Don’t Accept Someone Else’s Interpretation of How You Should Be- Chieko Okazaki 

The monkeys are Eight months old. 2/3 of a year.

When they were six weeks old, I remember feeling so tired and foggy but like I needed to justify feeling so tired and foggy because isn’t six weeks the marker when new moms should return to the land of the living- grocery shopping, cleaning house, getting kids to school on time, showering and exercising with ease?!?! But I couldn’t, certainly not with ease. I told myself, out loud, to give it more credibility, that with two babies I should be allowed twice the time to get my life back together. Allowed, as if permission to go days and days without a shower or to shower twice in one day came not from me and what I could handle but from the expectations of others. 

 And then it was Christmas and New Year’s and 6 weeks had turned into 12, then 14 weeks and suddenly the babies were 4 months and I still couldn’t seem to keep my laundry put away or make it 48 hours without crying and what would people think?!? Even now, at 8 months, I can’t seem to figure out the best routine for each baby let alone one that works for both of them and some days it feels like I haven’t made any progress. 

 Spring break I took my kids to Ikea. I wanted to buy high chairs, but really we went so Buster and The Lady could play in the ball pit and we could eat cheap meatballs for lunch. Before we left I put on mascara; Not because I cared how lush my lashes looked but because if the babies started to cry and I was in the middle of the office section of ikea, tandom wearing two screaming infants, I thought maybe, just maybe if I looked better, people might judge me with a softer view. Instead of seeing me as a frazzled, failing and crazy woman covered in babies, they might  just see a tired mum doing the best she can while covered in babies.

As it turned out the monkeys were amazing and slept and were happy and when they did cry -in line for meatballs- a stranger was quick to offer help. So many people stopped us to talk, to tell me I was doing a great job,  that while holding so many hands and feet I was holding up so well. Where I had anticipated judgment, I was given encouragement. It wasn’t just the mascara. At least not only the mascara. 

 Easter I took everyone to Raymond to visit my family and give the Hubs a weekend of uninteruppted sleep. On our way home, we stopped at a highway diner for milkshakes and curly fries (how had my children never had curly fries?!?), to nurse the babies and to use the bathroom. We pulled up with the wind cold and blowing.  Squidge didn’t have shoes or socks on and of course no coat because we’d been in the car. I got him out of his seat, tried to wrap him in a blanket while the wind whipped around us and hurried him in. But once inside, realizing all my other kids were still in the van, I was stuck with what to do. So I rushed  back out, the wind snapping the blanket off his cold head and feet, hurrying to get everyone else inside where I handed Squidge to Buster and ran back out for Squdge.

I felt like a disaster. We drove up in a van with a munched in back and broken tail light from that time we were rear-ended. One of my tires was on its way to becoming flat from something I drove over on the Deerfoot. I was sick and feverish and sweaty. The babies were missing socks and shoes and their shirts were dirty and covered in sweet potatoe from feeding them lunch earlier by the side of the road. The Lady hadn’t brushed her hair.  We had to use the bathroom in shifts which meant first leaving twins alone in the booth with my 8 year old and then later relying on a 5 year old to show him how to get to the bathroom. I could feel the eyes of everyone on us and my cheeks burned imagining what they must think of me. 

So when a woman approached us on her way out, I expected her to say the usual “you sure have your hands full” which always feels a bit like  “I see you are clearly in over your head”. But she didn’t. She looked right at Squdge, smiled and told him “Your mother has a beautiful Family”.  Instead of critisimsm I was given kindess. 

 The internet is full of articles about how we judge each other too often.

There’s articles like this 

 And this 

 And most recently for me the example of the woman who shared her great laundry room makeover and then recieved a lot of flack, for nothing to do with her laundry room, but about her parenting choices. 

 And so I know judging others and being judged can be a problem and there is always ALWAYS room for more kindness. But I have also started to feel more and more how much kindess and forgiveness and allowance does exist, that we do give each other daily and that maybe we aren’t being judged as harshly by others as we so often assume. 

Several months ago a friend of mine posted some mommy frustration in the middle of the night. Not many people saw it because by morning she’d removed it fearing how others might perceive her. This particular friend is one of the most patient, giving and sweet women I know. No one who knows her could imagine her actually leaving her baby to cry alone for hours in the night. No one could have judged her for feeling tired and cranky in the night time with a baby who wouldn’t sleep, knowing she has 3 other children who would need her in the day time.  And yet the perception of being judged is just as damaging as if we are actually being judged by others. Imagining the negative things others are saying about us is the same as saying it to ourselves. It hurts just the same. So we need to stop. Just. Stop.

 I’m learning to view judgement, real or percieved as a form of advice. I heard once that people with experiences other than our own often feel a responsibility to help, to share what they’ve learned and it comes in the form of advise.  Our responsibility is not to be offended but to then take that information and evaluate it in the context of our own experience and decide if it applies or not.

I love this quote by Chieko Okazaki.

“Only you know your circumstances, your energy level, the needs of your children, and the emotional demands of your other obligations. Be wise during intensive seasons of your life. Cherish your agency, and don’t give it away casually. Don’t compare yourself to others — nearly always this will make you despondent. Don’t accept somebody else’s interpretation of how you should be spending your time. Make the best decision you can and then evaluate it to see how it works.”

How would life be different if we trusted each other more? If instead of assuming others are judging us harshly and looking for ways to put us down, we instead saw cheerleaders; members on the same team; friends who are there to offer support? And how better to teach our children that the world is a kind and safe place than  to look for and find the kindness in others? Because the irony is that the assumption others are judging us critically is a critical judgement in and of itself. We are all in this together but  the belief, allowing ourselves to think that everyone is finding ways they are better than us, makes it impossible to share the experience with the very people who are experiencing or who have experienced the same things. 

Soon the babies will be crawling. Soon the time limit on “it took 9 months to gain that weight, it will take 9 months to take it off” will be up. I can’t promise I’ll feel like I’ve actually recovered. And perhaps there are some who will judge me for that but there are so many more who won’t. Because they know, they’ve been there. I will need kindness. We all need kindness no matter what stage we are in. So allow it. Be kind to yourself, look for it and take it when it is offered because kindness really can be found all around us.

When I was in high school my Grandmother sustained a stroke and came to stay with us. My mom spent hours with her helping to improve her balance, walking, and reading. One of the activities they did to help with her language and sequencing skills was baking- reading and following a recipe.  These ginger cookies remind me of her every time. One of my favorite memories is coming home from school at lunch to find her at the sink washing all the little balls of dough because she had rolled them all in salt instead of sugar. It makes me smile because it’s just the sort of thing I would do!

 The last time I made them Squidge was sick and decided he wanted to nurse For.Ever. So when the timer went off, with him still latched on and refusing to let go I walked in the kitchen to open the oven with my foot.  The Lady,  with oven mitts 6 sizes too big, then carefully took them out of the oven and placed the pan on the cooling rack.  Without any help from me she rolled out the next 12, rolled them in sugar and placed them on the pan. Luckily Buster came home from school then and could help put them in while I stood with a baby still attached to me. Sometimes we are a great team. Sometimes I get desperate. 

 It’s spring and ginger cookies are often associated with cold weather. But try these paired with lemon sorbet. I promise You will not be sorry. The sorbet is perfect for warmer weather and has a fun chemical reaction with the ginger in the cookies to make your tongue tingle and dance; Such a fun dessert. 

Grandma Ruth’s Ginger Cookies 

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar + more for rolling
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Beat together the butter, sugar and egg. Mix in the molasses. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Roll into 1″ balls, roll in sugar and place on an Ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes. You’ll want to take them out when they seem a bit under-done because like all cookies they will continue to bake on the pan for a bit after they come out of the oven. 

 Ours were a bit crunchy this time because it took me too long to get to the oven for obvious reasons. When I told the Lady that we cooked them too long, she was quick to correct me. “Actually we bake cookies not cook them but I know what mean.” She’s very forgiving.