A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

You’ll Never Find the Right Time to Follow Your Dreams, So Don’t Bother Waiting

Everything feels worse at 3am, doesn’t it? 3am is always the time your brain will not turn off and anxiety sets in. It feels like something is nibbling on my brain in these small hours. Over the years I have zoomorphized those weird little nibbly critters into “Madness Hamsters.”


In the autumn of 2014, thanks in part to the Madness Hamsters, I realized I was never going to get anywhere at the insurance company where I worked. I had an administrative job and it was boring me to tears. After eighteen months there, the Hamsters were out in full force. They whispered things like, “You’re not a corporate person” or “What’s the point in having a salary if you have no time to enjoy it?” Or “The more bored you get, the more we will steal your brain” and so on. They are very annoying. I also tend to think they are right with irritating frequency.

I didn’t want the Hamsters to steal my brain, but I was resigned to what I thought was the sensible option – working the secure, decently-paid, and non-stressful job for a number of years in order to save up enough money to start a coffee shop. The coffee shop was and always had been my dream, but there were other factors to contend with too: as a new immigrant, I had to sort out my permanent residency status in Canada, build up a good credit rating, and not rush headlong into enormous financial risk, ill-prepared. I had only emigrated from the UK with my small family two years previously.

However, a lot of things happened extremely quickly. It was not always a deliberate effort, but I have often found that as soon as I make a conscious decision to do something, things start falling into the place to make it happen. In this instance, I met a very smart, ambitious guy at our office party. Matt was new to the company, and my first impressions were that he was conservative, straight-laced, and a model corporate employee – and thus someone I would have little in common with. Fortunately, our boss engineered the introductions despite my reluctance. Matt is a graduate of the University of Regina business school and had a very keen interest in entrepreneurship, but hadn’t yet had the opportunity to actually start a business of his own. We suddenly had a lot to talk about.

Over the next three months, we emailed each other back and forth between the insurance company departments, met on our lunch breaks to walk around town looking for venue inspiration, and drank a lot of coffee. Something about him coming to work on Halloween dressed as a six-foot hotdog set me at ease. By the fall, we had formulated a plan to do something together.

My newcomer status in Canada and my total lack of capital meant I had no way of funding a new start-up, especially one on this scale. Matt did not have these problems: he is young, local, and solvent, and he did not have huge bills like painful townhouse rent or childcare to contend with, as I did. Spurred on by this, he summoned the confidence and applied for a very large loan.

We then scouted for a building, and after a lot of disappointments and frustration, I found a near-perfect one. We negotiated the lease with the landlord (who I just happened to have made coffee for a few years ago at another job). A lot of phoning around got us a general contractor company to turn the huge empty building into a pleasant social space with two bathrooms and a coffee bar. Thanks to some luck, some bravado, and a great deal of chatting up random people in our different social circles, it finally all came together.

Then a huge spanner hit the works just two weeks after we had signed the lease. The Madness Hamsters were finding new and ingenious ways of keeping me up all night, and I had a sneaking suspicion that something major was coming my way. I was right: I was pregnant!

This wasn’t entirely unplanned. In fact, my husband Carl and I had been trying for a while, long before I’d even met Matt or got serious about a new business. We’d had problems, though, including an utterly miserable experience over the summer when I miscarried at thirteen weeks. With the advantage of hindsight, I can see that I was deliberately throwing myself into complicated projects like the café as a way of avoiding dealing with that grief and frustration. Possibly not the best basis for starting a new business. As is often the case, though, the simple act of not thinking about pregnancy resulted in pregnancy.

Carl and I kept it to ourselves for as long as we could manage, not wanting to in any way jinx it. I told Matt, though, and tried to reassure him that I was still completely committed to the cafe. In some respects, going solo at this point worked to my advantage. Setting my own hours and my own schedule gave me the freedom to handle pregnancy on my own terms. Additionally I thought that I’d also be able to take the baby to work with me and not worry about childcare. By the new year of 2015, I was blissfully happy with the world, extremely excited about everything to come, and throwing up every day.

Soon enough, the time came and I gleefully quit the day job. This was a momentous occasion. Leaving at this point (on Friday 13th, no less) was either very brave or very stupid. Had I stayed, I would have gotten the generous Canadian one year paid maternity leave, and a job to go back to afterwards. Now, of course, I would get diddly-squat except the state Employment Insurance benefits. Was paid maternity leave worth hanging around being bored for another few months and passing up the opportunity to open the cafe? I’d like to think not.

Not having the office job meant plenty of time (ahem) to work on “Dr. Coffee’s Cafe.” Even then it definitely was not easy, and many unanticipated events meant we didn’t manage to open exactly when we’d hoped. I was exhausted, but otherwise, the New-Human Growing process was going fairly well. As we neared opening day, I was feeling slightly less sick and disgusting now that I was over halfway through the pregnancy. We may not have opened quite to schedule, but even Wonder Woman needs a nap sometimes, I’m sure.

We finally got Dr. Coffee’s Cafe open on 13th April, 2015, when I was 26 weeks pregnant and two months to the day since I’d left the office job. The initial response to the place was so positive that I was convinced I must be on the right track finally. That went for everything else in my life as well. I had my cafe business, and my wonderful husband and brilliant beastling daughter to share it all with. There was another tiny daughter kicking me from inside my belly, my fantastic friends were all rooting for me from both sides of the Atlantic, the sun was shining after the long Saskatchewan winter, and all felt right with the world. For these moments, I felt very, very lucky.

However, I was getting larger and larger by the day, and more and more exhausted with pregnancy. I honestly do not know what possessed me to carry on as I did. I was still pulling sixty hour weeks right up until three weeks before my daughter was born. I can see now that that there was no need for me to actually be there myself as we had hired excellent staff, but I couldn’t accept that at the time. It’s only when I stopped and detached a little that I could see clearer.

Eventually, I gave in and took my maternity leave. Matt took over the general worrying and the shopping, and our baristas handled the summer amazingly well on their own. Why oh why did I not just let them get on with it prior to that? Put it down to stubborn arrogance. On some level, I wanted to feel indispensable. As wonderful as the staff were, my own ego wouldn’t let me trust them enough for me to let go of my business-baby, even while I was incubating my real baby.

I also felt like I had something to prove, to myself, but also to a lesser extent to Matt, who had seemed panicked when I told him I was pregnant so soon after signing the lease. Of course, growing a tiny human can’t slow me down! I can do everything! I can have it all!

Nope. That isn’t empowering. That was just stupidity. And it took me a full year to realize it.

I somehow expected my maternity leave to be a peaceful, idyllic, and “instagrammable” period. I could picture it, spending all day in pajamas, sipping my coffee with an adorable chubby baby sleeping angelically on my lap. Maybe I’d catch up on all those books I’d been wanting to read for so long.

This naive fantasy was very far removed from the reality.

Baby Theia exploded into the world within two days of her due date, and even as I was heading into hospital I was still getting text messages from the cafe asking where the hazelnut syrup was, and whether ‘BabyCoffee’ had arrived yet or not! It took 28 agonizing hours of labour, but arrive she did at over nine pounds, which rendered me out of action for the best part of the next month. My midwife released me from the hospital but forbade me from leaving my bed for a week, as I had lost a dangerous amount of blood. I was supposed to be taking it easy, and she didn’t advise walking too far for as long as possible. Needless to say, I got very bored very quickly: I wanted to go and show off my beautiful new baby!

And then there were the joys of entrepreneurship. Even if I was not actually pulling espresso shots, there were always at least a dozen emails waiting for me, or the website needed updating, or Facebook needed to take its daily slice of my soul, or it was time for payroll. At least while I was bed-bound, I could work from my laptop, I reasoned.

I’m not complaining; I honestly wouldn’t have had it any other way. Being self-employed and having the freedom to take my children to work with me allows me all sorts of benefits which few parents with conventional jobs can afford. Whereas I could have done with making far more money than I was at the time, I never had to sit in an office away from my kids, and never had to try and pump breastmilk while hiding in a stationary cupboard (as a friend once described having to do when she went back to work). Better still, I had caffeine on tap to cope with Theia’s 4am feeds and newborn sleeplessness, and most importantly I could run my own business and take care of my wonderful girls at the same time. That summer, I really did have it all, and it was well worth the sleep deprivation.

Sometimes it’s worth listening to the Madness Hamsters.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Rachel McAdams didn't talk publicly about her pregnancy or her birth story. There are some things this working mama wants to keep to herself, but the fact that she needs to pump at work isn't one of them.

McAdams was recently doing a photo shoot with photographer Claire Rothstein of Girls Girls Girls magazine when she needed to take a pump break. Wearing Versace and a neck full of diamonds McAdmans did what mamas all over the world do every day, and Rothstein snapped a pic that is now going viral.

In an Instagram post, Rothstein explains that she and McAdams had a "mutual appreciation disagreement about who's idea it was to take this picture," but the photographer says she remembers it being McAdams' idea, "which makes me love her even more."

In her caption of the amazing photograph, Rothstein writes: "Breastfeeding is the most normal thing in the world and I can't for the life of me imagine why or how it is ever frowned upon or scared of."

The photographer added that she wanted to put the image out there to change perceptions about breastfeeding, pumping, and working motherhood.

McAdams decision to normalize pumping through this glamorous image is especially cool when you consider that she's not really a social media person, and spends a lot of days in much less glam attire.

She recently arrived for her first interview since welcoming her son in the spring wearing a grey shirt, baggy pants and sneakers, reportedly telling the interviewer (Helena de Bertodano for The Sunday Times U.K.), "I don't even know what I'm wearing today. The shoes are held together with glue. Isn't that sad? I need to get a life."

"I have clothes on and that's a good thing," McAdams told Bertodano during that chat. Her attire for that newspaper interview was a world away from the clothes she wore for the Girls Girls Girls shoot.

During her Sunday Times interview McAdams declined to discuss her son's name or birthdate.

"I want to keep his life private, even if mine isn't," she explained. "But I'm having more fun being a mum than I've ever had. Everything about it is interesting and exciting and inspiring to me. Even the tough days — there's something delightful about them."

Most of us will never look the way McAdams does in this photo while we're pumping, but we can totally understand that sometimes, motherhood means you're wearing sweats and sometimes it means you're pumping in your work clothes (even if for most of us, that doesn't mean Versace).

McAdams may be keeping some parts of her motherhood experience private, but by showing the world this part of her day, she's normalizing something that desperately needs normalizing.

Some mamas pump, and the world needs to know (and accommodate) that.

You might also like:

To my children,

It's the New Year, and I have been doing a lot of thinking. I want to say, with all of my heart and all of my soul, that I am sorry. I want apologize for anything (and everything) I have said or done that made you feel less-than or sad or small.

I regret, so deeply, the hurt I delivered through harsh words or sideways glances, for steely eyes you didn't deserve and sarcastic replies you didn't understand. I'm sorry for being upset when I should have been more understanding, for resorting to frustration when I should have found more patience, for pulling away when I should have drawn near.

There were the times when you needed more from me, when you asked for more, and I simply couldn't provide. There were the moments when you wanted less of me, needed less from me, and I couldn't—or perhaps I just wouldn't—back away.

I start every day with a hope, a hope that I will be better than the day before.

Sometimes I succeed, but many times, I fail. Every so often, I fail in spectacular fashion. I think about all the times when I wasn't gentle enough or kind enough or attentive enough to you, about all the moments when I was too quick to anger and not quick enough to forgive.

You don't need me to tell you that I'm not perfect. Lord knows, you know far too well.

But I will say it to you, because I think it helps to hear me say it: I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I am human. I have flaws and cracks and blemishes; they are a part of me, just as they are a part of you.

Sometimes, my dear ones, my mistakes are small—like forgetting to pack your lunch or mixing up the dates for Tot Shabbat, or picking you up an hour late from a play date or accidentally switching your piano primer with your brother's, or sending a snack I know you dislike because I didn't have time to go grocery shopping and have no other food in the refrigerator. But sometimes, they aren't so minor.

Sometimes, my mistakes have to do with the way I've behaved, and the words I have said, and the way I have said them. For those times, and for all the times I failed to support you the way I should, or help you in the way you deserve, and love you in the best way I can, I am sorry.

I wish I didn't make so many mistakes. I'm a perfectionist at heart, but when it comes to parenting, there's still so much I haven't mastered. Even after almost a decade of doing this day in and day out, I still feel like a novice in so many regards and as green as I did on day one.

Precious ones, I've come to realize, no matter how hard I try, that I just can't get it right all of the time. I hope you can forgive my failings.

The older I get, the more I realize that life is a jumble of hits and misses. As many times as we try and succeed, we also try and fail. As much as we hope to do right, we often end up doing wrong. It is the story of the human condition—this mix of losses and gains, triumphs and defeats. It's all very messy (think sloppy joes and pancakes dripping with syrup kind of messy), and yet, it's all we know.

My darling ones, I want nothing more than to do right by you and be the best mother I can be for you. I want to love you unconditionally, support you unreservedly, and be present unambiguously.

In the New Year, I resolve to do better for you, to be better with you, and to act as if God is watching. You mean the world to me. You are everything to me. I love you, always and forever.

All my love,

Mommy


You might also like:

People often say that having a second child doesn't much add to the workload of parenting. There's no steep learning curve: You already know how to make a bottle, install a car seat and when to call the pediatrician. And you're already doing laundry, making lunches and supervising bath time—so throwing a second kid in the tub isn't a big deal.

Except that it is. Having a second child doesn't just mean attaching a second seat to your stroller. Adding a whole new person to your family is more complicated than that, and it's okay to say that it is hard.

A new study out of Australia disputes the popular idea that after making the transition from people to parents, making the jump from one child to two is easy. The researchers found that having a second child puts a lot of pressure on parents' time and their mental health, and mothers bear the brunt of the burden.

When looking at heterosexual couples, the researchers found that before a first child is born both partners feel equal amounts of "time pressure," but once the child is born, that pressure grows, more so for mothers than fathers.

Basically, parents feel psychological stress when they feel they don't have enough time to do all they need to. One baby makes both parents feel more stress, but mom's increase is more than dad's. When a second baby comes, that time pressure doubles for both parents, and since mom already had more than dad, there's now a gulf between them.

The researchers behind this study—Leah Ruppanner, Francisco Perales and Janeen Baxter—say that after a first child is born, a mother's mental health improves, but after a second child, it declines.

Writing for The Conversation, the trio explains:

"Second children intensify mothers' feelings of time pressure. We showed that if mothers did not have such intense time pressures following second children, their mental health would actually improve with motherhood. Fathers get a mental health boost with their first child, but also see their mental health decline with the second child. But, unlike mothers, fathers' mental health plateaus over time. Clearly, fathers aren't facing the same chronic time pressure as mothers over the long-term."

The researchers say that even when mothers reduce their work time, the time pressure is still there and that "mothers cannot shoulder the time demands of children alone."

Adding a second child to the family isn't just a matter of throwing a few more socks in the laundry: It means a schedule that is already stretched is now filling up with twice as many appointments, twice as many school functions. Mothers only have 24 hours in the day, and as much as we wish we could add a couple extra hours per child, we can't.

Time simply can't change to help us, but society can. As the researchers noted, when time pressure is removed, motherhood actually improves mental health.

We love our lives, we love our kids, we love parenting, but there is only so much of our day to go around.

Ruppanner, Perales and Baxter suggest that if society were to help mothers out more, our mental health (and therefore our children's wellbeing as well) would improve even after two or three kids. "Collectivising childcare – for example, through school buses, lunch programs and flexible work policies that allow fathers' involvement – may help improve maternal mental health," the researchers explain, adding that "it is in the national interest to reduce stressors so that mothers, children and families can thrive."

Whether you're talking about Australia or America, that last bit is so true, but this research proves that the myth about second-time parenthood isn't. Even if you already have the skills and the hand-me-downs, having a second child isn't as easy as it is sometimes made out to be.

We can love our children and our lives and still admit when things aren't easy.

You might also like:


We know life gets a little (okay, a lot) busy around this time of year so if you haven't crossed off everyone on your Christmas list just yet, here's your reminder that you've still got time. Fortunately, that Amazon Prime membership of yours comes in handy... especially for the holidays.

Here are some of the best last-minute gifts to get on Amazon. Also, that extra couple of dollars for gift wrapping is *so* worth it if it's available. 😉

1. Tape Activity Book

So your little can create just about anywhere—on the go, in the car or hanging out at home.

Melissa & Doug Tape Activity Book, $6.47

BUY

2. Instant Pot

Mama, meet your new best friend. 4.5 stars with nearly 30K reviews.

Instant Pot 8-qt, $89.95

BUY

3. Silicone Teething Mitt

Offer relief to your teething one with a mitt that stays in place.

Itzy Ritzy Silicone Teething Mitt, $8.99

BUY

4. Roomba

Give the gift of never having to manually vacuum again.

iRobot Roomba 690, $279.00

BUY

5. Magnetic Tiles

These are always a favorite for kids of all ages. Build endless possibilities and work on fine motor skills—win-win!

Magnetic Tiles Building Blocks Set, $31.99

BUY

6. DryBar Triple Sec

Perfect addition to mama's stocking, or paired with a salon or blowout gift card. Adds *so* much texture and volume.

DryBar Triple Sec 3-in-1, $35.99

BUY

7. Plush Animated Bunny

Plays peek-a-boo and sings for baby.

Animated Plush Stuffed Animal, $32.97

BUY

8. 23andMe

Learn everything you want to know about your family history, where you came from, and even information about your genetics.

23andMe DNA Test, $67.99

BUY

9. Boon Bath Pipes

Make bath time more fun. They suction to the wall and can be played with individually or altogether in a chain.

Boon Building Bath Pipes, $14.99

BUY

10. HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer

For printing all of those adorable Instagram moments—and for getting *all* of the photos off your phone.

HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer, $99.95

BUY

11. Board Blocks

Kids can sort, learn colors and shapes, and work on their hand-eye coordination.

Wooden Educational Geometric Board Block, $6.39

BUY

12. Ring Doorbell + Echo Dot

A great bundle for the techie in your life.

Ring Doorbell 2 and Echo Dot, $169.00

BUY

13. Pai Technology Circuit Conductor

For the little who wants to learn to code, this offers endless learning fun.

Pai Technology Circuit Conductor Learning Kit, $69.99

BUY

14. Kindle Paperwhite, Audible + Headphones Bundle

Bookworms will love this bundle. Enjoy a new Kindle Paperwhite, wireless bluetooth stereo headphones, and 3 month free trial for Audible for new users.

Kindle Paperwhite Bundle, $139.00

BUY

15. Wooden Grocery Store

We love this imaginative play grocery store, complete with a beeping scanner and hand-cranked conveyor belt.

Melissa & Doug Freestanding Wooden Fresh Mart Grocery Store, $179.99

BUY

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work.We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.