Tag Archives: choice

Motherhood: What has actually changed?

Of course you change when you become a mother. That’s a given. It is a major happening in life and it undoubtedly splits life in “before I had kids” and “now that I have kids”. However, sometimes when I am reading comments people make attributing the ground-breaking changes in their lives (and mostly negative ones) to the fact that they became parents, I cannot help but wonder if kids are really the cause? In my opinion kids can be the trigger and likewise and more often can serve as an excuse, yet the cause of a change is not them as such. It is once again all about choices.

What has changed so drastically for me since I have become a mother? I tried to reflect on that:

  • sleep – oh yes, sleep… That’s the first thing that comes to mind. After you have kids there will be no more lazily waking up closer to noon, that’s true. Even if you were a good girl and the Universe blessed you with a good sleeper, still there will be “all-nighters” from time to time, there will be jumping up to check if your kid is breathing normally, there will be night feeds… And I am not even mentioning what’s awaiting you if you have been a bad girl! Well, it is indeed hard, but it is manageable. There are different solutions: the Sleep Lady approach, co-sleeping, shaking on a gym-ball, even the infamous cry-it-out (which I personally find unacceptable, but that’s my personal opinion) – try what works for you, or just wait for a while, it will not last forever!
  • me-time – if before kids all time was me-time now it has significantly shrunk, but I must admit that I don’t have the feeling that it’s that bad in my case. I always have at least some time for myself. I could do with more of course…
  • freedom to do what I want and go where I want – well, freedom is overrated and it is not only motherhood that sets the limits. I do feel certain limitations now, however it is just a matter of organizing for it. Before it was of course easier but also now if I really want it, I will find a way to get it. Otherwise, it is just that I don’t want it hard enough.
  • body – I do have some stretch marks despite fanatically smearing myself with anti-stretch mark creams during my first pregnancy, but hey – I am a tiger who earned her stripes! Actually that’s all there is for me. My weight came back to the same spot as when I was 18. I even still fit the pant suit that I wore when I was 18 (It did require some effort, of course.) My breasts saw some damage after two years of breastfeeding, but also nothing major. So overall, I personally haven’t experienced any significant body changes with motherhood.
  • fear – now this is probably one of the most significant changes that motherhood brought for me and it is twofold. On one hand, it is fear for my kids – overwhelming, irrational fear that something might happen to them. You can try to stay rational, you can try to do reasonable things to ensure safety and well-being of your little one, but this fear will still be there. Irrespective. On the other hand, it is fear that something might happen to me and my kids are then left without their mother. I assume the second part is even more relevant if you are a single mom, but it is true also for a mother in a relationship. But is it a negative change after all? I don’t think so. In a lot of cases it pushes you to reconsider your bad habits, to take more care of yourself and to be more attentive to yourself, so at least for me this change is a positive one.

Thus, I have to say that I am happy not to experience any drastic “negative effects” of motherhood on myself. Was it because I was lucky, or because I knew upfront what are my values, boundaries and expectations from the whole “experience” and was acting accordingly? I don’t know (smile), but I do believe all of the above had its influence.

Before I conclude, if I talk about changes motherhood brings, I cannot forget to mention the two most important positive ones which are:

  • understanding my own mother – after I became a mother myself I started understanding my own mother much better. There is a lot to comment here actually… but in the essence: Oh God, how did she cope with me?!!
  • Love with a capital “L” – and this is the most-most significant one! You love your parents, you love your husband or wife, you might have experienced “all sorts of love” before, but nothing compares to love you feel for your little ones! When these little arms are around your neck and you feel their warmth and that insane smell that only mothers know – the smell of your child’s sweet little head – that’s one (just one of so many!) of these moments when you feel a completely different “shade of love”. And despite the fact that kids drive me crazy on a regular basis, they also totally steal my heart with millions of sweet things.

So yes, there are always changes. For some people these changes might be more significant than for others, however in my opinion it is to a large extent a matter of choice and undoubtedly a matter of finding a right balance; the balance that works best for you and your family.

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A comfort zone: Should I stay or should I go?

You hear it a lot: get out of your comfort zone! In order to succeed, you should step out of your comfort zone! You see motivational pictures with circles drawn where your comfort zone is depicted as a small miserable circle and just there – at a just slight distance – is a big bright circle of magic that is supposed to happen the next moment you step out of your comfort zone. Yeah right…

I don’t argue that you need to stretch yourself from time to time and that you do need to face your fears (especially given that most of them are actually nothing but an illusion), and that you do need to step out there and dare to follow your dreams and so on. But what a lot of people forget is that you cannot step OUT of your comfort zone if you haven’t first stepped IN there. That is somewhat linked to one of my previous posts about norms (link) – there is way too much pressure from the outside telling you how you should live. However, people do have different pace in life and different circumstances, different experiences they went through. A lot of people at this very moment are struggling to find their comfort zone!

I was there, I know what I am talking about. When you move to a foreign country, when you change your career, when you just gave birth to your child, and in many-many more situations you feel so vulnerable, you are so damn out of your comfort zone already! And somehow the “big bright circle of magic” is also nowhere to be seen at that moment.

So if you already have a lot falling on you, before you boldly follow Baumgartner and jump from the stratosphere, take a deep breath first and search for your “small miserable circle of comfort zone”. Get in there, get yourself a comfortable pillow and heal a bit.

Give yourself a permission to push the pause button from time to time and take a moment to reflect on who you truly are and what you truly want. And then, and only then, when you are back to being a strong lioness (or a lion) with a shiny, iridescent hair instead of a ragged, tattered kitten, then you can, and then you actually should, step out of your comfort zone and head towards your dreams. But not before. Whatever everyone says.

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Square peg in a round hole: Why it is perfectly normal not to fit the norm

Norms… Sometimes I am under the impression that a lot of norms that exist regarding different aspects of life are just there to make us feel bad.”I don’t feel happy every day, what’s wrong with me?”, “My kid is 5 month and he doesn’t roll yet, what’s wrong with him?“, or “Oh, but my kid is almost two and he doesn’t talk yet, what’s wrong with him?“… Did somebody actually ever wonder if there is anything wrong with the norms?

I almost failed my physical education class in school because I could not run the 4000-meter torture that I was supposed to. I got 4 out of 10 (the last passing score) merely for my persistence. I ran the first 1000 or so meters and the rest I walked. I am no runner! Does it make me a failure? My daughter started rolling only at the age of 5 months. Only the lazy one did not ask me if I was not worried. I was not. She was physically in a perfect condition. She did not want to roll. Does that make her a failure? My son started walking at the age of 9 months. But that’s not normal! And what should I have done? Tied him to the chair?!

It gets worse. You should go to school, you should get a degree, you should get a job (and preferably in the same domain where your degree is), you should buy a house, you should get married, you should have a ring, a dress, a party for 200 people, you should go on the honeymoon to the fancy location at the sea, you should have kids before 30, you should lose weight  in the first 10 days after giving birth, you should have a career, you should have a dog/cat/hamster/horse/alligator… You should… Have a riffle to use every time you hear it? That would be a great idea.

I did not invent this quote but I like it:

All I should is enumerated in the Tax Code; all I should not – in the Criminal Code; all the rest is in my discretion!

I don’t believe in “shoulds”. I don’t believe in norms. And most importantly what I don’t believe in – is in being worried and feeling yourself down just because you or your kids don’t fit some stupid norm written by somebody. What I do believe in, however, is in respecting the choice of others that they made for themselves and their family. In the end you are the only one who knows what’s right for you.

You breastfeed until your kid is 2,5 y.o.? Good for you both! And you stopped at 6 months and your kid already eats steak at 1? Perfect! You chose to work and your kid goes to day-care? That’s fine. And you decided it’s best that you stay at home? Also great. You do Montessori and a whole bunch of other early development activities? Good choice. And you don’t believe in the value of an early development? You’re also right. You co-sleep with your little one? Super! But yours learned to sleep in his own bed since the beginning? Wow!

Bottom-line is: Universal “normal” applicable to everybody does not exist. Normal is defined by lots of factors, amongst which your unique life circumstances, but also your vision of the world, your attitude, your values and your perception. It is what you personally feel comfortable with and what is acceptable for your family, but not what somebody else tries to force on you.

And by the way all the great minds of the past and present were not “normal”: they did not fit, they challenged the norms, they rebelled against them and went their own way. They followed their own normal. They were square pegs in a round hole and that’s what in the end contributed to their greatness.

 

Protecting wings from being cut

While browsing through my Facebook I stumbled upon an interesting question posed in one of the groups – “Who is cutting your wings?”. Replies split almost equally between those who were blaming themselves and those who identified some external sources of influence: like a husband, family, friends, colleagues. It made me think about dreams, about identifying them in the first place and daring to follow them. And about all those moments when you are so inspired and uplifted, yet all your enthusiasm is crushed like a bug on the ground by someone whose opinion you value. Those moments when you feel good about yourself, but are made feel worthless; when you are, as Russians say, multiplied by zero; when your dreams are shattered and wings are cut…

… But let me start with identifying dreams first because “if one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable” (Seneca).

Long time ago when I was something like 17 or 18 years old (damn, I am old!) inspired by the movie “The Secret” I made my first list of wishes, hopes and dreams. There were 100 items from all possible categories starting with things I want, moving onto experiences I want, even places I would like to visit. Dreaming without any limitations, without thinking whether you can afford that, whether you are physically or mentally capable of doing that at the moment – dreaming without analyzing. I remember that it was fairly simple to write down the first 50 items or so, yet to reach the number 100 it took me almost a week. I looked at my old list couple of months ago and  – it’s almost complete! Some items were scratched off because I don’t want them anymore, however the majority of my wishes and dreams has actually realized. In the hindsight there were quite a few items in that list that back then were simply impossible for this or that reason: like going to China or learning to play golf, or studying abroad or having “Manolo Blahnik” shoes. Guess what: I went to China as part of my MBA studies (done abroad), I learned to play golf last summer and pretty much like in “Sex and the City” my husband proposed me putting on beige “Manolo Blahnik” shoes on my feet.

Few yet unrealized items are now transferred to my “Life plan” – which is an extensive list divided in 6 categories covering all the main aspects of my life – lifestyle, health, emotional well-being, financials, personal development and vocation and family (I will talk about how to write it in one of the future posts). Yes, a bit insane, I know. However, knowing precisely what I would like in my life and with my life creates a good focus. Just for a giggle – if tomorrow I am going to win “Euromillions” then I know precisely where and how I will spend that money. Yet also if it never happens I am pretty convinced that somehow there will be a way to get everything that I want. Even (and maybe especially) if I don’t see that way at this moment in time.

Now after dreams are identified comes a more difficult part – daring to follow your dreams and this is where wings are often cut

I am lucky to be supported at all times by at least one person in whatever crazy initiatives I would like to pursue. I always believed in myself but for success it is psychologically important to have or find that other person who also believes in you no matter what. When I was growing up I always had my mother by my side. My mother has never questioned my dreams, never put me down saying that something is not possible and or is not for me. She never reminded me of past failures. She inspired me and lifted me up when I felt down. She was there for me when after the first course at a law faculty I decided to switch from a full-time to a part-time program because I believed that if I work simultaneously I will achieve more. I remember a lot of friends at that moment saying that I am making a mistake, killing my inspiration and enthusiasm about actual legal job with comments like: “in this way you are going to fail your studies and are not going to get far anyway”. I graduated with 7,62 on 10, having four years of legal experience including representation before the court behind my belt. The same repeated when I quit my job and decided to do an MBA. I have been told by almost everyone around me that I was making a huge mistake, that I am jeopardizing my future, that I will regret and that I will never be admitted to the business school anyway, yada yada yada. And once again, my mother was there for me, protecting my wings from being cut. I have several stories like that where only with a support of my mother, with her unconditional belief in me that I succeeded, and I am eternally grateful to her for that.

This type of support is what I hope to be able to give my kids as well – to be there for them to protect their wings from being cut.

 

P.S. It is easier when you are supported, I understand. But even if you don’t have that person or people that believe in you at this moment, at least don’t betray yourself – don’t give up on yourself! Ever. There was a great quote by Walt Disney (yeah, a second quote in a short text, but it somehow fits) –

“If you can dream it, you can do it!”

– So don’t stop dreaming! Believe in yourself and your dreams! And go for them! You will find the ones who will support you along the way!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eliminating ironing

That’s controversial of course and a lot of people will disagree that it’s a good decision, but it saves me a lot of time and spares me back pain. I always hated ironing! However, when you are either tight on budget or just don’t want to spend extra money on laundry and ironing service for your husband’s shirts that’s what you have to do – you iron them! My speed was about 10 to 12 shirts an hour. An hour of standing and doing a repetitive, annoying and tiresome action with my arm which frequently resulted in the pain in between my shoulder blades. Not fun.

I have researched the matter, tried different speedy ironing techniques, but finally found a solution which avoids the iron all together. There are non-iron shirts! Whomever invented this thing is a genius. There are several manufacturers who offer good quality non-iron shirts yet for ourselves we found one in England – Charles Tyrwhitt. I should probably already ask them to pay me for advertising because I have referred all my friends to them. They are really worth every penny. One caveat – when you wash the shirts (and if your washing machine allows that) switch on the “easy ironing” button or just pick lower centrifuge speed and (!) this is very important – immediately take the shirts out and hang them on hangers, closing all buttons. Yes, it takes a bit of your time, but it totally eliminates the need to use an iron afterwards. Shirts look as if they have actually been ironed!

Ironing is still required for pants and t-shirts, unless you also opted for a non-iron version, and that’s it. I know that some people, like my mom, like to have their linens ironed. I don’t. Moreover, if you fold your linens neatly and stack them on top of each other most of the times they look good as such. Maybe this is due to my choice of fabrics, I don’t know. My linens are 100% cotton satin and they don’t get crooked.

The bottom-line is that you don’t have to iron everything unless you really want to, there are options out there that allow you to have the same result, while sparing you time and not costing more (and if you take into account that an iron consumes hell of a lot electricity –  even saving you money).