What If?

What if I hadn’t been applied to a job posting for an au pair in Paris when I was 19?

What if my host family there didn’t have a friend from the USA who was visiting London?

What if I had never introduced that friend to my brother?

What if they hadn’t got along?

What if they didn’t move to the USA several years later with their kids?

What if I had stayed in France?

What if my brother hadn’t worked with someone who’s cousin lived in Boston?

What if I hadn’t bothered to contact him?

What if I’d hadn’t dared to meet him on a blind date?

What if I didn’t say yes to his marriage proposal?

What if we had decided to live somewhere other than our town?

What if it hadn’t been a struggle to have kids?

What if …….?

Life is so full of what ifs. They blow my mind, quite literally. If any of these questions had a different answer, I would be living a different life altogether. But I believe in serendipity as well as in creating your own destiny. Every decision we make shapes the next. We make things happen, they don’t happen to us. This is my credo. What ifs are about looking over to your shoulder and marveling at the path that has brought you to today. I march forward, savoring one moment at a time.

The Problem with Having it All: Mommy Hair

So many interesting articles and blog posts whirling around about women and our desire/challenge to “have it all.” Here’s the deal, there’s one slant to the issue that no-one has yet had the guts to touch. Ready? Here it is. If you want to have it all, the chances are that you’ll end up with Mommy Hair.

You know the look: chin or shoulder-length, relatively easy to “wash and go,” when we have no time to properly style it, a quick fluff with your fingers does the job.

Practical.

Blah.

As summer hits, and my mornings become abbreviated by the need to rush the kids early to their camp bus stop, I faced the reality of my need for Mommy hair. I need it to not require hours of attention and grooming. I need to not have to blow dry on humid mornings. I need for it not to look like something the dog dug up. I need for my daughter to not ask me if it’s “crazy hair” day!

A recent discussion with my Mom friends reinforced the reality of Mommy hair. Exacerbated by the story one Mom relayed about her daughter equating prettiness with women having long flowing locks. The next day I performed an unscientific poll of the women in my office. The conclusion? Ninety-nine percent of the Moms at work have practical (and stylish) Mommy hairdos; those without kids, lovely flowy locks.

Then I thought about celebrity Moms who still have their gorgeous hairstyles (and stylists galore, of course) – Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé to name two. Do you think they have days when they find dried spit-up in their hair, or resort to a headband or scrunchy to keep the frizzies at bay?

Do I have a point, you ask? It’s this.

Screw practical hair. I want my pre-Mommy hair back. In fact, I’d like my 1980′s long spiralled perm back. Or I’d settle for my year 2000-2001 Julia Roberts as Erin Brokovich tresses.

Of course I write all this just hours after returning from the hair salon, having requested a more practical cut for the summer …. Oh well.

P.s. The following are some excellent articles and blogs on the whole “having it all” issue which, hair bitching aside, is a serious topic.

Why Women Still Can’t Have it All

Men Can’t Have It All Either

Children or Career?

Having It All Is Not A Women’s Issue

Kids versus Grown-Ups

We try to co-exist in harmony, but the plain truth is that opposing forces are at work. No wonder parents feel exasperated all the time while the kids just rolls their eyes at us. It’s as if they are from Mars and we are from Venus. Like powerful magnetic fields, we are drawn to each other until someone turns the magnet around and it does that weird avoiding you thing. And apparently, it’s our job to convert these strange creatures into law-abiding grown-ups.

While we parents slave at trying to keep things calm, orderly, socially-acceptable, pleasant, clean, polite and educational, they are doing the exact opposite, including:

  • Distributing teeny pieces of Legos all over the house.
  • Picking their noses and wiping it somewhere that you are likely to find hours later.
  • Not flushing the toilet.
  • Writing on walls
  • Yelling like Clone Wars invading banshees while you are trying to rest.
  • Really really really really really wanting to buy new toys.
  • Leaving dirty clothes wherever they happen to discard them.
  • Stuffing their faces with sugary snacks 30 mins before dinner.
  • Trying to fly ….
  • Pouring a big glass of milk and justing drinking a little sip of it.
  • Using the floor as a trash can.
  • Using their top or sleeve to wipe their mouth and nose.
  • Wearing your makeup.
  • Eating play doh.
  • Spreading [insert unsavory/messy item here e.g. powder, ketchup, diaper cream, lipstick, poop] wherever it’s not supposed to be spread
  • Bringing their worm collection into the house.
  • Saying “fine” or “whatever” and stomping off.
  • Waking up early when you want them to sleep late.
  • Sleeping late when you need them to get up early.
  • Eating Jello on the couch.
  • Creating light sabers or guns out of anything. Seriously, anything.
  • Squirting way too much ketchup on their plates.
  • Pushing each other’s buttons.
  • Ignoring instructions.
  • Stuffing their gobs too fast, then burping like a trucker.
  • Eating food slower than a snail. Molecule by freaking molecule (especially if you are in a hurry).
  • Default = I want.
  • Finding a Sharpie & writing on the couch ( despite the fact you have 100s of washable markets !

Sound familiar? What’s a parent to do?

If you are reading on, thinking you’ll find the answers here, then I am sorry to disappoint. Fear not though; the glass is half full. See here’s the best part: we are all in this together!

And at some point, somehow, they become adults, no matter our attempts at restraining their beastly ways.

On Perspective and Empathy

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. A whirlwind of challenges swooping into my usually happy, upbeat daily existence. At work, a disgruntled client and a whiplashed team. At home, childcare logistical conundrums, preparations for a change of routine with school graduations and the start of camp. Nothing insurmountable, but enough to cause some self-doubt, angst, hand-wringing and yes, tears.

It’s very easy to get sucked into your own personal dramas. Especially if your energy is drained, your confidence is in a funk and there’s no clear path between each of the small obstacles cluttering your mind. Not to mention the crushing feeling when you put them all together – especially during the night when they conspire at the very edge of REM and blur reality with nightmares.

Truth is, my issues are wrinkles in the usual carefree life that I am incredibly lucky enough to enjoy.

But each of us has drama. These past two weeks I’ve heard of, shared, and listened to the dramas afflicting family, friends and colleagues. Sickness, divorce, heartbreak, death. On the flip-side of the doom and gloom, there have also been new babies on the brink of arrival, romances rekindled, achievements and breakthroughs.

A veritable slice of life.

I’ve been reminded that, to move through your own personal funk, you have to look outward. Perspective and empathy go hand-in-hand, each bolstering the other – a veritable renewable energy source. First, being able to express your woes to an active, empathetic listener helps you grieve, crystallize, process and ultimately, rationalize. Second, being the listener, providing an ear and a shoulder, as well as counsel if warranted, provides the source of focus, a mirror for perspective, new strength.

I’m not really sure where I am going with this, except to say that I’ve been on both sides of the fence and it’s actually very healthy. If all I do is bitch and moan about my issues, then quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to spend much time with me. But if, by being an empathetic listener, I can help – as well as find perspective to my own problems – then together we move forward.

A Love Letter to my Father

Phew, at least Father’s Day is the same in the U.S. and the U.K. You’d think that’d mean that I’d be organized enough to get cards/gifts in time for both my Dad and for Devin. But not so much. But hooray for my blog where, even better than a Hallmark card, I can express in my own way, just how special my father is to me.

My Dad is one-of-a-kind. Brought up during World War II, he’s made of strong stuff, with a big heart and a firm grasp on the what really matters. My Dad’s feet are always on the ground. His needs are few. He is generous to a fault. His principals are steadfast and admirable. His smile lights up a room. His dedication to my Mum and his family unwavering. I may be an adult, making my own way in the world, but my path, character, confidence and my success are 100% attributed to what my father has taught me. Several examples include:

  • Picking yourself back up: After being laid off the first, or was it the second time, I was down and in a funk. One day Dad presented me with a twenty pound note, told me to go buy brushes and paints, and paint my bedroom. 24 hours later, I was like new. Focused, with a plan, a goal. 48 hours later, bedroom walls freshly painted, I felt accomplished, energized. Ready to go get the world again. Genius, Dad.
  • Determination and taking risks: As a child, I never fully appreciated just how canny a businessman my father was. Only as a parent myself, can I appreciate the dedication and effort he put into his self-made enterprise, and his employees, every single day. I try to mirror this in my life and career, which has caused me to stay true to my career choice, despite some bumps along the way, and to even forge my career in new countries.
  • Family first: My parent’s marriage has always been a joy to watch. My Dad is what I call an old-fashioned husband, his love is enduring, he is a romantic at heart, I’m sure. My father’s love for his family has extended and deepened as our family has expanded over the generations and there’s room in his heart for us all. What’s more, he’s diligently researching our family past and even finding long-lost relatives.
  • Don’t forget the silly: From jumping out the dining room window shouting “bunny bunny bunny” and cavorting across the lawn, to April Fool’s jokes and creating treasure hunts around our neighbourhood, Dad’s silly-side is often surprising, always effervescent.

Happy Father’s Day Dad. I love you!

On Shoe Envy and Insecurity

If you know me, then insecure is not the first adjective that comes to mind.

But like almost every human being, I naturally have some insecurities. I have a horror of being over-dressed. Strange though it may sound, nothing makes me want to shrink up and die more than being out of place because I am too dressed-up or decked out.

And like many people, to counter my insecurity, I take it too far in the opposite direction and prefer the security of being casually dressed. Unlike my mother who is always impeccably put together.

Consequently, I rarely wear skirts or dresses because, to me, they give the impression that you are trying to make an impression even if it’s just to go the store, or out for a meal, or to the office. (And I wonder why my daughter has an aversion to skirts and dresses … hmmm … Go figure.)

So what does his have to do with shoes, you say?

I love shoes. I obsess about shoes. I have a Pinterest board littered with exquisite examples of them. I used to spend hours as a teenager designing imaginary shoes, my school books filled with doodles.

I also detest breaking in new shoes. Blisters are one of shoes’ many way of punishing us. When I do wear any shoe with a heel more than one inch, I quickly me realize I‘m not as young as I used to be, as I always wake up the next day with my hips feeling like they are back to front, my knees tender and my back shrieking.

And yet I look around me, especially at the feet of my colleagues at work who effortlessly and beautifully sport gorgeous, stylish and dramatic heels, day in day out, with grace and style and confidence. Without grimace or clumsiness – or appearing overdressed. Or complaining of achey backs and joints.

I want to be able to do that. But I’m scared of looking like I’m trying too hard, looking like a phony or a mutton in sheep’s clothing. At the core, I’m scared of drawing unwanted attention to myself. Heaven forbid I should look womanly, a by-product of arching your feet, extending your calf muscles and having to walk with an exaggerated sway, like Joan from Mad Men.

I know this is ridiculous. So I am taking baby steps to remedy my insecurity. A large part of this is my road back to finding the woman that’s been buried under the messy morass of motherhood. She’s in their somewhere but most of the time does not have the time or energy to make an effort. Looking presentable is accommodated through safe, colorful, always comfortable clothes, plus lots of lovely jewelry and a smile. But this Mom has started taking measures to reclaim herself, including reinstating the pre-party before an evening out, ensuring she is not harried and can linger over her choice of clothes and preparations.

Last week, I took my therapy one step further. Having waiting several months, scoured though many web pages, catalogs and pins, I finally splurged on new shoes. I didn’t go all-out Jimmy Choo (the dollars don’t stretch that far!) and I didn’t select anything ridiculous or, heaven forbid, impractical. I played it safe and, don’t laugh at me, shopped at Clark’s, seeking assurance that my feet and posture were in the trusted hand of a sensible brand.

I love the shoes I bought, Even the sales assistant remarked they were the only ones that didn’t look like Clark’s. I wore them out to dinner that evening, with jeans, of course (just in case anyone was looking.)

On Monday, it came time to get dressed for a day-long business trip. Here goes, thought I. I selected a dress – a safe, black, comfortable one, already tested once for its non-attention drawing values. I strapped on the heels, walked gingerly like a new-born deer to the mirror. A leggy trollope looked back at me. You fake, she sneered. Do you think you are still 20? What are you trying to prove? My stomach lurched. Off came the heels, replaced swiftly with some safe shoes.

I kicked myself all day for not having the balls to do it.

The following two days, I made up my mind to give it another shot. Day 2, I wore the heels but under the cover of pants, a safer combination. Day 3, I took a deep breath and wore a skirt and heels.

I felt very self-conscious. And tall. I also felt powerful, confident, and dare I say, womanly.

But the funny thing was, I don’t think anyone even noticed. So maybe, just maybe, I actually fitted in more and it’s my casual wardrobe that’s doing me a disservice?

I’m not going to be found sashaying in my new heels every day, that’s for sure. You’ll still find me in my comfy, safe flats/clogs/boots. But I’m determined to strap on my heels and even a dress from time to time, and wear them with my head held high, my tummy sucked in and a subtle sway of my hips.

Maybe someone will notice? Maybe I won’t be terrified of that? After all. What’s wrong with a little attention?

Transformer Turned Ballerina

Transformer turned ballerina

Others Moms Don’t Care

  • if your house is a pigsty
  • if your floors are sticky
  • if you look like you haven’t slept in a week
  • if your clothes have unidentifiable stains on them
  • if there’s a potty accident
  • if you tread on and crush Cheerios
  • if there is laundry on the floor in the middle of the living room
  • if your kids spill their milk
  • if the cupboards are bare
  • if you have the Wonderpets as your ring tone
  • if you call and ask for help/advice or just to vent
  • if a sleepover doesn’t work out
  • if you have dried spit-up in your hair
  • if your kids fight
  • if your kids need a change of clothes
  • if you need a favor
  • if you scoot out of a drop-off party for some alone time or to do your grocery shopping alone
  • if you’d rather go to bed than go out for a drink

Hooray for other Moms!

10 Parenting Gratitudes

There’s nothing like a rainy Saturday for blogging. Especially when I am home alone with the kids all day. On days like this, I am usually challenged with figuring out what I am going to do to keep the little people occupied and entertained, rather than in front of the TV or computer. Sometime, if I am suitably motivated, I’ll research something going on locally or a museum trip and off we’ll go on an adventure. (However this requires a certain amount of energy and spontaneity that, in truth, I don’t always have on tap.)

Today is one of those days and I was fearful that we’d end up annoying each other with cries of “I’m bored” and bickering. However, much to my pleasure, the kids have been happily playing free-form imaginary games like “pretend I’m a Ninja and you’re a dinosaur and we’re stuck in a boat and there’s an evil witch on a sparkly rocket ship coming to get us ” or “pretend you’re Katy Perry and I’m Luke Skywalker and we’re on Tatouin and there’s a bunch of dwarf monsters after us but we have light sabers and the force is with us….”

And it struck me just how good I have it, especially at the ages that G & T are right now (7 & 5, respectively.) For this, I must remember to be eternally grateful. (I must also remember to revisit this post when the kids are in the throws of puberty and we all hate each other.) Like many others, I often find myself complaining, dishing out sarcasm or being wistful for life before kids but right now, I am the luckiest Mom on this planet and here’s why:

  1. I am grateful that G & T will happily play without me having to create/manage the game (or even participate, though I do of course from time to time.) They can occupy themselves for good chunks of time, either independently or playing together. Legos, puzzles, reading, board games, Pokemon, fort-building, dress-up, light saber fights, or torturing the cat. Long enough for me to take a shower or write a blog post without worrying about them killing each other, raiding the snack cupboard or getting up to other hi-jinx. If the result is a completely messed-up playroom with toys and legos distributed everywhere, then so be it – that’s a price for which I am also grateful!
  2. I am grateful that they are living in an society that is, for the most part, accepting of a broad spectrum of lifestyles and love choices. They do not question and are growing up without bias and prejudice.
  3. I am grateful that, in spite of the shocking cost of being a working parent, we can still provide well for them – but at the same time teach them that money doesn’t grow on trees; it must be earned and spent wisely. And that being charitable is just part of who we are.
  4. I am grateful that both my kids are learning to be open-minded (we have good days and bad days!) and that they are sociable, outgoing creatures who make friends and laugh easily.
  5. I am grateful, despite the fact that G won’t eat eggs and T won’t eat anything spherical-shaped or with a sauce, that they have good appetites, eat their vegetables, drink their milk and even enjoy fish.
  6. I am grateful that they are learning to be resourceful and self-reliant (which means they can not only do more for themselves but can also do more things for me!)
  7. I am grateful that they see their father as a man that contributes equally to the job of parenting and their mother as someone who follows a career.
  8. I am grateful that they know and love their extended family, despite that fact that we all live far apart. I am also grateful for the technology that lets us all be closer.
  9. I am grateful that, thanks to parenthood, I have met other parents and founded many wonderful friendships.
  10. I am grateful for their good health and active minds.

Are Dads the New Moms?

This morning, I read a blog post that suggested that parenting magazines are making a mistake by catering so much to Moms and leaving Dads out. On the one hand, I agree – Dads these days play a large role in parenting and should be represented as such within parenting magazines. On the other hand, I’m not so sure that Dads turn to glossy magazines for parenting advice. I’m fairly sure they either speak with other Dads, follow a couple of Dad bloggers or wing it, the best they can.

I consider myself to be one lucky Mom as my husband has not only been a very participant Dad from the moment number one child popped out (actually, he didn’t just pop out but that’s another story) but he also makes me a better Mom. I observe the same in many of my friend’s husbands, as well as my brother and brothers-in-law, and it’s really heart-warming. These are the ways that my kids’ Dad is as good as (and often better than) their Mom:

  • He folds the laundry (is there anything sexier, I ask.)
  • He shares the school drop-offs and pickups.
  • He cooks, shops, cleans, mends.
  • He has cleaned up his fair share of poop and puke (though I always seem to be on the receiving end of the puke.)
  • He encourages me to go out with my girlfriends at least once a month.
  • He takes care of both kids one evening a week so I can work late.
  • He shares taking the kids to their dentist/doctor appointments/playdates/birthday parties.
  • He is a more-than-equal enforcer of discipline.
  • He attends parent/teacher conferences with me.
  • He does it all when I have to travel for work.
  • He is super silly (which is the secret to our happy marriage.)

So yes, if the above tasks comprise what was once considered motherhood, then Dad is the new Mom and I see nothing wrong with that. The fact is that parenthood is wonderful and tough and incredible and exhausting and uplifting and messy and expensive and complicated and a lot of hard work. Having an equal partner makes it manageable and way more fun.

Hooray for Dads!

(Did I mention that my hubby is in the wine business – triple bonus for me!!!)

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