling our daughters (and sons) about aging or about becoming a mother? What are we saying to our kids if we continue to endorse the idea that to feel good inside we need to look good on the outside?
And I wonder whether a post-surgery, pre-baby body provides lasting happiness. What is the next fix as the other natural effects of aging take place? Where does it end?
I guess I’m just struggling to understand it. When I gave birth to my daughter, I vowed to honour my body. I spent enough of my late teens and early twenties wasting time on body image and self-criticism. Now I see the radiant self-assurance of my 6-year-old daughter as she dives into sports and activities with complete abandon and pure physical confidence. She is not self-conscious of her body. She lives in it. She owns it. And I want so badly to protect this confidence, for her to hold on to it for the rest of her life.
At what point do we as women lose that confidence and connection with ourselves?
The reality is, we're human. We age. Joints ache, muscles once toned may sag (gasp!). But along with aging come beautiful insights, the spiritual wealth of lived experiences, and a lifetime of memories and perspective.
And what if we spent more time focusing on finding peace in our everyday lives, being good to others, or searching for happiness and confidence within ourselves? Are these things harder to achieve and do they require greater emotional and mental energies than lying on a table?
Can we really make peace with ourselves by going under the knife?
I really don’t know the answers. I’m just full of questions. And sadness.
Both of these resources couldn’t have come at a better time.
This summer was coined “the summer of sibling discontent” in our house. I can’t think of a day when there wasn’t some minor (or major) war going on. It didn’t matter what it was about, there seemed to be no lack of fodder for fighting. It could be over Lego, or who got their toast first, who wanted the blue plate, who is faster/better/stronger at (insert any activity here). You name it, my six-year old and three-year old would find a way to fight about it. But then, when they were apart, all they talked about was how much they missed their brother/sister.
Sibling rivalry. Anyone who has a sibling(s) knows the complexities of this relationship.
I have a brother who is almost three years older than me. As the younger sibling, I looked up to him, wanted to do everything he did, and basically followed him around like a shadow. I must have driven him nuts. As a toddler, I would charge straight through his elaborate block towers, I broke his favourite Bunnykins bowl, and generally made myself a nuisance because I wanted his attention. He, on the other hand, would tease me, tickle me, challenge me to races he knew I couldn’t win and terrorize me in small measures. In a nutshell, we fought like cats and dogs. But when I look back on our childhood I can see clearly that, despite our competitions, our teasing, our silliness with each other, we were a united front. And I always knew he would look out for me.
When I was four and he was seven, we had our first sleepover with friends of the family. They had two sons exactly the same age as my brother and me. We were all to sleep upstairs in the attic, four single beds in a row. I had a great time during the day but remember so clearly being terrified that night, finding it hard to fall asleep in a strange room without mum and dad in the house. Knowing Andrew was there made all the difference.
Halfway through the night I woke up because I’d wet my bed, and I was mortified. I didn’t know what to do. I lay there crying quietly. Andrew heard and came over to find out what was wrong. I begged him not to wake up our friends or their parents because I was so embarrassed. He calmed me down, helped me get changed, got a bunch of towels from the bathroom to use as sheets, and settled me back to bed. He promised that he wouldn’t say a word.
The next morning everything seemed normal, and no one made fun of me for being a bedwetter. Andrew had kept his promise. When Mum came to pick me up, he let me feel like a big girl for making it through the sleepover without incident. As a four-year old, I had no concept of the fact that the soaked sheets, or the “bed of towels” were dead giveaways to the parents. What I knew was that Andrew had taken care of me and had my back.
In the documentary, Alyson Schafer comments on siblings fighting: “There is research that shows that young kids will fight up to 10 times in an hour,” (oh, the balm to my ears!!) and that, “the reality is, when we have conflict, that’s when our kids are learning their social lessons. That’s where they’re learning to actually get along.”
Now, when I see my kids fighting—which still seems like all. the. time.—I’m trying to keep it in perspective. I’m also working to recognize and celebrate the ways they look out for one another, which is many. And if my amazing relationship with my brother is any indication, I think (and hope) that they will be okay.
Do your kids fight? Did they reach an age where they seemed to keep the peace?
I have missed this space. Really missed it. If you read my last blog post back in March, you’ll know that I was making some changes, and one of those involved stepping back from YMC at the time. I’ve had a chance to pause, reflect, spend lots of time with my family, and re-prioritize.
During the past six months, I kept writing Meditating Mummy posts in my head. At first, I brushed it off, thinking it was just natural to miss something that had been part of my routine for so long. But the posts kept popping into my mind. It seemed like every week I would have a “bloggable moment”—an experience, a thought, a challenge—that would have, previously, come to life on this page.
In June, Erica called me about something entirely unrelated, and I told her I missed this blog. Her response was, “You know, you can always come back.” So the seed was planted. And that seed grew all summer. So here I am—three years after writing my first Meditating Mummy blog post—returning to this space that has not only taken over a corner of my mind, but clearly my heart.
Sometimes moving away from one place allows you to see clearly why you were in that place to begin with.
Three years ago, I wrote this:
I’m a yoga teacher and writer, a wife, and a mother of two kids (ages 3 years and 6 months). You might have a picture in your mind of a yoga-zen-mother: always serene and peaceful, seated in the lotus position and imparting worldly wisdom to the zen-like and inquiring children who have gathered at my feet.
Uhm, I have a confession to make. I lose my shit sometimes. I try, I really try, but I’m not always zen, I don’t always keep my composure, or find calm amidst the storm that is parenthood. Just like any other mum, I have times where my patience is endless and I think I might just be getting this parenting thing. Then (usually right after one of those thoughts) I have a day where my emotions take over, I fly off the handle and – like an out-of-body experience – start channeling my parents, using ridiculously British axioms like, “Buck your ideas up!” or “Pull your socks up, young lady!” Some wisdom from the wise zen mother, eh? A large part of yoga and meditation is about achieving self-knowledge, and bringing awareness and mindfulness to one’s everyday. But for all the meditation and yoga I have practiced over the years, nothing in life has challenged me to question my “self” or tested my ability to be mindful quite like being a mother has.
Everything we do as a parent - from laughter to laundry, disciplining to diaper changes - is more than just a physical act. The way we approach our kids and our interactions with them are a reflection of the people we are and the experiences that got us to this point. Parenthood – if we’re willing to truly reflect on it – isn’t sitting on the dock observing the scenery, it’s diving in to sometimes choppy waters, getting soaked and learning about ourselves along the way. It’s often joyous, it’s not always easy, but we experience it with a greater understanding of who we are.
Three years later, I am still a yoga teacher and writer, a wife, and mother of two kids. But the kids are now 6 years old and 3 ½ years old. I still lose my shit, and still use British axioms, and I am still learning about myself every day. I’m still diving into choppy waters and getting soaked, but it’s like swimming in a different lake now.
My kids are (generally) sleeping through the night (knock on wood), so I’m no longer dealing with sleep deprivation. The kids know how to communicate (most of the time), get dressed (most of the time), feed themselves (most of the time), play independently (do you sense a theme? Um, most of the time), and do many things that for so long they needed my help with. In many aspects of our daily life, things have become logistically easier. But there are different challenges that come with the new ages and stages.
My daughter is starting Grade One, my son is starting nursery school, and I’m moving down to part-time work hours for the year, so this will be a time of new beginnings for all of us.
As we navigate schoolyard antics, the work/home life equation, packed lunches, how to deal with a sassy six-year-old, sibling rivalries, three-year-old tantrums, parenting pressures, and how far up or down the “zen meter” I’m traveling from day-to-day, I’m thankful to be back here in this space, meditating upon it all.