Thursday, August 16, 2012

Feminism, motherhood and stressing about "having it all"

Some fascinating pieces that touched on the themes of motherhood, feminism and our relentless quest to "have it all," recently caught my eye.

Kate Slaughter's July cover story for The Atlantic on "Why Women Still Can't Have it All," really stirred a firestorm of opinion.

Slaughter, who left a position of power to take care of her two teenaged children, charges that women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed. Whether you agree or not, Slaughter's article is certainly a thought-provoking read.

Another interesting story that recently appeared in the Ottawa Citizen asks whether Marissa Mayer, the super-pregnant new Yahoo! CEO, will become a role model for legions of talented women who dream of “having it all” — marriage, motherhood and professional success, or fold under the pressure, like too many other mothers who climbed higher than their families could bear.
Personally, I couldn't be more excited for Mayer, and I think it says much about how society has evolved (for the better) that a qualified, intelligent, creative and brash young-ish woman, who just happens to be hugely pregnant, has been handed such a prime opportunity.
The article also asks if she will she also be a winner in the motherhood wars. I have a feeling she doesn't really care - and so she shouldn't. She'll have her hands full enough without wondering if she's got the seal of approval from other moms out there. 
I can certainly relate. When I was about eight-and-a-half months pregnant with my daughter,
and still working in the newsroom, freelancing for the paper, and magazine editing, the paper's then-business editor approached me one day and tossed six business profile assignments in my lap - all due within three weeks. 
At the time, I wanted to embrace him, and years later, and I still adore him for doing that. Despite my gargantuan, swollen stomach, he thought enough of my ability to look past it, and treated me absolutely no differently than if he were piling assignments on a male reporter. It was so, so cool. 
And so I filed those stories, which were some of the happiest assignments I've ever done, a few days before going into labour.
Then, after delivering my daughter, deadline was approaching for the very first issue of Ottawa Parenting Times Magazine. We had a winter issue that had to be edited, designed, packaged and ready for the printer in just a few weeks' time. And it had to be good.
I admit it, I was on my BlackBerry while in my hospital bed. While I was getting acquainted with my lovely new daughter,  learning the ropes of breastfeeding and struggling to get just a few hours of sleep, I was also thinking about work.
I felt like I was pushing the limits of what most moms - and people in general - should take on, but I've always enjoyed that type of thing, actually.
It was a bit crazy, sometimes overwhelming, I was frazzled at times - but all of it got done, my baby and I fell into our own routine, and we published a fantastic inaugural issue.
Looking back, I couldn't be more proud - of the attentive and dedicated new mom I was, and of the skilled journalist and editor I was -  all at the same time!
Mayer should be equally proud. I wish her all the best. 
Meanwhile, the widespread debate about attachment parenting and whether it's the proper feminist thing to do, or just shackles us more, rages on, and the upcoming fall 2012 issue of Ottawa Parenting Times contains a most excellent feature on this - so stay tuned!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Some motherly advice for Sidney Crosby: please consider retiring

Dear Sidney:

As I write this letter, I’m in near-shock. It seems like blasphemy to write this.

I wasn't always the biggest hockey fan, but I was quickly drawn to the game by your spectacular play.

I've often felt the warm glow of pride in watching you, as not only one of our country’s greatest exports and a preternaturally talented hockey player, but as simply a good, decent boy (now a man, I suppose, though it’s so hard to think of you as anything but “The Kid”).

And I was as disappointed as anyone to see you hurt yet again, after months of effort and rehabilitation and struggles to get back on the ice after you were severely concussed last January. Maybe even more so than most.

Maybe this is the “mom” coming out in me. But as a mom — and secondly, a fan — this is becoming too hard to watch, Sid, and so, I have to offer some motherly advice.

Those images of you from last year, the ever-triumphant Kid, lying crumpled and motionless on the ice, are too much to bear.

I don’t want to see another horrifying head shot that ends your career and robs you of future successes or even worse, your life. Your presence on the ice, while still dazzling, is also incredibly nerve-wracking.

Although you’re only seven years younger than me (!), I've always felt a certain maternal pride in watching—and cheering—your successes.

And there were so many incredible moments: that golden Olympic goal, hoisting the Stanley Cup, the fist pumps, your team jumping all over you in victory, the triumph in your eyes, even your scream, “f--- yeah!” after your first goal came unbelievably quickly after so many months of being sidelined.

What a thrill it has been to watch you, knowing how hard you’ve worked for all of it and what a great example you’ve set as a pro athlete. Your steely focus and unyielding passion is inspirational to everyone.

But in a beautiful Canadian game that has become devastatingly brutal, your newly fragile state has, so unfortunately, changed everything.

As much as I’ve never wanted to say or even think this, I now have to say it: You should seriously consider retiring, Sid.

I’d rather see you walk away with your well-deserved place in hockey history firmly established and a bright future ahead, a future that includes experiencing the very sweetest, albeit different, things life has to offer: spending time with family, finding the love of your life, perhaps starting your own family.

Also, you could pursue a stellar career in the industry, whether in sports broadcasting, or as a coach or even higher-ranking NHL position. You can still use your incredible abilities to make a difference in the game, Sid.

Over the last 11 months, as you carefully took your time to recover from a severe concussion, I wanted only to believe that you would come back, strong as ever. And I held out hope.

Your first game back was exhilarating to watch. I can only imagine the adrenaline rush you experienced. Sadly, it wouldn’t last.

I know this is about much more than fame, money, glory — any of it. It’s about the game of hockey, which has been your life since — well, forever.  I understand how much you love this game, that you live and breathe it. It's in your blood. I can only imagine that the thought of life without playing hockey must, at this moment, be utterly terrifying.

But life goes on, Sid. There’s a full and beautiful life waiting for you outside the rink. Is it really worth putting your health, maybe even your life, on the line every time you lace up your skates?

As much as I — and so many others — wanted to believe that watching you back in action Nov. 21 meant that life in the hockey world would go on as if the last 11 months had never happened, we were wrong.

It took only eight games before your symptoms resurfaced, not only leaving again a serious gap in the game, but leading to quick and rampant speculation that this is the end of the line for you.

This time may not be the end. In however long it takes to you to “feel right” again, you may well end up back in the lineup and there may be more beautiful goals and breathtaking plays to come. But how far will the possibility of the end ever be?

There’s no question the game of hockey won’t be the same without you. But maybe it would take your premature retirement for real change to happen.

The recent increasing brutality of what could be such a compelling game — and the devastating recent spate of injuries such as yours — has for me, largely ruined Canada’s national pastime.

You made hockey so much fun to watch, Sid. But amid the disturbing images of head shots and report after report of brain damage and other horrific injuries, it’s just not fun anymore.

I hope at the very least, as you work on your recovery once again, you ask yourself: is it really worth the risk?

As a mom, I'd have to say it's absolutely not.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Night of the Gun — an unlikely parenting story

I recently finished the 2008 memoir, "The Night of the Gun," by New York Times media reporter and columnist David Carr, and, once my tears stopped flowing, I realized what an important read it is for any parent.

You might not think Carr's story has all that much to do parenting, but having read it and been moved beyond my wildest expectations, I've come to realize that it perfectly reflects so much about parenting's harsh realities and painful struggles, as well as the heartbreaking mistakes and unequaled joys.

A gritty, compelling read from an equally gritty and compelling man, Carr writes in his inimitable, fluidly poetic style about his life, his addiction to alcohol and drugs, broken relationships, acts of violence and his notable career as an talented journalist who overcame all of these (often self-inflicted) obstacles to eventually land at the prestigious New York Times.

But more than this, he writes as a loving and devoted dad of three, who made many grave errors in judgment along the way — and he doesn't hide from this for a moment.

Carr's parenting journey began when his girlfriend went into premature labour with their twin girls. The pair was smoking crack when her water broke.

The little girls survived their ensuing health problems, but their parents — Carr and his on-again, off-again girlfriend Anna — descended further into the dark pit of addiction, retreating into constant IV drug use, while the twin girls endured a dirty, neglectful household.

The most difficult, yet intensely moving part of Carr's parenting story comes as he describes a late-night trip to a crack house to get his fix.

That cold winter night, he brought his twin baby girls with him, but not into the crack house. He left the babies in the car, parked outside, while he got high inside the house.

He describes his skewed thinking in such a raw and vivid way that it's hard not to feel some empathy, amid the pure horror.

"Anna was out, and I could not bear to leave them home, but I was equally unable to stay put. So here we were, one big, happy family, parked outside the dope house. Then came the junkie math. If I went inside the house, I could get what I needed in 5 minutes, 10 minutes tops. The twins would sleep, dreaming their little baby dreams where their dad is a nice man, where the car rides end at a playground."

Quickly, Carr describes this as his day of reckoning, when he realized he would never again be that man. Some time after, he brought the twins to foster care, where they would thrive while Carr and their mother struggled to stay clean.

The twins would eventually be returned to their mother, who continued to struggle with addiction long after Carr finally got clean.

He writes poignantly about the day he picked up his hungry, thirsty and wet girls from their mother, who was increasingly consumed by drug use, and decided not to bring them back, embarking on a new, six-year journey as a single dad (he referred to himself and his girls as "the power trio") and struggling freelance writer.

However, Carr's struggles — personal, professional and with substance abuse — didn't end there, but I don't want to give it all away, other than to say that his story is remarkable and inspirational, particularly for me, a single parent trying to survive as a freelance journalist, juggling multiple jobs and parenting responsibilities, while reconciling poor life choices.

But you don't have to have walked in Carr's (or my) shoes to appreciate this exquisitely told story, which so well captures the life of a flawed, complicated man and endlessly loving father.

The Night of the Gun is available at the Ottawa Public Library or buy it here:

The kindness of strangers (or, the day I nearly lost my mind)

Enduring Ottawa winters without a vehicle isn't exactly easy. But most mornings, I manage to suck it up and endure the 20-minute walk to baby's daycare (and from there, just 20 minutes more to the office). 

However, the last few weeks of bone-chilling temperatures, mounds of heavy, wet snow and seemingly relentless freezing rain have really tested my patience (and blood pressure).

Last Friday morning was especially rough. Most of my walking route to baby's daycare is unplowed. Getting there was a stressful, strenuous walk from hell. 

To top it off, just as I arrived, I discovered that trudging through all the winter muck led to a wheel snapping off my stroller. By the time I discovered it, I was left with half a wheel in my hand, three on the stroller. 

Already sweating, exhausted and furious from my walk, I dragged the stroller backwards for the rest of the way and dropped her off as usual. 

When I picked her up that evening, I really had no idea how the trip home would play out.
The sidewalk/road conditions really hadn't changed, but still, I attempted to make my way home with only three wheels, which was a huge mistake.

I'd barely gotten out of my sitter's driveway before my stroller got completely stuck in the snow. Twisting and turning and struggling and nearly in tears, I was ready to throw myself into the snow in utter despair when a car stopped beside me, and a woman flew out and over to me, insisting that she and her husband drive us home.

I declined politely several times, but she would have none of it. She was a mother too, she said. I didn't want to impose, and told her so repeatedly. But she persisted, and, cold and weary, my pride flew out the window. 

So I grabbed baby and we climbed into the back of the car, while she and her husband folded my stroller and loaded our gear. In about seven minutes, we were home — safe, sound, warm and dry. 

Life as a newly single parent is hard. The simplest of daily tasks can often be exponentially difficult. Add miserable weather conditions to the mix, and well — I thought I was definitely going to lose it that day. But the simple kindness of two strangers made all the difference in the world.

Congrats to a dear friend

My dear friend Kerry MacGregor, it seems, gave birth to her first child at the beginning of January, in France (apparently, at the same hospital where Angelina Jolie had her Cesarean!).

She blogs beautifully about her experience as a first-time mom of a handsome boy. And to think, it all began when Kerry ran away to France for a whirlwind romance with a Frenchman she'd known for just nine days.

You can check out her blog here: and find out more about an upcoming book detailing her incredibly romantic (and somewhat awkward) story.

Many congrats to you and the professor, Kerry. And get ready, for life will never be the same — it will be so much sweeter.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Is that the tax man?"

So it's election night in Ontario, and the evidence is everywhere in my household, with newspapers and magazines strewn about (I'll get to picking them up very soon). As always, I'll soon head out to spend the night helping out in the newsroom, but this morning, as I look over the Citizen and the Globe, a funny anecdote comes to mind.

It was the night of the leaders' debate, which had just begun playing on the living room TV while I chased my 10-month old around (it took about three hours for me to finish watching that hour and a half-long debate!), and my 13-year-old son relaxed on the loveseat, playing his Nintendo DS.

As Dalton McGuinty began to speak, without even looking up from his video game, my son blurted out, "Is that the tax man?" I began to roar with laughter.

Whether it speaks to the stickiness of the NDP/PC's anti-McGuinty messages, or simply the effectiveness of attack ads, it really was hilarious, and it helped open up a good chat about where the "tax man" moniker came from.

Parents, do you talk about politics with your kids? Are you engaged in this Ontario election? I'd love to hear from you:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Supermom? Not really

My apologies, dear readers--if you're still around.

I would understand completely if you've lost patience and given up on this blog. This has been a tremendously hectic fall season, with my newsroom job, teaching two college courses, putting the finishing touches on the winter issue of Ottawa Parenting Times (out in early December!) and continuing to freelance for various publications.

As per the cliche, I truly feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. I am well aware that I tend to, as do so many women and mothers, take on more and more work, even when it becomes increasingly (and evidently) impossible, hesitating to say "no" to any project, for fear no more offers will come.

It's a constant fight for working moms, struggling not to lose your professional identity and the constant dread of only being seen, and valued, as "mom." Eventually, you push yourself to the point I'm at now--feeling that I'm doing too much and doing none of it well.

It's been well documented that women strive to "have it all." But can you have it all, and be all things to everyone in your life, and keep your sanity? Right now, I'm inclined to give an emphatic "no."

Further to this, I came across two interesting pieces in the Globe & Mail today; one on how chronic stress can make mothers hostile and insensitive, and another on alcohol as Mom's stress relieving secret, evoking  a bit of guilt about those occasional and treasured glasses of wine.

What do you think, working parents? How do you maintain balance in your life? And how do you cope with the constant stresses of juggling parenting and work?

Friday, August 26, 2011

A family farewell to Jack

On Wednesday night, I brought my 13-year-old son to Parliament Hill to pay our respects to the late Jack Layton. He had asked me to take him, something I found remarkable.

Over the years, he has shown some interest in politics and the key players. Like so many of us, he enjoyed Jack's sunny disposition, his honest and hardworking nature and even the feistiness that emerged during leaders' debates and at other times.

The public viewing was a historical moment, and he knew that and wanted to be part of it. Moreover, he wanted to thank Jack for his work and his fight for families.

And so we did, waiting an hour and a half in line outside until we finally entered the foyer of the House of Commons. He was intrigued to see the place where so much of the work of Canada's politicians is done. In the condolence book, I watched as he very carefully printed, without any coaching, "Thank you  Jack, for your amazing work as the leader of the NDP."

As we approached the casket, and bowed our heads to say goodbye to someone we'd never met, but admired, I saw his eyes moisten with sadness. It seemed the realization of life's fragility had dawned on him, for the first time. He has never experienced the death of a loved one or attended a public viewing or funeral service. This was an important moment for many reasons, and I was glad we had come.

As for the lengthy wait in line, we spent the time just chatting. I loved the quality time. And then the questions came: he wanted to know how party candidates were chosen and how they came to represent their constituents, and how members could rise to the top to represent their parties. I tried to explain all of this, but I don't know how well I did.

Absorbing it all, he paused for thought for a few moments. Then he spoke, to articulate a sentiment that without a doubt, would have had Jack Layton beaming proudly: "Maybe I'll join the NDP."

Ottawa Parenting Times fall issue out now!

In case you haven't heard, the fall edition of Ottawa Parenting Times is out now. Look for it in your Ottawa Citizen, at local community centres and other family venues or check out the digital edition at

With plenty of handy back-to-school tips, good reads and regular features such as Grandparents Connection and Just for Moms, as well as the most glorious spots to bring the fam to view fall foliage, you won't want to miss our fourth issue.

Comments, questions or suggestions? I'm reachable at or on Twitter: @kelly_roesler.

A long summer break

After a much-needed, extended summer break, And Baby Makes Three is back. I'll be sharing more colourful anecdotes from my crazy-busy life as mom of a nine-month-old, nine-year-old, and now, 13-year-old. Please be sure to stop by regularly, and I'd love to hear your funny and poignant parenting stories: