Mom of 4 Lessons

When my cousin Kamadchi said to me she wants to have 4 kids too, my immediate response: “because this all looks so good to you?!”

She cutely giggles, “Yeahhh.. it looks like fun!”  Which of course it is, everywhere we go (including staying at home) is a party – a loud, crazy, messy party.  And just like parties, it takes effort, time, teaching and learning (both for me and the kids).

So I thought I’d try to dig out some things I’ve learned, the concepts that have helped us, and tips for my dear cousin when she someday embarks on this glorious journey called parenthood!

Get back Time by Teaching Independence

It really helps if your kids can do some things for themselves (every little bit helps).  So take the time to teach them how to dress themselves or brush their teeth, allowing them to eat on their own, expecting them to play by themselves. You can start this right from the beginning, when they’re babies. Feed, burp, and change them, then put them down for tummy time. Allow them time to entertain themselves.  This is hard because they are soo darn cute!  But necessary for your long-term happiness and success. If you have more kids, you will naturally have less time to cuddle up with your babies, so this is really just for your first.  When you have older ones, encourage the kids to play together and for the older kids to read and teach thing to the younger ones.

Teamwork makes the Dream Work 

Along with being independent, you can and should recruit help from every member of the family. Kids all want to contribute.  Allow them. We used to have large families to handle farm work etc, this is the advantage of having so many hands.  But nowadays, kids get up first thing in the morning and ask us what they can have/get/do for themselves (ie. watch TV).  Ask them to contribute first!  This is a reasonable request in my opinion.  We’ve assigned certain tasks to a certain person (zone defense!).  In our home, my husband, Naren is the king of the kitchen and laundry (we call him the “home parent”). I am queen of school drop off and pick ups, doctor’s visits and play-dates (we call me the “outdoor parent”).  Leela and Ruben (ages 11 and 9) team up to take out the compost and recycling. Priya (6 years old) is in charge of sweeping and Logi (who’s 3) puts toys and books away. They all can sort and put away clean laundry (even Logi). They all work together to clean their room and bathroom.  And when there’s a lot to handle, we come up with a list and work at it like a team.

Self Care is not Selfish

Being a mom of big family is kind of like running a marathon, one that doesn’t really end ever (except at nap time.)  It really, really helps if you develop good habits to support you.  To have the energy, endurance and strength (both mental and physical) I make sure I get a lot of sleep (8- 9 hours a day), exercise daily, practice mindfulness and yoga once a week, play sports, eat healthy (most of the time) and continue to work on myself.  It doesn’t need to take a lot of time – I do 10 minutes of exercise/yoga/meditation when I’m super busy.  It’s the consistency that’s key, and the act of doing something for yourself.  I remember when Leela was 4 months old and she would cry as I was heading out the door to the gym after spending the entire day with her. I could have easily stayed, and still there are days now where there the sink is full of dishes and my to-do list is a mile long, but I go. Because I know it’s important. And everything and everyone can wait for 10 minutes or (gasp) an hour so I can be the best mom I can be.

Say Yes, Please!

People see me and always offer help (no offense taken).  I say yes, please! My mom (who raised 3 kids and wants me to spend as much time with them as I can) will ask “Gaya do you want me to cook some curries and send them to you?” yes, please! My siblings  and in-laws will ask “Can we have the kids over for a sleepover?” yes, please! “Can I take Ruben for a haircut?” Yes, please!  “Can I bring your order to the table for you?” yes, please and thank you! It’s that easy.  Take the help you can.

Say No, Thank you!

You have to also learn to say no to too many commitments. Everyone needs down time. It’s important to pick a few key goals for yourself and you family and learn to recognize what doesn’t fit. For us, I’ve learned that too many social events on the weekend doesn’t work. Summer time should be dedicated to doing fun things outside. Birthdays can be simple and still fun. Be careful of what you commit to and learn as you go – what contributes to your happiness and what doesn’t. And be comfortable with saying no with whatever doesn’t.

Single Children Families are your Best Friends

When the kids have friends who do not have any siblings, this can be a perfect pairing. Those families need to have play-dates and you can take a little break from time to time. The parents of the single child also feel it’s a break for them.  It’s a perfect win-win-win.

In Summary..

I owe a lot of this figuring out to my husband, Naren who has always encouraged me to have the most out of our life, helps daily in creating a low-stress family life and has been the perfect team-mate. I have also read all of Alyson Shafer’s democratic parenting books that are all amazing resources! She also has a set of videos on the Rogers channel on YouTube:

I’m sure there are more lessons to be learned as the kids get older – issues with technology, school and friends.  This list will have to grow as we grow as a family.

Good luck Kamadchi – there’s a lot of love in having 4 kids, and a lot of fun – and it really is a blessing.

Lot of Love,

Gayacca (big sister)

Keeping Motivated After Day #1

The kids went back to school recently.

Everyone asks about that first day, how it went..   and in my experience day #1 is always great – they’re all excited, have new outfits picked out,  get up and get ready so quickly, and can’t wait to get out the door.

This is a real life conversation with Leela on her first day:

[me going to sit at my desk after breakfast]

LEELA [following me into my room]:

Why aren’t we leaving?

ME:

Leela it’s 7:58 am!

LEELA [realizing she’s an hour early]:

ooohh!!

It’s day #2 and #3 and all the days that follow that are hard.

This made me think of how similar the experience is to a new workout program or diet – there’s a lot of excitement in the beginning, we’re motivated and can’t wait to get going. We commit initially when we’re motivated, but when the excitement fades, it gets hard and we quit. Then we feel bad about our unmet goals and end up swinging back and forth between setting goals, failing and resetting these same goals.

What if we could just keep the motivation going? How can we keep ourselves on-track long-term?

As a personal trainer and fitness-enthusiast for the last decade, I’ve experienced this personally and professionally. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned – my 5 tips for keeping motivation going on any program or goal you have:

1. Find your Why

I think one of the most important things to recognize when we want anything is why we want it. And if you’ve set some goals or have a new plan ask yourself why.

If it’s for better health, ask what will better health do for you?  If it’s to lose weight, ask why is losing weight important to you?

Write down your goal, and more importantly your list of reasons or whys.

2. Review your Why Regularly

The second important key is to write out these whys every night (or at least reading them again),  so you remember the next day why you’re saying no to cake and yes to 6 am workouts (which, let’s just be honest, both suck!)

It’s too easy to forget our reasons and just do what’s easy, convenient and tempting. If you have strong enough whys and review them regularly, you can keep moving towards your goals.

3. Find a Picture

Add a visual component – a picture of what achieving your goal will look like. And keep it somewhere you can see often to remind you of your why and goals.

4. Think Systems and Environment

It isn’t enough to set goals and hope that will-power alone will get you there!  You must set up good systems and environments to make it easy on you, to truly achieve success. This may mean getting rid of all the junk in your house, filling the fridge with healthy food, making the gym more accessible, or creating accountability for yourself with a trainer or gym-buddy.The real key to achieving your goal is to focus on the daily habits that will lead to your success.

5. Reward Yourself

Set small goals/targets towards a bigger goal, and make a list of things you really want (new shoes, a night out, or a trip) and earn each one, at every step of the way.  Setting rewards to earn as you work towards your goal will keep you feeling successful and motivate you to keep going.

6. Expect Hiccups

There will always be something that comes up unexpectedly –  a cold, a sleepless night, people showing up at your house with ice cream and cookies. Expect to get derailed. But don’t give up.  When things are better, start back up again, as soon as you can.

Little bits every day do add up. And consistency and patience are so important.

And what about the kids being motivated to go to school every day?  Should I make them write out their whys too every night?  I’ll tell you what, if I get some why’s from the kids, I’ll definitely post them!

 

Is it Safe to Play Sports during Pregnancy?

The general rule of thumb for prenatal exercise is that if you were doing it before you were pregnant, you can keep doing it during pregnancy.

There are some precautions to take and some exceptions.

Your joints become lax when you’re pregnant, which puts you at a greater risk of falling.  Avoid activities like soccer or tennis that require quick changes of direction.  During the first trimester you want to be careful not to over-heat, so plan to take it easier and avoid activities like hot yoga.  It’s best to avoid contact sports like basketball and  football that can cause trauma to your belly, and sports with a high risk of falling like skiing or horse-back riding.

Most normal pregnancies will greatly benefit from 30 minutes of moderate exercise 3 times a week.  But always have your doctor’s ok first.

Focus on workouts that will be good for your pregnancy, like:

  • swimming,
  • yoga
  • low-impact cardio and
  • modified weight training

If you’re looking for guidance or some tips on how to maintain your fitness during your pregnancy, contact me for a free session.

 

 

 

Minimalism

Life with 4 kids is chaotic.

And living in a small space makes it even more important to keep things minimal.

I spent a lot of time last year thinking about minimization.

I started with stuff.

My sister was doing “30 days of minimalism”, so I joined her.  On day 1 you get rid of one thing, two on day 2 and so on for 30 days.. the math on this is 465 things.. geez that’s a lot of stuff!  Towards the end, it does get hard, but it starts off slow and easy, and you feel really good – it became addictive.

After that I got inspired by Marie Kondo, and began sparking joy all over our home.  I got so many bins and minimized every area further, starting with clothes, then books and paper.  I went through the entire kitchen and living room, even rearranging furniture to help create better spaces for us to play, work and live.

It also made me think about minimizing in terms of commitments.

What really sparks joy in my life?  And I minimized some time commitments.  I said no, I started to do less.  I read amazing articles by Mark Manson  to help me define my values and goals.

I came up with these life goals:

  1. Creating health (for myself and others)
  2. Building relationships
  3. Meaningful work

I assess everything I do based on these goals.

As a mom, we tend to get into the habit of adding more and more onto our plates.

I feel it’s so important to think about efficiencies and minimizing, for our own happiness and health.

As a fitness trainer I also think about minimization.

How much exercise do we really need? What’s the minimum you need to do to be healthy, fit and strong?

I think we often go all out, quickly burn out, and just give up. But what if we started just one small thing today, two tomorrow, and so on.  Or we had a program that was so easy and minimal you could do it forever?

That’s the ultimate goal for me, to create better habits for a lifetime, for me and others, building relationships and creating meaningful work in the process.

 

 

 

 

“Did you do anything for yourself today?”

I remember 10 years ago when Leela was a few months old, Naren came home from work, observed us for a while and asked me, “Did you do anything for yourself today?” I didn’t really know, but the answer was no.
 
I think back at that now, and I’m glad that I took that question to heart. I’m grateful for the reminder to take some time out of my day to do something for me.  Not too long after that, I re-joined the gym and would drag myself out every day (even when Leela wasn’t too happy about it.)
 
It’s amazing these subtle messages we receive about motherhood, that you must be entirely self-sacrificing, that self-care is selfish, that kids must come first always. I didn’t realize it then, but I’ve come to see how much the kids benefit from my happiness and health, and even in my saying no to them from time to time.
 
I hope to inspire you to take some time for yourself today – to do something healthy, take a nap, eat real food, treat yourself to a bubble bath or do something that makes you happy.

Leela and I

Post Holiday Reset

The holidays were fun…

The kids brought home a bug on the last day of school that cascaded through our family (not the fun part.) So we spent Christmas at home, cuddled up in bed, taking turns caring for each other, and re-watching How I Met Your Mother.. but we were together. And isn’t that the important thing?

After recovering I went tobogganing with the kids, slept over with all my cousins for New Years, went out to see Pitch Perfect 3 with my 2 daughters, and took a big family trip to Skyline Inn (an indoor water park in Niagara Falls. )

Although I worked out most days during the holidays (apart from the couple of days I was sick) and was active with the family, I didn’t eat very well and soon felt like I desperately needed my routine back.

It was nice to take a break, but as of January 1st, I got back to work, determined to make 2018 a good year. To motivate myself I put together a New Years program that you can use too.  It is fairly advanced, but I hope it will help guide you back on track after the holidays.

Post Holiday Reset Program [377KB PDF]

And of course, if you have any questions please let me know. Happy 2018!

Gaya

 

Happy New Year!!

momzone-jan17-promo

Happy 2017, my dear friends and family!!

The end of the year can be an extremely busy time, and our health and fitness tends to be put aside.  I know I’ve missed workouts, eaten too much and feel like now is the time to catch up and make this year the best yet.  Do you feel the same way?

I want to help, so I’m offering 40% off any session until January 22nd.  So one hour in-home training sessions are $36 (regularly $60) and half hour sessions are $27 (regularly $45).

If the holidays have left your purse light and belt tight, or if you’ve been on the fence about training, or just want to enjoy a discount as my heartfelt thank you for being in my life, take advantage and let’s start 2017 off right.

Here’s to our best year yet!

The Benefits of a Small Space

In a previous post, I talked about How to Live in a Small Space with Kids. The drawbacks to this might be obvious (noise, privacy, blah blah blah), but there are some surprising benefits. Why live in a small space?

  1. It’s easy to know what the kids are up to – it’s easier to watch kids when they can’t get very far! You have better control over their environment and can keep them safe.
  2. Kids learn more – kids learn not by what you say, but by what you do. From cooking, to working and everything in between, they see you doing more in a small space.
  3. Everyone learns to be considerate – it becomes crucial to learn to be quiet when someone’s on the phone, or the baby’s sleeping (or when mom needs quiet time!)
  4. A healthy, low stress, lifestyle – living small often means less financial stress, so you have the flexibility to do more of what you like and what’s good for you (better sleep, regular exercise, eating better etc.)
  5. Kids learn responsibility – in a small space a little mess is a BIG mess! So you definitely need everyone to pitch in and help tidy up after themselves.
  6. Kids learn to live with less stuff – they understand at a young age what they really like and what they can live without – an important life lesson!
  7. We learn to be cooperative – want to get along with someone quickly, live in a small space! It`s true for families too.

 

Lessons From My Mother – Part 1: The Weekly Set Meal Plan

My mother is an amazing woman. A typical working mother – and busy with 3 kids, she made the time and effort for a different home-cooked meal every night of the week. And it was consistent every week.

We loved the routine and the anticipation of Wednesday night pizza, where we all had our own little jobs. My sister still proudly proclaims that she was the cheese shredder-er! I still remember she had a thick, cardboard grocery list that she always had in her purse – her “master list” because it was the same every week. She defined and eliminated one of her biggest nightmares as a parent, and what many moms struggle with – deciding what to cook! She didn’t have to think about it, it was all there on her master list. She didn’t have to fight anyone to eat, because it was Thursday and Thursday means chicken and noodle stirfry. She took our suggestions and we were more keen on eating the meal we helped make. Being an amazing cook doesn’t hurt either!

I’ve tried to implement a set weekly meal plan with my own family several times, and have always failed, either because I cook too much and we have to eat the same thing all week, or I’m not consistent and go with what I feel like cooking, or what’s on sale. But I’ve known that like most great things, this is a process, it doesn’t happen overnight, and will take time. And I’m happy to go along this journey of highs and lows in hopes that one day I will attain the ever-elusive set meal schedule!

My goal for this week: pick and plan for 3 meals. I had a focused grocery trip and put the menu on our chalkboard for us all to see (especially me). And was able to follow through with some help from my fabulous hubby. I even included a pizza night for the kids, and for my nostalgia (sorry sis – I got the pre-shredded cheese!)

Does it take time? Yes, initially. Is it worth it? Absolutely – I’ll save time and money long-term. Not to mention all the memories we’ll make as a family in the kitchen and around the table for many years to come.