Brain Reboot

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The first thing I did in France was to get a haircut. I needed a fresh start.

One of my goals for this trip was to “reboot” my brain. After a major lifestyle change—going from an office job to freelancing—, the nine months of pregnancy and then the first eight months with bébé, I was in survival mode. But trying to make it through the day, day after day, can only last so long. It’s not so bad: we have a pretty cool little boy, my freelance business is doing well and I still love living in Canada.

But I am exhausted.

I have never stopped working. I came back from the hospital 24 hours after Mark’s birth and I was doing some editing on my laptop with the baby hooked up to my breast. I completed assignments well past midnight, when he was finally asleep. I did housework early in the morning or late at night when I had both hands free to do so. I took endless walks around the neighborhood with my iPod in my pocket and a piece of bread in my hand, trying to both relax and eat something, anything. I skipped pretty much all meals during the day because I simply didn’t have time to grab something between Mark’s six daily bottles, work and other tasks, and what’s the point of eating standing in the kitchen with a crying baby beside you? I passed out in the couch only to wake up minutes later with a sense of urgency—work to do, people to call back, grocery shopping to do.

And it’s about the same for Feng. We are maxed out.

We have a routine at home. Well, it’s not really a set routine, more like a survival manual, a long list of task we need to accomplish daily, from work-related duties to housework chores. To become overwhelmed is just too easy—if we don’t do the dishes everyday, I don’t think we would ever find the time to clean up a big pile in the sink.

I suck at asking for help. I love helping other people and I have always done so, maybe because I am the eldest in the family, maybe because I got used to be self-reliant when traveling or when I first came to Canada. It’s not a matter of pride, mind you, and I don’t think I do better than other people. I just like to do things by myself. It seems easier and quicker.

Problem is, sometime you need help. And I am starting to realize I cannot do it all. Taking care of a baby is a full-time job, and I already have a full-time job… even if I don’t actually go to the office every morning, freelancing is demanding.

For the first few months, I did most of my work with Mark wrapped against my chest in the sling, the computer on my lap. This is no longer possible: he is a big boy now and he wants to move, to crawl and to play.

We need help. And it’s hard for me to admit since I always think I can do it all by myself. It’s a form of control in a way, and I think I need it, psychologically. I need to know that I “did my job” as a mother, as a woman and as a freelancer. But I am exhausted. Yet I cannot seem to “let it go”. What a dilemma!

I also need time for me. Time to eat at least two meals a day, time to work, time to relax once in a while too. I can’t rush all the time, every day. Some mornings—okay, most mornings—I am just counting the hours waiting for the day to end.

So this French trip was a good way for us to relax a bit and to break the routine.

There are plenty of people to play with Mark here: his great-grand-parents, his grand-parents, his uncle and aunt. I help out at home but I don’t really have to cook or clean. I don’t have much work—this is my holidays—other than following up on assignments and keeping an eye on my emails. I have time to eat, to go shop alone, to read magazines and to take baths.

So how can we find a way to do that in Canada? We still don’t have a solution but we know we need help. That’s already a first step.

Self Portrait in Nantes

Self Portrait in Nantes

Self Portrait in Nantes

Self Portrait in Nantes

Self Portrait in Nantes

Self Portrait in Nantes


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Salut Zhu,

    In my humble experience, to REALLY take a conscious and complete “break” in our routine is the best way to live and breathe again.
    I knew that well and still do at moments…

    Since my lifestyle changed in 2010…Giving myself more self- care, even little things like haircuts,make up, going to a concert, restaurant, etc…

    I also have to suck up some courage to say “help”…
    It’s OK- we can only do so much.
    We are only human.


  2. Hey Zhu…..Supermummy 😀 Yep, parenthood is like running a marathon and we all need lots of stamina. It gets better when they are older and I’m sure you’ll get there 🙂

    Have a happy holiday 😀

  3. Reading about your experiences as a parent here makes me wonder and appreciate the numerous countless sacrifices that my parents have done in raising me and my sister. My mom was 21 when I was born, she was just a year after college. My dad was 10 years older than her. Come to think of it, my mom never had the time to enjoy adulthood; after college, out came the baby and I am sure she had the same experiences as yours taking care of not only one but two children. I guess it is a no-brainer that now that the kids are living on their own, she is finally enjoying life without people to support.

    • I do see my parents differently now too! They were young when they had me… and there hd three kids with lttle money and little support!

  4. Prends déjà le temps de te reposer en ce moment, tu l’as bien mérité! 🙂

    Et puis si vous gagnez assez votre vie Feng et toi, tu peux toujours prendre une employée de ménage qui vient te faire tes poussières, plancher, sanitaire et cuisine, 1 fois par semaine 🙂 Ca t’enlèvera déjà ça sur ta liste de tâches ménagères 🙂

    Où bien sinon, tu peux envoyer Mark à la garderie quelque fois par semaine 🙂 En plus il va jouer avec d’autres enfants, il ne sera pas malheureux 🙂

    Je suis certaine que tu trouveras la solution adéquate 🙂 Gros bisous et repose-toi bien! 🙂

  5. I have friends who found the exact same thing as you – they had different working hours so didn’t get any child care, but actually both have full time jobs. They were lucky enough to get a place at the garderie part time and everything is so much easier for them now. I hope you can work something out!

  6. Get a cleaning lady! There is no shame in having one and only with her did we finally get our Saturdays back, no more choirs, more fun 🙂

    • Maybe that’s something to consider… I don’t mind the cleaning so much though, it’s keeping Mark busy that’s tough.

    • Unfortunately, we don’t have enough room at home… and we are already both working from home so I am afraid we would create inteferences!

  7. It is one of the reasons why I chose to move to Portugal, because there’s a bigger family support network there for when we raise kids. (My family is in Vancouver.) Portugal has its problems, it is mired in an economic crisis, but my situation there is actually more favourable for a family than here in Canada. Toronto is better for the single life, but if I hadn’t gotten married this year, I would probably have moved to another city in Canada like Montreal.

    I have nothing on which to base my prediction, but my prognostication is that by the time Mark is a year old everything will settle down to a dull roar — or better, purr along — and you will look back on this early-baby-time as the distant past. Writing about it helps because you will soon forget it, but Mark will read it and be forever grateful!

    • I often wonder what he will think of all my ramblings when he will be a bit older…!

      It’s great that you will be able to enjoy some support in Portugal. It matters a lot!

  8. I am glad that you are enjoying your break in France. The weather is finally good down there as well.

    I don’t know anything about daycare in Canada. Would it be possible to find a babysitter? Maybe just even for a couple of hours one night so you could enjoy some time alone or with Feng? Hiring a babysitter is really common in Canada. And I know that there are a lot of immigrants who do babysitting.

  9. I must warn you, you probably will need help. This is at least what has happened to me so far: Cam became very demanding and most days I cannot even get my computer open until when she is down sleeping! Add the full time job in the mix, and you just don’t even want to do anything. So I get it, it’s normal, and I’m feeling the same way right now. (And I’m on vacation too right now, we just didn’t travel.)

    Yes you have to do your work when they are not awake! So if you plan on trying to get some help, I’d suspect you need to have Feng watching Mark while you leave and do your work or you have a sitter watch Mark while you go work. I would not feel bad if you had a few hours where Mark is seeing other people. Mark needs to be social too! It’s great for him for when he gets to school…

    Glad you get a break. It’s fun being able to get out. And I do hope you get more time for you soon! Me on the flip side, I sit at a desk all day and seem to have put back on 20 lbs that was gone when I was active at home on Maternity leave. I miss that freedom so much (especially walking and exercising)…

    Enjoy your time with Mark, you won’t regret what you are doing even if it is exhausting. I know I’d pick your work lifestyle in an instant if it were more feasible.

      • I’ve been so bad about posting because work has gotten in the way of my energy. I know you look and I should post some more. She’s gone through a huge milestone lately. So much talk and big girl stuff lately.. That’s 2.4 years for ya!

        • They do grow up fast after all! No fast enough some days but one day you look back and go “wow… they look lke toddlers or kids, not babies anymore!”

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