A Call for Story Sharers!

As 2017 approaches, we are looking for new ways to reach the women we serve. One of those ways is through a consistent team of contributing story sharers on our blog. Yes, story sharers. You don't have to be a 'writer', have your own blog or have anything published to contribute. We want real-life mamas sharing real-life things. Good things like the joys of motherhood; ways you have learned and grown as a woman; ways you have been empowered through your story or struggle. Hard things like depression and anxiety; miscarriage and loss; unmet expectations. Stories of the day to day and what that looks like...and how it changes. We're looking for women who would be willing to contribute 5-10 posts/YEAR. That's it! Sometimes we may ask for a specific topic, other times we will just share what it is that you're passionate about sharing. We want YOUR STORIES...your beautifully messy, imperfect stories. If you are interested, please contact our blog editor, Alisha, at ameador@themotherhoodcollective.org. We can't wait to hear from you!

Author's Series: Perfect Mum by Lizzie O'Halloran

As part of our Author's Series, Lizzie shares part of her story of motherhood and how it has inspired her to encourage other women to be the best mother they can be.

Reflections: From One to Two

Reflections: From One to Two

We are planning to celebrate her birthday (of course!) but not with a Pinterest worthy party or a big outing. A few gifts, some frozen yogurt, and a day playing at home with Mommy, Daddy, and her big brother will mark the occasion. This is not because we don't want her day to be special, but because it is the kind of day that she likes best...With the second child, expectations are more realistic and plans more flexible.

My (Never-Exactly-The-Same-As-Any-Other) Day in the Life of a Stay at Home Mom

My (Never-Exactly-The-Same-As-Any-Other) Day in the Life of a Stay at Home Mom

The beauty and challenge of being a stay at home mom is that no two days look exactly the same...I prefer our more structured days but I try to 'lean in' and make the most of each day.

Self Care

Self Care

The question then, is how?? How do we find the time? We reached out to author and blogger Jessica Turner. She is a full-time working mom of three, founder of The Mom Creative, and author of the book The Fringe Hours, where she addresses this exact topic with practical advice, worksheets and ideas to help any woman implement self care into their schedule.

Balance

Balance

We lay out our mats, grab blocks, bolsters and blankets and settle in to start class. It’s at this point that the rest of the world stops a bit. There are no cell phones, no TVs, no people other than the ones doing exactly what I’m doing. We focus on breath, we stretch, we downward dog and go through vinyasas. A few minutes in and there is no choice other than to focus on the exact move I am in, or I risk falling, injuring myself or hitting my neighbor—all things I’d like to avoid. I am there. And I am all in.

I am a Mother who did not wish to bring a girl into this world.

I am a Mother who did not wish to bring a girl into this world.

Maybe it's because I haven't left the house in days. Maybe it's because of the wine. Maybe it's because I was lying next to my little girl, who does not yet know that there is a world outside of this sweet, dependable love right here. A world that is so incredible and so beautiful, yet so hurtful and so deeply flawed. The reality is, I can't protect her, just as my mother couldn't protect me.

A Day in the Life- Work from Home Mom

A Day in the Life- Work from Home Mom

We love sharing what day-to-day life looks like for different moms. Here, Jenna shares what two different days a few weeks apart looked like for her as a work-from-home mom. We may get Jenna to share a follow-up soon, as she recently transitioned to being a full-time stay-at-home parent, and her days probably look even more different now!

According to Plan (Or Not).

According to Plan (Or Not).

Looking back, these were the longest days of my life and I look back on them with such sadness for how I wanted it to be and how it really could have been. Having come off of such a high from an amazing birth experience to having the furthest from ideal hospital stay was like being hit by a truck heading into Ezra’s first few weeks of life.

Becoming a Safe Place

Becoming a Safe Place

Dictionary.com says that Foster Care is, “the raising or supervision of foster children, in an institution, group home, or private home, usually arranged through a government or social-service agency that provides remuneration for expenses.” I don’t think that this gets to the heart of what Foster Care truly is, either, despite its neutrality. The simplest way to explain what being a Foster Parent is, is this: providing a safe place for hurting children to just be children.

How I Got My Toddler To Eat Vegetables

I had completely forgotten about this cookbook, and the yummy meals it had afforded me in college, until my two-year-old claimed that broccoli—a vegetable that he had gobbled just three days before—was “yuck!”

I dug through some old boxes, and there it was, my beloved cookbook! Now, a perfect mother would veggie-fie every meal, but since she doesn’t live at my house, I simply choose one weekend a month to get my Deceptively Delicious out, hunt for recipe ideas, and plan some veggie-infused meals.

The Mother in my Mind

The Mother in my Mind

Maybe the mother in your mind is super crafty and throws amazing parties. Maybe she works a big corporate job and balances that seamlessly with motherhood, never fighting 'mommy guilt' or feeling like she has to choose between work and kids. Whatever the mother in your mind looks like, may I gently remind you: she's not real. She has amazing qualities that you can work toward emulating. There are things you can learn from her. But just like a character from your favorite show, (Lorelai anyone??), as much as you want her to be real, she's not. And she never will be.

You Can't Fix Everything

You Can't Fix Everything

It has been seven weeks and one day since my baby boy was born. Seven weeks of me feeling like I actually had this mother thing down and everyone who told me it was hard just didn’t get it like I did. Well today I got knocked off my pedestal.

Moms Don't Skateboard

I have expectations of what a mother does and does not do. She does stay home and finish the laundry. She doesn’t go skateboarding at 10:30pm on a Thursday. She does make sure all the toys are put away. She doesn’t engage in an activity that could potentially injure her, limiting her capacity to care for her 9-month-old.

Mom Confessions: Holiday Edition

Mom Confessions: Holiday Edition

We're starting a new series here at TMC entitled, "Mom Confessions". Basically, it's a fun, informal way for us all to gain some solidarity in this motherhood journey, because we all know there are days we could use some! In this, our first installment, we share some holiday-themed confessions, provided by some of the leadership team, past and present.

A Different Kind of Leaning In

A Different Kind of Leaning In

"Whatever phase of motherhood you find yourself in, let me encourage you. LEAN IN...There’s no one way to do this motherhood thing, and thank goodness for that. We need all different kinds of moms to teach our kids about opportunities and to help raise the next generation.

From Emotional Tantrums to Emotional Intelligence | Guiding your Child toward Calm and Control

From Emotional Tantrums to Emotional Intelligence | Guiding your Child toward Calm and Control

"After all, they don’t call them “Terrible Two’s” for nothing.  I certainly do not plan to write-up a magical “how-to parent” discourse here, or at all for that matter, because there’s no single “right” way. But here is the one thing that all parents can do with their children that will equip children to handle the emotional roller coaster (cough*and parents*cough) experience during this stage: Build Emotional Intelligence."

Café Recap: Introducing Baby to Learning

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Our panelists: Rachel Gagen (Pediatrician & IBCLC), Scott Rankins (Speech-Language Pathologist), Kevin Van Wynsberg (Department Chair for the Center for Counseling and Family Studies at LU), and our moderator, Lauren Barnes. Today’s topic, while primarily focused on babies in their first year, also spanned to toddlers, and older children as well. We covered important topics such as milestones, learning styles, and feeding.

Milestones

Milestones seem to always be in the back of a parent’s mind. They serve as a measurement and comparison tool between your child and every other child of his or her age. Is my child developing normally? Does his lack of speech present a concern? Should she have more hair at this point? Is his head too big? All of these are valid concerns, but Gagen, Rankins, and Van Wynsburg gave several reasons why worrying about milestones can add unnecessary pressure and anxiety to parents.

Gagen explained that you should “compare your baby to your baby.” The milestones are there to help parents and doctors make sure everything is progressing normally. However, she noted that while some babies are exactly where they need to be, others are either a few months behind or a few months ahead, and that’s okay! The best way to measure your child’s progress and development is to look at where he or she was a month ago, two months ago, and so on. Rankins explained the importance of looking at a child holistically. As a Speech-Language Pathologist, Rankins sees varying levels of communication difficulties, and the milestone measurement serves as a generalization by which he can start asking questions and making predictions. He explained that the range can be about 3-4 months on either side, so focusing too heavily on the specific milestone for a specific age can be inaccurate. Similarly, Van Wynsburg commented that ten fingers and ten toes is a much easier “normal” measurement than what is “normal” socially, emotionally, and kinesthetically with infants. He argued that there are so many great tools out there available to parents—of which the milestones are one—but we don’t want the tools to take the place of what is most important, interacting with and helping your child learn about him or herself and his or her environment.

Learning Styles

Learning styles of today are certainly different than they were twenty-five years ago. Today, we have iPads and cell phones and toys that light up and talk back. Rankins commented that one of the down sides to these battery-operated toys is that children are not presented with the challenge of using their imaginations as they are with less tech-centered toys. He stated, “Interaction is how we learn how to communicate effectively.” And with toys that do the talking for us or Baby Einstein videos that replace child-parent interaction, children may lose out on valuable communication building. Both Gagen and Rankins agree that children don’t need much to entertain themselves or to learn through exploration. Gagen joked that whatever you give your child for his or her first birthday, you can simply rewrap it again for his or her second.

 

Feeding, Bottles, and Silverware

A large part of learning for both children and parents deals with feeding. Regardless of whether your child is breastfed or bottle-fed, each child must learn how to eat solid foods eventually. Both Gagen and Rankins explained that it is important to begin some sort of solid foods at 6 months in order to prevent future allergies, but what is equally as important is letting your children experiment with and get messy with their food. The sensory experience of eating is valuable for your children on several levels. They are able to feel the different textures, smell the different scents, and taste the different flavors.

Parents may not realize how pivotal their role is in a feeding situation. Van Wynsburg advised that when feeding your child, you should make sure to keep your face happy or neutral. If you go into a meal with an anxious or worried face, your child will pick up on your hesitancy. This is one of the reasons why allowing your child to have a messy face is crucial. It allows the child to explore without interruption from a napkin or face wipe. When asked about children who cannot handle a mess on their faces, both Gagen and Rankins explained that if you freak out about the mess on their face, then they will freak out. If you have a child who cannot handle food on his or her face, talk about it. Use it as a learning tool. Ask them about the different textures, temperatures, and colors. You can even add some sweet potato puree to your chin! They will likely become distracted by the interaction or see the mess as a positive aspect of the food experience.

While babies are encouraged to use bottles and pacifiers up until 12 months, any bottle or pacifier use after that can have negative effects. The panelists explained that bottles and pacifiers can become ingrained habits that will be more difficult to break the older your baby gets. Some of the negative effects include future orthodontic issues or mouth disfigurement and susceptibility to ear infections.

Silverware can provide another learning obstacle, but Rankins mentioned that you can introduce silverware as early as eight months. At that age, babies will immediately bring the spoon to their mouths, so this can start the process fairly easily. However, children will not be able to use solely silverware until about three- or four-years-old, so let it be part of the learning experience and not something you force.

While we briefly touched on potty-training, that is a topic for another time! Thank you to our amazing panelists for your wisdom and insight!

Café Recap: Handling Transitions

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Our panelists: Josie Olson (Play Therapist), Loan Kline (Pediatrician) and Katherine Brown (Early Learning Center Director), and our moderator, Lauren Barnes. We often talk about bellies and babies here at the Collective, but today's topic includes issues specific to our two- to four-year-old children. Potty training, big kid beds, and limits– there are lots of unique challenges within this age range.

Milestones

Loan focuses mostly on gross motor skills in the first year and language skills during the second year. Katherine sees children develop at various paces; her organization does an assessment based on each child instead of comparing children to each other. They use the assessments, along with parents' assessments, to help the children achieve goals. While it can be tempting to push children to reach certain milestones, that behavior in parents can be harmful. Josie recommends setting them up to achieve these milestones by creating an environment that will help them to get there on their own.

Potty Training

Potty training is a big milestone that parents are often anxious to achieve sooner than later. Loan says that you can start before two, but most kids are not going to be ready by age two. Signs of readiness are the ability to follow two step commands ("take your pants off and sit on the potty"), recognizing that they have gone (if they will continue to play in wet underwear then they don't have this awareness yet), recognizing that they need to go before they go, and a willingness to sit on the potty. A potty in the car can be a solution for transitioning from at home potty training to going out in the world. Fear during potty training is another hurdle some children need to overcome. Josie recommends validating their fears; having them draw or use puppets to show what exactly they're afraid of, and then helping them find a solution (like picking out a new toddler potty).

Sometimes transitions and milestones overlap. Having a second child can make parents want to potty train their first child before they're ready. Reading their cues and waiting until they're ready is usually the better option for both parent and child. An audience member suggests that two babies in diapers is much easier than struggling to potty train a toddler that isn't ready, while juggling a newborn as well.

Sleep

According the National Sleep Foundation, toddlers (1-2 years) need about 11-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. When they reach about 18 months of age their naptimes will decrease to once a day lasting about one to three hours. Naps should not occur too close to bedtime as they may delay sleep at night. Many toddlers experience sleep problems including resisting going to bed and nighttime awakenings. Nighttime fears and nightmares are also common. Many factors can lead to sleep problems. Toddlers' drive for independence and an increase in their motor, cognitive and social abilities can interfere with sleep. In addition, their ability to get out of bed, separation anxiety, the need for autonomy and the development of the child's imagination can lead to sleep problems. Daytime sleepiness and behavior problems may signal poor sleep or a sleep problem.

Loan finds that these guidelines are true for most toddlers. Toddlers that do well with less sleep usually have a parent that also functions well on fewer hours of sleep than average. One indicator that they are not getting enough sleep is growth; the growth hormone is released during sleep so if a child is not growing well sleep may be the issue.

Transitioning out of the crib usually happens around two to three years of age. Some children are ready earlier (if your toddler can climb out of the crib it is time to move them). For active/climbing children, consider taking anything dangerous or furniture that they can climb out of the room. Some parents stay in the room after bedtime to enforce the idea of staying in bed for the first few nights; do not engage with the child, simply direct them back to bed immediately.

There are various reasons that children have trouble with bedtime. Some children have trouble relaxing their bodies; you can gently massage or rub their back until you hear their breathing change and they are ready for sleep. Remember that with any transition it can take your child a few days, or longer, to get used to the new routine. Consistency will help them adapt easier. If children are afraid you can help them realize their monsters (with drawing or clay) and discuss how to overcome that fear (with "boogie monster" spray, for example).

Responsibilities

Josie says to never do for your kids what they can do for themselves. Empower them to help and take care of themselves and their things. Model how to do things, give them the tools to help, and they will join in and eventually be able to do things themselves. Loan says a sense of responsibility is very important. Her office provides a list of age-appropriate chores for parents. Singing or making it into a game can help ("let's put all the blue blocks away first"). If a toddler fails once and then gives up, you can help them gradually learn to do it themselves. You can break the task into smaller steps to help it seem more manageable and provide more opportunities for success. Remind them of past successes, and talk with them about problem solving.

Behavior

Emotional regulation for toddlers is a process. 18 months to three years is a period of negativity. They delight in refusing a request because it is a new-found power for them. This is also a time they are testing boundaries and seeing what they can do. Give them choices to help avoid the constant "no". Let them make small choices to help them feel empowered, and stick to routines. Tell them when there is going to be a change of plans and help them prepare for new situations.

Shaming your child is never helpful. You can point out bad behavior but reiterate that the child is not bad. Use positive language to tell them what to do, instead of using negative language to tell them what not to do ("walk, please" as opposed to "stop running"). Use books to help illustrate good and bad behavior. Katherine has classroom meetings to discuss problems before they arise. She lets the children talk to each other to help them learn from each other. Discipline is an ongoing process, but with young children redirection and distraction is often the preferred method. If you can get them to stop a negative behavior without a tantrum or fight, they are going to be happier and learn good behavior from your positive reinforcement. When it come to matters of safety you can still give options ("you can hold my hand or I can carry you in the street"), but do not negotiate anything beyond what is safe for the child.

New Siblings

The best time for a second or subsequent child depends on you and your family. Physically a woman's body is fully recovered from childbirth after two years. Some suggest that a three year old is much more capable of handling a new sibling than a two year old, as they are more independent. Our panelists suggest that you start preparing your child early for the arrival of a new baby. Use age-appropriate books and videos to introduce them to the idea (picture books are helpful for younger children). Getting them a baby doll of their own to take care of can be helpful, as young children like to imitate our behaviors. Talk to your child about what it means to be a sibling, and continue to promote the idea that siblings are the very best friends. Allow them to hold onto some "baby" things (like their special blankie, for example). When it comes to room sharing, experienced moms say that each child will get used to it and their sleep patterns will adjust as needed.

What a lot of helpful information! Thank you to our panelists for providing so much great advice. If there is anything that was not addressed in this article, feel free to leave us a comment here or on The Motherhood Collective facebook page.