Thursday, November 18, 2010

My father's wish...

Growing up, my father would always say to me, "I hope you have four little girls...just like you". Awww - sounds sweet doesn't it? That is, until you find out he was saying it to me out of exacerbation!

And so, many years later my father gets his wish: I am 2 for 2.

My two children, while they may look like Hemingways, are infuriatingly Spilka's! I am mostly talking about their stubborn streak, their temper and the fact that they are mean when hungry.

Ok, mostly I am talking about their tempers and stubbornness. Layla is so much like me that I fear we won't get along when she is a teen. There are days where she is having such a tantrum that I just throw my hands up and say, "Arg! I can't deal with is like dealing with myself!" - and I drive myself crazy!

Today, for example, Noah had to put his shoes away in the cubby at school. He refused to use two hands to pick them up - and so I had to watch as he was determined to move two shoes at once, with one small hand, into the cubby. Once I told him he "had" to use two hands, he simply wouldn't.

Sometimes Noah will throw himself dramatically onto the couch to cry over something he is not allowed to do/have and I just roll my eyes because I did that the night before to Keith over something that I couldn't do/have.

Luckily Layla is still a baby so her Spilka-like nature is minimal right now, but believe me it is there!

The person I feel the worst for is Keith - he is surrounded by me (and not my best qualities, I should add). Thank goodness he is a kind and patient man, because he handles it all very well. Nothing really ruffles his feathers. I think he is in for a treat as the kids age and one day become difficult teenagers.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hoarding Maternity Leave

While I was pregnant with Layla, I finished my Master's degree and promised Keith I would look for work starting in January (when she was 9 months old).  I have been hoping to find a job that would use my Master's degree, and thus get me more money and a different nursing experience. I figure the hunt for the appropriate job will take a while. If I happened to find work early, we have been toying with the idea of Keith taking the rest of my year leave.

Now that Layla is nearly 7 months old, I am going back and forth over whether or not to return to work. You see, I am hoarding my maternity leave! With Noah, I went back to school when he was 8 months old and I always resented that and wanted to have a full year unburdened by school or work. However, I did promise Keith he could have some time off with the kids, if the opportunity presented itself.

I find, as a society, women hoard their maternity leave. Yes, flame me if you will - but lets be honest here: mom's get the final say regarding the maternity leave. Why do mom's feel they hold the control over "allowing" the husband to have some time off with his kids? In Quebec, there is a paternity leave the men can take that cannot be transferred to the mother. How fantastic is that? True, many men don't want to take the paternity leave, either because of the stigma associated with it, the inflexible nature of their jobs, or even the fear of taking care of the children all alone. Whatever the reason, many men do not want to take that time off...which is fine by the women!

That said, what if the father does want time off with his children? Why does he have to ask the mother for that time? Why is there fear in his voice when he mentions it? What is it about women that we feel we have to hold on to that full year for ourselves? Is it because we have to recover from birth? Heck, I was recovered a week later! Is it because we are breastfeeding? My extensive essay writing on breastfeeding indicates that a very small minority of Canadian women actually breastfeed past 4 months - so that can't be it!

I certainly don't have the answer, but I can tell you why I flip back and forth between "allowing" Keith to take the final months of my leave. First and foremost - I am selfish! I want that time with the kids! I like the lazy days that Layla and I have together. I enjoy my time with Noah, colouring and making forts. With Noah's maternity leave, I watched a lot of television because there was nothing to do around my area. Now, I never watch a television program for myself and a whole day can go by without an email check!

Secondly, I am afraid of what returning to work will do for my breastfeeding relationship. I am very pro-breastfeeding (I wasn't lying when I said I have written numerous essays on the topic!). I nursed Noah until he self-weaned at 16 months when I was pregnant with Layla. Nursing Layla has been a fight from day 1. She honestly doesn't seem to like nursing all that much and she is a master at the bottle. I never give her a bottle for fear she will prefer it. I know she will - and thus, returning to work likely will mean an early wean. I will continue to pump and provide her breastmilk in the bottle, but it isn't the same. There is something about holding a baby close to you, while they look you in the eye and stroke your face (or, in Layla's case: claw at your face and mouth and then giggle). Can you get that same experience through the bottle? Of course - but something about breastfeeding is very near and dear to me and it breaks me up that she will wean early (and believe me - she will!)

Thirdly, I am afraid of what it will do for my relationship with the kids. Any job I may find will be an hour and a half commute - I won't see the kids much during the week. I have done this before, when Noah was a year old and we adjusted just fine. Layla however, is going to bed at 6pm lately, so there may be days I don't see her at all! However, this relationship aspect is what Keith always uses to drive home why he needs that time on paternity leave - afterall, he has always had to work and come home with only a few hours to see the children. It won't make the kids hate me or resent me - but down the road I worry it might, no matter how silly that fear may be.

Finally, I am afraid of missing out. I hate that I won't be around all day long to see Layla's firsts. I will get over this, of course. Noah, for example, took his first steps at daycare and I was happy and proud of him; not sad that I missed it. Yet, a part of me wants to fall on the floor sobbing at missing these events with the kids.

However, all of my fears and hesitancies can be used as arguments as to why Keith should be able to take that time with the kids too. He never got that time with Noah, and I can hardly tell him he can't take that time with his own children! Do I think he is capable? Sure! I think it will be a large learning curve for us both to flip roles, but I certainly think he will do a fantastic job. No one plays hide and seek as well as he does!

So will I go back to work early? Probably - I feel it will be good for us. A friend of mine told me that it strengthens the marriage as it allows the husband to realize what a day at home with two kids is like, with no breaks or help; and I will get to realize what it is like to come home and have two kids thrust at me and allow him time to check his email and just have some alone time.

Now, to find work.....

Monday, November 1, 2010

In her own room...

We did it! Finally! Layla now sleeps/naps in her own room!

We made "the big move" from beside our bed, to her room this weekend. Keith was not happy that I took his little girl away but I tried to explain that the older she got, the harder it would be!

We set up her room nicely - it was painted green with a dragonfly wall decal on it. It is very pretty. We had to use some room darkening blinds - which were hand-me-downs, and not very pretty - but they are functional! They do a lovely job.

Setting up her video monitor was more of a challenge because we had been propping it on the side of her crib until we went to bed, then I took it down. I didn't want to leave it on her bed for obvious strangulation fears - so we had to move the bookcase closer to the bed (which seems like another hazard when she gets older - but is fine for now).

Her room was also very cold - so Keith bought a safe space heater for her room that kept it at 21 degrees last night and it was very comfortable.

The first night was rough: I was going to her over 10 times that night. She wasn't up more than normal - she feeds 2x and then the rest of the time was to put the soother in. However, when she was beside me, I could put her soother back in and fall back into bed. Now, I have to get out of bed and walk across the hall. That wakes a person up! Thankfully, my fantastic husband let me sleep in that morning and watched the kids. It was his turn to sleep-in so I was very appreciative.

Last night was much better. She got up three times: 2x to feed, once to have a soother put in. However, after her last feed at 4am, she thought it was time to party. I left her in her crib for 45 min's: during which time, she thought it was party time! She babbled and talked. Finally Keith suggested I bring her to bed with us - she loves this and sleeps great. Sure enough, she fell asleep immediately and slept until nearly 8am!

Even Noah slept in - he was up at 7:45, which is very strange for him! He is a 5am kid for sure.

The trials of raising a "shy" kid

I hate to use the word "shy" - I try to not use it around him for fear he will label himself as such, but there is no getting around it: Noah is shy. It has its challenges, but for the most part shyness is easy to overcome by providing some extra time for him to warm up to the situation.

However, Halloween was a struggle.

In this respect, Noah reminded me of my brother (who has always hated getting dressed up for Halloween). We had to force Noah into his Halloween costume, he really didn't want to wear it. It was as if he was embarrassed to be wearing something out of the ordinary. I felt terrible about it (no matter how cute he looked). We got Layla dressed up too, with hopes that he would see that it is normal to wear a costume on this day! We had to force him out the door and I literally carried him door to door (he didn't refuse so long as he was being carried). When someone would open their door, he would cast his eyes down and pout. We just made him go to the neighbours around us, because they like to see the kids dressed up. When we got home, I felt terrible  for forcing him to do something he clearly didn't want to do!

So I ask you: what do you do? With Noah, he is shy to try new things, but that doesn't mean that he won't like it eventually. Kindergym is one of his favourite activities - at first he clung to Keith for the whole class; now he is comfortable and has a great time. How would we know if he likes something if we don't get passed his initial hesitancy?

As Noah grows, we will have to respect his wishes for not wanting to go Trick or Treating, but that will come with challenges too, as he wonders why he can't eat his sister's candy (as I am sure Layla will love Halloween - she was smiling at everyone in her costume yesterday!)

We really hate making Noah so upset in these situations but we have to try to see if he really hates it or if it is just because it is a new experience. I suspect the need to wear a costume is even further incentive for him to hate Halloween though...

Keith's pumpkin

My pumpkin

Layla's pumpkin - that is a soother in it's mouth!

Noah's pumpkin

Noah stealing OUR candy!

Our beautiful butterfly!