Tag Archives: motherhood

paid sick days

4 reasons paid sick days need to be mandated

COVID-19 has forced us to ask ourselves, our community, and our government a lot of questions. One of the quickly answered questions asked so far throughout the pandemic is: “What do I do if I get sick?”

Public health officials rapidly jumped in at the beginning of the pandemic with the most logical answer: Stay home.

It’s ideal – staying home. Not only does it reduce the chances of giving someone else your illness (whether it be COVID or a cold), but it makes sense for healing as well. A glaring issue immediately appeared with this solution, particularly among the low-income population – staying home is not an option when someone needs to work to make ends meet. 2021 has been a year of advocating for paid sick days – something the federal government had tried to address temporarily, but hasn’t met the needs of Canadians – and so we have outlined what happens when we give everyone the equal opportunity to heal without fear of losing their livelihood.

Your workplace is healthier

If you have ever sat beside a co-worker with the sniffles, you have probably thought to yourself, “I hope I don’t catch that”. It is even more uncomfortable for your co-worker who rolled out of bed with a fever and a headache to come to work – all because they don’t have paid sick days and can’t afford to take the time off work. Unfortunately, now all your coworkers are at risk of getting sick too. With just a couple of paid sick days in place, your workplace becomes a healthier, more comfortable place to be.

Overall community mental health and physical health improves

The anxiety of not knowing how you’re going to make ends meet if you take an unpaid sick day is enough to make anyone feel sick to their stomach. This just reminds us how many people show up to work not just physically ill but also mentally unwell too whether it is caused by burnout, mental illness, or stress. When we advocate for paid sick days, we are advocating for physical and mental wellness for our community. We know that when has the means to take care of their wellbeing, everyone is happier and healthier.

Paid sick days stop health issues from turning critical

Imagine that one day you wake up with a cough, but you can’t take time off work so you go to work all week coughing. The next week, your lungs are really hurting and it is getting harder to breathe, but still, you’re days away from the payday that’ll just barely cover rent and groceries. The week after, you’re so exhausted and out of breath that you can hardly get out of bed, let alone cook, eat, drive, or get to work. By the time you can get yourself to a doctor if at all, your cough has become untreated pneumonia with complex complications.

Not only does it become much harder and more expensive to treat your illness, but you’re forced to take so much time off work, you risk losing your job altogether. Paid sick days aren’t just about saving someone’s livelihood, they’re about saving someone’s life.

Women and racialized mothers won’t need to suffer when they get sick or their child is sick

Many women are familiar with the experience of calling their boss to say, “I can’t come in today, my child is sick.” A few different things happen in this situation:

  1. Mom uses one of her own sick days to take care of her child and then is forced to work when she gets sick because she has no more personal days left.
  2. She misses out on a day’s pay that makes ends meet for her household.
  3. The lesser talked about reality is that her boss may penalize her for missed work by giving her fewer growth opportunities or work responsibilities.

Whichever reality comes to fruition for a mother, it is devastating. This is most likely to happen to employees in a low-earning position typically held by women and especially racialized women.

We can’t avoid getting sick – not entirely – but we can make it possible for women to take care of their mental health, physical health, and their children without risking their livelihood. With so many families just $200 away from poverty, all it takes is one emergency for a family to need support from organizations like the YWCA Niagara Region. Together, we can get those women and their families back on their feet and advocate for paid sick days to end this cycle of poverty for good. Donate today to help women experiencing homelessness and to enable us to advocate for systems that empower.

“If your mom was a super hero, what would her super power be?”

This year our bloggers wanted to know what their children’s responses would be to “If your mom was a super hero, what would her super power be?” Here are some of the responses:


So, asking your kid “if I was a super hero, what would my super powers be?” opens up a dialogue I think every parent should have with their kid(s). My 9 year old son’s answers were both, by turns, eyebrow raising, laughter-inducing, and tear-jerking when I realized how impressed he is by the simple things I do every day. I think we both came away from our chat with an even bigger appreciation for each other.

Also, as a note, should people think this was easy, it took my kid 3 days to bother thinking about the question, and then the threat being unable to continue his video game should he not throw me a bone. So no, he isn’t quite as perfect as these answers are going to make him sound.

My super powers were:

1) Super strength-because when he comes home every day he lauches himself at me and I can still catch him with one arm.

2) Super human computer abilites-because I “know how to do everything on a laptop”

3) The ability to fix ANYTHING- I put a memory card in his smart watch and was sewing something at the time.

And my favourite:

4) The ability to stare down a villain until they tell the truth. Oh God that one made me laugh. Pretty self explanatory that one.


My daughter says: “Teleportation, because she’s never late.”

My son says: “The super power of infinite hugs.”


My four year old said that my super power would be, “Moana”. I don’t even know what that means… Lol!


3 1/2 year-old Kayla says, “Elsa. You need to be Elsa!!! Elsa got powers. Blue powers that froze Anna’s heart.”


“My moms super power is knowing what I’ve done, from the things I don’t say.”


My 9 year-old son Jesse says “To give people lots more health and to have more health for you too. To give health whenever you touch somebody.” My 6 yr old Savannah says ” To stick on the wall and lazer eyes and other thing too..let me fink…electrocute hands and one more thing o.k…o.k…ummm Speedy.” lololol I am sure going to be busy as a super hero!! I better go get some sleep! hahahaa

Happy Mother’s Day

Why I participated in the Women’s March


My daughter asked me to write a blog post on why I participated in the Women’s March organized by the YWCA here in Niagara, which was in tandem with hundreds of marches around the world on January 21st.

While I talked about standing in solidarity with my American sisters, I want her to know I did it for her, I did it for the other women in our family, especially for my granddaughters.

Especially for my granddaughters.

I did it especially for my granddaughters because I don’t want them to experience the blatant discrimination I often experienced while growing up in the 70’s and on through the last forty years. I don’t want them to ever second guess their ability and how it measures up to a man. I want them to grow up feeling 100% equal to any man, period.

You would think that in the forty years since the second, third and fourth waves of feminism have gone past we would have seen real change… and yet we haven’t. There have seen small changes, girls and boys are able to compete against each other in sports, although we still have to make strides for women and men to compete against each other. There are men who take a more nurturing role in parenthood…at least in my circle of friends and family I’ve seen a more equal division of tasks. In Canada, women have choices when it comes to their body and whether she chooses to keep a baby or not, although for many in the United States this choice has been taken away or made much more difficult to access.

These changes are small and aren’t enough. Men still earn more money than women, even if they are doing the same job. Men still are promoted at a much faster rate than women. Men still don’t take on half of the family duties, leaving the majority of the household chores and child rearing duties to their female spouses. Men still feel it’s ok to tell a woman what to do with her body. Men still think women are able to give consent when they are passed out drunk.

The lack of change on these issues are often blamed on women for not standing up for themselves and speaking up about it. There are some women who blame other women for this lack of change instead of all of us looking at the systemic changes that need to happen. And for that, we need men to shut up and listen, and that may take some time.

I marched with millions of women because I want the women in my family, and all young women for that matter, to be able to stand up tall, to not question themselves, to love freely and to be unconventional. I don’t want my granddaughters to define themselves through traditional values, unless of course, they choose to themselves. I want to ensure that women’s equality progresses to the point where we can actually say we are truly equal, and I want to be around long enough to see this happen, for my daughter, my daughter in laws, and especially for my granddaughters. Because it is about time.

“Because it is about time.”

We have talked about equality for a long time. Generations of women and men have talked about it and I am getting a little impatient, especially for my granddaughters. (I used to say for my daughter, but I’ve given up on the notion that it will happen for her.)

I marched because I don’t want to see hard won fights regress. I marched because I wanted to wake up the silent majority, to make sure women’s issues are taken seriously. I march because I don’t want my granddaughters to ever be devalued by experiencing discrimination in any way.

Fearless, bare dissent

While I scrolled through Facebook on Mother’s Day I saw many posted pics (some recent, most vintage) and other tributes to my friends’ mothers and mother figures (aunts, sisters, friends, neighbours). I saw quite a few memorials posted by those who have lost their mothers, as well as one or two notes about recognizing the women who wished to be mothers but could not be. One or two, or even three themes emerged on posts and in the memes inspired by honouring mothers and mother’s day: 1) mother love is/should be/all warm and fuzzy; 2) that mothers come in all shapes and sizes and 3) mothers are strong, funny, etc., etc. All the public mother love was heartfelt, but the most shockingly inspiring and moving posts I read on and around Mother’s Day were about the tradition of naked protests. Continue reading

Getting to Know You Questions – Mother’s Day

In May, our blog is all about Motherhood. Our bloggers were sent a number of questions about the topic – get to know your gals and find out what their thoughts are around motherhood!


  1. What lesson(s) from your Mother, stuck with you?
    Be Good. Be Kind. Do your best. Never give up. Do what makes you happiest. (In all fairness, I may have only realized many of these recently.)
  2. Tell us the one thing you want everyone to know about your Mother?
    She is one of the strongest women I know. She can probably do anything. She’s the reason I believe I can do anything. She has never let me doubt myself. (Also, she has the best hair.)
  3. Sometimes we have not-so perfect Mothering moments – what is one piece of advice you can give to help each other through those moments?
    The cliché, “nobody’s perfect,” applies. If you love your kids and you try your best, your kids will love you no matter what. Just don’t ever abandon the ship. Hard times always pass.



  1. What lesson(s) from your Mother, stuck with you?
    There is always a Plan B, Plan C, Plan D.  Never give up!
  2. What is your strongest childhood memory about your relationship with your Mother?  Comedic Sick-Kick, to this day we continue to have crazy adventures just going to the super market!
  3. Tell us the one thing you want everyone to know about your Mother?  She overcame an abusive childhood, and raised us four kids with love, humour, Donna-2understanding and compassion.  She broke the cycle of abuse, through her I know it can be done.  It helps me at work, to know there is hope for the families we serve.
  4. As a Mother, Step-Mother or Motherly Influence, what is your biggest worry? That my children, my nieces and nephews won’t take opportunities that will enable them to reach their full potential.  They all have so much to offer, I worry they will not recognize that within themselves.
  5. What would you love for your Mother to know about you?  I understand her more now that I am a mother of young women, and appreciate she was an unconventional mom when I was growing up.
  6. Sometimes we have not-so perfect Mothering moments – what is one piece of advice you can give to help each other through those moments?  ____ happens, say you’re sorry, and move on.
  7. Your own Mother aside, who embodies your ideal of a Mother – your Wonder Woman?  And why?  Any woman that gives up her dessert to her kids!  I’ll share, but the entire dessert….can’t do it.
  8. What song best describes your Mother? And why?  Landslide by Stevie Nicks.  Speaks to the changes she has gone through, more as a woman than my Mom.


  1.  What lesson(s) from your Mother, stuck with you? I will always be pleased that my mother taught me how to cook at an early age. She taught me the importance of serving a delicious home-cooked sit-down meal to family. I learned that this time could be used to catch up with one another and discuss family issues.
  2. MarilynYour own Mother aside, who embodies your ideal of a Mother – your Wonder Woman?  And why? My cousin Vicki is the most dedicated, devoted and loving mother I have ever known. Her love is truly unconditional and she approaches each situation with genuine warmth, patience and unrelenting kindness. She makes every occasion special with her flair for making everyone feel important.


For most people Mother’s Day is a happy time to celebrate their mother.  The woman of many titles: mommy, mum, mother, friend. It’s a day to honour the woman who brought you into this world and raised you. It’s one day a year that’s set aside to show appreciation for the woman who willingly makes sacrifices for their family. It’s a day for mothers to relax and be spoiled by the people who love them the most. Children make cute cards and homemade crafts at school. Adult children form new traditions with their own family, while still paying homage to their beloved mother. There’s luncheons or dinners at restaurants with special gifts and sometimes even some delicious cake.

What if her love isn’t unconditional?


But what if your mother isn’t the warm and fuzzy type? What if her love isn’t unconditional? What if you’ve tried your whole life to gain her acceptance and approval?  What if she hasn’t been there for you when you’ve needed her the most?  What happens when you are banished from her queendom any time you disagree with her? What if she gets angry because you don’t do things the way she does them? What if you can no longer tolerate or accept her hurtful comments and  negative behaviour? What if she isn’t like the mothers described in those sugary, flowery Hallmark cards? What if you can no longer bring yourself to try to please someone who refuses to be happy? What if the whole thing leaves you stressed out and overwhelmed? What happens when you can’t be a dancing monkey anymore? How long do you keep trying before you eventually give up?

For years I made a huge deal out of Mother’s Day because I truly love my mother and I wanted to make her happy. I would spend weeks shopping to find the perfect gift for her. I would plan a menu filled with her favourites. I would clean my house spotless and spend hours prepping and cooking food. I always bought an expensive, fancy cake to serve for dessert. I would spend the entire day focused on indulging and spoiling my mother and her husband. I would wait on her, seeing to her every need before she even expressed it.  When they eventually left I stayed up late, cleaning. My wonderful husband always helped me with the cleanup, but the whole thing left me feeling drained. After years of this routine, I started to feel resentful. Why did I think it was my job to provide the perfect day for my mother while essentially forfeiting my own Mother’s Day celebration? Why was I hardwired to believe that I was to always put my mother’s feelings and happiness ahead of my own?

I don’t need a card or a gift to validate their love for me.

Picking out an appropriate card for my mother is no easy task. Most cards are filled with positive sentiments about mom always being there for her children. The saccharine poetry is almost sickeningly sweet. I’m sure it’s because most mothers willingly make sacrifices for their family and deserve the accolades bestowed upon them. Most mothers would march through the gates of hell to protect them from anything bad. Most mothers give unconditional love to their children, even into their eventual adulthood. I am a mother and I can honestly say that there is nothing in this world that could ever come between me and my children. Even when we disagree or they’ve done something that upsets me, I know that we will work things out. I have raised my children to believe that they are fabulous, unique individuals who should chase their dreams and live their lives to the fullest. I have never made unreasonable demands of their time. I don’t expect them to check in with me everyday and give an in-depth accounting of the way they spend their time. I encourage them to pursue their interests and explore everything that life has to offer. I don’t expect them to shower me with lavish gifts or make a big production out of Mother’s Day. I don’t even expect them to buy me a card. I don’t need a card or a gift to validate their love for me. I simply try to enjoy every minute we get to spend together.

marilyn familyFrom left to right: my son Mark Anthony James, me, my amazing husband and best friend Mike, and my beautiful daughter Candice Lee.

I cherish the times we spend on the phone, laughing and catching up. I know that their time is valuable and they are busy adults trying to get through this thing called life. I know without a doubt that they love me and they know that I would lay down my life for them. I don’t expect them to compete with one another to impress me. I never want them to feel obligated to roll out the red carpet and make a big production for any reason. I am secure in knowing that I did the best job I could as a mother by listening to them and making myself available to them. I am content in knowing that our relationship is based on mutual respect, acceptance, and kindness. I never want them to feel bad about themselves by expecting them to live up to some pre-conceived notion of what I think they should be or do with their life. I want them to feel free to pursue everything their heart desires. I want them to know that as long as I am alive I will always be a listening ear and that they can unburden themselves without fear of consequence. I will never judge them harshly or view them with black-and-white thinking. I accept our differences and enjoy being included in their adventures. I am open to seeing things through their eyes and trying new things. I never want to impose my opinions or ways of doing things onto them. I never want them to question my love, affection and admiration for them. I will never pigeon-hole them by inflicting my ideas on them. I will never ask them to give up their identity to be what I would like them to be. I will never burden them with expectations of conformity or tradition. I respect their right to live their life however they see fit. I don’t want them to exist to merely be extensions of me. I want them to thrive in their own individuality and be confident enough to try new things. I never want them to define their lives by my standards or ideas. I just want them to be happy!

I will not be part of an imaginary competition between me and my siblings in a bid to win my mother’s love and acceptance.

So, this year I have decided to celebrate Mother’s Day on my own terms. I won’t be buying cards that don’t honestly reflect a very damaged and unhealthy relationship that has permeated my whole life. I won’t dismiss my own accomplishments and put my own needs at the bottom of the list any longer. I refuse to continue to engage in self-deprecating actions in the hopes that this year will be different. I will not be part of an imaginary competition between me and my siblings in a bid to win my mother’s love and acceptance. Instead, I will continue to commit myself to positive healthy relationships with people who also value the concepts of individualism and respect. I will continue to dedicate my life to being a better person and helping others. I will work even harder to be the best mother I can be to my children. I will willingly help my children and grandchildren in every way that I can to make their journey through life a little easier. I will be a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear without harsh judgments and unreasonable demands.


Two Moms

Two Moms

(My View from the Peanut Gallery)
Once upon a time, there were two lovely damsels. Raised in separate, yet similar, worlds where the virtues of princes were extolled, they lived their lives waiting for their knights in shining armor. Knights were found, lives were pledged, and babies were made, all in the name of storybook endings.
I met Kymm and Jill seven years ago when I went to work for one of them. It doesn’t matter which one really, because when you have one, you simply have the other. They come as a package; a brazen, funny, loving package that makes you wonder why you can’t shake loose your heterosexuality if it means being THAT happy. Sixteen years after they first met, they still look at each other with the kind of devotion that makes me ache with envy.Cover Pic Kymm and Jill
Whenever I hear people discuss same-sex parents and speculate on the kind of life “those children” will have, I always come back to these beautiful women, and the beautiful women they’ve raised. It has always been my experience that the most interesting people in this world, the strongest, the most accomplished, are those who were raised in a less-than-traditional family. I’m not saying greatness can’t come from tradition, simply that it usually doesn’t, just as a potted tree will never become as magnificent as one that grows a little wild.
Time spent with these women is always full of amazing food and the kind of laughter that makes other people either envious or annoyed. Conversations with them are always open and enlightened; there are no boundaries about what’s an appropriate topic, no judgment, or fear that the choices you make, or the life you live, is somehow less-than… and trust me, there is enough talent in this family to justify being a little smug.

They are the barometer with which I measure my parenting. When they agree with choices I’ve made, I feel more confident that I’m on the right track.

Each of the four women is artistically inclined, whether it’s being a chef or a painter or a stylist, they all have a talent to call their own, and a view of the world that inspires you to open your own mind just a little more. They are the barometer with which I measure my parenting. When they agree with choices I’ve made, I feel more confident that I’m on the right track.Kymm and Jill
I often wonder what other same-sex parents go through when trying to raise their families. Do they try to be as close to ‘traditional’ as possible to avoid the appearance of being that much more different, or,  like Jill and Kymm, have they embraced that which makes them unique, and used it as a springboard into truly exceptional? It’s not my place to judge regardless, I simply hope that there are more people able to stand up to societal norms and fully realize the scope of influence they could have on a generation.
The children my friends have raised, in partnership with their father, are spectacular. Intelligent, articulate, strong, and uncompromising, they are what this next generation needs to lead it into unapologetic inclusivity. They are, ultimately, the answer to the question of “what kind of life will kids like those have?”…magnificent.
And they all lived happily ever after.




Your Opinion? No, thanks!

I grew up in a household and with family who breastfed, and who were comfortable doing so around others. I grew up never thinking twice about seeing a nursing child and mother. The men in my family never said a word about it, nor asked their wives/daughters/sisters to cover up or leave the room. To us all, this was a natural, comfortable experience. I also grew up seeing babies being bottle fed. This was also normal and natural.
When I became pregnant with my son there was no question that I would try to breastfeed and again it was something that I didn’t think much of—I just knew that would be my preference for all the usual benefits plus the affordability. So needless to say, I was at a loss for words when my father’s girlfriend informed me that breastfeeding is disgusting and especially breastfeeding a son.


My intention here is not to advocate for or against breastfeeding/bottle feeding. I won’t give you all the reasons I truly loved breastfeeding and eventually also loved bottle feeding when my milk dried up. You know why? Because it’s none of your business. Nor is it any of my business which you prefer. And it certainly isn’t the business of strangers to publicly shame, criticize, antagonize and make unwanted and undeserved comments to a woman who is just trying to nourish and feed her child.

When you look back through the ages, it seems breastfeeding your child has always been something of a thing. Whether it was high society women preferring to use a wet nurse as it wasn’t socially acceptable to actually do it yourself, or skipping forward a generation or two later where it became all the rage in the Victorian era to have your picture taken breastfeeding your child: Victorian Breastfeeding Photographs to when formula was introduced and breastfeeding had dropped to a shocking 20% of women by the 1950’s, to its revival and advocacy not long after and so on and so forth.

Nowadays there is a constant social media battle of celebrities and regular moms defending their right to post a breastfeeding picture. Or defending their pictures of their bottle fed child. It’s amazing to me that every single one of the women in these links have experienced the same thing—backlash, criticism, horrifically hateful and disgusting comments and threats all because of their choice in how to feed their baby. Life and style magazine  bottle feeding shame and the worst part? That most of the comments are made by other women. 

What business is it of anyone’s but the mothers how she chooses/or has no choice as to how she feeds her child?

My question is — why does it matter so much? What business is it of anyone’s but the mothers how she chooses/or has no choice as to how she feeds her child? How on earth does it affect anyone but the mother and child? Why should a woman have to feed her child sequestered somewhere? Why should a woman bottle feeding her child have to listen to someone extol the virtues and benefits of breastfeeding?

I hate to break it to people— but your opinion isn’t needed. If you want to get upset about something think about all the babies around the world whose mothers are too malnourished to breastfeed and too poor to afford formula never mind a bottle.

Friday Find: The Feed Your Baby Project

We received a message from one of our Facebook followers, Rachel Brencur, who is a newborn and family photographer based on Vineland. She wrote a great post on her blog about breast feeding and formula feeding, and how each mom and baby are different. Check out her blog post and the beautiful pictures that accompany it! Let’s remember to celebrate and accept each other and our differences!


Moments in Time – Part 3

This post is part of our series throughout the month of May on motherhood. This story is the third part to “Moments in Time – Part 1,” and “Moments in Time – Part 2”, reflections from our Executive Director Elisabeth Zimmermann on the death of her grandson, Coby.
We post this story in honour of all the mothers who have experienced the tragedy of loosing a child.

This past January we gathered together to mark what would have been Coby’s second birthday.  It is still difficult. We came together as family to remember the child who we never had the chance to know.  I couldn’t help but think about what he would have been doing, what kind of little boy would he have been.  I know if he had been anything like Kirstin he would have been taking the world by storm, inquisitive, exploring and full of energy. We would have probably have had lots of grandma and Coby time by now, secret times, just the two of us as I helped him learn about the world around him.  The grief has softened as time has gone on as I knew it would, yet it is still there.  There are moments that still catch me by surprise, a sentimental commercial, a little blond haired two year old boy.  Moments that remind me of what we have lost.  Those moments aren’t as often as they once were but they are still there and when they happen are still as intense and full of sorrow as they were from the beginning.

This year life has evolved and continued as it does, Kirstin and Jason now have Alice who was born in August after an anxiety filled pregnancy.  The first time I saw Alice within hours of her birth was the same way I saw Coby for the first time, in the arms of her father.  It took my breath away how much she looked like her brother.  There are moments when I look at her as she is growing and thriving I can’t help but wonder about Coby and what kind of big brother he would have been.

“It is the great comfort that children bring, life goes on and the immediate needs take precedent and in that there is healing.”

Kirstin and Jason’s first weeks of parenting this new baby had all of the typical new parent anxieties but all of it was amplified.  Layered over everything was the loss of Coby, the knowledge of how badly things can go wrong is always there.  As the weeks and months have gone by and Alice is growing and becoming more and more her own person it has forced them to be present in who she is.  It is the great comfort that children bring, life goes on and the immediate needs take precedent and in that there is healing.  What having Alice has done for all of us is crea
te the space for the joy of this new child without diminishing the importance of who Coby was in our lives and in so doing has created some peace with what happened.

Here we are now at Mother’s Day, the 3rd one since we lost Coby.  It has been a different Mother’s Day this year because of Alice’s presence it was marked by the duality of joy and sorrow.  The journey of parenthood has been a struggle for Kirstin and Jason because of the loss of Coby, it has had an everlasting impact on how they and I as well view the world.  I am grateful to see that Kirstin and Jason are finding peace with losing Coby and that Alice has brought them such great joy.  I know they will always miss him and that he will always have a place in their lives and that Alice will grow up knowing that she had a big brother even if she didn’t get to know him.  1

I continue to share our family’s experience and will always share this experience because I believe that in so doing we honour the time that Coby was with us and as well it is my hope that in so doing it creates the space for families who have lived in silence to share their own experiences.

I also continue to share my perspective of our experience because of how much Coby has impacted my life even though we only had him for a moment.
He will always be remembered, he will always be a part of our lives. 


The Evil Stepmother

Once upon a time…

…we had proper families. Ones that have a mother, a father and many children -at least two – ideally a boy and a girl. Our society, though full of all kinds of
patchwork families, still very much promotes the idea  that that is how it should be done. Many churches still preach it, Hollywood still makes movies that bring already separated parents back together at the end and everybody lives happily ever after.

Mother’s Day is an annual reminder for me that our family does not live up to this expectation, it does not fit the bill, we are not a cookie cutter family.
I am the one who ruins the perfect fairy tale: the evil stepmother.

Before I tell you my side of the story, a few things need to be clarified:

Here is what I CANNOT talk about:

  1. Being a stepmom when the birth mom has passed away – this would be a whole different challenge
  2. Being a stepmom who was the reason for mom and dad to break up in the first place – again, probably something that comes with its own set of obstacles

What I CAN talk about is being the classic, average stepparent. The one who walked into a situation where everything was said, done, and signed; a situation where somebody is ready to move on.

Having said that, here is what you should know about us not-actually-all-that-evil stepparents (dads included!):

  1. We fell in love. When you ask a little girl how she envisions her future, she would probably not answer: I will fall for a divorced guy and he will have two children and we will share custody with their mother and we will all live happily ever after. There is only one reason why anybody would choose to be in this scenario – the brain-fogging, all-consuming proverbial power of love. So you can judge us all you want for seemingly making an already complicated story even more complicated, but you know… it happens.
  2. We walked into a mess. Yes sure, I always hear that a friend has a friend whose cousin still gets along great with his ex and the sharing of the time with the kids is a real breeze but I think we might be back in fairy tale land there. The majority of us walks into some kind of more or less messy situation, or a sad situation or an angry situation. We are not an evil bunch but a resilient one.

When I told my daughter (stepdaughter to be precise) that I was going to write about being a stepmom compared to being a birth mom, she shrugged and said: “It’s pretty much the same thing.”
I smiled, somewhat flattered but also knowing that she knows better, that we both know that it is the same but as she said, only “pretty much” the same.

So what is it that makes you a mother?

The Oxford dictionary gives a clear answer. A mother is:

“A woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth.”

There goes my illusion, I have not given birth to our two monsters, therefore I am not their mother. But then I kept reading. This is how the dictionary defines the verb “to mother”:

1. Bring up (a child) with care and affection
1.1. Look after kindly and protectively, sometimes excessively so.
I know that my boy eats the best thing on his plate first and leaves the salad for last, frowning and complaining all the way as he finishes it. Our daughter does it the othe
r way around. She fights her way through the greens and saves the juicy steak to finish off her meal. I know when their swimming lessons are, their volleyball, their band practices. When I fold their socks, I fold them in pairs, because I know that they will leave the house wearing two different socks if the matching one is not right there. I think of them when I hear the word “wasabi” because we had a silly joke about wasabi years ago.
Our kids were nine and seven when I entered their lives. They didn’t put frogs into my purse or hid my keys or were secretly evil when dad was not looking. Our girl welcomed me to their family with open arms and the kind of innocent warmth only kids seem to have. Our boy tried to ignore and not like me for about a year. He was not unkind, just reserved. He felt as though liking me would be betraying his mother. I waited and let him figure it out, let him work through it. One day he turned to my husband and said: “I am embarrassed. I think I like her.” That is the day when it all changed and he allowed himself to let me into his life.
“How about ‘mom’?”
About one year into our new family setup, our daughter asked if she could give me a nickname: “Franziska is really long, we need something shorter.” “Sure” I said, “what did you have in mind?” She thought for a second and then said: “How about ‘mom’?” She looked at me with her big eyes and I had a split second to make a choice. “I don’t think your mom would like me having that nickname” I answered. “How about Fran?”
I may only be a stepmom, not a “real” mom, but I have enough imagination to know that that would be a mother’s worst nightmare – hearing your daughter call somebody else “mom”.


It is situations like that that remind me constantly that I am not a birth mom and that it is a hard role to define – for the kids, their birth parents, myself. Like the time our boy came home and proudly presented a family tree that had a branch just for me. He also still claims sometimes that he is half-German because of my background. I think he understands the blood line concept but I don’t think he cares.

The truth is that I am not a mother. I am a stepmother. I am not evil and it is a daily challenge to find my place in the story because evil is the only attribute stepparents ever seem to get in centuries of storytelling.

I did not get flowers for Mother’s Day. I still get asked all the time when I will have children even though people are well aware that I already have two. When people ask me if I have children, I can’t ever just answer “yes” without feeling like I should add an explanation.

There are two children in my life whom I love and care about. I think about them every day, I worry for them, I hope for them. They drive me nuts some days and make me the happiest person in the world on other days. I don’t fit the dictionary’s definition but that doesn’t matter because the definition is missing an important part. To be a parent, any kind of parent (fur parents included ;-)), is an incredible privilege.

And they lived happily ever after… 😉


Mother’s Day has got me thinking about being a mother and the meaning of motherhood. What it means to me to be a mother. What it means to me.

My daughter, my firstborn, just celebrated her 30th birthday. Thirty years? Thirty YEARS! Wow, how can that be? One minute I was 15 and now I’m almost 50. One minute I was a 5 year old kid and now I’m a grandmother! What? That can’t be true, I’ve only just begun! Sometimes it feels like I’ve just completed a 30 year tour with the military. That’s not to minimize the importance and sacrifices of the military in any way; it’s just that sometimes I feel like I’ve just crawled out of the trenches after 30 years to find myself broken and beat up. I have the scars of raising children on my own. My heart has been broken, and my body is battered from years of working really hard. But, I wouldn’t trade those years for anything. The life experience I gained from raising two human beings is incomparable to anything else I’ve done.
Motherhood taught me way more than any career I’ve ever worked at. Being a mother taught me to be patient, kind and loving. I learned how to negotiate issues into a peaceful resolve. I learned to multi-task before it became a catchphrase for employers to overwork their employees. I learned to prioritize my time to achieve optimal results. I learned how to be flexible and change my plans without getting too upset. I was amazed to watch these little people with their own unique personalities learn about the world around them. They showed me how to take delight in the simple things in life. I quickly realized the greatest gift I could give my children was my time. As much as they loved presents and being surprised, our best times were spent at the beach or watching movies together. We share an unbreakable bond because I invested the time needed to help them realize their potential and encouraged them to do magical things with their lives. I hope that I have given them the right tools to deal with life when it gets complicated. I hope I have shown them how to weather the inevitable storms that come their way. I hope they remember their childhood fondly and forgive me for mistakes I’ve made along the way. I hope one day they will look back at all the events I took them to and realize that I tried to expose them to many different cultures in order to expand their minds.

My heart goes out to all the people who don’t have their mother with them anymore. My favourite aunt died in March. I spent the last few weeks of her life at her bedside. She was like a mother to me, and the loss I feel is deep. She was my confidante, I could tell her anything and she always listened with understanding and compassion. She never judged me or ever said a harsh word. Instead, she would listen intently to what I said, never interrupting, always focusing on what I was trying to tell her. Only after I was completely finished would she offer her opinion and advice. She never came down on me or made me feel bad about myself. We would talk it through and I would leave with a hug and a feeling of peace in my heart. She was the type of person who made you feel better about yourself and gave you hope for the future. I wish I could call her and talk about how great this weather is. I wish she was here to enjoy the warmth and sunshine.

I am so thankful that I have two wonderful adult kids who call me on a regular basis. I’m thankful that I gave as much time to my kids as I did when they were younger. They are still an integral part of my life. This weekend I have been invited to a brunch by my son-in-law. It feels wonderful to be appreciated for the things I do. My grandbabies give my life new meaning and my house comes to life when it is filled with their laughter and innocence.mother-daughter-dancing-voice-of-finland-background I am able to release my inner child when my grandbabies come over for a visit. We go upstairs and put a CD on and dance and sing along to the music. They are especially fond of Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks music. We dress up in costumes, get out our tambourines and rock out together. I hope I leave them with fond memories of our time spent together.

Lastly, I’d like to wish my own mother a very Happy Mother’s Day. We have always had a complicated relationship and we don’t always agree on everything, but she is still my mother and I only want her to be happy in life. I hope she realizes before it’s too late that it’s okay that we disagree on many things. It’s taken me a long time and years of therapy to realize that it’s okay that we are different from each other. It doesn’t make me a bad person because we have different beliefs. It doesn’t mean I love her any less. It just means that we are all unique individuals and should accept each other. I will always be thankful for the time and energy she put into raising us. I will always cherish my memories of the good times spent together. I will forever be grateful that my mother kept a clean house, and took great pride in our appearance. I’m thankful that she taught me how to read at an early age and always had music playing in the house. I’m happy she taught me how to cook and clean and be independent. I’m glad she was a good grandmother to my children and has always been generous with them. Things might not be perfect, but they are okay. Life is beautiful!

Working Mom vs Stay at Home Mom

Stay at Home Mom vs Working Mom. This topic has been around since… well, since women with children first decided to work outside of the home!

working-mom-vs-stay-at-home-momWhat continues to surprise me the most is how unsupportive we are of each other; no matter what the choice is.  Unfortunately, what I thought was an old-fashioned way of thinking, that had gone by the way of the dinosaur, still faces young women today. The only change is that now it is done through social media.  WOW, I was shocked.

I chose to work outside my home, and I made this decision first out of necessity, and second for my own peace of mind.  If I am honest, even if I could have afforded to stay home, I would have chosen not to.  I have a lot of respect for women that choose to stay home and raise their children.  It is hard work, and so is working outside of the home.

go-somewhere-and-judge-people-Ladies, we are in this TOGETHER!  I ask, why does one choice have to be better than the other?   Does this harsh judgement of each other come from our own insecurities around the choice we made ourselves?  In fact, it is not uncommon for working mothers and stay at home mothers to bestow judgement on each other as well!  We don’t seem to be able to provide support when we are supposedly on the same team?  Why is this I ask?

Ladies we are in this TOGETHER!   Isn’t one collective voice stronger, wouldn’t a united stand by all women for equality in the workplace for women, for universal childcare, for a guaranteed income so that a choice doesn’t need to be made out of necessity provide more attention to the issues that really matter?

I believe as long as we continue to attack each other, the real issues will remain clouded and go unresolved.  Let us together work towards a supportive, collective voice that will demand attention and action.  Let us celebrate and support Stay at Home and Working Moms everywhere.  As long as you are true to yourself and love what you do…how can that choice be questioned?

2013-06-10-CTWorkingMoms13HRE4595Help me Stop the judgement – let’s work towards a future where the conversation is about how great we feel about the choice we make – whether to stay home or work outside the home – knowing as women, we have the support of each other.

No judgement – we all have work to do!



My Journey through Motherhood

Twenty-nine years ago I gave birth to a delicate little pixie that had rosebud lips and big blue eyes. She had thick dark hair and was a perfect little porcelain doll.  I was 19 years old ID-10025970and fell in love the moment I laid eyes on her.  Three years later I had my second child, a son.  He was a big boy , weighing 9 pounds 3 ounces, with a dark mohawk and a teardrop indentation above his top lip. Raising children into responsible citizens of society has been the most challenging and rewarding career I’ve ever had.  My children taught me the meaning of unconditional love.  They showed me how to laugh and play and enjoy the simple things in life.  They helped me to understand myself better as I looked at life through the eyes of a child.  They were the one constant thing in my life.  People came and went,  I changed jobs and we moved a lot, but through it all I had the delightful company  of 2 little people who always entertained me.

I loved taking them camping and travelling to new places.  Dinner was always a special time to talk about our day while we had nutritious homemade meals.  We went to the drive-in theatre and for hikes down to the gorge.  We played tourist in the off season and went to the beach all throughout the summer.  We travelled through the United States twice with my mother and stepfather.  We went to Graceland in Tennessee and Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.  We visited the Book Depository in  Dallas Texas and stood on the grassy knoll where bystanders watched the assassination of President John Kennedy as he drove by in his motorcade.   We shared many adventures and I’m sure these experiences were far more valuable than anything they could ever read about in a book or on the internet.  They kept journals for their teachers and every day they recounted where they had been and what they had seen.  Their teachers said this form of education was invaluable.

Time passed by so quickly  and before I knew it , they were all grown up.  My daughter got married and had children of her own.  My son moved to Calgary for better employment and is making his own way in this world.  My daughter followed me into healthcare and my son is a Corporal in the Reserves of the Army. My only wish for my children is that they are happy with whatever they do in life.  I’ve tried to give them a better life than I had and the tools to survive in this world.  I’ve tried to teach them how to live an honourable life, through example.

This was the first time in almost 30 years that I won’t be with my children for Mother’s Day.  My daughter and her husband have taken my grandbabies to Cuba for a vacation.  And my son is too far away too drop in for a visit now.  It’s given me a lot of time to think about my life and I can honestly say that being a mother has been the most fulfilling role of my life. I feel like I have completed a very important chapter in my life and I look forward to whatever the future brings.  But nothing will ever be as intense or as gratifying as having the privilege of bringing these precious angels into the world and molding them into good people.  I feel so lucky to have watched them grow and change into independent human beings.

I hope that the memories and love of their children made this past Mother’s Day a happy one for many mothers.   I hope  that those have lost their mother through death are comforted by joyful memories.  I hope that women who are separated from their children will find solace in knowing that a child’s love is unconditional and that there’s always hope for a better future.  I want all mothers to know that as long as we do our best our children have a better chance at a good life.  Life isn’t always easy and there are no guarantees, but taking pride in motherhood makes for a better society as a whole.mother walking with child

Images courtesy manostphoto/Freedigitalphotos.net and Gagilas photos on Foter 



As the month of May winds down, and our weekly posts touch on this month’s topic of Motherhood, I’d like to offer my take on Motherhood.

Pondering this topic of motherhood, I had a hard time deciding on an angle of approach – I have a mother, two actually if I count my mother-in-law, (and I do) and I am a mother.  So after much thought, inspiration hit me while I was running one morning….I’m going to the experts…..children, mine to be specific.  After all who better to tell me what kind of Mother I am then my own kids, since they are the recipients of my being their Mother (although I prefer the term Mom).

Here’s the loaded questions I asked my two daughters (ages 23 and 25), by text so they didn’t have to hide their initial reaction and their response (by text).

the girlsQuestion # 1 – On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how would you rate me as your Mother.

Response to Above loaded Questions:

Emilee:  A little background first – the youngest of my two daughters, Em is in my motherly opinion, a wildly creative artist, seeker of justice and vocal advocate for those less fortunate, possessor of an off-beat sense of humour and gentle soul.   Not only is she my daughter, she is my fashion-sense, sounding board, biggest support, my champion, one of my best-friends.  I love her to bits!

Answer by text: “I’d rate you as…….hmmm….well a 9.  Nobody is perfect but I still believe you did your best and I appreciate that you were able to  give me the life skills needed to be able to be successful on my own.  We’ve been through tough times here and there and you’ve always been there for me when I needed advice or a friend 🙂 I’m grateful to have a mother like you”.

Mom Comment to Rating: This response surprised me, Emilee and I share a very easy, open relationship, so it shouldn’t have….but it did.  She made me cry.

 Arlee: A little background first – my firstborn and it was her misfortune that she did not come with an instruction manual for me, Arl, in my motherly opinion, is amazingly strong, resilient and adaptable, she bravely goes where no one else dares and does this with a grace and charm that is so difficult to explain, you just feel it when you are in her company.  She has a special way of making everyone feel so very important to her.  Not only is she my daughter, she is my inspiration, my fashion-sense, my dose of reality from time to time, one of my biggest supporters and toughest critic, I am grateful to count her as one of my very few best-friends.  I love her to bits!

Answer by text: “I’m not gonna rate you as a mother.  LOL cause sometimes you’re above a ten and other times I could rate you pretty low. Haha”

Mom Comment to Rating  (or lack thereof): This response did not surprise, nor offend me, it is exactly the type of honesty Arlee and I can share and trust me, it took us a while to get to this place.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Question #2 – What’s the one piece of advice I’ve given that you follow?

Arlee: Best Advice (to date):

“Date a lot.  Experience different personalities, see what’s out there and you’ll know what works for you.  I dated a lot … And certain I found my guy now.  Sure glad I didn’t stick with the first one.”

Mom Comment to Advice:  Although it makes me sound bad, it was presented to her with a lot more context.  I’m so happy she took it, since we are all glad that she didn’t stick with the first one!

Emilee: Best Advice (to Date):

“Well it wasn’t anything in particular…you’ve helped me think more clearly when I’ve been upset about something and have helped me make rational decisions”.

Mom Comment to Advice: Nice, apparently all the advice I thought I was giving her…didn’t sink in at all.  Yet those times I spent with her while she worked through a situation, I was wishing I could get her one of our Women’s Advocates to help, because they are so great with the women we serve – I was actually helping her after all, again, Nice.

And now my turn.

Big hugs and thank you, to my daughters Emilee and Arlee whoThreegirlsA2 in spite of my very best and less than stellar moments still call me their Mom and answer all my crazy questions and requests for endless volunteer hours in support of the YW! Love you both, forever and yes, I haven’t forgotten that you agreed to sleep in your car alongside me at No Fixed Address this year!

A special shout out to my Mom, Hallie Ruth – Thank you for blazing a trail, enabling me to think independently, make my own mistakes and for celebrating with me as I triumphed over them, and for giving me the strength, courage and wicked sense of humour that I admire so much in you.  I enjoy immensely playing the part of Ethel to your Lucy – even today.  Still going strong at 82, thank you for a great childhood, I feel very blessed.

To Joy, my mother-in-law, thank you for allowing me to be the daughter you never had, it is an honour I wear proudly, for sharing your insights on your son whom we both love so much, for our shopping excursions, and for making me feel special every day.  I am so very grateful to have you in my life.

And to all the women, in my life that at some point in my journey past, present and future, have provided me with motherly wisdom, insight, the occasional dose of reality and hugs….you know who you are, thank You, and don’t stop.

Happy Mother’s Day….month!  Women this special deserve more than a day.

Things My Mother Taught Me

For the month of May we are focusing on motherhood. Today, we hear a daughters perspective, written by one of our newest bloggers, Steph.

1. You can always make something out of nothing. Even food.

Something that I have always admired my mum for is her undeniable talent of being able
to make a meal that would satisfy even the pickiest of eaters with very minimal cooking ingredients. We could have tomatoes, red peppers, and mushrooms in the fridge and my mum would be able to whip up some form of a salad with a fancy dressing. Her meals are always good and probably aided in my adventurous eating habits over the years. I’m also more likely to experiment with mixing different foods, rather than seeing nothing in the fridge and ordering in greasy Chinese (although there is always time and room for Chinese food).

My mum’s talent of making something out of nothing in the kitchen also crosses over into her outlook on life experiences. Whether she realizes it or not, my mum is a pretty positive woman and I try my hardest to match her positivity in even the most frustrating of situations. She always encourages me to see the bright side in dark situations; even when it’s really, really hard to. If I did horribly in a course at school, my mum would always flip the negative into a positive and talk about the experience I gained even though I didn’t do so well. Mum always believes that nothing in life is a failure, only a lesson that can be learned from and put to use in the future. Even though I’m sure she thinks that I’m not listening to her positivity when I’m feeling down, her making something out of nothing theory has changed my perspective on a lot of things in life.

2. Never undersell yourself to anyone.

My mum is, and has always been, a firm believer in talking about yourself in a positive manner. Why should you feel as though you cannot talk about how great you are at something for fear that you’ll offend someone else? Did you get a great mark on an assignment? Go ahead and tell someone when asked how school is going.

Underselling yourself is an easy trap to fall into, but achieving something or just being your awesome self is something that your peers appreciate and want to hear about. If they don’t appreciate your awesome-ness, then maybe there are some things that need to be reevaluated.

3. Never undersell yourself to yourself.

Never tell yourself that you are worth less than anybody else. If you don’t believe in yourself, who else is going to believe in you? You are worth being proud of yourself.

4. Despite everything you believe, your mother is probably right.

Like any person in their early twenties, I like to think I’m right. All of the time. I struggle accepting advice, especially from my mum, because I feel like I know what the right thing is for myself. Sure my mum has been around three decades longer than I have, but what does she know?

Actually . . . she knows a lot.

Relationships, work, school, friendship, personal advice; my mum seems to have an answer for all of it. As much as I tend to tune her out and “yeah, yeah, yeah” my way through a conversation, I usually come to find that she was right all along.

Yep. Should have left that job when I had the opportunity to start somewhere new.

Yep. Should have started that assignment and asked the Professor for help waaaaay before the night before the due date.

Mum: even though it may seem like I’m not listening to you 75 percent of the time, I really, really am. There is just this . . . itch in me that requires my twenty-two year old self to be independent and make my own decisions. This itch will go away eventually, I’m sure. Until then, however, know that you are almost always right and I am indebted to all of the priceless advice that you have gently and harshly given me throughout my life.

5. You can do everything you’ve ever wanted on your own.

My mum has solely raised me since I was ten years old. My parents separated the summer before grade five, and since then, my amazing mum has taken on the roles of both mother and father. Never once has she missed a parent-teacher interview, a recital, or school event. Never once has she said “no” to helping me with homework or a tough problem in my life. My mum has always been the one to give me a pat on the back when I’ve done something that I thought was impossible. She has been a voice of comfort, encouragement, happiness, and love since I can remember. Never once has she complained or used her solo-parental role as an excuse to be mad or bitter.

From the time I was about seventeen, I began to appreciate and better understand my mum and the millions of things that she has done for me throughout my life – both with my dad and without. It might have been my teenage attitude, but I don’t think I ever fully expressed how appreciative I was towards her. Or maybe it was personal life experiences that have made me realize I have an amazing mother and that she deserves to be appreciated every single day.

My mum, through her unwavering strength, has taught me that you can accomplish anything on your own. You don’t need to be in a relationship or have a hundred friends to make things possible in your life. Accept help when it is being offered and ask for help when you are in need, but never be afraid to tackle tough situations head-on (like managing to hang a mirror with no level or screwdriver . . .)

6. A good cup of tea can make everything wrong in the world, right again.

Being that my mum is British, it seems only right that I write about the great benefits that tea can have on one’s life!

As I’m getting older, I find that the time I physically spend with my mum catching up on everyday occurrences have become less and less. Between work, school, and both our social lives we sometimes get caught up in the tidal wave of being busy and don’t realize how much time has gone by without actually having a decent conversation with one another. But the times that we do spend together, and some of the moments that I cherish the most, are spent with a cup of tea in our hands. On Sunday mornings, before bed, or in the middle of the afternoon we spend time catching up on life and reflect on the week(s) that we’ve had. Some of our greatest conversations, debates, and advice-giving moments have taken place over a cup of tea. Sometimes an hour or two has passed and neither of us have realized.

Even in moments of happiness or sadness, there always seems to be a pot of tea on the go in our house. Sometimes all my mum and I have to do is look at each other; we know when a cup is needed for both of us. Tea, for us, has become our glass of red wine.

While I realize that a literal cup of tea does not fix all of the problems in the world, it is the meaning behind the cup of tea that makes everything wrong, right. Comfort, reflection, conversation, and time with my best friend.

7. There is no time limit in life, but always put 100 % of yourself into everything you do.

University is hard. Actually, any level of education can be hard. After fourteen years of schooling prior to university or college, it can begin to feel as though you have found a lifelong career in being a permanent student. Like anyone, I had struggles throughout post secondary years and really began to feel like I wasn’t getting anywhere, beginning with me finding out that I would have to take more credits since I had changed my major half way through.

My mum was able to fund my way through university (for which I am forever grateful) and the thought of taking more credits and spending more time at university made me feel guilty. How could I tell my mum that I would be staying in school for another year?  Asking my mum to pay for me to spend another year at school made me feel guilty for not stepping up to the plate.

After a lot of discussion, my mum sat me down and explained that she did not care how long it would take me to finish university.  The point is that I stayed in school when many of my friends and peers did not.  At the end of the day, my mum explained that no one would ever be able to take my education away from me; even if it took five years to accomplish.  All that matters is that I put 100 percent of myself into every experience, assignment, and responsibility I am given throughout my time at university.

8.  Always smile.

My mum has always said that a smile is contagious. If I’m ever in a bad mood or upset, but mum says I should force a smile on my face; “it will make you feel better.” See number four on how mothers are always right.

9. Love Hard

Perhaps the most important thing my mum has ever taught me is how to love image-3unconditionally. Even at my most ugly emotional and physical moments, my mum will tell me how much she loves me and how lucky she is to have me as a daughter.

The love of my mother has shown me how to accept and appreciate positive love from others; and how to give it in return. The love of my mother has made me feel less lonely in my loneliest moments and happier in my happiest moments. I pray that I am able to show as much unconditional love for my children as my mum has done for me.

Mum, I love you and am so lucky to have you as a mother. Happy Mother’s Day.