children

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.

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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"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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Concept Books: Books That Teach (Without You Losing Your Mind)

My preschool age daughter loves to be read to. And she's old enough that she'll sit and listen for extended periods of time, really getting into the story, and following increasingly complex plots. The lastest reading development in our house is that we've transitioned from listening to chapter book audiobooks in the car, to reading those same chapter book series at bedtime. Right now,  her favorites are the Magic Tree House books ("Can we read more Jack and Annie?") and the Junie B. Jones books. And then there's my son, who will be two in December.  Reading with him looks more like him oh-so-gently dropping a book in my lap ("Book! BOOK!),  flipping to his favorite page, and delightedly squealing, "horsey!"  We might then move on to a couple of other pages ("Cow!  Chicken!"), but inevitably we come back to his favorite, the horse.

Don't get me wrong, these books have their place.  They have value.  He loves them.  But I'll admit, I get tired of these same old concept books.  Fortunately, the market for concept books (books that teach a particular skill) is broad.  So once you're ready to branch out (okay, maybe I should rephrase that to, "When your child allows you to branch out"), there are plenty of choices.

  Press Here by Hervé Tullet

This book is available in boardbook format (score!) and one of our absolute favorites.  The illustrations are super simple--colored dots.  But the book is interactive in a way that induces giggles and gasps of surprise.  And then pleas for more.

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Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

If you have a child who is as much of a perfectionist as my oldest, mistakes are tough. In fact, small mistakes can be enough to bring on alot of tears.  Which is why I love this book, which shows children how the simplest mistake--a torn piece of paper, a stain, a spill--can become something new and beautiful.

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Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff

This is a color concept book, with slightly longer text.  Maybe not the first color concept book you introduce, but the illustrations are so beautifully vibrant, I have to include it on the list.

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Blue Chameleon by Emily Gravett

This is the story, told with very limited text,  of a chameleon who can turn into any shape or color.  But he still cannot find a friend.  Yes, the  ending is a little predictable, but the illustrations are such fun, and teach not only colors, but patterns as well.

 

Green Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Laura Vaccaro Seeger is a master of concept books.  Green was released in 2012, and was a Caldecott Honor recipient this year.  Yes, it's a book entirely about a single color.  But you'll be thinking about green in ways you never have before.

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Full disclosure: We still read alot of the Horse Book.  And there's also his other favorite, The Truck Book.  But as he grows, and is willing to explore a little more with me, we'll be coming back to some of these favorites, too, probably with a little "change is good" nudging from me.

It is, after all, my sanity that depends on it.

Children, Photos, and the Internet; Oh My!

10 month chair photo

The internet is like a big room filled with people shouting. Some feel a sense of security in the noise and may reveal more information than they would otherwise in a face to face environment. Others can feel overwhelmed in this giant room and crank their privacy settings to 11. Some days, I'm comforted by the noise as I peruse through the 'web's news, photos, and gossip. On other days I want to shout my own opinions and share photos of my beautiful daughter and hot husband. But some days I second-guess my openness. I don't mind being open about my experiences. I don't mind sharing my personal photographs. But would Joanna mind? The best way to protect your child is to not have any.

The biggest fear circling child safety on the internet is often about pedophiles coming to abduct our children. Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, told the New York Times that, "Research shows that there is virtually no risk of pedophiles coming to get kids because they found them online." [New York Times] Reading this brought a huge sigh of relief.

Then I kept reading. "The real danger is that a photo is appropriated and mistreated." The act of saving a photo to one's computer takes mere seconds. The act of creating a social profile using said photo takes minutes.

Again, my mind jumps to "what about the pedophiles?" Thankfully, Professor Finkelhor addresses my fears: "The possibility always exists that pedophiles are lifting such pictures, but it is not something [I have] encountered... it’s unlikely for a disconcerting reason: actual child pornography is so readily available that pedophiles aren’t likely to waste time cruising social networks looking for less explicit material."

First of all, it is incredibly sad that child pornography is available at the click of a button. It makes me want to adopt all of the kids that are being sexually exploited. It also makes me want to castrate those that are exploiting them. My heart breaks for those girls (and boys) that are lied to and abused for the sake of money and perversion.

Professor Finkelhor's comments about pedophiles reshaped my hesitation in displaying my child's photos. Although I doubt anyone would believe that a 10 month old has their own Facebook profile, it brings a new perspective for parents to consider before posting pictures without appropriate privacy settings. And the concern doesn't just apply to bloggers. Whenever I enter my child into a Cutest Kid contest, I could be giving that company permission to use my image at their discretion. Whenever I share a meme on my Facebook page featuring a kid I've never seen before, I'm furthering the use of a photo that the parents may not know is floating around. Whenever I upload my images to a website, I could be allowing that company to use my photo in their advertising. Although this may excite some stage mothers, I won't get modeling gigs from that image. I won't even get credit for the photo because I checked that little box before hitting 'submit'.

Girl in a chair with a card over her face reading "10 months"

So what's a mommy blogger to do? I'm not going to stop taking photos of my daughter. I'm not going to stop uploading her ridiculous faces. However, I may take more photos that focus on her hands or cankles (not a typo). I may also greatly limit posting photos after her first birthday. Or maybe I'll put a paper bag over her head (with air holes of course.) She'll be running at that point anyway so I doubt I'll even have time to find the camera.

What do you think? Do you post photos of your children in a public forum? Do you have your privacy settings tailored to your preference?