Motherhood

education AND support

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What a beautiful week for us as a staff of The Motherhood Collective. On Saturday we welcomed you to the Café Express. On Monday we held both the Café and our PPMD Support Group. Wednesday brought our Grief Support Group. What a gift to have the opportunity to serve so many women in such different ways. If you are new to our programming this week, welcome. As an organization we long to advocate for a societal shift in maternal health. We feel the way we accomplish this best is through education AND support by connecting you to each other and to your communities.

Education empowers. Education expands our knowledge. Education, on it's own, can also overwhelm and leave us without tools for success. This is where we feel woman to woman support must come in.

It is within the framework of support that women discover variances of normal. It is through the safety of support that women find assurance that they are not alone.

Thank you. Thank you for allowing us to serve you. Thank you for allowing us to learn what it looks like to connect you to each other and to your communities. Again, welcome to our new faces. Please let us know if there's anything we can do to further your education and support from pre-conception through postpartum.

All my love,

PS - Do you follow us on instagram? Here is a peek at what we've been up to this week!

Bravery.

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Last weekend our volunteer staff had the opportunity to spend an entire day together. We ate, played, and spent time digging into our own stories - in order that we might be able to better walk alongside you. There was a resounding theme that echoed through the day. We, as a culture, must seek to rid ourselves of assumptions. We must validate the unique stories of the women in our lives. We can walk alongside each other in pain and in joy.

Through education and support we strongly feel there is hope for a societal shift in maternal health.

We acknowledge that we all must become better listeners. In humility and vulnerability, we must also share our stories. For often, healing begins with one person's simple bravery.

Will you join us in changing the culture? Will you join us as we seek to better the health of women from pre-conception through preschool? Change begins with individuals. Change begins with us.

All my love,

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Are we worth it?

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As we have been working our way through Maternal Mental Health Month I have been mulling over the biggest obstacles that we, as women, face in achieving stable mental health. Continually, it comes back to this - we do not believe we are worth it. It takes time, sacrifice, and a mindset of worth to get to a PPMD Support Group. If we feel the time is too expensive, the sacrifice to our families too great, and our worth not equal to those we care for; then, quite simply, help will not be sought.

I would say, in this culture, that women have a history of being self-proclaimed martyrs. We learned these behaviors from the women before us. We eat the piece of chicken dropped on the floor, we share the cup - receiving backwash in return, we get up early and go to bed late all for these precious people entrusted to our care.

But, my loves, we must acknowledge that caring for ourselves enables us to care for those we love even better! The time taken to attend a Postpartum and Perinatal Mood Disorders Support Group is well spent! The walk around the park while a friend keeps the children is time well spent. The cup of tea sipped while still hot is time well spent. We must make our Mental Health a priority.

Depression and anxiety are the most common complications surrounding childbirth. They can be experienced in both pregnancy and the postpartum period. There is nothing to be ashamed of and there is hope. But we must take the first step - we must decide that we are worth the fight to be well.

Join me in encouraging mothers around us to fight for their Mental Health, together we are serving women and changing lives.

With all my love,

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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.

Does our work matter?

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Does the unnoticed, messy, relentless, thankless, work matter? In a world full of big and grand, I have been dwelling on this recently. We applaud high attendance at events, we worship those with millions of Instagram followers, we praise leaders who bring help to thousands, and we yearn after bigger houses, bigger cars and bigger paychecks.

But what about the small? What about the mother with several children at home who bathes, feeds, and dresses the same little bodies every day? Does her work matter? What about the mother who balances daycare, employment, and bedtime routines? Or the mother who just gained custody of the older children? Does her work matter?

I would argue that, YES, her work matters immensely. For her investment is not in something that quickly depreciates or that will fade away with time. Her investment is generational. Her investment is in something greater than herself. Her investment leaves a legacy. Her investment, though quiet, teaches the most beautiful of all lessons. Her investment teaches how to love.

So keep up the good work today, my friends. I see you. THEY see you. You are changing lives in the most beautiful way.

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To the mom of only one child… and for those who wonder why she doesn’t have more…

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Last week I tried to buy a bike rack. I found a good deal on a quality one and had dreams of family bike rides through Lynchburg trails with the summer wind blowing in our faces. All those dreams came crashing down when I realized my husband’s truck hitch wouldn’t fit the rack. Today, I bought another rack, one that fit my trunk and our budget and my expectations for quality. After school, I picked up my son and we took our bikes to a local park to ride our hearts out before a spring thunderstorm was to strike. I’m not sure what makes an 8 year old boy ride through every mud puddle, but he did and the whole backside of him from ankles to head was covered in splatters. It delighted him (and me) as his laughter and whistles competed with the wind.  

A close friend and I recently chatted about the pain of only having one child when our arms ache for more. For me, the years of infertility and the experience of an angel baby has left me a bit dried up and searching for who I truly am, when I was “supposed” to be the mother of a houseful of noisy children, who made Christmas dinners entertaining and left dirty socks in every corner. It doesn’t help that we live in a city where having children is almost a religion and only having one child entices many to ask… “Are you going to give that boy a sister?” Or the pitying looks from those wondering if I’m every going to conceive again. When Ethan was 5 or 6, the questions of when we were having another seemed to fade away. If we lived in a metropolitan area, I’m pretty sure no one would bat an eye at our only having one child. But today, it took me off guard when the owner of our favorite Mexican restaurant asked me that very question. In all fairness to him, we haven’t seen him in years as he runs multiple eateries, but it still surprised me.

 

A few years ago after we lost our baby, we went through fertility treatments. Physically and emotionally, I knew I was done, one afternoon. Sitting in the waiting room full of eagerly expectant moms with swollen bellies sealed the deal for me. I was done trying. Done with painful procedures. Done with daily temperatures. Done with ovulation kits and intimacy for the point of procreation, and that horrible two week wait after ovulation, wondering if I had conceived that month. Moving on from these lifelong dreams, however, cut me like a knife. Would I ever have a daughter to dress in bows? Would Ethan feel like he was missing out on life without a brother? Had I failed him in some way? Would I grow old one day and live alone in a nursing home with no one to visit me if Ethan lived across the country? How was I going to wrestle with my maternal instincts that seemed to be on overdrive? That wrestling led me to a new career pursuit of becoming a Lactation Consultant. Never in all my years of practicing my nursing career would I have dreamed I would work with breastfeeding babies and mommas. But it fits somehow, like a puzzle piece. This love for babies and nurturing has redemptively turned into a love for educating women and loving on their babies.

 

Yet, There are moments when I see adorable, chubby faced babies in bows, or that picture of a perfect family with parents surrounded by multiple cherubs in a field of grass with the sun casting a warm glow on their little family… that my heart aches. I have cried many tears in the shower over the loss of my baby almost 4 years ago…of the loss of my dreams of how I thought my family would look. Death of dreams demands attention.

 

I inwardly cringe every time I hear someone refer to a newly expectant baby (after the loss of another baby) as a rainbow baby. Perhaps because rainbows do not happen for everyone in that manner. It hasn’t for me… I went for a walk last week at the park and ran into a woman I had cared for at the hospital. Her adorably chunky baby was smiles and sweetness. I knew this woman had wrestled with difficulties in conceiving and had experienced a miscarriage. Some women exude joy in parenting. This momma is one such woman. She loves being a mother and is doing an amazing job. But she was wrestling with whether or not she wanted another child or not. She asked me the pros and cons of having one child, aware of my story.

 

I love that Josh and I have been able to parent Ethan with such individual attention. That my son has his passport and has been able to travel to other countries. He absolutely adores Mexico and wants to go to Europe. That he plays the violin, and I can actively participate in that experience with him. That we can have calm bedtimes and snuggles with him. That he doesn’t have to share our attention with other children at this time in life.  But I ache that he doesn’t have a brother to share a room with and be scolded with for whispers past bedtime. That I am the playmate at times on lazy Saturday afternoons, instead of a brother or sister. My heart is incredibly grateful for the neighborhood kids and the dear friends (who are like brothers to Ethan) who Ethan has shared incredible memories with. Mercies for my heart…

 

When that first bike rack did not work out, I was disappointed. But then another one came across my path a few days later. I chewed on this… This thought that one rack was not better or worse than the other. They were...simply different.  And so it is with my family and every other family with one child, whether by choice or not. We are not better or worse than any other family structure… we are simply different. We are us… and our child is an absolutely precious gift. Perhaps society can begin to accept the variations of families that don’t all look like alike and lay aside any personal judgements and ideas we hold others and ourselves too. And perhaps as mothers we can begin to address that our identities as women supercede being mothers. That who we are is more than the chores of changing diapers and washing dirty laundry. That we have a loving nurturer inside of us. And we can throw that love into raising our families…whether with one child or 20. And we can spread it to others outside our family too… as for me… breastfeeding mothers and their babies. Because we are strong and loving women who need the support of one another and need to extend grace to ourselves and our differences.

 

And speaking of washing dirty laundry… a little boy’s muddy clothing and shoes are asking to be cleaned.

 

Julie Brown, Mother to Ethan, RN, BSN, Breastfeeding Educator, IBCLC candidate

Julie serves as a leader for The Motherhood Grief Group which meets the 2nd & 4th Wednesdays of the Month at 12 noon. Please visit their page for more information.

 

 

 

New Dreams

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One of my most treasured parts a a Café morning is having opportunity to sit in a small group with the women who attend. Last Monday in the late infancy group we discussed our well-being as women. How has motherhood changed us? Are we the same women we were before? Each of us said that we had difficulty discovering the new woman who is the mother. Our identity has changed, and with that; our hobbies, interests, and dreams.

We spoke about the struggle to surrender to the new woman who has been birthed through motherhood. Some of her life goals may remain, and how wonderful! Some of her life goals may have shifted, and that's wonderful too! But we must give ourselves the freedom to dream new and more incredible dreams. We must give ourselves the freedom to grow and expand with each new season we encounter.

We are ever evolving and ever growing women. We are mother. What dream will you grant yourself the permission to dream today?

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Dreams

Our stories.

Photo by Liz Cook of Sincerely, Liz, Inc.

Our stories. Are they important? Do they shape our children? Do they shape us? As a culture we are losing the art of storytelling. Oh, we can boast. We can complain. We can argue. We can "talk". I know I personally hesitate to tell my story if it is messy. After all who would want to hear my pain and my struggles, my unmet expectations, mistakes, and failures?

I know one person who would, my daughter. In fact, just the other day she asked about how I "disappointed my mama." What did I do to make her sad? How did I learn? It woke me up and made me realize that stories are not supposed to be perfect. Stories present us opportunities to learn.

Each of you, as women, has a story. You have a life story. You have a motherhood story. You have a narrative that is longing to be told and that just might encourage someone in a season right behind you.

Maybe you're in the midst of infertility struggles. Maybe you've just lost a baby. Maybe you're pregnant for the first time. Maybe you're the mother of twins. Maybe you're a mother through adoption. Maybe you're the biological mother of 10. Maybe you dislike breastfeeding. Maybe you long to breastfeed.

We need to hear your stories. I long for you to use them to encourage someone around you or to share a lesson learned with your children. You are valuable and so is your story.

With love,

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The Struggle of Self Care

Photo by Liz Cook of Sincerely, Liz, Inc.

At the Café yesterday we discussed self-care. This is an area in which my mother never excelled. There was always something more important to be done or someone more important to tend to. Rest was not valued nor encouraged. As a hormonal and sleepy adolescent this frustrated me to no end. Now that my mother is gone and I find myself in the role of "mother", I at last understand the enormity of her struggle. How do we as women with SO MUCH valuable work in front of us give appropriate value to rest and self-care?

I've heard it said that we are not fully able to, "love others as we love ourself" if we are not in the practice of showing true love to ourselves. What a true and convicting the statement. How will we expect those whom we are nurturing to care for their bodies, hearts, and minds if we are not setting an example?

Showing love to ourselves will most likely look differently for each of us. What can you do today, this week, or this month to thank yourself for the valuable work set before you?

I challenge you and I challenge myself. Let us see how we are better equipped to show love to those in our sphere of influence by caring for the very vessels of love.

Most sincerely,

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You're not alone.

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I've had two hard weeks personally. Snow, sickness and the lack of school has not really helped my outlook. Do you have weeks like this? Weeks where you can't get ahead? Where laundry piles up, emails go unwritten, texts and messages pile up on your phone? You ever feel like you're failing as a mother, partner, friend, employee? Perhaps your struggles run even deeper. Perhaps you roll your eyes at the things above and think, "if only she knew the extent of my pain." Well, I might not know each hurt, each ache, each problem. But I know this. You're not alone. I'm so sorry for your bad week. Your bad month. Your bad year. I'm sorry for the pain that might run beneath it all. My heart hurts for you that this journey of MOTHERHOOD is not as simple as we all dreamed.

It is easy to isolate myself when I feel this way. To imagine my problems (small or large) will annoy my friends. But we need each other, don't we? We need to walk MOTHERHOOD together. This is one of the reasons I am so thankful for this organization. I has brought me into relationship with women I never would have known. Women who are nothing like me, but are my who are my partners in MOTHERHOOD.

Even if your little world is pain free, don't do MOTHERHOOD alone. Pour into someone else now, today. For, together we are SERVING WOMEN and CHANGING LIVES. I know you've changed mine.

Most sincerely,

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We need relationships.

Photo by Liz Cook of Sincerely, Liz, Inc.

Sending you warm and loving thoughts as we near Valentine's Day. Motherhood can be such a lonely and isolating job. I don't desire that for any of you. We need relationships. We need them on the sunshine and rainbows days and on the dark and stormy days. Sometimes, though, it takes a first step. It takes being uncomfortable. It takes effort. It takes reaching out.

Will you challenge yourself? Will you push your fears aside as we near the holiday that celebrates relationships? Text a friend. Go on a walk with a neighbor. Join us at playgroup. Practice self care and attend a support group.

I loved seeing all the new and familiar faces at the Café yesterday morning! I applaud each of you for putting in the work to make it there. I hope the laughter was refreshing and the panel educational. If there is ever any way in which we could be serving you better, would you email me at: lbarnes@themotherhoodcollective.org?

We are here for you. We long to see a societal change in maternal health. Will that change start with you?

Most sincerely,

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"Nurturing the mother to grow the child."

Photo by Liz Cook of Sincerely, Liz, Inc.

January is almost over. Winter storms cover the East Coast. What an honor it has been to serve you wherever motherhood finds you this winter. Are you familiar with our tagline? "Nurturing the mother to grow the child." Do you know how deeply we believe this? Motherhood is challenging. Our primary goal is to nurture, support and educate you; enabling you to make the choices best for your family. We are passionate about cheering you on - helping you find your truth.

My heart was filled to overflowing as I watched so many of you play with different baby carriers at the Saturday Café Express and Monday Café. Your laughter and encouragement was contagious. For those of you who joined us for the first time, I applaud you for your bravery in stepping out to connect with women you did not know. For those of you who missed your time with us, be sure to visit the blog for recaps and valuable information.

Be sure to check out all of the upcoming events listed on the calendar. There are many opportunities for connection and support wherever you have need. If there is any way in which we could be serving you better, please let me know.

All my love,

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Happy New Year from The Motherhood Collective!

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For those of you who joined us for the first time yesterday morning, welcome! We enjoyed meeting each of you and truly hope you were able to connect, learn and receive support. If you have any questions about yesterday's topic, panelists, our resources, please let me know: lbarnes@themotherhoodcollective.org. The Café panelists covered a vast array of subjects, from adding value to our children to their methods of correction. They encouraged us to embrace today, reminding us that the challenges we face today will fade and new obstacles will arise with each year of growth (even when our children are grown!). Each season with our children is precious and brief. Eileen spoke of how she writes out a blessing for her children full of hopes for their future and affirmations of who they are today. She reads this to them on their birthday and frames them. What a beautiful idea!

Our hope for this year is to bring more depth to our education and support by serving you in love, on purpose and with focus. We are honored to create spaces where women of all philosophies, parenting theories, ages, and backgrounds can come together and support one another. Together we will "nurture the mother to grow the child".

Most sincerely,

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Running on Empty

 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.

 

Not Yet Ready for Motherhood

A major surprising thing that’s recently happened to me was when I discovered I was pregnant. I didn’t expect to get pregnant at my age. I’m nearly approaching my 40’s, and I believe conceiving a baby at my age sometimes poses some explicit risks. Also, another thing that troubles me is my tight budget. I’ll need to find ways not only to support my needs, but also those of my unborn child, on top of supporting my adopted young daughter on a day to day basis.

I will need to bravely deal with my unexpected pregnancy, though. My husband and I have searched for the best tips on how to deal with unexpected motherhood. We’ve come up with a list of tips that we think may prove to be useful in helping us out.

 

Image from Flickr

Resolve Potential Sibling Rivalry

I’m well aware that a new parenting task I’ll be facing is resolving sibling rivalry between my new baby and my 6-year old daughter. I think as early as now, I should start contemplating the resolution I would implement in order to resolve the issue of possible sibling rivalry between my kids once they start growing up together.

It should be expected my little kids may likely get into arguments and quarrels, particularly when playing. I won’t be surprised if each of my kid refuses to share the toy I’ve bought for them for Christmas. It may be beyond my power to prevent this scenario from happening when my budget is tight, and I only have so much money to buy one toy for Christmas.

To make both of my kids happy, I would buy little treats for each of them that fit my budget, such as candies and chocolates. These treats should make my kids happy, and it should avert any fights that may occur between them.

Relive Tantrum Days

And, to think I would have had enough of tantrums from kids! I thought I’ve already gotten past the stage of having to deal with a little child crying whenever he doesn’t get what he wants. And here I go, expecting the same scenario all over again.

In the past, whenever I took my daughter to a playground nearby our local park, she would always throw a fit if her playmates didn’t do what she wanted them to do, subsequently embarrassing me in front of a crowd.

After I give birth to my unborn child, I plan to strictly discipline my child to let him know he can’t always throw tantrums and get away with them scot-free. I would take away privileges from my child if he throws a tantrum a lot of times within the past month. By doing this, I can teach my child a lesson that rewards such as movie time, or a new toy only comes alongside good behaviors.

I’d likely consider engaging in interactive play with my younger kid in the playground to guide him how to act appropriately during moments that he can’t get everything he desires. The benefits of playground interaction of parents and kids are overwhelmingly immeasurable. Engaging in interactive play with my younger child maximizes opportunities for my kid to gain more friends, rather than enemies, in the playground.

The Age Gap Burden

Obviously, two kids with big age difference will likely have trouble relating to each other during play. One kid may have different ideas on how to play as compared to those of the other kid. Idea differences may cause arguments to break out between my two kids.

One of the most essential parts of motherhood is being there for your children, especially during their younger years. I, for one, wouldn't hesitate to come to my kids’ rescue when it comes to providing them with invaluable lessons on how to cope with sibling age difference.

Imparting lessons to my kids on how to cope with sibling age difference through creative storytelling would likely inspire my kids to extend their patience and understanding to each other. My kids are likely going to be inspired with the successful scenarios within the stories that I have to tell. After hearing these stories, I’d look forward to seeing them become the better big sister/ little brother or sister to each other.

Unprepared To Take Some Time Off From Work

Since my first child is a bit older and independent now, I was expecting to take some more time away from home working. I needed to earn additional income because I have been on a tight budget.

Now, I would have to make the transition in adjusting my busy schedule to spend more time bonding with my new baby after he is born. Spending more time playing and bonding with younger kids positively contribute not only to their emotional and social development, but also to their day to day safety, as well.

According to an article in Playgroundequipment.com, one out of every four kids becomes a prey to a bully, or to a number of bullies. I’m particularly alarmed of the risk of my little kid getting bullied, at school, in the playground, or wherever he may go. With this said, I’d be more than willing to adjust my schedule to spend more time with my young child after he is born to prevent avoidable untoward incidents from happening before it’s too late, even though it may be difficult to do so.

As a soon-to-be parent again, I need to be my unborn kid’s mother, friend and protector all in one package. I need to be the mom that my kid can proudly look up to and admire.

A mother is a child’s safe haven against the troubles this chaotic world constantly brings into his life. Having said this, us mothers, should in turn, hail our children to be the best blessings God can ever give us in this lifetime.

Montessori Moods: Sound Cylinders

The sound cylinders are a very fun sensorial activity. The purpose is to refine the sense of hearing and to teach vocabulary such as “loud,” “soft,” “loudest,” “louder,” etc. Traditionally the activity consists of twelve wooden cylinders, six with red tops and six with blue tops. Each set is filled with six different fillings that each makes a different sound, such that there are six matching pairs. Image from Montessori Outlet

Sound cylinders are very easy to make. You just need twelve opaque containers with lids. Film canisters come to mind, but are harder to come by these days. I used Easter eggs for mine. They are easy to find at the right time of year and pretty cheap. I was a bit desperate to make them when I did and the only eggs I could find that were matching and in sufficient quantity were camo. A little bit distracting, but not too bad. To simplify the activity a bit, I only made four "cylinders" per set instead of six. To distinguish the two sets, I drew purple circles on one end of the egg with a permanent marker. Not my proudest DIY moment, but they work for us. I’m sure you can figure out something more sophisticated! We use egg cartons cut down to size to store them.

I then filled the eggs with four different fillings. My “loudest” filling is dried beans. My softest filling is salt. The two in the middle were some type of grains I had in my pantry. The exact filling doesn’t matter, you just need them to make four different sounds from loud to soft. You could use rocks, dirt, sand, coins, beads—whatever you can find in your house.

DSC_0732 I know. They're ugly.

To present the activity, take both groups of cylinders to a table or rug (when doing work on the floor, Montessori uses a rug to define the work space for the child). Place both sets next to each other. Take a cylinder from group one and shake it next to your ear. Do the same thing with the other three in that group. Let your child do the same. Take the loudest cylinder and shake it again. Then grab one of the cylinders from group two with your other hand and shake it. If they don’t match, put the group two cylinder back and try a different one. Go through all of group two until you find the one that matches. Set the pair aside and match the remaining three using the same procedure. Encourage your child to repeat the activity.

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Once your child has had some experience doing the first activity, you can do some extensions. You can teach vocabulary using the three period lesson and also grade the cylinders from loudest to softest. You can play different memory games by putting the groups on different rugs/tables with a little distance between them. You can ask the child to find a cylinder that is louder or softer than a specific cylinder. You can also do the activity blindfolded!

This is one of my favorite sensorial activities. I hope you and your child enjoy it, too!

Print the Pictures

Last night I had a rare opportunity. I was home for the most part by myself. Girls were with Grandparents, Josh was out with some guys for work, so it was just me and Tacy. I had grand plans on what I was going to do with my night and I ended up spending it working on photos.Every year I say I want to get better at documenting our lives. It is an easy thing to SAY it’s much harder to do. Last year I was actually pretty good at getting photos. But in this digital day and age it’s way too easy for those photos to stay on my computer or phone. So last night I bit the bullet. I created and ordered a photo book with my favorite 200 photos of 2013. I also ordered all the photos I have taken in the month of January so I can try my hand a new scrapbook system. Lastly I sorted through all the printed photos I have and organized them chronologically. All in all it was a good night, though not at all easy. It wasn’t the time or money, though both of those were a bit frustrating. More than anything it was spending hours and hours looking at photos of myself. While it has been a wonderful year it has been a hard year and giving birth to a baby rarely does kind things to our bodies. So here I sit a month into the new year staring at pages and pages of photos of myself I would rather bury. It would be very easy to hit delete but I didn’t I hit print. In 12 years when my now six month old is struggling with her body image I want her to look back and see pictures of me… a little stocky, exhausted, wearing a bright pink shirt standing on Aztec ruins in Cozumel my belly growing with her in it. I want all my daughters to see that I lived a full life. I want them to see that I didn’t let my insecurities hold me back. And so I hit print. And I will continue to take silly faced selfies with my girls, and let my husband snap photos even when I am covered in baby spit up, and I will continue to hit print. And I encourage you to do the same. Take photos, hit print, put them in a book, stash them in a drawer, just do something with them. Your children think you are absolutely beautiful, leave being proof for them that they are right.

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5 Ways to Balance Motherhood and Your Career

Being a mother and a career woman at the same time is one of the most difficult roles you will ever encounter as a woman. In this day and age, having a role like this is very much challenging. When you become a mother and a career woman too, there are a lot of things that you need to deal with. And both roles are very stressful, but you have to keep up with them. All you have to do is to be organized, so that you will be able to fulfill your roles as a mother and a career woman.
Here are the 5 ways on how you can balance motherhood and your career:

 
1. Lose the guilt
 
There is nothing to be guilty of whenever you have to work full time. If you feel guilty because you have to leave your kids while you are at work, then you must have other way on how to provide for your family. Being a provider in the family is not an easy responsibility. You've got to think of your family's sake and future, that is why you need a job to provide your needs. So, you better not feel guilty about it, since this is one of the key roles in motherhood. You just have to cherish the quality time you have with your kids whatever career path you take.
 
2. Be flexible
 
It is really hard to be flexible nowadays, especially when things go wrong or unexpectedly. But as a mother and a career woman, you have to know how to be one. You will be required to be flexible at all times, at all cost. All you have to do is to have a back-up plan when plan A didn't work. Also, you need to be open for other options when the situation calls for it.
 
3. Consider priorities
There will always be a time when you need to choose only one thing: motherhood or your career. When you're at this point, you have to make sure that you will have the best decision for your family. If you decide to work full time, then it's fine. And if you decide to stay at home and be with your kids, then it's also fine. It's just that you have to consider your priorities all the time. Not at all time you will work or just stay at home, so you better be open for a change.

Image courtesy of http://www.spiritualityandhealthconnect.com/

 
4. Know your limits
 
Always keep in mind that you cannot do all things at the same time. You will definitely have a limit for yourself. You just have to take things at a time and know how to manage your time efficiently. It is best if you can do things as a mother and a career woman. What is important is that you both do your responsibilities well.
 
5. Set your schedule
 
It is very frustrating to have a broken schedule all the time. So, to avoid this one, you need to set your schedule beforehand. Since you have two roles to consider, scheduling is really an important thing for you. It is great if you know how to set aside this one and that for you to be able to function your role as a mother or as a career woman. The key here is to use your time wisely.
About the Author:
Ysabelle Fort is a Communication Arts student from Chicago. She writes for uk best essays. And she is on her way to becoming a writer someday.
 

How to (Accidentally) Exercise Everyday

I hate to exercise. I know some women love it. It's like an escape to them - from their kids, house, stress, life. I admire these women; they inspire... and baffle me.

Personally if I want to escape, it's in a good book or Netflix series curled under a squishy afghan with a glass of milk and a slice of chocolate cake.

That, my friends, is my definition of "escape."

But, back to my hatred of exercise.

The only thing stronger than my hatred of exercise is my guilt of NOT exercising. Because I know I'm supposed to. I want to be healthy. I want to be a good example for my kids. I want to be a "hot mom". (Wait...did I just say that?)

But I am also a really busy person. I have three kids. I have a house to take care of. I have meals to prepare. I have a mountain range of laundry to cross every week. Oh, and I also work 30+ hours a week from home as an online professor and freelance editor.

I have 6-8 exercise DVDs that I attempt to do every 9.5 months. Usually by the time I get half way through, one of my children is crying or pooping somewhere inappropriate.

So, what's a busy mom to do? I decided that instead of trying to squeeze exercise in, I should take a backwards approach. I decided to look back at my day or week and see where I have accidentally exercised.

The Accidental Exercise Plan is simple. All you need is some creativity and a good memory.  Though once you add more than two children to your life, the later is hard to come by. Hang in there, mama!

The only equipment required for the Accidental Exercise Plan is a house and children.

And the exercises are simple--you are probably doing them all every day! You just need to recognize them so you can give yourself a pat on the back at the end of each day for exercising.

Tell me more, you say? Well, let's begin! I've broken the Accidental Exercise Program down into Legs, Arms, Abs, and Cardio.

Legs:

The Basement Laundry Room

Do you have a basement laundry room? Lucky you! Don't curse the cold concrete floors, the swinging lightbulb, and the spiders that freak the living daylights out of you! Thank your lucky stars that you get to "do stairs" every day!

Yes, every time you run up, run down, lug up, lug down, you are exercising, my dear. So do your laundry with PRIDE! Your thighs are thanking you.

The Two Year Old

Do you have a two year old? Then you also have a personal trainer! The two year old will help you run every day. To take advantage of your two year old's expertise, take him to a grocery store, Target, or any department store. Turn around for 1.2 seconds then turn back around. Your child will be 100 yards away and will be urging you to begin your Accidental Exercising for the day. Run, mama, run!

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Arms:

Dinnertime Bicep Burn

It's 6:00 at your house. That means dinner time prep. It also means Accidental Exercising! Don't distract your clinging, crying baby with toys, wooden spoons, pot lids, goldfish, and a kitten! Hold that baby on your hip while you stir that pot!

Do you feel that burn? Ahh…your biceps are thanking you.

BONUS Workout: Have twins. Then you can do this:

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Yes, these are my workout clothes.

Abs:

Midnight Maneuver

This Accidental Exercise technique takes some skill but most moms are already completing this move with dexterity.

First, pass out from exhaustion in your bed while your baby is curled up beside you.

Next, wake up. Realize that it is only 8:45pm and you are an adult who promised herself that she would have an grown-up conversation with her husband that night.

Next, hoist your baby over your stomach, cradling her body with your arms. Do not wake your baby!

Carefully sit up without using your arms or elbows to help you. Flail your legs if necessary--no one is watching.

Place your baby carefully in bed.

Pat yourself on the back for getting your baby to sleep AND doing a crazy-hard sit-up.

Repeat as necessary throughout the night.

The Squishy Belly Laugh

Did you know that laughing burns 1.3 calories per minute? To take advantage of the Squishy Belly Laugh Accidental Exercise, pull up your shirt so your belly is exposed. Let your baby squish all that postpartum goodness while you blow raspberries. Your baby will laugh. You will too...WHILE YOU BURN CALORIES!! WIN WIN!

Cardio:

They say the point of cardio is to elevate the heart rate to strengthen the heart muscles. Here are a few ways to integrate an elevated heart rate into your Accidental Exercise regimen.

The Crash

Go about your day as normal. Hum. Sing. Be happy and joyful and unassuming. CRASH!!! In the moments after The Crash (usually from your child's bedroom), your heartbeat will elevate. If you hear the "bad cry," RUN (bonus exercise!!!) to your child's room. Your heart rate will continue to elevate until the crash and the "bad cry" are resolved.

"Cardio" accomplished.

The Daredevil

Is your child a daredevil? Lucky you! You get to experience Accidental Exercise cardio more than most!  To take advantage of your daredevil, look for ways to be scared out of our pants: jungle gyms, parking lots, bunk beds, knives in your dishwasher, etc.

Caution: a side effect of The Daredevil is gray hair.

Of course, you could always accidentally exercise by doing this too...

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I call it "The Lift and Kiss"

So fellow mamas, if you are like me, let go of your guilt. Let the dust collect on those Jillian Michael's DVDs. Plan some quality "escape" time in your day, because you know what?

You already (accidentally) exercised today.

 

Do you Accidentally Exercise??? Share your tips below!!!

(All photos taken by Sabrena Carter Deal of scarterstudios).

Meet The Motherhood Collective© Staff: Danielle Hunter

Ever wonder who’s behind The Motherhood Collective? Over the next few weeks we’ll be introducing you to our dedicated team of volunteers. These women are all mothers – once, twice or many times over. While they come from different backgrounds and have various approaches to pregnancy, birth and parenting, each one is dedicated to creating a place where ALL mothers can find education and support. Meet  Danielle Hunter. She is quite possibly one of our greatest supporters, sticking with us through thick and thin. She currently serves as our "New Mama" Gift Basket Coordinator, but Danielle has worn many hats with us as we've grown.

Danielle found us the way many did, through our original outreach, The Motherhood Café.  Yet many might not know that she was the founder of our Playgroups. Week after week, she drove 30 minutes into town to "host" our Playgroups.  These gatherings provided an opportunity for our local mothers to connect with each other outside of our Café setting.  Some amazing friendships were formed between these early playgroup participants and has greatly strengthened our organization. We are so thankful for her vision and the hard work she poured in to create this valuable program.

One of our favorite aspects about serving on The Motherhood Collective© Staff is that we acknowledge the seasons of motherhood and strongly encourage our mothers to put their families first. We love to use Danielle as an example. Her "roles" with us have changed, but her support has never waned.

Currently serving as our "New Mama" Gift Basket Coordinator, Danielle hand-assembles small congratulatory gifts for our mamas upon the birth of their babies. This volunteer role is one of love and attention to detail, and we are thankful to Danielle for her constant commitment to the care of our mamas.

On Café mornings, Danielle distribute the Gift Baskets and then you will find her leading and facilitating the Pregnancy and Birth Small Groups. She is a wealth of knowledge and is a most gracious listener. We know you will enjoy your mornings with her!

Thank you, Danielle, for serving the women and families of The Motherhood Collective©, and for quietly reminding us of our simple mission to "Nurture the Mother to Grow the Child."

PS – Interested in donating a hand crafted item to Danielle's Gift Baskets? Fill out a volunteer form here and specify your skill in the "special skills and qualifications" portion! We will put Danielle in touch with you!