Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Taxing Time

Michelle is sleeping better. I however, am not. My brain won't shut down. At night I lay there making to do lists and worry lists in my mind -- some things are relatively easy to resolve and I can go through and check them off one by one, other things are still up in the air, confusing and almost impossible to resolve and just send me spinning. In the morning sometimes I wake up super early and can't get back to sleep. I watch Michelle lying peacefully next to me. I start to understand what they mean by "sleeping like a baby" -- when a baby does actually sleep (which is new for her and yes I am grateful!) she looks like a little angel. It is a sound sleep, a slumber of innocence, the kind of sleep you only get to have when you're a baby and you don't know enough about the world yet and you don't have enough responsibility yet to keep you up worrying! These days when I wake up it's very hard to get back to sleep because my mind starts spinning through unanswerable questions, thoughts of past, present and future. I wrote a song once called "Think Too Much." The chorus goes "Some people drink too much. Me, I just think too much." I was an insomniac even before I had a baby so now that I'm a single Mom and have a hundred times more things to think/worry about, it's even harder to catch some zzzs.

I've been so stressed that sometimes I get a pain in my chest and a splitting headache that feels like my brain might implode. I've been absent-minded and forgetting things -- like forgetting to bring things with me when I go out, or leaving things behind when I go somewhere to visit. One night I put the garbage out on the completely wrong day (the week before that I had missed garbage day entirely.) Sometimes it really feels like I'm losing it. I hope I didn't hit my head too hard the other day. I was rushing to bring the groceries in from the car, back and forth with one armful after another. I was moving as quickly as possible because Michelle was waiting inside the house in her carseat screaming (one of the reasons online shopping is so much easier. When I do try to venture out shopping it means listening to her scream, if not while shopping then at the checkout, or in the car, or when we get home and I try to bring everything in.) Suddenly I slipped on the ice and banged my head on the brick wall of the garage. My ear was bleeding a little. At least I didn't have a concussion. When I told my Mom she was having a fit, as if it was my fault. "What if you were knocked unconscious and the baby was alone inside the house!" I said that hopefully eventually a neighbour would find my car doors wide open a curious sight, would see my body lying on the driveway, would check my front door which was unlocked and see Michelle in her carseat. Sometimes it is scary to be alone and trying to do everything on my own. Some days I do feel isolated. I wish I lived closer to my Mom and my sister. My neighbour has been kind enough to shovel my driveway for me which is very sweet and a huge help because I'd never be able to leave Michelle long enough to do it. She barely gives me three minutes to run in and out with groceries.

I try to relax. I sing Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" and Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy" and try to take deep cleansing breaths but lately it seems like there is just one thing after another to stress me out. I had an argument with a credit card company who said they weren't paid when I did pay them and had the confirmation number from my bank to prove it (it turned out it was a bank error -- they corrected it and apologized to me but it still doesn't undo the fact that I had a rather unpleasant conversation with two people at the credit card company because I thought it was their mistake.) Ever since Michelle's episode (if you missed my previous post she had a violent and terrifying bout of vomiting that could have been a scene from The Exorcist) I've been nervous about feeding her. I'm so afraid of feeding her too much that I've been denying her when she keeps asking for more and then I worry that I'm feeding her too little.

Money is probably the biggest stress. Trying to survive on a tight budget and not knowing how to make ends meet. I keep hoping I win the lottery. They say that money can't buy happiness but it certainly would make things easiser. I heard a quote "Your child needs your presence more than presents." I may not be able to buy lots of things for Michelle (thankfully she has most of the things she needs, a lot of which were donations and gifts from friends and family) but at least I get to be with her. As difficult as it is financially I feel that staying home with Michelle is the right thing to do. I know some women who returned to work after six months (or sooner) because they couldn't afford to stay on maternity leave and they had HUSBANDS earning an income too. Going it alone is really tough but there's no way I could have left her and missed out on the rest of her first year.

Tax time is always a little stressful. This year I didn't know what to expect. I always find it daunting filling out my taxes. Usually I look at the previous year's and copy it but since my life situation has completely changed I had to study the form carefully line by line. My sister had told me about the Amount for an Eligible Dependant (it apparently used to be called Equivalent to Spouse) which I could claim for Michelle. I was hoping it would make a big difference and I would get a big refund but then I started to worry that maybe I hadn't paid enough tax since they don't charge you much tax while on maternity leave and it would get added onto my pre-pregnant income. I was anxious to do my taxes and get it over with but I was still waiting for two T4 forms -- one for my maternity leave and one for the Canada Child Tax Benefit. I checked the mail again and there was still no sign of them. The CCTB I found out is not taxable and so no T4 is issued. I decided to check my Service Canada account online to see what was going on with my T4E. Maybe it had been lost in the mail. I hadn't logged into my account since July when I was still pregnant, before my maternity benefits had started. The site changed how you log in since then and my access key no longer worked. I finally figured it out and got to my page only to discover that my T4E wasn't mailed because I had opted not to have it mailed but to just view it online! When had I done that?! I must not have realized it. I was pretty distracted while I was pregnant. Anyway all this time I'd been waiting for forms that either didn't exist or were never going to come in the mail anyway.

So finally, with all my paperwork ready, I began to do my taxes. At least Michelle was sleeping peacefully which was an enormous relief. I was afraid I wouldn't even have time to work on it. It wasn't quite as difficult as I'd anticipated. I just went line by line and filled out the appropriate schedules. It was disheartening to fill out schedules thinking they were going to make a big difference and they would only make a small one or none at all. One phrase I really hate is "If negative, enter "0." Sometimes I would fill out an entire form and do all the calculations only to find that it made no difference. At least when I was done I ended up with a refund, not quite as much as I was hoping for but every bit helps. I'm grateful to get a refund at all rather than owe at least. It's a relief to be done anyway. Now I just have to write out my good copy and mail it in. I think the government is trying to save money any way they can -- not only did they not mail out the tax forms this year (I had to hunt the city to even find a store with a post office to pick one up) but they didn't even include envelopes in the package.

Physically, emotionally and financially I'm feeling more stressed than I ever have in my life. It's like I'm stretched to the limit. The things that I used to do to reduce stress -- long bubble baths, doing yoga, painting, playing guitar and singing, watching movies etc -- I haven't been able to do in a long time, since the baby. Now that she's sleeping better maybe I'll try to take some "me" time in the evening to de-stress while she's sleeping. Usually though when she does sleep I'm running around trying to get things like housework done. This blog is one of the few "me time" things I get to do but I usually just write a bit and leave it and then add more later when I can until it's done. I miss doing yoga. I really should do it again. Physically and spiritually it just makes me feel stronger, more grounded and more balanced. I'm feeling unbalanced these days! The trouble is I'm a creature of habit and find it hard to get back into something after I get out of the habit of doing it. For a while I was trying to do the 30 Day Shred but gave up when Michelle kept waking up during it and I never got to finish it. I lost a couple of pounds while doing it. Ironically I've lost more weight since I stopped and haven't really had any sort of a workout aside from carrying Michelle. I've also been eating a little healthier and eating a bit less. I've lost 10 lbs so far and still have another 10 to go. The Mommy tummy is a little smaller. I guess the expression "tighten your belt" works two ways -- you have less money so you eat less and lose weight.

They say that laughter is the best medicine and it's true. It is the greatest stress relief too. Visiting with my sister she had me laughing my head off, like I haven't in a long time. No one makes me laugh like she does. We have the same strange sense of humour. Michelle makes me laugh too. She's becoming a bit of a comedian. She enjoys knocking my glasses off and laughing or putting her foot in my face when I'm changing her. I make an exasperated expression each time and that makes her laugh even more. She's laughing a lot more now. I remember hearing many years ago that children laugh hundreds of times a day while most adults only laugh a few times a day, if that. I guess it's like the sleeping -- it's easier for children who are free and innocent. A light heart laughs easily. When you're burdened with anxieties and responsibilities sometimes it's hard to lighten up. Then Michelle reminds me not to take myself so seriously.
Though I do have bad days and moments when I feel overwhelmed, most of the time I am happy and grateful. Seeing Michelle's smiling face makes me smile. Hearing her little squeals of delight lightens my heart. As long as she is happy, it's OK if I'm having a hard time. Sometimes when it feels like I'm going to fall apart, Michelle keeps me strong because I have to be, for her. I try not to worry. As many people have told me worrying never solves anything. It doesn't stop bad things from happening and it only ruins the moment you're in, which could be a happy one. I have to have faith that everything will be OK, even though I don't always know how. At least my taxes are done. One less thing to worry about.


  1. Hey Ann Marie! This doesn't help you this year, but for your taxes next year you can download for free a program from

    I have had success with it, and it avoids doing all that pesky math just to "enter 0"

    1. Thank you! Yes I didn't mind filling in the forms until it came to credits etc where I'd do all the calculations only to discover it did me no good anyway.