Motherhood Collective

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

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

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

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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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!

Meet The Motherhood Collective© Staff: Debbie Perdew

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.0010 We’re so excited to introduce you to Miss Debbie! She is our Lead Childcare Worker and spends her Café Monday mornings lovingly caring for the children of our local mamas.

Miss Debbie has transformed the Childcare we offer on Monday mornings at the Café. As a mother to many, her years of experience as a mama and grandma probably have something to do with this.

Greeting the little ones, ages 1 – 4, with a warm smile and big hugs she works with her two assistants (Miss Amanda and Miss Abby) to bring fun and order to the two hours she spends with the children.

By limiting the childcare number to 15, Miss Debbie and her assistants are able to provide careful attention to allergies, special needs and requests. In addition, Miss Debbie creates an environment that is warm and welcoming for many of our little ones who are experiencing their first childcare situation.

Children spend the morning in a room directly adjacent to our Café meeting space. During check-in, mamas fill in detailed name tags, complete with allergy information, age and nickname. The children are then welcomed into a room with a soaring ceiling and lots of light, and filled with age appropriate toys, books and activities.

Our Cafés meet the second and fourth Mondays of each month. Registration for our Café Childcare opens at noon on the Monday before a scheduled Café. Registration is available on a "first-come, first-served" basis and closes after reaching 15 spots or at 7pm the Sunday before the Café (whichever comes first).

If you are local and have utilized our childcare, we hope you will take the time to thank Miss Debbie for her excellent care of your children. She has filled a very specific need most beautifully.

Thank you, Miss Debbie, for serving the women and families of The Motherhood Collective©.

Click here for additional details regarding our Café Childcare can be found here.

Labor Pains: A note from our Executive Director

When we began this website, we posted The Motherhood Collective's "Birth Story" and we invited you to come along with us as we continued to grow and we referenced our possible, future labor pains. Well, here we are and are writing about it. The Motherhood Collective© is experiencing some exciting changes as we continue to increase awareness and network in our local community and beyond.

Many of you have been encouraged by our local outreach, The Motherhood Café. This is one of our favorite ways to serve as it brings us face-to-face with the mothers of our local community. We desire to continue this particular service for years and years to come. That said, we have had to have some hard talks about making the Café as sustainable as possible.The Motherhood Collective

Over the next years we hope to take our passion for education and support to a new level. This might mean providing scholarships for childbirth education, certificates for lactation consultants, supporting local postpartum depression groups, providing increased opportunities to for you to gather with women in your seasons of life, and even planting "chapters" in other communities around the country.

We operate on a limited, donation-supported budget and wish to employ these funds in the best way possible. Currently a large portion of these dollars is used to supply Café food and coffee. While this is a worthy "cause", its reach is not far and we feel there are needs much greater (such as those projects mentioned above).

We are not doing away with food altogether, but rather opening up a conversation. What would you, the women we serve, prefer to see? No food at all or food that costs you a small amount? We know that our incomes vary and that honestly, priorities vary. We are working on several ways to continue offering some type of refreshments, but with different options.  We've discussed providing vouchers for first time attendees, selling prepaid punch cards and gifting punch cards in our new mom baskets.  Please know that making our mothers feel comfortable and cared for on Mondays is still very much part of our intent.  We do not make these changes lightly.

We know that many of you care passionately about this organization and you are the very women we serve. So, would you take a moment to fill out this survey and share your opinions with us? We long to continue in our efforts to Nurture the Mother to Grow the Child and your help would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you!

Meet The Motherhood Collective© Staff: Maria Hayden

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.0012 Meet, Maria, one of our Managing Directors, who might best be described as the "Swiss Army Knife" of The Motherhood Collective©.

Without Maria we’d be all over the place. She has many job responsibilities, and somehow, they all seem to involve keeping us in line.

Her main focus as one of our two Managing Directors is serving as our Non-profit Consultant in everyday, behind the scenes “business” work. Running an organization such as ours is not all hugs and coffee, and we are very thankful for the hours Maria spends on the not-so-thrilling tasks that make our time with you more enjoyable.

Maria also handles the placement of our volunteers as our Volunteer Coordinator. We are extremely fortunate to have women rise up continually to serve with us. These volunteers help on both large and small levels and they come to us with differing skill sets and available time. Maria works with these women to find ways they can best contribute and give back.

On Café mornings you might never see Maria, because once again she is holding us together - this time as our Café Morning Stage Manager. She assigns morning tasks to the leadership team, checks us in on arrival, runs the soundboard and gathers donation dollars... all so we can serve you better.

Maria wandered into a Café one morning; pregnant and unsuspecting of the role she would one day play. Now the mother of a beautiful toddler, she shares her joys, struggles, and lessons learned in an honest and refreshing way.

With big dreams for the year ahead, Maria brings us years of management experience, a "peppery" frankness and a dry sense of humor that will make anyone smile.

Thank you, Maria, for serving the women and families of The Motherhood Collective©.

 

PS - Interested in volunteering with The Motherhood Collective©? Contact Maria at: volunteer@themotherhoodcollective.org.

Meet The Motherhood Collective© Staff: Barbie Sutton

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 our Café Monday Mama and C0-Founder! Barbie helped design who we are today, read on to get to know her!

0009Barbie is a mother to many; both physically and emotionally. Encouragement exudes from her and she has walked many of us through our delicate transition into motherhood. When we began the process of forming this organization we knew we would need Barbie at our side. Through our initial days of dreaming and grunt work, she has been a needed voice of reason. Her dedication to women in our community is beautiful.

While her own children are almost all completely out of the home, Barbie continues to remain active in the lives of women in their childbearing years. A registered nurse, event planner, health and childbirth advocate, Barbie is a beautiful soul who delights in enjoying this life to its fullest.

Currently Barbie serves the women of The Motherhood Collective© on Café Mondays overseeing activities in our Café kitchen and continually thinking up new ways to serve our mamas. She consistently sits as a panelist and often leads our small group on Parenthood offering advice that is tempered by her many years of experience.

With an open heart, optimism and constant support, we truly could not imagine this organization without our Barbie.

Thank you, Barbie, for serving the women and families of The Motherhood Collective©.

Meet the Motherhood Collective Staff: Carrie McGinn

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 our Director of Hospitality! Carrie is such fun, you should get to know her too!

0002We met sweet Carrie after the birth of her first son, and had the privilege of walking alongside her during her second pregnancy! After observing all the ways in which she naturally encouraged and supported her fellow mothers, we asked her to come on board as our Director of Hospitality in the Spring of 2013.

Carrie's most important task is the organizing of Postpartum Meals. She interviews mothers who have requested this special service; then, upon the birth of their child, sets up a "train" of meals. These meals are provided by other women of The Motherhood Collective© and are tailored to the needs of each postpartum family's needs. She also volunteers her time on Mondays at The Motherhood Café, serving as a Group Leader and an oh-so-valuable Kitchen Worker.

With a mischievous sparkle in her eye and free-flowing laughter, Carrie's creative thinking, hard work and professionalism bring such value to our team!

Thank you, Carrie, for serving the women and families of The Motherhood Collective©.

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Are you a cook? Would you love to serve by bringing a meal to those in need? Do you have a heart for mothers figuring out the postpartum stage of motherhood? Would you like to send a gift card from afar? Email Carrie at hospitality@themotherhoodcollective.org. We would love to add you to our hospitality team!

Meet the Motherhood Collective Staff: Erica Wolfe

Ever wonder who's behind The Motherhood Collective? Over the next few weeks we'll be introducing you to our dedicated team. 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 the mama behind this blog! Erica has single-handedly brought it to life and given it breath!

Erica Wolfe

Want to write for this blog? This is the woman to speak to -- or email to! In addition to keeping the blog current and substantive, she generously volunteers her time on Café mornings. She often sits among you as a Small Group Leader on Infancy and more recently, as moderator for Panel Discussions.

Erica stumbled upon the Café during her first pregnancy in 2011. Now she is mother to TWO beautiful daughters. What fun it has been to walk with Erica through her pregnancies and early years of motherhood.

With a Northern bluntness and dry sense of humor, Erica grounds our team as she strives to keep us true to our mission of "Nurturing the Mother to Grow the Child."

Thank you, Erica, for serving the women and families of The Motherhood Collective©.

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Are you a writer? Are you passionate about pregnancy, birth, parenting or just motherhood in general? Do you have recipes you want to share with our readers? Email Erica at submissions@themotherhoodcollective.org. We love to add new voices to our site and we always welcome ideas about how to improve content!

Trust Your Gut

Permissive parenting, passive parenting, Attachment Parenting, Helicopter Parenting, free range parenting, main stream parenting, Intentional Parenting, Peaceful Parenting…yada, yada, yada!!  Then there is the advice of your mother, your mother-in-law, your sister, your sister-in-law, your boss, your BFF, your husband's boss's wife's cousin.   How in the world is one to choose which advice to follow?!

There are proclaimed experts in every area of parenting.  There is one (or many) in each school of thought.  There is a whole section on parenting in Barnes and Noble.  Thousands of pages, blogs, magazines and articles that specialize in telling us how to rear our children fill all of our media sources.  Parenting is big business!

So how does a newly pregnant woman go about narrowing what works and what doesn’t?  The answer is to read it all.  That’s right, read everything that you can get your hands on while you are pregnant.  Take information from all sources possible.  Listen to other mothers.  Sit in on cafes and small groups at The Motherhood Collective.  This is all very important information to gather, especially when your baby is easily contented with your avoidance of spicy foods and nourished from the umbilical cord.

As you start collecting this information, certain thoughts and ideas will begin resonating with you.  Certain parenting practices will just seem “right” to you.  You will get an idea of what to do when your little bundle of joy arrives.  You will get a gut instinct that will continue to develop as you develop as a mother.

So now your little newborn is here, and you want to know why the things you just knew you wanted to do with your baby aren’t working.  You have a whole arsenal of things to try.  The next step in developing your parenting skills is to stop reading those books and to start reading your baby.  Watch your baby’s cues and signals.  Determine your child’s rhythms and work with them.  All of those thoughts and words of wisdom that you have gained from your pre-baby preparation now need to be adapted to fit your baby’s personality.  I am here to tell you that no baby will fit inside one parenting book, but there are many ideas on parenting that will amalgamate with your baby’s personality.

You will, of course, continue to have questions throughout this crazy and fast journey of mothering.  Your baby will continue to develop and you will continue to adapt.  Continuing to grow and adjust are all part of this wonderful journey.  You are your baby's best mother.  You are also never alone.  Continue to seek advice of those other mothers and your trusted physicians; but more importantly, remember to trust your gut, listen to your instincts, and NEVER say never.

Another Mother's Balancing Act

In September, the Motherhood Collective will feature posts on balance - having it or not! It's certainly a state most of us struggle to find. September is, for some, the calm before the storm. Our kids are back in school, fall activities have begun and we have a few precious weeks before we really have to start thinking about the holidays. What better time to take a few minutes to reflect on how we spend our time, juggle our lives and what we can do to achieve our own perfect balance! ~TMC If you want to make a mom laugh, ask her how she "balances" her life.

My response to that question?  Snort.

The truth is: balance is really hard...and ever changing...and REALLY hard.

Balance

I mean, some days it's easy.

You know, the days when: - the baby's slept well and you've slept well. - everyone's had a good breakfast. - you went for a walk - or even to the gym. *GASP* - you talked to a grown up for more than 5 minutes. - your husband had a great day at work. - you can share an interesting story - because you actually know one. - your "made from scratch" dinner was delicious. - and you all went to bed on time, so that everyone could sleep well again!

And then there are THOSE days.  The days where pretty much the opposite of everything above happens.  And those days stink.  Real bad.

Those are the days that people think of when you ask about balance.  The days where you're exhausted and there is no food in the house, all the laundry is dirty, the baby won't nap, everyone in the entire world is cranky, it's raining and blah, blah, blah...

Yeah, those days are a real downer.

 

But as to how to find balance - hmmm.  Personally, I just take it one day at a time.  Oh, and deep breathing helps.

But seriously, these are the things that are always on my mental "to do" list.

I try to go to bed on time. And yes, "on time" is relative. I try to get up, shower and be dressed before noon.  Stop laughing...goals are important. I try to plan for and complete chores and errands before my husband notices the lack of bananas or clean socks. I try to eat well and feed my family well. I try to keep my house "together"...as in, someone could show up unannounced and I wouldn't be mortified.  (P.S. - If you happen to stop by, please don't ever ask to see my basement.)

Those are the easy ones.  Then there are the harder ones.

I try to be a thoughtful wife. I try to be a kind mother. I try to be generous and thankful. I try to maintain good relationships. I try to learn constantly and be creative And mostly...I try not to take myself too seriously.

Of course, I don't do all these things everyday.  Usually, if something starts to get neglected, I'm reminded (by my grouchy husband, the overflowing hamper, the tumbleweeds of dog fur, the towering stack of unread and possibly overdue library books or the to-do list that takes up more than a page) that something needs to change.

"The key to keeping your balance is knowing when you've lost it." - said somebody smart, but anonymously, on the internet.

Everyone has their own balance and you do know when you don't have it.  The important thing is to identify the imbalance and try to right it.  And usually, something's gotta give.  (At least for me, it's usually the amount of time I spend on Facebook. Strangely enough, the amount of time I spend cleaning is never the thing that needs to be reigned in.)

So, was this helpful?  Maybe not, but that's because balance is so personal.  If anything, rest assured that most of us struggle with balance in our lives.  Even if you think someone else has it all together, they probably don't...at least not all the time.  As with most things motherhood-related, your situation is never exactly the same as someone else's.

So my three bits of balancing advice: 1. Identify the things that are most important to you. 2. Check in on those things from time to time and adjust your time and energy accordingly. 3. Forgive yourself when things get out of whack and try to do better tomorrow.

So simple, right?  You're welcome, Internet.  Next month I'll tackle the debt crisis.

 

Photo courtesy of www.old-picture.com

The Treasure Box

learning

August is "Back to School" Month at The Motherhood Collective. Over the next few weeks, our writers will be sharing their teaching moments, the ways they encourage learning, their thoughts on education or the things THEY are learning as a parent. Even if your child isn't heading back to the classroom in a few weeks, we hope that our thoughts on learning will inspire you. ~TMC ---

I decided to start schooling my son, Gabriel, a few months ago. He was seven months old at the time. I’m a big believer that schooling and educating does not just take place September through June, in a classroom, from 8:00-3:00, once your child turns six years old. I was homeschooled from Kindergarten through high school, and though I’ve always loved the “bookish” side of things. Some of my fondest school memories are the opportunities I had to experiment outside the classroom—to take head knowledge and apply it to everyday tasks (such as baking, sewing, and piano playing).

I was inspired by a post from the blog www.ellekeepsmoving.com. She writes a post about a Montessori Treasure Basket. The Montessori School of Thought is very student-driven, and it seeks to create an environment in which the child is encouraged to discover on his or her own. Some begin school as early as two months! Many say that it’s an approach that fits very easily with what parents already do with their children—provide opportunities for them to discover the world in very sensory ways. Typically, they turn six, and we then expect them to learn through only reading and writing. The Montessori Method has been called the learning of life, because it is an approach that translates so easily into the every day.

Though my husband and I have not yet decided on our approach to schooling, we do like the idea of providing Gabriel with more than the just the flashy-loud-button-pushing toys that you can find at any store. There is nothing wrong with those toys, but we just feel that in an age of technology (i.e. plenty of button-pushing to go around), this will not encourage the same mental development as putting our son in front of a mound of blocks. Or a pile of cardboard boxes. Or a treasure basket.

A treasure basket is simple, and it has provided hours of fun and learning for my son. I merely found a small basket and filled it with sensory objects from around the house. I tried to provide as many textures as possible for him to experience. Remember to only allow things that are safe to place in the mouth. Some ideas include:

--A ball of yarnTreasure Box --Pieces of felt --New sponges --New paint brush --Silver spoon --Scraps of fabric, ribbon, trim, and fringe --Wooden spoon --Silicone Pastry brushes (his favorite by far!) --A sealed jar filled with dry beans

Place the item in front of your child and enjoy watching him or her explore and learn! Voila! First day of school! Be sure to take a picture!

The treasure basket has kind of bled into the desire to let him explore many areas of our house (the safe areas, of course, and always supervised!). I love watching him dip his head into the food cupboard, and reaching way back to grab the box of macaroni, or letting him pull open the drawers in his bedroom and dump all the clothes on the floor (then watch him fill it with his own toys instead). I love to lay him on a blanket outside, and hand him blades of grass, a flower, and a pine cone. Gabriel now loves following me around the house because he knows that I will give him a small part of whatever I am working on. If I’m folding clothes, he sits right in the basket with the clothes all around him, and hands me one at a time, or plays with the buttons on my husband’s shirt, or sits on the bed and unfolds every piece I’ve just set neatly aside (sigh).

There are many ideas you can find online as well. One of my friends put her boy in the tub, dumped flour and raisins all around him, and let him enjoy digging, throwing, and licking the fun, powdery texture.

Check out this website for more ideas: http://www.ellekeepsmoving.com/2012/02/raising-baby-treasure-basket_1501.html

What are some fun sensory activities that you have enjoyed with your child?

--- The Motherhood Collective is on Facebook. Like us, then comment on our giveaway post for a chance to win a family photo shoot from Adam Barnes Photography. Our contest ends when we hit 500 Likes!

You Just Never Know (Until You Know)

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tools of the trade by juliesorgeway  

I want to talk about my five-month-old, and pee, and the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Nine years — almost my entire adult life — I have worked as an educator. My husband is a college professor too. Education, facts and research are a big part of our lives, and we were willing suckers for every baby book and doodad that claims to be somehow educational. Black and white brain stimulating mobile? Check. Baby sign language? Alphabet sheets to somehow ooze literacy into his wispy baby head? Check check. But even after just a few months with our little boy, I feel like, cliché or not, really it's I who have most to learn.

Most people are familiar with the paradoxical phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger effect, even if they’ve never heard of it before. Basically two Cornell researchers did a bunch of observations indicating that in general, the more you actually know about a topic, the more you worry that you don’t know enough. And, not coincidentally, the less you truly know, the more likely you are to overestimate your own expertise! Now, if you're like me, you can instantly, snarkily think of one or two people in your life who this just perfectly applies to. But maybe it’s more useful if we each were first to try applying it to ourselves.

Raising my hand right here: I was a classic Dunning-Kruger parenting “expert” before my baby was born. Reading and note-taking are kind of my favorite thing ever, so I researched the very soul out of every single newborn issue I could imagine. Nine glorious months of page-turning and highlighting! I knew that parts of my pregnancy, birth, and parenting journey would be out of my hands, and parts I could do my best to control. Statistics and anecdotal evidence alike were ready and confident on the tip of my tongue. I spent time reading birth stories of every possible variation of experience. And I don't regret any of that reading, or thinking, or planning. It helped me do pregnancy my way, and made so much of the unknown feel safer to me. Yet within a few weeks of my actual son’s actual arrival? Even though in fact I suddenly had much more experience, I felt so much less of an expert.

Despite having great support, I found there were so many things that felt harder than I had anticipated. It isn't that nobody warned me; on the contrary I had several honest mama friends who shared their hearts and tried to prepare me for the changes newborn life would bring. But nothing really could. So many of the shortcuts, tips, and tricks that had been “lifesavers” for my mama friends didn’t work for me, or for my baby, at all. Even some of the issues I thought I would feel most passionate about, in my prenatal fits of highlighting, ended up falling away as I found myself with a new, smaller set of certainties. Here are just a few of the things I held on to in those early days:

  • Things will get easier. Even though every age will have its challenges, newborn life is a tough adjustment for almost all new parents. The roller coaster cliché is true. But it will be okay.
  • It’s only a little pee. Let’s just say my standards of what constitutes a true midnight laundry emergency have… evolved.
  • Don’t mess with happy. Whether it’s the baby’s happiness, or my own, I have realized how much I tend to over-meddle. He's asleep with his head flopping to the side? That can't be comfortable... maybe if I just "fix" it... You see where this is going, right? It’s not always wise to try to perfect something that is already working out okay.
  • Let him see you smiling. He looks to me so often in this phase of his life. Okay, at first he mostly stared at my hairline or maybe the ceiling fan, but pretty soon he realized it's the parents who are the first center of his universe. So I don’t want to always have my brow furrowed, to always be worrying about the next thing that could somehow be better. I want him to see me smile, because really? We have a lot to smile about.

And even any of these, I know, might not ring true for any one reader in particular. My point is: Not one of them would have seemed like an important idea to me back when I was an expert. And it's this change, from the researched knowledge to the experienced, that no one could really prepare me for.

I still read a lot, when I can fit it in. I still care about doing the best I can to make reasonable decisions on issues that come up. But as my little boy grows, I continue to realize how much is probably out there that I still really don’t know. There are times when I imagine all the questions ahead of us, all the things I don't even know I don't know yet, and within me anxiety starts to rise. But when it does, I try my best to remember good old Dunning-Kruger, take a deep breath, and remind myself that maybe, just maybe, the less I feel like I confidently know “for sure” as a parent, the more I’ve actually learned.

--- The Motherhood Collective is on Facebook. Like us, then comment on our giveaway post for a chance to win a family photo shoot from Adam Barnes Photography. Our contest ends when we hit 500 Likes!

Back to School After Baby

August is "Back to School" Month at The Motherhood Collective. Over the next few weeks, our writers will be sharing their teaching moments, the ways they encourage learning, their thoughts on education or the things THEY are learning as a parent. Even if your child isn't heading back to the classroom in a few weeks, we hope that our thoughts on learning will inspire you. ~TMC ---

For many adults, choosing to go back to school is a big decision. It means a commitment in time, energy, effort and resources. This is especially true for a woman deciding to go back to school after having a baby. Unlike the single years where a student can schedule large blocks of time without interruption, pull all-nighters when necessary and hang out at the coffee shop all day, the college-bound mommy has to juggle her daily responsibilities on top of her school work. The good news is it’s not impossible to manage both- it just takes a little more planning and effort!Camera

When I decided to pursue a Masters of Fine Art degree in Photography after our first-born son was just four months old, many people flatly told me I was crazy. After a while, I began to wonder if they were right. Could I actually manage to spend quality time with my son and husband, cook, clean, exercise and study? The answer is yes. Sure, there were crazy times and a few late nights (try 3 a.m.), but after two semesters of trial and error, I feel that I finally found the mommy/student balance that works for me. For all of you lovely ladies considering a return to school after starting a family, let me offer you some advice that can save you a little time and perhaps gives you the encouragement you need:

Be Realistic. Let’s face it, being a mom means that your study sessions will be interrupted…a lot. Have realistic goals of what you can and want to accomplish each day. If you expect too much, you may be disappointed when half of your school related “to do” list remains undone. Aim for a balanced day, where no one aspect dominates your time and attention (unless it is your baby that needs you, of course). Keep this in mind when you schedule your week: “How much can I realistically get done?” Know that this will most likely change- up to several times a day- and that’s okay.

Touch it every day. Sure, you may not be able to dedicate large blocks of time to school every day. You can still accomplish more than you expect and avoid cramming when deadlines approach by doing a little bit each day. Aim to work on tasks (reading, writing, etc.) in small chunks of time. Have 30 minutes? Try to get through one chapter. If you do this throughout the day, you can quickly read the week’s reading assignments. Do this every day, it will add up throughout the week.

Work Around Their Schedule. Try to have a general schedule with your baby in mind that you work around every day. For instance, if your baby takes a longer morning nap, dedicate that time to working on school. Once he or she awakes, close the books. If you know that a portion of your day is dedicated to your studies (no matter how small), you will feel comfortable leaving it undone, knowing that you will return to it later that day or tomorrow.

Stay Flexible. Let’s face it- babies are unpredictable…and that’s okay. If there’s a day (or two) that schoolwork goes untouched, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t be afraid to close the books and devote your attention to your baby. Just return to your normal routine when life allows. Ultimately, your family is more important than a paper, but be proud of the fact that you are still making an effort to improve yourself too.

Tag Team. If you are fortunate to have the support of a husband, family members or friends, let them help you by taking the baby out to run errands, for a trip to the park, or to their house for a nap. Even 30 minutes can make a huge difference- giving you the opportunity to plan, start writing a paper or catch up on reading.

Remember What You’re Doing: You’re Learning! Having a baby and going back to school are similar: it’s a learning process. The key word here is process. Don’t get discouraged if everything does not click into place within the first few weeks or the first semester for that matter. It will take time to find what works for you! Be patient, remember why you decided to go to school, and see this as an opportunity to learn more about yourself- what you are capable of, how you work best, and what is most important to you. Constantly evaluate how you are doing, celebrate the successes no matter how small, and make adjustments when needed. The point is, you are learning and growing!

--- The Motherhood Collective is on Facebook. Like us, then comment on our giveaway post for a chance to win a family photo shoot from Adam Barnes Photography. Our contest ends when we hit 500 Likes!

I Don't Read to My Baby

learning

August is "Back to School" Month at The Motherhood Collective. Over the next few weeks, our writers will be sharing their teaching moments, the ways they encourage learning, their thoughts on education or the things THEY are learning as a parent. Even if your child isn't heading back to the classroom in a few weeks, we hope that our thoughts on learning will inspire you. ~TMC ---

Not too long ago, I took Baby to his 6 month medical appointment.  At our doctor's office, we leave the appointment with a printout of anything discussed/diagnosed, a list of potential milestones between now and the next appointment, and tips to promote physical and emotional development at this age.

I actually like this because it helps jog my memory on things like when I need to ask for the baby gates back from the couple who borrowed them  so that we can start childproofing our home (Answer:  Sooner than I'm prepared for!).

One of the items listed on my most recent sheet was, "Read to infant for 20 minutes each day."

I confess:

I don't read to Baby 20 minutes every day.

At least, not officially.  I have two degrees, one in elementary education, one in library science.  I wholeheartedly support and believe in all the evidence that supports reading to children at an early age.  What I don't have is time set aside, or a baby who is interested in anything other than chewing his toes for more than 10 seconds at a time.

But here's what DOES happen at our house.  Constant, constant conversation.  One-on-one interaction.  Singing along to toddler tunes played from the computer, or in the car.  Weekly visits to the library.  Afternoons outside in good weather.

With each of these experiences, he's exposed to language.  And this is in addition to the times he's sitting nearby, or even on my lap, while I read to his sister.  And for now?  I think that that is more than adequate. The books will most definitely come.  In this household, it's a given.  But in the meantime, if he's not sitting on my lap looking at a book for 20 minutes throughout the day (even if it's not 20 consecutive minutes) he's still listening and learning and growing.

My advice is to take this particular directive with a grain of salt.  Broaden your definition of literacy.  I bet you'll find you're doing more than you know.

--- The Motherhood Collective is on Facebook. Like us, then comment on our giveaway post for a chance to win a family photo shoot from Adam Barnes Photography. Our contest ends when we hit 500 Likes!

Things I've Learned

learning

August is "Back to School" Month at The Motherhood Collective.  Over the next few weeks, our writers will be sharing their teaching moments, the ways they encourage learning, their thoughts on education or the things THEY are learning as a parent.  Even if your child isn't heading back to the classroom in a few weeks, we hope that our thoughts on learning will inspire you.    ~TMC ---

Confession:  I’m a college-educated 28 year old.  I’ve worked in laboratories, universities (including a stint at Harvard), and very busy veterinarian offices.  In April 2011 I took on a new position: stay at home mom, with a diverse farm which needs a lot of tending.  My new “boss” is Olivia, a cute 16 month old girl with darling curls and a huge personality.  Like the best of bosses, she expects a lot out of me and makes me want to do better than my very best.  While it’s a dynamic job, where no day is ever the same as the one that came before it, it’s also an experience in humility and humanity.

With August being “Back to School” month here on The Motherhood Collective blog, I thought I would share the top five things I’ve been learning from the little person I spend the majority of my day with:

 

1.   Put others first. Danielle and Olivia

This is one of those lessons we’re taught our entire lives, but it really comes into play once there is a tiny human being depending on you for everything, day and night.  It can be overwhelming, especially at first.   The good news:  They DO become more self sufficient.  I remember rejoicing the first time Olivia played on her own while I made dinner.  So just remember, between the constant calls of “Mama!” and sippy cups, and snacks, and sharing your dinner with your child … it will all be worth it in the end.

 

2.  Slow down.  Take your time.

Early on, even before Olivia was born, I was being taught that I needed to go a little slower.  Prior to finding out I was pregnant, I remember several road trips where I was hauling my horse back to Virginia after a weekend of showing in North Carolina.  I would be so tired, that I would have to pull over in a shaded parking lot, lock the doors, and take a nap before I could continue the drive home.  Nature rewards us after a lengthy, sometimes exhausting, gestation and parturition, with the period of newborn amazement:  that span of time after the arrival of our precious babes where every moment is a miracle.  (Of course, I’m wondering if that phase lasts as long with subsequent children?)  It’s a period of time where we move slowly as our bodies heal, and we look upon our babies in awe.  As our children grow and develop, their needs change, but it’s always important to remember that every baby develops differently.

 

3. The world is marvelous.

In her room, Olivia has a piece of art that contains the following quote from Robert Louis Stevenson that says “The world is full of wonderful things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”  Since her birth, Olivia has always been calmer when outside.  The clouds, the trees, the sun, and the wind – there is so much there for observation and exploration.  From Olivia I have learned to appreciate the smallest of pleasures – the breeze on our face as we drive across a field, the feel of soft fabric on our skin, the joy of splashing in a puddle of water.  To see her delight and engage in our environment is one of my greatest joys.  Children encourage us to explore the world with them; but helping a child experience the world can be frustrating because it requires us to slow down and experience the world on their terms.  A simple walk to the mailbox could end up taking an hour, with many detours to check out a tree, a bug, a leaf, etc.  I have come to value this time of exploration, because it usually lends itself to a period of quiet, a time for some inflection, and amazement at watching my child discover the world that surrounds her.

 

4.  Friends are essential (for mamas and babies).

I wouldn’t so much as say that Olivia has taught me this, but being a mother has definitely highlighted the importance of friends.  Support groups, play groups, they are an important part of my life.  Whether you attend The Motherhood Café and its playgroup, La Leche League, or just simply catch up with other mamas over coffee, getting their perspectives and help go a long way to stretching out a mama’s sanity.  I am blessed by a core group of mama friends, and I’m pretty sure Olivia enjoys playing with their little ones as well.  We both benefit from their friendship.

 

5.  Don’t forget Daddy (or Mama).

As parents, we play critical roles in the lives of our children, and it’s far too easy to allow children to overrun the family.  However, for the sake of the family unit, we must remember to make special time for ourselves, as husband and wife, not just mama and daddy.  (Trust me on this one.) It can be as simple as a quiet chat in the evening after bedtime, a surprise lunch date, or even as luxurious as a weekend getaway to a fancy hotel.  It doesn’t take much effort to keep the flame alive, and everyone in your family will benefit.

--- The Motherhood Collective is on Facebook. Like us, then comment on our giveaway post for a chance to win a family photo shoot from Adam Barnes Photography. Our contest ends when we hit 500 Likes!

Welcome, Friends!

Pregnant Mom

Welcome, friends, to the Motherhood Collective Blog!
We are thrilled to launch this new online project and hope that it becomes a trusted resource and place for both education and support. We are grateful to our staff of lovely writers for sharing their thoughts about pregnancy, birth, infancy and parenting.

It seems fitting that we begin our project with an emphasis on birth stories, as this is the birth of our new project. Here at the Collective, we are committed to sharing our stories, information, helpful hints and hopefully the concept that "an educated mother is the best mother". We hope to introduce you to some new ideas and reassure you that you have many choices as you travel through parenthood.

Please, explore our new site and familiarize yourself with our local resources. Enjoy the words of our blog writers. Our group has grown because of the knowledge and enthusiasm of our members. If you have resource information to add, have a personal birth story to submit or are interested in contributing to the blog as a regular or occasional writer, please contact us. We want to hear from you!The Motherhood Collective

We are so excited to watch this site grow and change based on the interests of our audience and varied experiences of our writers. We have a lot coming up for you, including some great giveaways from our sponsors. Come, join us on this journey! (ANd check back tomorrow for another BIG announcement you don't want to miss!)

 "Nurturing the mother to grow the child."

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