Put a Bib on It


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This Super Mom Needs a Super Dad

Parenting is hard work. How can we thank those who support us?I love my husband. We have been married for over three years and are raising two wonderful boys together. Sometimes, in moments of stress and anxiety, I say stuff to my husband like, “The floor needs vacuumed, the baby has a dirty diaper, the dogs need fed and apparently I am the only one who can do those things!” It’s not true, though. my husband is helpful – he just doesn’t always do what I think he should do, when I think he should do it.

With the new baby in the house I feel like these moments of weakness where I get angry with my husband occur more frequently than they have in the past. I don’t mean for it to happen and I always regret saying it, but it just seems like in the heat of the moment (or in the midst of a baby crying and living on four hours of sleep per night) terrible and hurtful words, accusations and statements fly out of my mouth.

Recently my husband had to go out of town for a week on business. I was left alone to care for two children, two dogs and two cats. Easy, right? Moms all across America do it every day. There are plenty of single women out there raising families without the support of another.  I was confident in my ability as a mother and wife that I would be able to handle it!

The first night was fine, great even. Homework was completed, family was fed, everyone was bathed and we even took the dogs on a walk! The rest of the week wasn’t quite so flawless. On Tuesday we all woke up late and were nearly late for school, too, and we didn’t get a chance to take the smelly trash to the curb for trash day. On Wednesday, the baby had peed through his diaper in the middle of the night resulting in a bath using wipes (with every intention to bathe him that evening), and one of the cats got sick on the carpet and of course , we had no carpet cleaner. On Thursday we had cereal for dinner and the baby had to sleep on a towel (I had forgotten that he had peed through his outfit the night before and soaked his sheets). Friday came and the only dishes I had washed all week were the breast pump parts that I use daily. The house had turned into one giant playroom. And the baby hadn’t had a bath since Monday. I felt like even the animals were looking at me like, “What’s going on around here?!”

That evening when my husband finally got home, I was ready for a long, hot bath and a glass of wine. I guess when he walked in the door he knew I had had a rough week because he immediately ordered us all a pizza and began putting our house back together. After getting the kids fed, bathed and to bed I got a little massage and got to take my much needed bath. I don’t take enough time during the week to show my husband how much I really do appreciate everything he does, in fact, sometimes I forget how helpful it is just to have another person there.  His time away taught me to really appreciate all the little things he does do to help. Being a super mom takes a super dad flying beside me!


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Three Little Girls Went Out to Play

How we see our children changes, but they'll always be our babies.After a weekend with a veritable tribe of girls, I’m sure now that I want one. A tribe, that is.

And that if I should get my wish, I would need twelve to fifteen cups of coffee a day to keep up with them.

Some dear friends of mine entrusted me (and my husband, of course) with their two daughters this past weekend. They’re 6 and 2-and-half, respectively. They arrived laden with sleeping bags and stuffed kitties and a potty seat. The youngest set immediately to exploring everything, testing all the child locks and the cat’s (considerable) patience. Her big sister, missing her mom and dad already, asked for crayons and proceeded to draw them a picture.

It was a busy, busy, busy 24 hours. There was much pretend cooking with pom poms and plastic buttons in Miss E’s play kitchen, building with blocks, elbowing for reading room on my lap and making homemade play dough on the stove while the smaller set took a nap. We went on two nature walks, swinging plastic buckets and collecting sticks, flowers and pine cones. The eldest found a sturdy walking stick and a knobbly collection of tree roots perfect for a Yoda impersonation. She is a child after my own heart.

What was wildest to me about the weekend, though, wasn’t how bone tired three children made me, but how the dynamic between the three made me think about my own daughter. My tough, independent little girl was the baby of the group. And she acted the part, too, demanding extra hugs and whining her heart out, not at all happy that her routines were disrupted by visitors visiting uncommonly long. We spent our walks cajoling and coddling her, she in one moment outraged that “strangers” were playing extensively with her things, and in another pointing to each with glee and trying to name them before going in for a hug and a kiss. I frequently found myself scooping her up, covering her in kisses: my daughter, the littlest, the baby.

But not forever.

Miss E is going to be a big sister in September, and already I think of her as my big girl, so grown up, with so many opinions. Even as she was the baby this weekend, I could simultaneously see her as the oldest, directing play as my friend’s daughter did. I could see my future son or daughter reveling in mimicry of her older sibling as my friend’s youngest did. I realized there will be a day when I am cuddling and comforting another, littler child as fiercely as I did Miss E this weekend, that while she’ll always be my baby girl, we’ll welcome others into our hearts, too.

And after a weekend of seeing these sweet, silly gals in action, I want so much to give her a sister. Or two.


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Baby or Piranha?

What do you do when you dread nursing your newborn?I have always known that I wanted to breastfeed my baby. I was breastfed, my husband was breastfed, my friends breastfed their babies. Plus, I had done the research – it’s natural, wholesome, the perfect nutrition, and in my opinion the best option for a baby. I was led to believe by many that breastfeeding would be all rainbows and butterflies, but I have come to find out that in order to reach that rainbow there have been some rivers to cross and mountains to climb.

Our breastfeeding journey began in the hospital, as it does with most, just after my baby was born. Rather than the overwhelming sense of joy and accomplishment most say they find when first breastfeeding their child, I found tremendous pain and discomfort. Don’t get me wrong, the ability to produce milk had me in amazement, but actually nursing my child was a whole other story! Rather than looking forward to feeding my son, I was dreading the hunger cry. I spoke with the lactation consultant at the hospital, and though she assured me that his latch looked great and that what I was experiencing was probably just the “mild discomfort” many new moms report – I felt like there was a piranha attacking me. We saw four different consultants many times, and every time I was told the same thing.

Release from the hospital was bittersweet – I was excited to go home, but I feared my ability to continue feeding my little piranha. Upon arrival home I burst into tears. My husband assumed it was the stress of having newborn in our care full time, but I knew the baby would be waking up and ready to eat very soon. I researched day and night, talking to friends and scouring the internet, trying to find ways to relieve the discomfort.  Heating pads, nipple guards and lanoline cream became my best friend. Yes, these things seemed to help a little as time went by but I never did find a magical fix. I guess you could say the magical fix that I did find was time.

One day when it was time to nurse it was like the pain had vanished completely. Looking back I am so glad that we pushed through those rough first six weeks. Nursing, I have found, is so much more than nutrition for my baby. It is a time for my son and I to spend together, comforting and nurturing. It is a time for us to study and memorize each other’s faces, and a time to develop our trust in one another.


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I Wasn’t Trying to Be Bad

Even parents who try to use positive reinforcement slip up sometimes. How can you bounce back?When I’m running late, which is more mornings than I care to admit, I’m not as patient with Ev as I want to be. I try to be a positive reinforcement type of parent. I try to avoid telling him “no” a hundred times a day. I know it is good for his development to hear it every once and a while but with my toddler, who is constantly trying to push limits and test boundaries, it would be easy to say “no” more often than not.

But some mornings, I just can’t help it.

Recently, I was upstairs in my room getting ready when I hear Ev yell out for help because our dog has eaten his cereal. It’s one of those mornings, so I get annoyed and go downstairs. As I turn the corner to say something, Ev says “Mom, you look beautiful! You put a dress on? I like it.” Naturally, my annoyance goes away and I hug my little one and tell him how sweet he is and how nice something like that is to hear. His words made me stop whatever it was I was going to say and just help him get more cereal and think of ways to keep the food away from the dog.

The next day, Ev and I were in the kitchen. We were just about to walk out the door. I had my back to him, filling my to-go mug with coffee, when I hear a crash. I turn around and Ev has knocked the dog food bowl over (which he has done many times, intentionally).

“Why did you do that?” I asked, clear irritation in my voice.

I walk out to get our coats and when I come back Ev is on his hands and knees picking up the dog food.

“Mom, will you help me clean this up?” My irritation melts.

“Sure. Thanks, Ev, for cleaning this up. That is a good choice.”

Then Ev says, “I knocked it over accidently. I wasn’t trying to be bad.”

I think my eyes started to well up. It was the sweetest, most sincere voice. It did not even sound like he was being defensive. It was very matter-of-fact, like “Chill, mom. It was an accident and I’ll just clean it up.” I immediately felt remorseful over getting upset with him. I hate that I responded the way that I did. It makes me feel even worse that I could have hurt Ev’s feelings. I don’t think I did, but I could have.

I don’t like feeling bad and more importantly, I don’t like when my son feels bad. I know that I cannot be on point, positive and treat every moment like a learning moment experience because that is just not reality. But I do think I can try harder.

So maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up earlier.


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My Baby’s Not a Baby Anymore

What do you do when your baby isn't a baby anymore?There was a moment a few weeks ago when Miss E woke in tears for the second time in a night, when I crawled out of bed to cuddle her and nurse her and stroke her hair. I remember thinking, as I’ve thought for months and months now since we decided we couldn’t let her cry, that soon enough she wouldn’t want me in the night anymore. She’d be a grown girl who takes a few deep breaths when she wakes from a bad dream, a girl who’d know that the sun rises in a few hours and the scary things don’t seem so scary by the light of day.

I thought to myself, I bet the last time she nurses will come and go and I won’t know until after it’s over that… it’s over.

Miss E has slept through the night for the last week, which is absolutely unheard of. A night here and there, sure, but twelve hours, night after night, without a squeak of protest? It’s crazy. Now I’m waking wanting her and expecting her to want me, too, but she doesn’t. We both roll over, tug the covers, sigh and sleep again without the smell of the other in our noses.

Within the last month or two she’s nursed less and less, at first only before bed, once in the night, and again in the morning. Then she was too ready to go-go-go in the morning, and then a cuddle and a cup of milk – which I was having to offer anyway, so diminished was my supply – would satisfy her at bedtime. I began bringing a cup of water with me when she woke in the night, anticipating the inevitable weaning, and while sometimes she would take it, she would often still tug at the collar of my pajama top, signing for milk, and I would oblige her. And then she stopped asking. And then she stopped waking up.

It happened just the way I thought it would, and somehow, I’m still a little surprised. And a lot sad.

It’s only been at night that I can really imagine my baby girl as a baby. When she is half-asleep, she is vulnerable, she clings to me, she is inarticulate in all but the language of pressing close, snuffling and settling and sleeping again in the space between my shoulder and neck. At night her little body rests and remembers a day of exploring, tumbling, running, of pushing my hands away because she can do it herself, thank you, and if I must watch, could I please do it from over there? But at night my arms are made for bearing the weight of her dreams. At night she’s needed me still in the ways that are most familiar to me, because they are the first ways I learned how to be needed, the ways she taught me.

And now she is so big, and so fearless, but still so skillful. She is showing me new ways of being needed, new ways of being loved. I tell myself it is okay to mourn for a little bit her vanished, littler self. But only for a little bit. I need to conserve my energy to chase a toddler.


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Cleanliness is next to… madness?

My husband would call me an obsessive, neurotic, cleaning machine. I put it a little more lightly and say, I enjoy my house being clean and work hard everyday to ensure it stays that way.

I blame my parents. When I was growing up, our house was always clean. My parents ensured that if someone was to stop by, whether it be expected or not, they would be greeted with a clean and tidy house. I loved that about my parents’ house; I always knew that I could bring friends by and be greeted by a clean house.

Then, I had Bryce. All the time I had dedicated to cleaning my own house became time spent caring for Bryce. This has quickly become one of the biggest stressors for me. I just cannot figure out a way to keep my house as clean and tidy as I would like it to be and provide my son with the quality time that he deserves.

My parents came to visit last weekend and I was a wreck all week. I actually traded in quality time that I would typically spend with my son to spend it frantically cleaning around the house. When they arrived on Saturday my mom said, “Wow, your house is amazingly clean. How did you manage to get it this clean with a 6 month old baby?” My jaw dropped. I reminded her how perfectly clean her house always seemed to be, and she was quick to let me know that I apparently was only remembering the house from when I was considerably older. She let me know that anyone who has had children would completely understand that new parents (even veteran parents) struggle with the ability to keep the house as clean as they would like in addition to raising children.

Hearing my mother’s words lifted the stress right off my shoulders. I wasn’t failing as a mother because I couldn’t keep my house as spotless as I wanted, I was just joining the ranks of mothers around the world!


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Working Mom Blues

What do you do when you get the working mom blues?I found myself in a puddle of self-pity quite recently. I felt like I was not spending enough quality time with my son because every day was a marathon of activity: wake up, get ready, get kid ready, get out the door, go to work, pick kid up, get dinner ready, give kid a bath, put kid to bed, try to get a few things done, go to bed. Repeat. Our weekends were spent catching up on chores and housekeeping to prepare for the next week. To make matters worse, Ev was having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, which meant I was running on empty.

During the very heart of my rut, on a particularly difficult night of very little sleep, I had a break down that involved many tears and cursing the world.

But, then I had a break through. There were things that I could do to feel better, and thankfully, now I do.

  1. I confided in someone. For me, I am very blessed for that person to be my husband. It is nice to have a partner in parenting and for some reason I wasn’t letting him in on my struggles. But the morning after my breakdown, I told him I was feeling defeated and I needed his help to get Ev’s sleep schedule back on track.
  2. I came up with a plan. Again, my husband helped me do some research and we talked about a new approach to Ev’s bedtime routine. And it worked. Ev’s sleep was making me lose sleep, but more importantly, it made me feel like I was losing control. Having a plan gave me some of that control back.
  3. I find time. I look for ways to have meaningful conversations with Ev during the short time that we are together during the week. We talk a lot on our commute to and from school. He helps me prepare dinner whenever he can – and not as often as he’d like!
  4. I try not to follow phantom rules. For me a phantom rule is something that I feel like I “should” do or am “supposed” to do. For example, Ev gets a bath at least every other night before bed (I know some parents are even cringing at that because they believe all children should bathe every night). But the other night Ev and I were working on puzzles together and it was so enjoyable that I didn’t want to end it in time for a bath even though it was the night he was “supposed” to get his bath. So, I didn’t. And the world didn’t end.
  5. I take advantage of opportunities for “special” experiences. We recently had a very beautiful Saturday, and after this winter, there was absolutely no way I was going to keep Ev in the house. The laundry and the piles of dog hair on the hardwood floors could wait. We took Ev to the zoo and had a marvelous time. I also recently brought Ev to the office with me. I’m blessed to work in a flexible, family-friendly environment, so when Ev asked if he could come to work with me for a little while, I was able to say yes. Not only do these experiences allow for some special interaction time (not to mention learning time for Ev), I think it also feels good to “mix” things up, especially when the monotony is starting to get me down.

 

Things get tough sometimes, but if there’s anything this experience has taught me, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.

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