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For the most-part, I have always loved being tall. I’m just a shade less than 6 feet with an hourglass figure. There’s something striking about tall women, don’t you think? Someone told me once that tall people are elegant no matter what; that they can trip and fall and still look elegant. I don’t see myself as particularly elegant but still, I like the idea that this is how some people might see me. I had a teacher in high school who insisted that I pursue a modelling career – like, every time I saw her in the hallways. Others always thought I would be great at basketball (I wasn’t). Mr. FamilyNature sees me as the strong-Xena-Warrior-Princess-type. Elegant, warrior princess, model, athlete – however it is people view tall women, most people view it as something positive. I can’t imagine being any other way.
As a result of being tall and curvy, I’ve never been a one-size-fits-all kind of gal. Things never seem to fit me well. Gloves are too small, sleeves and pants too short, the bust-line and waist-line of dresses never sit in the right place, and all my t-shirts end up like crop-tops after they’ve gone through the dryer a couple of times. I wish that tables and counter tops were just a little bit higher. That bathtubs and beds were a little bit longer. The world is made for average people. That’s what makes the most sense.
So here’s where I go sideways a bit. When I’m not thinking about it, I feel like I am exactly like everyone else. I am average. I am normal. But then I look in the mirror, or see a picture of myself, or catch a reflection of myself walking down the street with a friend, or I go clothes shopping – or worse, when I go bra shopping and walk out with a size most people didn’t even know existed – I feel awkward and out of place. At times like these I don’t think I look “normal”, as in, the way a woman is “supposed” to look. There is an image of what society thinks the ideal woman should look like. I am not it.
A while ago, when I was cleaning out some old boxes, I came across some old pictures. I found this:
In this picture, I’m 20. I look at it now and think that I’m gorgeous and that I’d kill to have that body again. At the time? I thought I was fat and I hated my body. I wish I could go back and give my 20-year-old-self a shake.
When that picture was taken I was a size 12 or 14. Usually, size 14 is considered a plus size (depending on where you shop). At the time I hated that I was so dangerously close to being a plus size when I was at a pretty normal weight for my body type. In this picture I’m also very, very close to the BMI’s definition of “overweight”. When I stepped on a scale, the number that came up is a number that was in a range in which “normal” women don’t show up. I was tormented by these numbers then and still am today. I am reminded constantly by the numbers, that I am not “normal” or “average”.
Not long after my first was born, Mr. FN and I went shopping. I needed some new clothes. Maternity clothes were too big but I wasn’t fitting into my pre-pregnancy clothes. We went into a store and when I was looking at the clothes and sizes I realized that the “plus” size clothes were in a different section. There was a section off to the side of the store that had a big “Plus Size” sign hanging over it. It might as well have been a flashing neon sign. I wouldn’t have been caught dead there. I left the store empty handed. Later, when we were on our way home in the car, I cried and cried to Mr. FN, “I’m not a plus size person. I’m just a person!”
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a conformist. I shaved my head this spring partly as a rebellion. Sometimes I say things that not everyone would. My parenting style has not always been accepted by those around me. I fought for a VBA2C attempt when just about everyone in the medical world thought I was nuts (as a side note, the ACOG and SOGC have both since admitted that VBAMC is a safe option).
I try to teach my kids about acceptance and differences, and that if everyone looked the same, had the same opinion and agreed on everything the world would be a boring place. Nothing would ever change, nobody would ever take risks and everything would be stagnant and mediocre. I want them to know that it’s okay if they don’t conform, if they ask difficult questions, if they challenge things. In fact, I want them to be like that!
I want my daughter to love herself. I want her to feel beautiful no matter what her hair looks like. No matter what she wears. No matter what size she is. How do I instill these beliefs and self-confidence in her when I have a hard time with them myself?
There is a contradiction here, I realize that. I really do love being tall. I don’t ever want to be “normal” or “average”. I don’t want to conform. I simply could not live like that. I don’t look like society’s ideal image of a woman because almost nobody looks like that. But … in a way I do want to look like that ideal woman.
I’ve struggled with my weight since having kids. I’ve wanted to lose a bit of weight for years. But the truth is I don’t know if I’d be any happier if I did. There was a moment of realization when I found that old picture of myself. I hated my body then – that gorgeous, tall, flat-tummy, slim body – and although my body has changed since that photo, my feelings about it haven’t. My realization was this: it’s not my body that has to change, it’s my attitude. I keep that picture in my kitchen as a reminder. While I strive to be healthier; eat a bit better, exercise more, I know that I have to be a little easier on myself. Focus a bit less on the numbers and more on a healthy attitude, and this remains my biggest challenge.
Numbers photo by Koren Vereeken via Flickr.
Every New Year since I’ve had kids I’ve resolved to lose a few pounds. Don’t we all? That, and eat better, get more exercise, be a better mum, blah, blah, blah. I simply make the declaration “My New Year’s resolutions are _____!” and then I go about my year, not really doing anything to make those resolutions happen.
A quick Google search reveals what we all know: the vast majority of people making New Year’s resolutions fail; somewhere between 80 and 90 percent. So this year, my New Year’s resolution is no more resolutions.
Hmm, but wait a sec …
That doesn’t feel quite right either. I mean, isn’t it a good idea to at least think about these things? Does setting goals have any value at all even if we never really make any strides to achieve them? These are the things I’ve been thinking about the last few days. To resolve or not to resolve; that is the question.
I guess that I’ve decided that there is value in making resolutions. Because it means thinking about ourselves and the things we want to do/change/accomplish. I don’t think it’s necessarily reasonable to have hard-and-fast resolutions that we feel we must accomplish in one year. But I do think it’s a good idea to have a general idea of what we want to do – or at least, a direction in which we want to go. I’m going to call them: More or Less Resolutions. Here are some basic things I’m going to work in the next little while:
- More cooking
- More reading
- MORE BLOGGING!
- More playing
- More gardening
- More exercise
- More pictures
- Less yelling
- Less agonizing/stressing
- Less procrastinating
Do you have any More or Less Resolutions?
My baby will be 2 next month. I was thinking recently how the end is in sight to diapers, breastfeeding and co-sleeping (although, given the chance our almost-eight-year old would still *love* to sleep with us, and sneaks in when he can; so I don’t really expect co-sleeping to come to an end soon, but it will change when the baby starts going to sleep with one of her brothers).
With my fourth and last c-section, I had a tubal ligation. I have been pondering the fact that I can’t have any more children for the last two years. Mr. Family Nature and I thought that we’d have more than four kids (ahem, that was before we had kids, but anyway). After our third was born, while I was still lying on the operating table being sewn up, the OB leaned over the curtain and said to me, “I strongly advise against future pregnancies”. I was heartbroken. We decided to have one more baby anyway.
I have found myself wondering from time to time, if we would have had another baby if circumstances had been different; if I’d had the natural births that I had wanted so badly to have. I’m not sure of the answer. We are quite content with our family of six; to us it seems perfect, but still….
When the baby was around a year old I started thinking about another baby because that was the age the other kids were when I started thinking about the next baby. I asked my husband if he would have another if we could and he said, “Woman! Are you crazy? We can barely handle the four we have now!” This in a loving, joking (but not quite joking) kind of way. Yes, yes, of course; our lives are pretty busy with four but I guess I was mourning a little the fact that there would not be any more babies in our house. Still, I told my husband that if we could, I’d have another in a second – and I absolutely would have at the time. The next day my husband said to me, “You know what? I’d do it in a second too.” I guess we’re both suckers for babies.
At the end of last week I was thinking that I was late. You know, late. Truth be told, I don’t really keep track of my cycle like I used to now that we don’t have to worry about birth control anymore. So I just figured that I had my dates wrong and tried to push it to the back of my mind. It kept nagging me though. And then I was thinking about how I hadn’t been feeling quite right for a couple of days. I told myself that I was being ridiculous! I had a tubal ligation, for crying out loud! So I searched the internet for tubal ligation effectiveness, looking for reassurance. Depending on what you read, the failure rate is as high as 2%. What‽ TWO percent‽ (I realize that even 2% is very low, but I was feeling very irrational at the time). And then I started feeling sicker … and sicker. OMG, what if I’m pregnant‽
Then I basically started freaking out. OMG, I don’t want to be pregnant! I cannot have another c-section! I cannot have another baby! I’ve given away all my baby stuff! How in the world will we manage‽
Then came the guilt. OMG, what if I am pregnant? Of course I would want the baby! Of course I would love the baby! Of course the baby would be the biggest, best, surprise I’ve ever had! *sigh* Have I mentioned before that motherhood makes you crazy?
Sooo anyway … I’m not pregnant.
My husband and I sat down with friends, I had a nice big glass of wine and we laughed over how silly I was.
And I thought about how four is perfect. I wouldn’t change things, even if I could.
When I was a teenager I used to work with a woman, MK. She was an older woman, maybe in her fifties. She was nice enough and did her job just fine, but everyone thought she was a little crazy. If MK was standing talking to you, she’d be swaying back and forth. She was forgetful, absentminded and she just never seemed like she was all there, if you know what I mean.
When my first was born, I was a basket-case. The first time we ever went for a drive with the baby in the car, I was out of my mind in the front seat; I was in an absolute panic. What if he needed me? What if he started crying on the highway? What if he got hungry? What if the 20 minute drive was too long for him? I felt like I was going mad.
When we were visiting people I could not bear to be in a different room than the baby and I actually got sick of other people wanting to hold him. I wanted to hold him – all the time.
The next time I saw my midwife I told her that I thought I was losing my mind. I asked her when these feelings of anxiety and panic over my baby would go away. She paused for a moment and said, “Never.”
Well, I’m not nearly as anxious as I used to be. By the time my second was born, I was okay when other people were holding the baby and I didn’t feel so much like I was in a panicked state all the time. My third and fourth were the same, but still … I catch myself standing, talking to a mum in the schoolyard, swaying (even when I’m not holding a baby). I am also forgetful, absentminded and I often feel … like I’m not all there, if you know what I mean.
This morning I got a phone call that set me off. My oldest son has been offered a spot in a new alternative school opening in our city (my three school aged kids were all on the waiting list). Back in the spring, when I found out that we didn’t get in, that we were on the waiting list, I was completely devastated. So today, when I got off the phone, after learning that my oldest got in and the other two had been bumped to the very top of the waiting list for their grades, I melted into a sobbing heap. I mean real tears. Over a school, people. Every time I thought about the school today I had to fight off tears.
It’s true, this school was really important to me for a lot of reasons, which I’ll write about soon. But still, I never used to be like this – this emotional, this frantic.
Am I really crazy? No, I don’t think so. And I no longer think that that MK was crazy either; I just think she was a mum.
I have always wanted to be a mum. Always. Any job I ever had was just something I was doing until the time was right for me to have kids. I never really felt passionate about any particular line of work and I always struggled with figuring out what I wanted to “be”. I remember being in high school and feeling pressure to figure out what I would do after high school: university, college, travel? I was supposed to decide what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Well, I knew I wanted to have a family but the overwhelming response to that was, “Yes dear, of course you want be a mother, but what do you want to *be*?” How the hell was I supposed to know?! In many ways I envied people who knew what they wanted to be. Honestly, when I think back I realize that I spent too much time and energy agonizing over the question, “What do I want to be?”
I have four children and I never went back to work after my first was born. A couple of years ago someone said to me “Why don’t you do something that *you* really want to do?” My response was, “I am doing *exactly* what I want to be doing.” Why won’t people believe me?
When I tell people that I’m a mum and that’s “it” and that this is what I want to be doing sometimes I think that people think that I am weak minded, or insecure, or “living in my husband’s shadow”, or that I’m bringing women down. Whatever. All this talk of the Rosin article (I refuse to link to it; that article got way more publicity than it deserved) and others like it has refreshed an always underlying, usually subtle suggestion: women who stay at home can’t possibly be feminists. Well you know what? I never considered myself a feminist until I felt like I had to defend my choices! Until I felt like I had to explain to people that I like what I do and I like where my path has taken me so far.
I was at a meeting of feminist mothers one day and the guest speaker was a well-known feminist; she’s an associate professor in the School of Women’s Studies at a local University and she’s written and edited a number of books on the topic of mothering and feminism. She said that SAHMs were “privileged” and got to go on “annual vacations” and made many other infuriating comments about SAHMs all being rich and spoiled. She went on to imply that people who liked being SAHMs were either being controlled by men or were too stupid to know that what they were doing was meaningless (those are my words but that was her message). She also implied that SAHMs who were university educated were wasting away at home and that they really “should” be out there putting their degrees “to good use”. She also made several demeaning comments about men and said things like, “having a husband is like have another kid around; just another person to clean up after.” It was horrible! Well, let me assure you sister, I am not “privileged”, or rich, or spoiled and I have NEVER had a family vacation (except for a two night stay at Great Wolf Lodge which was paid for by friends of ours) AND my husband does more cleaning around the house than I do…grr…the very thought of this makes my blood boil. I see her books around and every time I do it makes me crazy. I have absolutely no respect for this woman. These so called “feminists” are really doing a disservice to women; to all people for that matter.
I don’t feel weak minded or insecure. I feel strong and smart. I feel appreciated by the people that matter; unnoticed and undervalued by the people that don’t. I’m very happy. In fact, I feel like an earthworm. My husband always says, “Mothers are the earthworms of society.” The first time he said that to me I gave him the furry eyeball. He went on to explain that mothers are like earthworms in that we are absolutely essential; we work underground, so often going unnoticed and unappreciated. BUT society would crumble – come to a screeching halt if it weren’t for us. I like that analogy. I like being an earthworm.
We are a family of six. Mum and Dad plus four kids. Late last year we sold our 3 storey, 2000 square foot Toronto townhouse. I loved that house. We bought it on paper and it is where I thought we’d live for a long time; where I thought we’d raise our family. It was big, bright and new. It had three bedrooms plus an office, a living room, a family room, a TV room, a spacious kitchen with a centre island and cupboards stretching to the nine foot ceilings, three bathrooms including a master ensuite and gleaming hardwood floors throughout. Sounds great doesn’t it? I really did love that house, but it just wasn’t right for us.
When we told friends and family we’d bought a new house I think they were surprised. One said, “It better not be smaller than this one.” Yes it is. Here’s the thing: we downsized. Our new house is an 1100 square foot bungalow. Yup, a bungalow; three bedrooms, one bathroom, a modest kitchen and a good sized living/dining room. It’s perfect for us.
Our old house was too big and we were way too spread out. My computer was in the third floor office, the TV was on the second floor, the kitchen was on the ground floor and for some reason, the kids loved to spend time in the unfinished basement. Everyone was always on a different floor. Despite the fact that bedrooms were on two separate floors, most nights all six of us would end up in one room. On top of all that we absolutely could not keep up with the housework.
Our front and back yards were pitifully small. Our back yard was only slightly bigger than a postage stamp. We’d watch the kids run around in circles in the back yard and it would remind us of hamsters in a cage.
With all the space of a 2000 square foot home came a whole lot of stuff; stuff we didn’t really need. We had linens; so many that we might have been able to open a small hotel. The same goes for kitchen wares; we had every small appliance, a wok we never used, and enough glassware to host a big party (which we only do once a year). When we took a step back and looked at what we had, it was embarrassing. We didn’t need the house for our family; we needed it for the stuff we’d accumulated over the years. Going through everything was an overwhelming task but in the end, we are so much happier with less.
We’ve been in our new house for several months now and it couldn’t be better. We have a big playroom in the basement and the kids can escape there when they need to blow off some steam. No matter where in the house I am it’s always close enough to know when things aren’t going well. The bedrooms are all next to each other so when the kids need us in the night, we’re close by. Everything is easier here; making dinner, bedtime, getting out the door in the morning, keeping the house tidy…everything. Somehow everything just seems simpler. Our backyard, probably the best feature of the house, is big. It is lined with perennial gardens and backs on to a huge park. We couldn’t ask for anything more.
This experience has really been an interesting lesson. It’s been said a million times but it’s true, less really is more. Fewer linens means less laundry, less laundry means more time to spend with the kids, baking or relaxing. A simpler house is less work and less stress. Fewer square feet mean we’re together more.
So, how much space does a family of six really need? As little as possible.