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.
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.
For the past several years, my husband has had the tradition of gifting me non-fiction books about strong, influential women. Their fields of study and backgrounds vary, but each woman has contributed to society in significant ways. Some of these are memoirs, other are biographies and some are simply non-fiction stories of women (and some men) taking risks to do what they love or stand up for what they believe in. Some are helping others, some are helping themselves. All of these books will leave you feeling thankful for these women, and motivated to get out and make a difference in the world around you.
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
An incredible story and insight into the life of families living under the Taliban rule. After being shot in the head, Malala did not silence her outcry for education for herself and her female classmates. A story about the influence we can provide as parents for our children, and an example of how one strong and outspoken girl can change the world.
While not actually written by or about women specifically, this book makes the list anyway for its great humanitarian story. Greg Mortenson unexpectedly found himself devoting his life to the schools and education of children in one of the most inaccessible and dangerous areas of the world. His hiking adventures lead to his discovery of a lack of educational resources that he could not help but get involved in. In this case, one man really does make a difference in his quest to bring peace and education to the children of Pakistan.
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
Set in Iran, this is the true story of a secret book club lead by author Azar Nafisi. Her young students learned about literature and the ways of the world through the pages of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov. The parallels in the literature and their own lives helped them to mentally survive a time of tyrannical revolution in their home, as they learned together to speak their minds and think for themselves. A small but heroic undertaking, Ms. Nafisi risked her life to provide a life worth living for her students.
In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall
In this fascinating book Jane Goodall writes about her amazing experiences while living with the wild chimpanzees of Gombe. You will cheer as she makes breakthroughs and builds relationships with the chimpanzees, learning about them as individuals and as a species. After an inordinate amount of patience in the beginning of her project, her persistence pays off and she (and the reader) are rewarded with a look inside the lives of these amazing creatures. A feel-good book chronicling the research that brought us invaluable knowledge about our closest primate relatives.
Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr
The newest book in my collection, I am about 3/4 finished reading the riveting adventures of Sally Ride. Written by a journalist that covered Ms. Ride in her prime, this book starts with her childhood and follows the course of her life and career at NASA and beyond. I didn't even know I was interested in Sally Ride, and I'm not what you would call a space geek by any means, but I can't put this book down. Ms. Ride's drive, intelligence and determination led to her successes and it is fascinating to follow.
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
A truly powerful and often disturbing story. Reading it made me feel both shocked and ashamed that I knew so little of what goes on in other parts of the world. At times it feels like too much to handle, because the problem is so big and so broad that how can we help? But education is the first step toward bettering ourselves and the world, so I highly recommend this autobiographical book by Ms. Ali. Her endurance and achievement in the face of so much hardship is encouraging and a lesson to us all.
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Panelists: Josie Olson (Registered Play Therapist and Mama) and Madie Haskell (Early Childhood Education Professor, Mama and Grandma), and our moderator, Lauren Barnes.
We will spend the morning discussing some creative ways parents can encourage children to regulate their emotions, utilize problem-solving skills, encourage mindfulness, and deal with that o-so-scary temper tantrum. The goal for this cafe topic is to get conversation going about parenting and to provide you with resources, ideas, and hopefully some refreshing perspectives.
Problem solving skills can be gained through play, says Josie. Adapting to and interacting with their environment can nurture these skills. If safety is not an issue, she recommends letting children work through problems themselves. Madie agrees and adds a reminder that there are very few things in a toddler's life that they are in control of. If you can add things to their lives that they can control, this will teach them responsibility and problem solving. Giving them the opportunity to help solve situations by asking questions ("What's going on here?") will be more beneficial than simply telling them the solution. She stresses that problem solving is key to emotional and social well being, which can help them be successful in life.
Josie says that mindfulness can be promoted by tracking a child's behaviors (by narrating aloud), and making suggestions when they could use some help. Explaining what you're doing as you do it (while cooking in the kitchen, for example) will help them see that what you're doing has a purpose. In terms of milestones, Madie says that there is not a specific time at which children should be learning certain responsibilities. There is a guideline (link), but it is not rigid. Karen Ruskin, the author of The 9 Key Techniques for Raising Respectful Children Who Make Responsible Choices, suggests these steps: 1. Start young 2. Let them help you 3. Show kids the way 4. Model responsibility 5. Praise them 6. Manage your expectations 7. Avoid rewards 8. Provide structure and routine 9. Teach consquences
Many of these ideas mimic the Montessori way of teaching, through play-based learning and allowing children to help with real life tasks. Josie reiterates that modeling for children will let them learn. She suggests child-sized tools (brooms, gardening tools, etc.) to let children help around the house. Madie warns against rewards for expected responsibilities, but a spontaneous good deed or surprise is fun and beneficial. Our audience questions how to teach consequences, and Josie suggests the book Have a New Kid by Friday. Madie says the hardest part of teaching consequences is the parent; we naturally want to give in and see our children be happy. Following through with consequences is not the path of least resistance, and sometimes we as parents do give in (and that's okay!). An audience member acknowledges that she knows consistency is key, but it is hard to do. A funny tool called the Dammit Doll can help parents release frustration (out of sight of children, of course).
Teaching empathy to a child can be challenging. Josie suggests being an example for your child and treating those who are different with respect and humanity. Doing charitable acts, helping others and being kind to someone in a difficult situation shows your child how to respond in the world. Filial Therapy including expressive arts, directed drawing and more (coming up with a family crest or moto, for example) can give insight into the family relationship.
When it comes to play, Madie recommends watching children play without interruption (our tendency is to control or direct them), as independent play is vital for children. Playing with adults includes doing everyday tasks together (walking together to get the mail) and is also very beneficial for children by helping them understand the world around them. Cooking is a great way to play with children, and can help promote good eating habits. Parents benefit from this play, too! Our audience members mentioned that sometimes kids want parents to "play" with them, but then they ignore you. Madie says this is normal and just being available is good. She suggests introducing a new toy (or unusual household item or tool) every month or so to keep kids interested and learning new things.
Regulating emotions can be done through expressive arts (having children draw a picture of their feelings), asking how they feel (as opposed to telling them), using stress balls, inflating balloons to practice/mimic breathing, molding clay (pound it if you're angry, etc.). The goal is to allow them to realize that all feelings are okay, but all actions are not. We want to give them an appropriate outlet for their feelings and emotions. Lauren suggests introducing these stress management tools when they are not in the throes of an emotional meltdown, so that they will know how to use them when they are needed. Books may not be helpful during a meltdown, but using a book afterwords to open a discussion about what they were feeling is very helpful. Modeling all of the different emotions as a family (again, not during a heated moment), is a helpful tool as well. Talking through our own emotions as parents is a good example of showing how to handle strong emotions and allowing children to understand that everyone has these feelings.
One parent mentioned the need for her child to be productive despite sad or unpleasant feelings. Our panelists suggest that acknowledging their feelings and then setting a limit (a timer or activity) can be a compromise. Madie says to always use positive feedback when discussing feelings ("I appreciate that you are feeling sad. It is very sweet that you're missing Daddy.")
Why do temper tantrums happen??! Reasons include a battle for independence, limited skills to influence the events in their lives, inconsistency and unrealistic expectations, undue strictness, over-protectiveness, overindulgence, and lack of assertive limit setting. Conscious discipline is one method (there are many!) for dealing with a child's undesirable behavior. The STAR method (Smile, Take a breath, And Relax) is mentioned in this video from ConsciousDiscipline.com, which discusses reasons and methods for dealing with temper tantrums.
For children who are easily frustrated and want to give up on tasks, emphasizing effort as opposed to the outcome can help children's self-esteem. Congratulate a child's effort and encourage practice to build tenacity and a willingness to continue trying even after failure. Give reminders of other skills they have mastered to show them that they are making progress.
Madie has helpfully provided a slideshow covering many of the topics discussed today. Click here to download the Power Point presentation.
The Motherhood Collective is thankful to Heidi for letting us share her post today! Please check out Heidi's blog over at Notes From Heidi!
After six weeks of breastfeeding for the second time, it’s confession time: I don’t love breastfeeding. In fact, I don’t really even like it that much.
I first acknowledged this a couple of weeks ago and it’s actually made my struggle to breastfeed a little easier. Oh, and before I go further, know that I’m not writing this to complain, but quite the contrary. Giving up the desire to love breastfeeding means relinquishing an area of motherhood that I have little control over. It means sacrificing my expectations for something more important. These are both good things.
I write this to share a little of my journey with my boys and to hopefully shed some light on a couple of breastfeeding struggles which might be a surprise to other couples (because they certainly threw us for a loop at first!).
My boys haven’t been easy. Callan took several weeks to latch, so most of my milk expression was via pumping, which I found incredibly awkward. He had a golden time of a couple of months when we did great, but most of the time he was claustrophobic and pulled to get away. That made me constantly sore and unable to do anything but hold on til he was done. Sean, while he latched immediately and that was wonderful, has reflux issues. He spends about half of our nursing sessions gasping, choking, and getting frustrated because he can’t get more than a couple of mouthfuls at a time. If I keep him on a strict two hour schedule he does better, but anytime I give in and feed him more frequently he nurses worse and more often, since he can’t get as much to eat.
My boys’ struggles are pretty easy to figure out and pinpoint; but they’re only half of the equation. My problems are a little more difficult to manage, and I have to overcome them nearly every single time I nurse. First off, I don’t like the feeling of nursing. It’s a relief, sure, especially then I’m swollen to twice my normal size and sore. But once the relief is over I don’t like the way it feels. I have to force myself to relax, hold the baby loosely, and try to think about something else. Then there is the let down, when the milk starts to flow, accompanied by a hormonal crash. I literally spend a few minutes in a deep depression with the let down and have to just ride it out til things stabilize. We’ve learned that most discussions have to simply wait til I’m done nursing; I’ve even cried when Alex was joking, solely because of the hormones.
I am blessed to have a wonderfully supportive husband when it comes to breastfeeding. I am still tempted with Sean to pump and just give him a bottle; Alex helps me stick it out. During those really hard days with Callan he would sit with me through every nursing session he was home and just be there. I didn’t want to be touched or helped, but I spent so many nursing sessions crying because it was so hard that having his company encouraged me to keep trying, even though it took over a month to get the hang of it.
No, I don’t like it. But when I see Sean’s chubby cheeks and look back at pictures of Callan (too big for his Bumbo at five months!), I try to remember that it’s worth it. That the long term benefits of this bit of short term discomfort for me means my boys are healthy and thriving. If I can just keep that in mind, my breastfeeding journey will, in the grand scheme of things, be a good one.
Note: I starting thinking through this blog post in the thick of the reflux battle with Sean. Since then we’ve stuck to a strict schedule and he’s gotten much better; I’ve even had a couple of “in love” moments while watching him nurse. It appears that with the highs, lows, and middles of breastfeeding, we’re on middle ground for a little while…thank goodness!
The Motherhood Collective is very thankful to Nicole for allowing us to share her post today!
In the event of an emergency put your own oxygen mask on first, and then assist others if the cabin loses air pressure. ~Every Flight Attendant on every flight
About Nicole Scott
Born and raised in California, I'm currently living in Austin, TX with my superman husband, a quirky 8-year-old daughter, hilarious and sweet 5-year-old boy and girl twins, and the happiest 16 -month-old baby boy on the planet. I'm a marathoner, health and fitness enthusiast, finally an ultra-marathoner, a cautious writer, former teacher and currently a stay at home mom. I'm wordy on paper but never in person. And I'm unapologetically raising my kids to be my mini-me's: big dreamers and hard workers. You can find me writing at My Fit Family and at the Huffington Post.
I’m certain this story is familiar to you: one baby wakes up much earlier than she should, while the other one sleeps longer. Forget being at the park on time because older sister just squeezed her whole fruit pouch on the carpet, plus the gas tank was empty when you got in the car. Grocery shopping on the way home gets abandoned because the baby is screaming. Nap time is thrown off completely when you cannot sync their schedules and just as you get one lunch cleaned up, the other one wants to nurse. All of a sudden it is 3:30pm and you have not answered a single email; one load of laundry sits ready to be folded in the dryer, the other load freshly washed and wet but probably needs a re-wash because it was left there overnight. Dinner is spaghetti, the absolute best you can do tonight because you never actually made it to the grocery store. Hand the toddler another applesauce and pretend it’s a vegetable. Not one room got tidied up today. There were three episodes of Dora, though, and there would have been a fourth if Dad had not gotten home in time to come in as relief. It’s just been a day.
The crazy, unpredictable, and frustrating days usually come when we have the most to do, amiright? Have a deadline to meet? Your kids will cry at the exact same time for the 30 minutes you thought you could sneak in a little project. Is there a meeting or class or important gathering to prep for? They will not sleep at the same time even though they always sleep from 1:00-2:00 together. The baby will want to be held more some days, and big sister will be extraordinarily clingy on others. And then you’ll get crabby, because the day just went nothing like you planned.
But it’s their day, too. And when you think about it, they had a pretty good one.
Big sister learned how to clean up the messes we make. She had no idea we were in a hurry to meet our friends on time, she was simply eating the pouch I gave her, exactly where I handed it to her, on the carpet. But when she saw me with the stain remover and a towel, she brought over a baby wipe to help. She watched, and she learned something.
The baby was cared for. He was hot and sweaty and tired after being outside and he just couldn’t muster one more minute in his car seat. So we listened to him, and we went home. And as soon as I took him out and put him on my shoulder, he felt better. When he needed more holding and more snuggles the rest of the day, he got them. There are many things as a mother I do not do well, but I snuggle pretty nicely. Our little ones need lots of touch; it is the only way we communicate that they are safe and loved, that they can understand. I gave that affirmation in bulk today, and he felt it.
And together these little children watched their mom handle stress, but very imperfectly, so they also watched me apologize when I took it out on their dad. They saw me come up with a meal for our family and I know big sister did not care one bit that it was spaghetti. The only person who judged me for that was me. I never got to my email but I did read a book, blow bubbles, and catch a flying toddler at the bottom of the slide. I had to enforce a few timeouts in between all of this for throwing and hitting and not being a good listener, but I got a few “I’m sorries” as well, and that is a word we all need readily available in our vocabulary.
I did not check off many to-do boxes today, but my little ones did: learn, play, eat, sleep, read, and repeat. And I helped them do those things. If I measure each day by my list, they are not always very good, but when I look at each day like it is their day too, because it IS their day, too, well, then most days are better. A lot better.
And that’s where I want to land at 8:00pm every day, assessing it by what we learned and how often we laughed and the new words we heard. I think when you are the mother of a few young ones, productivity needs a different connotation, one that includes diaper changes and dishes and hugs. And at the end of the day, I believe it is ok to say this: I was not a good writer/small business owner/teacher/(insert role here) today. But damn, I kept two kids under the age of two alive and fed, and we played and talked about trees and chased after bubbles in the breeze, and both of them are sleeping safely in their beds tonight and that made it a pretty good day.
I don't know where he got his inspiration, but hubby had a stroke of genius last week when he suggested a yummy updated to one of our usual side dishes - cheesy orzo. I present to you cheesy orzo with pancetta and peas (and yes, it could use a catchier title, but oh man, it's tasty!). The dish is quick and easy and only needs orzo, cream, cheddar, pancetta, and peas (chicken stock is optional). I don't use measurements for these kinds of dishes, so it's a taste-and-adjust-as-you-go kind of meal.
Start by cooking however much orzo you want - this can be done in just plain water, or half water/half chicken stock.
While the orzo is humming along, you will want to cook your diced (not finely diced, but not too big either - I know, not scientific, but just roll with it) pancetta (thick cut bacon would probably also work, though I haven't tried that yet). Cook the pancetta a little longer than you would usually cook bacon - the crunchy pieces will be a nice texture addition to the dish (be careful, though - I set off our smoke detectors this first time I made this). You will also want to grate your cheddar cheese and cook your peas (canned peas can also be used, but I tend to prefer the consistency of frozen peas).
Once the orzo is cooked (slightly al dente, but very close to fully cooked), drain it, return it to the pot, and add some heavy cream. Then start adding the cheddar, stirring it in as you add it. Once you are happy with the cheesiness of the orzo, just add the cooked peas and pancetta.
This is a super simple side dish that is a wonderful addition to baked chicken, meatloaf, or fish, and can be adapted in so many ways to fit your preferences. Let me know what you think, if you give it a try! I'd love to hear what some others choose to add to the base of cheese & orzo.
The Motherhood Collective is very thankful to Lauren at www.ohhonestly.net for allowing us to share her post today!
Every two years, nations all over the world come together to cheer on and celebrate the accomplishments of their elite athletes. It’s a wonderful and exciting time and those athletes deserve every ounce of recognition they receive.
But what about the millions of people living quiet, unseen lives who not only deserve gold medals, but also billions of dollars in sponsorship opportunities and a good night’s rest? Who are these people? Parents.
I propose a new world-wide event, The Parenting Olympics, in which parents of all ages and stages have a chance to show their stuff in front of an adoring audience and finally get the recognition they deserve. A sampling of events follows. What would you add?
Baby Wrangling Triathlon
As the name implies, this is a three-part event. First, parents must safely remove a squirming, screaming, slippery child from the tub. Contestants will be judged on how much time it takes to complete the task, the amount of water that spills on the floor, and how well they wrap the wriggling child in a towel.
This kid knows what’s coming. Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici via freedigitalphotos.net
Second, parents must change the poopy diaper of a newly crawling baby. Contestants will be judged on how many times the baby rolls over during the diaper change, the amount of poop that ends up in a place it shouldn’t, and how secure the diaper is upon completion of the task. Finally, parents must dress an active toddler who much prefers nudity. Contestants will be judged on how much time it takes to complete the task, the number of times the child escapes their grasp, and whether all the clothes are put on properly (i.e. nothing is backwards, buttons are in the correct holes, etc). Immediate disqualification for any injuries to children during the event.
Running Late Dash
Parents must prepare themselves and three children to leave the house in record time. Everyone starts this race unfed and in pajamas. Parents are given half an hour to complete as many tasks as possible in order:
- Showering and dressing themselves
- Feeding everyone
- Cleaning up
- Dressing the kids
- Packing all necessities for the day
- Making sure everyone has used the bathroom
- Getting everyone out the door and safely buckled in the car
Contestants will be judged on how many tasks are properly and fully completed in the allotted time. Points will be deducted for bad attitudes and yelling at the children. Immediate disqualification for swearing or any reference to what life was like before kids.
Pre-Teen Obstacle Course
Parents must navigate the murky waters of pre-teen emotions by offering the proper support at the proper time. Contestants will be judged on how well they ‘read’ the child’s current emotional state, how effective the offered support is, and how long it takes for the tween to fall into his or her next mood. Immediate disqualification for making the pre-teen cry.
Uh-oh, Mom! Don’t make that kid cry! Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici via freedigitalphotos.net
Parents are kept awake for 48 hours straight, cleaning vomit and various other bodily fluids. They are then sent to work and must function as normal human beings. Contestants will be judged on how closely they follow traffic laws while driving to work, how efficiently they complete work-related tasks, and the number of times they doze off between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm. Immediate disqualification for getting into a car accident.
Hey Dad, you’re not looking so good. Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici via freedigitalphotos.net
Teen Embarrassment Sprint
Parents must behave in a way that will embarrass their teenager. Contestants will be judged on how quickly their teenager shrivels up in mortification and how serious a threat the teenager levies at the parent to stop the embarrassing behavior (i.e. ‘Please stop!’ will receive fewer points than ‘If you don’t stop now, I’ll never speak to you again!’). Immediate disqualification if the teen joins in the supposedly embarrassing behavior.
Have an event to add? Know any influential people we can petition to get the Parenting Olympics up and running? Let’s get this going! The world has lived in oblivion to the stupendous accomplishments of parents for far too long. It’s time we give credit where credit is due!
“I’m a first time mom… I need everything… He has no winter clothes… We need shoes… I love girl clothes, and I just can’t stop buying… It’s all so expensive!”
We’ve been there! The semi-annual Kidz Kraze Consignment Sale has been the solution for many! Whether you are in need of everything, clothes for your ever-growing toddler, or Christmas presents for your nieces and nephews, Kidz Kraze is for you!
Offering superbly organized and gently used consignment merchandise from hundreds of local families just like you, this is truly a “one-stop-shop”.
The Fall Sale runs from August 16 – 23 at the Fort Hill Shopping Center, 6015 Fort Avenue. Visit the Kidz Kraze site here for more details on when you can shop and how to volunteer, allowing yourself to be eligible for pre-sales galore!
We especially have a heart for the moms behind the sale who have continually showed their support for local small businesses, charities, and those in our community in need. To learn more about the charitable work happening through your support of Kidz Kraze, please check out the about section of their website.
Mark your calendars today and don't miss this incredible savings opportunity!
It started when I was pregnant with my twins. Experienced parents would cluck their tongues, shake their heads and state:"Just wait….!"
"Just wait…you think pregnancy is hard? Wait until you have newborns!" "Just wait….you better sleep now because you won't have a good night's sleep for the next 5 years!"
Then after the baby is born, I started hearing these predictions:
"Just wait till he starts teething! Now that's sleep deprivation!" "Oh, I wish mine was a newborn again. Just wait till they can walk! You'll never sit down again!" "Be thankful they can't talk yet. Just wait till they are toddlers. All I hear is "no! no! no!' Can you say temper tantrum?!"
|Twin two year old glory|
Then came toddlerhood:
"You think he has an attitude now? Just wait till he's a teenager!" "You think you worry about safety now? Just wait till he's driving!"
I just sigh. Because with each "Just wait!"all I really hear is this: "You think your life is hard now? Just wait! In a few years, you're going to be even more miserable! Parenting is really going to suck then! Haha!"
But, if I am really honest, I know I've said this phrase myself.
The real question is Why? Why do we caution new parents to "hold on! Just wait….!"
When I examine my heart and attitude toward parenting, I know I've said "Just wait!" for a few complicated, and rather embarrasing reasons:
1. I want to warn less experienced parents of what is coming up. Hey, the "Terrible Threes" ARE harder than the "Terrible Twos."
2. I want to be patted on the back: Yes, dear. Parenting is hard. Here's a gold star.
3. I want to feel superior: You, poor new parent, haven't even experienced the agony that is to come. Heh, heh, heh. Just wait…
#1 is the only reason that is only slightly unselfish (though really, any parent will discover that three is harder than two on her own). The other two reasons just make me cringe that I've ever said "Just wait" to a newer parent.
To me, and any exhausted parent who is just looking for sympathy and support for a hard day….or hard stage….of parenting, the last thing we want to hear is this: "Just wait. The worst is yet to come."
I've only been a parent for 7 years but I've come to realize two small truths: 1. Every parenting stage has its challenges. In some ways, it gets better. In some ways, it gets harder. Mostly it just gets different. 2. Messages of encouragement do far more good than predictions of doom.
I'm trying to break the "just wait" habit in myself. I want to look forward to the future with my children (yes! even the teenage years!) and not live in dread of every new stage.
But even more than adjusting my own attitude, I want to start offering more encouragement and support to my fellow parents. Maybe we could all try out some new "Just waits…"
"Just wait till you hold that new baby in your arms and kiss that sweet head. It is so worth it." "Just wait till she smiles for the first time. Your heart will melt." "Just wait till he says, 'I love you, mama!'" "Just wait till she waves at you at her school program, nudges the kid next to her and says, "look! That's my mom!" And even... "Just wait till he gets his license and can go to Kroger and pick up milk."
Yes, all of those things are worth waiting for…and looking forward to.
The Motherhood Collective is very thankful to Harper at http://foldingafittedsheet.com/ for allowing us to share her post today!
I’m sorry for staring at you in the grocery store this afternoon.
I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable while you were scanning your cereal and diapers and orange juice at the self-checkout.
You were just so beautiful, with your impossibly long legs and flat stomach, and clothes without stains. I just wanted to be you: effortless, beautiful, perfect.
I’m sorry for staring at you at soccer practice this morning.
I wasn’t judging you for being late or barking at your kids as they tumbled out of the minivan still getting dressed. I noticed your husband, and your wedding ring, were missing. I just wanted to help you, but I didn’t know how without offending you, while my perfect husband stood near by. I was just in awe of your strength and how you picked up the slack when your supposed partner in the world’s hardest and most worthy endeavor didn’t show up at soccer, or in your marriage, or in your kids’ lives.
I’m sorry for staring at you at the urgent care last week.
I wasn’t worried that your kid’s runny nose or barking cough was contagious. Okay, I was a little. But mostly I could tell you’d been up all night, waiting, worrying, pacing, comforting, beating yourself up for not leaving work early to take her to the pediatrician during office hours yesterday. I just wanted to tell you “it’s okay, you’re doing your best, and that’s good enough for her.”
I’m sorry for staring at you in Babies ‘R’ Us yesterday.
I didn’t mean to be one of those people a heartbeat away from inappropriately touching a stranger’s pregnant belly, sharing my 20 hours plus a c-section birth story, or spewing unsolicited advice about diapers, homemade baby food, and God knows what else.
You were just me 6 years ago. I could see the joy, the discomfort, and even a little bit of trepidation on your face all at once. And I remembered when it was me wandering those hallowed miles of aisles of baby gear, armed with Consumer Reports printouts in one hand, and the parenting guide du jour in the other. I wanted to tell you that peepee teepees just fall off and you still get sprayed in the face by baby pee, but that you absolutely need the little newborn mittens so your infant doesn’t look like he got in a fight with the cat. I wanted to say save your money on the wipe warmer, but spring for the organic crib mattress. But most of all I wanted to tell you ‘you got this. Trust your instincts, love your child, and enjoy this time. Before you know it, you’ll be a seasoned vet staring at a younger, pregnant version of you, remembering how exciting and scary and wonderful it all was.’
I’m sorry for staring at you at the park on Tuesday.
I didn’t mean to look like one of those baby-snatching people from a Lifetime movie of the week. Don’t worry, I have 3 of my own and couldn’t possibly handle yours too. I just missed the days of being able to lavish all of my attention on one person (thankfully my husband understood). I remember how tough it all seemed then, how I didn’t know what I was doing, but I took on this new role more seriously than a White House security detail. I just wanted to say ‘relax, you’re doing great.’ I even wanted to say ‘enjoy this time. It goes by all too fast’ but I know how annoyed I get when well-meaning moms say that to me, no matter how right I know they are.
I’m sorry I stared at you in the OB/gyn last month.
I didn’t mean to hurt you when I involuntarily clutched my hugely pregnant belly when I saw the tears spill down your face and onto the crumpled ultrasound photo in your lap.
I just wanted to put my arms around you and let your tears soak my shirt. I wanted to tell you ‘I know this hurts. I’ve been there. And I know you want to know why.’ And also ‘this too shall pass.’
I’m sorry for staring at you in the coffee shop this afternoon.
I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable or old while you were having coffee with your grown daughter. I didn’t mean to distract you from what looked like a long overdue catching up.
I was just admiring the wisdom and confidence in each delicate line of your face, how comfortable you were in your own skin and your cotton cardigan. How you smiled at me even when my 20-yard stare turned disruptive. I just wondered what your life was like and what stories you must have to tell. I hoped your daughter, despite thinking she was grown and knew it all, knew what a gift she had sitting across from her, what painful lessons she might be spared if she listened closely enough to your words. I hoped she appreciated the simplicity and truth and love in your wisdom. And I hoped she’ll realize in time to thank you for it before it’s too late.
I’m sorry for staring at you in the living room this morning.
I didn’t mean to make you think I’d caught you cutting the cat’s fur, or discovering the Halloween candy stash. Okay, the Easter candy stash.
I was just thinking I can’t believe how sweet you are to your brother, or that anyone could have eyes as beautiful as yours. Or that you were once small enough to fit inside my belly. I was just admiring how you have your father’s generous heart, and my stubborn tenacity, at the same time. I was just thinking how proud I am of you, and how excited and terrified I am to watch your life every day. I was just daydreaming about the incredible human being you are, and are yet to become, and all the hopes and dreams I have for you. I was just thinking how lucky I am to know you, let alone claim to be your mother.
I’m sorry for staring, but I just need to take in the gift of your presence, and the message God is sending me by placing you in my life in this moment.
Panelists: Dr. Stacey Hinderliter (Pediatrician, Mama), Catherine De La Hunt (LLL Leader, Mama), Josie Olsen (Counselor & Play Therapist, Mama), Lauren Coleman (Mama), and our moderator Erica Wolfe.
While we could devote an entire cafe to this topic, we're going to try to sum it up quickly. Dr. Hinderliter advises that to be ready for potty training your child should be: sometimes dry when you go to change them, communicative with you (either verbally or with signs), able to stand on their own and get their clothes off quickly. Children are not usually ready before 18 months, and it is helpful if the child is around other potty trained kids.
Elimination Communication (EC) is a different form of "potty training". It involves having the child on the potty sometimes and gradually moving away from diapers. Some people start this as early as a few days after birth, and others wait until closer to a year. The process starts by observing and noticing patterns in your children. Once you are aware of the signs, you can get your children on the potty and start teaching them what it is for. It can lessen the trauma involved with "traditional" potty training, because the potty is not a new or foreign concept. Catherine feels that EC is a gentler form of teaching babies or toddlers to use the potty. There are several books on the subject, as well as a very helpful EC Yahoo! Group.
Lauren has tried four different methods with her children. She learned the hard way that being too hard or expecting too much from a child will backfire. She feels that cloth diapers help kids feel wet more than disposable diapers, which aids potty training. Leaving her children naked also allows easier access for kids to the potty.
Josie started by having the potty available to explore and get familiar with. She tried to make it fun and enjoyable, and didn't rush the process. Her daughter was trained by two. One audience member used the three-day method of intensive potty training. She did away with diapers and used underwear or let her child go naked and was successful. Others have been potty training for a year and still use diapers at night. There are so many techniques and the best method depends on your child. Educate yourself about the different approaches and decide what is best for your kids.
Josie says that modeling and demystifying the process can help alleviate pressure and help avoid fear of the potty. You can try putting away the potty for a while if you are not having success, and try again later with a new positive attitude. Stress on parents can transfer to children, so remember to relax because your child WILL eventually be potty trained! Lauren points out that pressure from grandparents should be taken with a grain of salt, since circumstances were different back then (cloth diapers that were not as advanced as today's diapers, etc.).
Potty fears: Erica learned in her house that a child with a fear of pooping on the potty can be helped with play dough. She found that squeezing play dough and explaining how the poop is like play dough helped her child understand. Lauren mentions that a painful poop can scare a child, so be sure to up the fiber and water while potty training.
Dr. Hinderliter says that sleep is an individual thing, and that it is related to a child's awake time. A happy, easy child who doesn't sleep much is doing just fine. An unhappy, moody child, on the other hand, may not be getting enough rest. Lack of sleep can impact a child's behavior and ability to learn. Some labels, like ADHD, could be avoided by more sleep. TV can be detrimental to a child's rest and lead to attention and behavior problems.
Some children gradually outgrow naps naturally, while others will need some coaching. Even if a child won't nap, some quiet rest time during the day can be beneficial.
Catherine found success with sleep by staying near to her children. She found that being available and giving them attention all day and then being present but unavailable at bed time worked for her kids. She let her children choose to lay on the floor nearby or to go get into bed. Her children slept in her bed until around 3 years of age. When they did transitioned to their own room she made a big deal of redecorating the room and making it a fun experience.
Lauren tried various sleep methods. Her first was in a crib, her second in a bassinet, and the second two bed-shared. She now shares a room with all of her children in an attempt to get closer to her older children. She moved their beds into her room for the summer. Josie co-slept and then moved her kids to a toddler bed at the foot of her bed. She gradually moved them to their own rooms, and now at 7 and 10 they have the option to sleep together. Erica's girls share a room and she highly recommends it. It is comforting for them to be together and they bond nicely. Her oldest daughter moved to a toddler bed at twenty months; she stayed in the same room, and was familiar with the bed by the time she made the transition. She was careful not to connect the transition with the arrival of the new baby (who would be using the crib, eventually). Catherine recommends a "14 year test"; ask yourself if this issue will matter 14 years from now to put your worries at ease.
Dr. Hinderliter reminds us to make bedtime a happy, peaceful time. It should not be punishment. She recommends reading (or another favorite quiet activity) before bed, and allowing your child to have a security object. With her own child she was flexible through two tent phases, keeping the lights on, and eventually removing photos from the walls in her room.
Temper tantrums are a well-known issue with toddlers. Lauren advises staying ahead of the tantrums; being aware of hunger, over-tiredness, over-stimulation, etc. can help to avoid tantrums. Avoidance and attention are two reasons that tantrums happen. Catherine calmly picks up a screaming child and removes them from the situation. Josie says not to label the child. Acknowledge their feelings, set a limit, and give them an alternative (Example conversation: I see that you are really angry about this. It is not okay to hit Mommy, though. If you'd like to sit quietly or hug this doll until you feel better, you can.) Catherine finds that getting down on the child's level and giving them the attention they need on a regular basis can help prevent tantrums. Dr. Hinderliter set limits and enforced them, even if they were inconvenient for her schedule (ex. leaving a store because of a tantrum). Talking through a tantrum can help with some kids, and staying calm yourself is important. At the end, a hug can do wonders for reassuring a child and moving on.
There are lots of things you can do to prepare a child for a younger sibling. Catherine's children were raised knowing that babies are important and a priority, in an exciting way. Letting little kids help and be involved with the baby will help older siblings feel important and included. She found that the hardest transition was when the babies were older and started to crawl and get into their siblings' things. Lauren prepared her children with dolls and pretend play, and threw a big birthday party for the new baby to make it fun for the older kids.
Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters. Dr. Hinderliter says not to worry too much about it. Make sure your children are hungry at meal times (limit snacks), and don't make a big deal if they don't eat. Drawing attention to it can make the situation worse. Give them the healthy food you want them to eat and let them choose what they eat (from that selection). Often they will eat well one meal, and not well at the next. Drinks can also fill kids up. Catherine did not make a big deal over food with her own kids, but her grandchildren struggle with mealtime. Her tactic is to remove any tantrum throwers from the room and continue the meal without them, until they are calm and ready to return. She also held a bedtime snack as collateral for eating their dinner.
Our panelists' favorite parts about raising kids in the 2-5 year age group: pretend play, making it through toddlerhood, their curiosity and questioning, letting them learn to do things themselves, and seeing their personalities develop.
The Motherhood Collective is very thankful to Guggie Daly (http://guggiedaly.blogspot.com/) for allowing us to share her post today!
Someone needs to write a book on the lesser milestones. You know, those moments, behaviors, and situations that probably happen during every child's lifetime, but somehow surprise the heck out of a lot of parents?
Everyone knows what to do when a child falls and scrapes his knee. Apply kisses, a gentle rinse to remove any dirt particles and then the preferred ointment, which probably isn't neosporin around here. Top it off with a bandaid if requested. It's advice you easily find in parenting books, on parenting websites, and in popular parenting magazines.
But, what do you do when your 3 year old imagines various injuries all over her body and asks for a bandaid for each one? And specific character bandaids that have magical healing properties? Is your child a hypochondriac? Traumatized? No. It's normal. So are a lot of other things not often discussed...
Yes. Your boobs deflate some time after birth, usually around 3 weeks. They weren't going to be painfully engorged forever, although they might change back and forth for varying reasons. Your milk supply isn't dropping and your baby isn't starving.
Yes. It's normal for your baby to struggle when trying to reach for a toy or accomplish a new milestone. Wait patiently before solving it for him. Let him figure it out on his own. Swoop in only if it's clearly not working out and he's despairing.
The war over baby gadgets? You know, the baby bumbo, the walking wings, the little bouncy jumper things? Guess what. Unless you're a horribly neglectful and completely unobservant parent, you're not going to stunt your child. But, I'll let you in on a secret. They are a massive waste of money. When babies are grunting to get to the next milestone, when they want you to sit them up and hold them steady for seemingly hours (oh, the withdrawal from texting), when they want you to hold their hands and walk with them...that milsetone is just around the corner. Save some cash, spend some time with your baby, and like millions of parents before you, one day you'll be walking upright again, wishing for a rewind button.
Is your 8 month old starting to cry when you leave the room? Refusing to sleep normally? Staying up all night or waking up every hour? Normal. The same goes for refusing to take naps alone and even crying when placed into the carseat. CIO sucks enough already, don't enforce it during a normally choppy time. It's a time of anxiety, so show her security and trust.
And also during that time period...yes. Feedings can get sparse. Your baby isn't weaning. Teething pain and brain development along with a maturing gut lead the way for new foods and forgotten boobs. Until about 13 months. So keep them ready.
Yes. Toddlers hit you. Claw at your nose. Bop your head with their heads. Kick you in the nuts, according to some dads. Even young ones. You haven't spawned Satan's offspring. Just acknowledge the frustration, try to stave off any stealth attacks, and get through the stage. Buy a cup if necessary.
Peas and carrots can't touch. It happens. So does the vegetarian stage believe it or not, after the intense hatred for vegetables.
Oh, your baby eats cod liver oil happily? Ground, unflavored liver? Get ready for that to end. It doesn't matter how hardcore paleo or WAPF you go. All people have preferences, most especially from about 18 months to 40 months.
Have a boy? He will grab his penis. No, your son isn't a pervert. Nothing is wrong. He doesn't need to be circumcised. He's not hurting himself. He will poke it. Pull it. Roll it. Stuff things inside it. Marker on it. Maybe even walk around and touch things with it. If you had something hanging off you, wouldn't you do the same? (And let's not forget the little girls who suction cup squeeze toys to their labia or try to look in the mirror.) The natural curiosity and innocence is something to embrace, not shame or punish.
Picking boogers and eating them is normal. Apparently it can help the gut, too. Bottoms up!
It's normal to be a pig one day, a dog the next. Just roll with it, even in the mud. This includes all manner of crossdressing. Boys love glitter polish and princess dresses as much as girls.
You might have pushed them out, given free access to boobs 24/7, and spent countless sleepless nights over them. But daddy stages are normal. It doesn't mean your kid hates you.
And on that note. Boob rejection, it happens. Take a deep breath, nothing is wrong with you. Your baby loves you. If it isn't a serious issue such as a tongue tie or pregnancy, it's probably something like a cat hair on the roof of her mouth.
When she turns to you and says you are the worst mommy on earth and she hates you? That's practice for the teen years. Expect a good amount of door slamming, kicking, throwing toys with movie-quality emphasis, and screaming. These are big emotions. Show her you care and model different ways to be honest.
Your preschooler throws his pencil on the ground and cries that he can't draw a perfect "A." He's got a bad case of elementary perfectionism. Help him wiggle it out with a dance and hug.
Mom, he's copying me! No, Mom! SHE is copying me! Stop it! You stop it! You-you stop it! *WAILING* Did primitive tribes experience the copying game? What about the poking game? The "I'll lie on the ground here and scream while you slightly touch my head with your foot obliviously because it didn't occur to me to move one inch to the right" game? I imagine a tribal family on a scavenging trip in the forest. "MAMI. Are we there yet? OW! He touched me!"
You are the gentlest, most respectful parent on the earth. You do everything the parenting books say. Your child will do everything anyways. Bite, kick, scream, hit, steal toys, throw sand, jump off the slide, kick off shoes, lick the dog, dump out bubbles..and, hey, we haven't even left early childhood yet.
When your child grabs his poop and throws it during a diaper change, it's normal. When you find her quietly dumping water onto the carpet and flooding your room, it's normal. When they crunch up all their granola bars and spread them over the couch to make sand, it's normal. When she asks ten thousand questions a day, it's normal. When they make farting noises and pretend their penises can shoot fire, it's normal. Welcome to the craziest time of complete normalcy in your life. Relax, you're going to be here for awhile. We didn't discuss the teen years. Just saying.
|Here's my 7.5 month old, who worked so hard at walking that
he even smashed his poor nose right before this.
And my 3 year old, clutching his penis in public.
Seems like the perfect photo for this post.
I don't remember what my first thought was about Micah, Benjamin's twin brother. I just remember praying that he would live as they whisked him away to the NICU without even letting me kiss his fragile, white face.
I didn't get to touch my sons until many hours after my c-section. I gingerly held Benji in my arms, painfully conscious of every wire, tube, and IV in his tiny 4 pound body. Cuddling was impossible.
I kissed his head. His stubby hair felt rough against my lips.
Holding him felt strangely foreign. And I didn't want to hurt him so I quickly let the NICU nurse put him back in the isolate.
With Micah, I gently stroked his foot as he received an emergency blood transfusion. I didn't get to hold him until the next day.
My husband and I were prepared for the NICU. We knew the boys would be premature, would have to stay in the hospital for a while.
What I wasn't prepared for was how detached I felt from my twins after they were born.
Who are you, little ones? I wondered, my eyes searching the faces of my babies, who looked more little little old men than chubby newborns.
Who am I?
This was the thought I couldn't wrap my mind around. I didn't feel like a mother. Mothers gushed over their newborns, exclaiming delight, rapture, love at first sight!
I didn't feel anything.
After two weeks, the boys came home from the NICU in all their 4 pound glory and I plunged my life into caring for them. I was determined to breastfeed; when that didn't work (at first) I pumped around the clock. My children would have "the best." After all, isn't that what "good" mothers do?
My days at home with my preemie twins fell into a predictable, robotic pattern: First cry Warming bottles Feeding Burping Changing diapers Swaddling Back-to-crib Pumping Washing bottles and pump parts
I didn't cuddle my babies or gaze in their eyes, stroking smooth cheeks and smelling necks. If I let myself indulge in a snuggle with one, I felt guilty for not cuddling the other. So, in the name of fairness, I didn't waver from my routine: First cry, warming bottles….
Other friends and my sister-in-law gave birth just a few weeks after I did. They posted on Facebook about how they had never felt such a love, how the baby filled every corner of their heart.
I inwardly rolled my eyes. They are lying. They are just trying to make themselves feel better. Motherhood is ROUGH!
But really, I was jealous of them. What was wrong with me as a woman, as a mother, that I didn't feel the way I was supposed to feel about my babies?
I definitely felt maternal. I took care of them to the best of my ability. I did my very best. I loved them, I really did! But the most I felt toward my newborns was "responsible."
Mostly I just felt broken, defunct.
The weeks slipped by. One month. Two months.
Then, a gift.
We were sitting on the couch, doing some eye gazing and one of the boys (I wish I could remember which one!) looked at me and smiled for the first time.
Oh! My heart actually jumped in my chest and tears sprang to my eyes. And in this moment, I felt true warmth toward my baby.
I felt the LOVE I knew was there but had been missing emotionally.
That smile was a seed that began to grow in my heart and I began to realize a shocking, startling truth:
Perhaps not every mother "falls in love at first sight" with her baby. Perhaps, maybe…some love stories start out slowly, growing deeper and truer over an entire lifetime.
Birth is just the beginning.
My twins are now six and a half years old. They are active, wild, funny, affectionate little boys. Every day when I pick them up from Kindergarten, they run like crazy maniacs across the street and fling their arms around my waist, yelling "MOMMY!" at the top of their lungs.
And my heart feels that same warm glow that began six precious years ago.
I still stare at them sometimes ("Mom…why are you looking at me? Stop!") and think:
Who are you, little one?
And instead of being filled with fear and uncertainty, this question fills me with eagerness to get to know my sons more and more as they grow each day, each year to adulthood.
I will never stop wanting to know them more completely, love them more throughly.
Because sometimes you don't fall in love with your baby at first sight . Sometimes love grows slowly with purpose and strength over a lifetime.
My 2014 New Year's Resolution was to embrace my independence. Basically, I wanted to get more comfortable with the idea of doing things on my own. As a married person, there were a lot of things I had become accustomed to doing as a pair. Some of them were as simple as going out to dinner or the movies, up to the big things like negotiating the purchase of a new sofa, new car, or a new house. Honestly, making decisions on my own didn't come easy at first, even despite my bossy persona. Most of it has gotten easier with time and out of necessity.
My challenge for this year was taking a vacation on my own. Just a long weekend away to explore a place I've never been that is on my "bucket list." Now, I must confess, although I was adamant about accomplishing this, the whole premise terrified me. I had a lot of anxiety about going alone. Some of the anxiety stemmed from the idea of not really knowing my way around or how to navigate a new place. And some of it was irrational - what if I don't have the guts to leave the hotel room and explore the city once I get there? What if I stumble into a crappy neighborhood and get mugged? As a result, I booked and cancelled my getaway trip twice before I had the courage to finally go.
Following this last trip booking, I decided that I had to go and I couldn't make any more excuses. So I booked a long weekend in Seattle. Seattle was a city I always wanted to visit. It always seemed like a fun and safe city, with an interesting history and a small footprint which makes it easy to see in just a couple of days. After talking to a lot of other single mamas, I realize how lucky I am to have a long weekend to myself every other weekend. It was time to take advantage of my time alone and do something adventurous.
The first thing I did as soon as I got on the plane was made friends and asked questions. I was flying with lot of Seattleites, and they were all very proud of their city and the fun things it had to offer. On the flight out, I sat next to a very nice guy - a lawyer originally from L.A. who moved to Seattle 10 years ago. He put together a list of all of the best restaurants and live music venues. He also told me which neighborhoods to avoid and drew me a map of the public transportation system. Once we landed, he took me to the light rail line and gave me a business card in case I ran into any trouble.
Once I got into downtown Seattle, I quickly found my bearings. The concierge at my hotel provided me with a map of all of the touristy stops. I visited all of the essentials: the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, the Great Ferris Wheel, and a lot of museums (I managed to find their shopping district too, inflicting some damage to my credit card). At each stop, I asked locals where they liked to go to dinner and what they liked to do for fun. I found a lot of good spots that way, and I also learned that although there are 2,000 of them in a 5 square mile radius, Starbucks is not well loved by the true Seattle coffee people.
The highlight of my trip was going to a Seattle Sounders game. As a Philadelphia Union fan, I was excited to see the best team in the league play, but I couldn't believe the fan base. I bought a ticket 4 hours before the game on Ticketmaster for $40. My seat was great - 8 rows back at mid-field among all of the season ticket holders. After they made fun of me being from Philly and preparing for me to throw punches or the F-bomb after the first bad call of the game, they took me in as one of their own. It was a neat thing to see 50,000 soccer fans in a sea of green that were so proud of their team and their city.
My last day there, I just wandered around town, revisiting my favorite coffee shop on my visit and taking time to enjoy the water view. As I sat overlooking Puget Sound, missing my kids and finally realizing just how far from home I really was, I was overwhelmed with a sense of calm. I made it. I have evolved. I'm not the victim I could have easily taken the role of; I am the exception, improving myself and my outlook on life.
Happiness doesn't find you. You have to seek it out every day. Adventure doesn't find you. You have to step out of your comfort zone and seek out those things that excite, scare, and ultimately inspire you. And sometimes, doing those things on your own gives you a greater sense of accomplishment. For a while, I was lonely waiting for someone to experience life with, but now I'm learning that you have to lead the charge on your own. Explore the world - sometimes you will have the luxury of a travel companion but don't avoid travel if you don't. Work and kids and bills and house cleaning will all be there when you get home, so make your free time worth living for.
Here are some of my favorites from my Seattle visit:
Favorite place to wander around aimlessly: Pike Place Market - this is definitely a foodie must. There were amazing baked goods to try and a huge variety of amazing fresh seafood picked right out of the water. The Hmong flower stalls were beautiful as well. They have gorgeous huge bouquets of flowers for just $10, which is unheard of around here.
Favorite Tourist Spot: Bill Speidel's Underground Tour (James St. & 1st Ave.) - a fun way to learn the history of the city at the expense of its founding fathers, complete with a 90 minute trek under the city streets.
Favorite Seafood: Ivar's Acres of Clams (1001 Alaskan Way) - the clam chowder and seafood cocktail were delicious and only a few bucks during happy hour. They also encourage feeding the seagulls at their walk-up fish and chips shop outside. Those birds were the happiest but most obese I've ever seen.
Favorite Coffee: Storyville Coffee (1st & Madison) - best latte of my life and they even make the foam on top look like a heart. A far cry from my typical Dunkin Donuts fare.
Favorite Brunch: Sazerac (1101 4th Ave.) - I recommend the Diablo scramble - muy delicioso.
Favorite Museum: EMP Museum (325 5th Ave. N.) - a museum dedicated to all things pop culture. I loved the Nirvana exhibit - brought me right back to high school and my alt rock CD collection of the day.
As a business owner, the idea of maternity leave is a tricky situation. Finding the balance between work and family, that unending internal battle that we all struggle with, becomes even more of a puzzle now that your family is growing. Taking a true break from work when your company depends on you is likely not an option; read on to see choices I have made and decisions I have struggled with in this new chapter of life.
First of all, having the option and ability to work from home is such a blessing and not one that I take for granted. The idea has always been that I will continue to work from home, running this web design business, and also staying at home with our children as they grow up. With the birth of our first son in April, I have implemented a few changes in my routine to accommodate both work and family.
Plan Ahead In the middle of my pregnancy, I took advantage of my high energy levels and worked overtime. Having the opportunity to get more work done than usual made me feel a lot better about taking some time off later. Financially the company had our best few months ever during this time, which means I had a nice cushion going into April and May when the baby was taking up the majority of my time. Knowing that I could continue to draw a paycheck for many months without any additional income was a relief, and worth the extra effort that I put in ahead of time.
Be Flexible Newborns run on their own schedule, and no amount of effort on your part is going to successfully change that. While we have gotten into a decent routine, there is no telling what time the baby will be feeding or napping each day. I take advantage of every free moment to get even little tasks done. Replying to emails on my phone while holding the baby, making quick updates for clients during nap time, etc. have all been crucial to my continued productivity. I made the mistake early on of thinking that I knew when he would be awake or asleep, but banking on that only left me frazzled when I was wrong.
Rely on Others My husband works nearby and is an equal partner in raising our kids. I try to squeeze in a bit of work during “normal” business hours, but when he gets home it is his time with our son while I catch up in the office. During these first weeks of Isaac’s life, Adam has been able to work part time at home. This has been a HUGE help in the transition to a family of three. His job allows him to be flexible, and he has used saved up vacation time to spend more time at home. Whether he is taking care of Isaac so that I can catch up on sleep/work/everything or getting things done around the house while I have the baby, he is a huge help. We had other family, my mom and sister, visit and help out for a few days as well. But even once you’re past those first few big adjustment days, it is not easy to find time for everything in the day. Use others to free up some of your time for work priorities.
Be Realistic During the last weeks of my pregnancy, I was very aware of my schedule and work-load. I was careful to coordinate projects so that they would either be done by the time the baby arrived, or could be put on hold for a few weeks at that time. In these first few weeks I have not been taking on new projects, making current clients the priority instead. This ensures that existing sites continue to run smoothly and are up-to-date, without overwhelming my limited time in the office. Now that I have my energy back and am able to get more done, I am talking with potential clients about new projects. I am aware, however, that my availability will not be what it was. Timelines for projects are longer than before, giving me more time to get my work done and avoiding a decrease in quality due to time constraints.
Those are my tips for life (and work!) after baby. Any other working parents out there with some advice to share?
The Motherhood Collective is very thankful to Paola Parsons (http://loveandcupcakesblog.com/) for allowing us to share her post today!
I’ve been wanting to write this post since Cielo was born but I thought I’d wait a little to see how things pan out. One month in and I stand by the statement that breastfeeding is hard. And you know what? Every single mom that I have spoken to since Cielo’s birth has said the exact same thing. One even told me she thought it was almost harder than labor itself!
So why is this something I never knew before having the baby? Why isn’t this topic shared in more birth classes and prenatal appointments? Why didn’t my midwife tell me I may have a hard time with one of the most elementary aspects of being a mom? Breastfeeding has been the number one topic of conversation concerning the baby in my household. And after speaking to so many moms and hearing similar stories to mine, I thought it was time we had an open and honest conversation about the trials and triumphs of breastfeeding. I want to know your stories. Did you find it hard to nurse your baby? How did you cope? Were you more successful? What can you share with new moms to help them along?
I encourage everyone to comment on this post (the more advice, stories, knowledge, the better), but let’s all be supportive of each others thoughts and parenting philosophies (including mine). How you feed your baby can be such a hot topic and I don’t believe in parent shaming. We all do what we need to do to keep our kids safe, happy and healthy, right? Right!
So let’s talk about breastfeeding…
Less than an hour after Cielo was born, she was latched to my left breast with such ferocity. Her suck was so strong. She had done it all on her own and I was so proud of her. I thought to myself, we did it. We’re breastfeeding. I expressed my right breast and saw that colostrum was oozing out. It felt amazing to be feeding my baby from my own body. I felt superhuman. Not only did my body grow new life inside of it, I had given birth– an experience only those who have gone through can understand. And now, I was nursing my new baby from my own bosom. She knew her job and I knew mine. Nature is so amazing, I thought.
By the next day, I had nursed the baby about one million times (no joke!). My nipples were starting to feel a little sore. No one ever told me how often newborns liked to feed. And I was following the “feed on demand” or “breast on demand” philosophy, which states to nurse baby whenever she suckles or roots– this includes baby sucking on her hand, which Cielo would do non-stop! So, I obliged my hungry baby and nursed her…and nursed her…and nursed her. Although I received some guidance from my midwife on how to get her to properly latch and what sensations I should be feeling (deep tugs within my breast and contractions in my uterus), my actual lactation consultant (LC) didn’t see me until the middle of the second day postpartum. By then, my nipples were no longer just sore; they were cracked and almost bloody. I also started to notice that Cielo was getting frustrated when she nursed sometimes and would cry out hysterically, even with my boob sitting in her mouth. The LC decided to check inside of Cielo’s little mouth. She explained to us that the baby had a tight frenulum (tongue-tie) and that we should have it clipped. CLIP MY BABY’S TONGUE?!! I thought. Heck no! That sounded really awful! I asked to speak with my midwife immediately. She came in and I explained what the horrible LC had told us. Our midwife stared back blankly. She said it was no big deal, lots of baby’s have a tight frenulum and that the procedure was totally routine and performed daily. A tight frenulum is often the cause of a poor latch which is frustrating for baby because her tongue doesn’t stick out far enough to let down the milk she so desperately wants. A poor latch can also damage the nipple. I had never heard of tongue tie and no one had ever mentioned it as a possibility so naturally, I was a bit skeptical.
From the beginning of our pregnancy, Evan and I made the decision that we would not allow anyone– be it a medical professional, a family member or a friend– pressure us into doing or feeling anything that didn’t fit into our vision of a healthy pregnancy and birth. And we wanted to continue that thinking once the baby was here. So, instead of hastily clipping the frenulum, we decided we’d wait, get more opinions and do more research. In all, we sought the opinions of three pediatricians, three lactation consultants, two nurses, one midwife and countless websites, and they all said the same thing– her frenulum was indeed tight and that we should have it clipped.
So finally we did, but it was a whole six days after her birth. We’re proud of ourselves for having the wherewithal to follow our guts and do more research on the topic, but sadly, days one through five of our breastfeeding life become progressively worse as a result. Cielo became increasingly unhappy the days following our homecoming from the hospital…as did my nipples. By night three, I was dripping blood from one nipple. I decided, I shouldn’t breastfeed. Instead, I would just pump. Pumping was proving to be more successful. We were feeding Cielo with a syringe to avoid nipple confusion. Between pumps, I would lube up with Neosporin and sit around with no top on so that my nipples had enough air to breath and heal faster. Cielo was still fussy, but she seemed to be getting enough milk to keep her satisfied for the time being. It wasn’t until our fifth night with our newborn that shit really hit the fan. While I was pumping, my left breast began to spew blood into the bottle, then, as if cued by the left, the right one followed suit. Both of my breasts were now pumping large amounts of blood. Too much to feed the baby. It was the middle of the night. Cielo began to cry. I began to cry. How was I going to feed our baby?! That was my job, she was trying to do hers. I was devastated. And scared. I had no idea how to put food in my baby’s belly at that moment. Then Evan blurted out the F word…FORMULA. I looked at him in horror and cried some more. Formula was not part of my vision. It was not part of my plan. I was a natural mom. I labored for 26 hours and not once asked for pain medicine. I spent nine months eating healthy and exercising. I was a breastfeeding mom, not a formula mom. But in that moment Cielo was all that mattered and she was crying out in hunger…and I couldn’t bear it anymore. It was 3am when we hit our breaking point. Evan threw on his pajama pants (inside out– we can laugh about this now) and drove as fast as he could to the nearest open drug store. We hadn’t even opened the three bottles we had purchased “just in case” we ever needed one.
The moment the bottle touched her lips, Cielo was sucking as hard as she could. She inhaled the formula. And then she stopped crying. And then she curled up and went to sleep. She had been up for hours crying, rooting, sucking on her hands…she was hungry that whole time. My heart still breaks thinking of this. In that moment, I understood that maternal instinct of needing to do whatever it takes to keep your baby safe and happy. I would kill. I would die. I would give my baby formula forever if it meant that she was better off.
I left my formula feeding prejudices behind that night. In fact, I left all of my parenting prejudices behind that night. Happy, healthy, safe – that’s my new philosophy. And whatever road it takes to get there, that’s of no importance to me (within reason, of course).
We formula fed for the next two days while my nipples fully healed. Cielo turned into a whole new baby. She was content, she was full, she was sleeping– she was the kind of baby we had hoped to have all along.
When I finally felt ready to get back to nursing, I started off slow. Nursed a little, pumped a little and continued to supplement with formula as needed. In a matter of a few days, I was back to breastfeeding full-time. Cielo’s latch is great now and I know when she’s getting enough milk. My supply has come in healthily and continues to grow each day. I now even pump once a day for the freezer and I’m still able to feed the baby sufficiently.
AND…we continue to use formula as needed. No qualms about it.
I’m a happier, more confident mom now. Evan has been able to participate in feedings more directly and connect with Cielo during that intimate time. In retrospect, there are a number of things I could have done differently to have avoided all of our breastfeeding woes, but we’re happy with the cards that were dealt to us. We learned a great deal about ourselves, our baby and what kind of parents we want and need to be to keep her happy, healthy and safe.
A few suggestions (take them or leave them):
1) Find a lactation consultant that you like and trust, and consult her as often as necessary. Many LC’s will make house calls or talk you through any dilemmas over the phone.
2) Find a support group. Whether a friend, family member or postpartum group, seek out your peers to help you. These are women that have gone through or are going through a similar scenario to you. Help each other.
3) Make sure to have the necessary tools for successful nursing– nipple guards, creams and ointments, soothing pads, ice packs, a good pump, plenty of bottles or feeding utensils (there are many alternatives to bottles), etc.
4) NEVER feel bad for the decisions you have made when it comes to keeping your baby happy, healthy and safe. You don’t have to defend yourself. You are the mom (or dad) and ONLY YOU know what your child needs.
5) If nursing is your end goal, DON’T GIVE UP!!! Breastfeeding is hard, but the more you do it, the better and easier it gets. Take your time and keep at it.
I hope my story is helpful to any other moms who are having trouble with nursing. Know that you’ll get through it and YOU’RE NOT ALONE!!!
While there are many toddlers out there that can go to bed without a fuss and can sleep happily until morning, there are quite a few others who don’t. These toddlers try to negotiate, stall or delay every second they can before they actually fall asleep. If you’re struggling with your toddler’s bedtime process, these five tips will help create peace and even make you enjoy bedtime. Tip #1: The day affects the night:
If your toddler is hard to settle for bedtime or wakes up often during the night, their day may be the cause. Is he sleeping too much during the day? Try cutting back how long he's napping or you may need to drop the nap altogether (as long as he is at least 3 years old). Another reason can be he is not sleeping enough during the day? An overtired toddler can find it struggle falling asleep and staying asleep at night, so it's important that they get enough rest during the day. Is he getting enough attention during the day? Toddlers need a certain amount of attention and if they're not getting it during the day they have trouble letting go of the individualized attention they suddenly have as you are trying to put them to bed at night.
Tip #2: Teach your child what is expected of them:
It would be amazing for our little love bugs to just instantly obey us as we tell them to do something, but 9 times out of 10 their minds aren’t even grasping the idea of what you are trying to communicate to them. Be clear, precise, and fun. Think about it as they see it. Go through the bedtime routine as simple and fun as you possibly can. Get them excited about bedtime and teach them exactly what is expected of them during the night so there are no questions to be asked.
Tip #3: Routine, routine, routine:
I can’t say it enough. Routine is fundamental in creating a great sleeper. Kids love it and thrive on it. A nightly bedtime routine helps your child learn what is expected of them and their body. It allows their body to wine down and get sleepy. A solid routine during bedtime also creates a happy and enjoyable feeling for a child’s sleeping environment. It gives them security and sense of ownership.
Not every child has the same bedtime routine. But in general, your routine should include all the things that your child needs to do before going to sleep, including brushing teeth, taking a bath, putting on their pajamas, and having a snack or glass of water. Your child may want to be read to, talk about the day, or be told a story. Whatever you choose to do, keep the routine short (30 minutes or less) and be firm about ending it when it's time to sleep. No negotiating.
Tip #5: Let them give their opinion:
Eliminate the power struggle that often comes while you are trying to get your toddler to bed. Calm down, breathe and give them the opportunity to provide an opinion. You are the parent and you set the rules and the time that your toddler goes to sleep. But, giving options eliminates a full on power struggle and will make your bedtime routine much more enjoyable (for both you). Ask them if they would like to choose which pajamas they would like to wear? Which two books would you like to read tonight? Or what stuffed animal would you like to sleep with? These opportunities to allow them to make their own decisions, creates confidence and lowers the bedtime battles.
Tip #5: Give them praise:
Children need to receive words of affirmation after obeying things you have told them to do. Praise them for a job well done! Give them big hugs and tell them how cozy they looked while sleeping that night. Most parents use a sticker chart to help reward their child. Once they have received a certain amount of stickers, they receive a special surprise. Giving your child an opportunity to see their progress can help continue the process and get them excited to sleep in their bed without a huff and a puff.
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