Day Care Dilemma

My husband and I recently made the decision to put our Mini Monster (aka our 20-month-old son) into nursery school. With responsibilities in both our jobs growing, the timing seemed right. My partner works a traditional 9-5 type job and, as most of you probably know, my schedule is a bit more… unconventional.

If you know what I mean

If you know what I mean

I have my part-time day job where I work with children facing developmental, behavioral, and/or cognitive delays. And I have my work-from-home job of writing both for my blog and other publications. Then there’s my 24/7 job: being a mom. Even though I love my somewhat hectic life, sometimes it can take its toll.

We all have our moments

We all have our moments

Obviously the deciding factor in enrolling our child into nursery school wasn’t so that mommy could have the opportunity to pee alone. But it was definitely a nice perk. Honestly the main reason we wanted our son to go was for him to be more social. We don’t have too many friends with children his age, so this was a nice way to ease him out of his social freak outs.

*Reenactment

*Reenactment of our son around other children before enrolling in nursery school

Yet the one thing I was consistently warned about still caught me by surprise: sniffles. I don’t care how healthy your kid is, how much sleep they get, or what spirits you pray to, it seems inevitable that your child will eventually catch a bug from someone at daycare/school. Like clockwork, my son got the tell-tale runny nose his first week in and it has yet to fully clear up despite my best efforts. I still try to prevent spreading germs as much as possible, though.

Dean knows what's up

Dean knows what’s up

Since I’m still so new to this whole nursery school scene, what do you guys think? Are the “sniffles” something that just go away on their own? Or do you pull them out at a certain point to let their immune system recover? Let me know what you think, because I’m pretty sure we’re depleting the forests with our recent uptick in Kleenex usage!

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Today Would Be Her Due Date

My dear friend, Jasmine, of Emilee Plays | See June Play has graciously chosen to share her premature birth story. Below she writes about her experience on what would have been her youngest daughter’s due date.
She tells beautiful stories through photo essays and today’s story is no different.  

***

Today is my due date.

Today would have been the day I met my daughter, June. Instead, I met her two months ago. Never could I have imagined that I would give birth to a preemie, but I did. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t feel a little bitter about it, or that I don’t wish things could have been different.

I could have done without the NICU stay, the worrying, and the uncertainty. When I start getting completely caught up in my thoughts about this day, I remember: June is two months old, officially a newborn, and set to get her vaccinations on Thursday.

I can breathe a little easier and I can live a lot more with my daughter.

***

shared moment

A shared moment

first look

First look

newborn

A whole new world

Emilee + June

June 1 month

One month

Two months

Two months

On her due date

On her due date

 

Mommy Wants A Nap

Do you ever have one of those days where you just want to hit pause? Let me rephrase, do you ever have a day where you don’t want to hit pause? Lately I feel like I’ve been trying to chase an unwieldy boulder careening downhill… while wearing a blindfold… and with one arm tied behind my back.

I’m not exactly your typical working mom. My “day job,” if you will, involves working with children facing developmental or behavioral challenges and that has me driving to schools and students’ homes. My other job – and yes I consider it to be a legit job – is writing and I can fortunately do that anywhere and at any time. Both jobs require using my brain and I can’t really go on auto-pilot. Well, I could, but the outcome probably wouldn’t be great.

homer simpson job fail

“Just gonna check Facebook for a minute and – WHERE’S THE BABY?!”

Sometimes I wish I could just “check out” for a minute and not think about anything at all. I tend to be a tad neurotic and over analyze things, so when you couple that with being a working mom, you have the perfect recipe for a mushy brain by the end of the day. But that’s just the thing – there really isn’t an end of the day for most moms, working or otherwise. There’s usually not a beginning either, just a continuation of whatever chaos preceded the momentary silence. I could be a bit biased, however, since my toddler still isn’t sleeping through the night. No, that’s putting it mildly. He refuses to sleep through the night. He abhors bedtime. Perhaps my son was a Welsh poet in his previous life?

Renamed "Ode to a Toddler's Bedtime"

Renamed “Ode to a Toddler’s Bedtime”

Work becomes at best a hiccup and at worst a reprieve from the routine of the day. I don’t ever want to treat work as an escape from motherhood nor do I want to resent work from tearing me away from my son. It’s a conundrum and not just a maternal one. My husband similarly knows this back-and-forth game as well. He works a full-time, physically demanding job and usually has weekends off. He occasionally is jealous that I get, as one could call it, our son’s “best” hours. For the most part, I’m the one that has him during the fun, play time of the day while my husband is there just as Max is waking up or getting ready for bed. As the old saying goes, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Or as parents say, “How come the baby never cries when he’s with you?”

This might have something to do with it

This might have something to do with it.

I often think, “If I just had more ____, then I could breathe easier.” Whether it’s sleep, time, money, help, etc., I’ll convince myself that it would be the miracle cure to whatever happens to be stressing me out at the moment. Yet my biggest realization about motherhood is that I can’t control everything and micromanaging is rarely the answer. Yeah, sure, I had the realization, but that doesn’t mean I acted on it. Despite my repeat viewings of Frozen, my Type A Personality prohibits me from letting it go.

Grumpy Cat gets me on so many levels.

Grumpy Cat gets me on so many levels.

Like most working parents, I wear many hats in a 24 hour period. I’m an employee, a mother, writer, wife, sister, friend, and the list doesn’t end there. I’ve found it’s healthy to complain, sometimes I should say no, and asking for help is never a sign of weakness. There are huge life lessons I’ve learned and growing pains I’ve gone through in adding “mother” to my résumé. Yet with all the soul-searching, usually the answer to my problem isn’t some grand sentiment that you’d find in an”inspiring quotes” Google search. Sometimes the solution is quite simple: Mommy wants a nap. Who’s with me?

"So that's 1, 2, 3, 4... 957,015 in favor?"

“So that’s 1, 2, 3, 4 ….. 957,015 in favor?”

Mom Jealousy

Oh jealousy, you fickle fiend, always rearing your grumpy green head at the absolute worst moment.  As if I wasn’t stressed enough – planning my son’s first birthday and traveling back and forth between the Florida coasts to visit family – that familiar feeling decided to come creeping up recently.  Logically, I know it’s just my own insecurities making me feel like I’m losing some imaginary mom competition (Mompetition?), but that doesn’t seem to help me shake the feeling.

Just can't shake it!

Just can’t shake it!

I’ll be honest.  I get jealous.  A lot.  I get envious of moms who appear to have it all, moms who seem to be able to do it all, moms who don’t worry, healthy moms, moms who have all the answers.  You name it, I’ve either been jealous of or insecure about it.  But I don’t really linger on the jealousy.  It’s more of a fleeting thought that flickers across my mind when I see a woman at the grocery store, hair perfectly in place, bright eyes, carrying multiple things with ease, that I wonder to myself how I must look in comparison.  Messy ponytail with strands pulled undone by little hands, bleary eyes, struggling to find where I last put my debit card.  How could I not feel a little twinge of envy?

yup

Riiight?!

It’s not all pity party, though.  Sometimes I get these “epiphany moments” where I’m inspired by some random BuzzFeed article, convinced that I’ve found the ultimate life hack to turn me into Super Mom or a Pinterest board with the perfect sensory play project to guarantee my baby will be the next Einstein.  I’m full of optimism that I can finally be the best mother my child deserves and the best me that I deserve.

Such blind optimism

Such blind optimism

Of course things never turn out that way.  Something will inevitably go wrong and then those insecure feelings come back.  It can be a vicious cycle.  And normally, if I find out that I’m not alone in my self-doubt, I’ll start to feel better.  Yet somehow this isn’t one of those times.  I’ve heard every woman I know, chronically ill or not, vent about their issues of Mompetition (I’m trying to make this word happen, if you can’t tell).  And sure, we get together for a GNO and all chime in with our own horror stories and commiserate with each other, but most of the time we still go back home full of angsty sighs that would make a 90s grunge teen look like sunshine.

Angela Chase ain't got nothing on me

Angela Chase ain’t got nothing on me

But you know what snapped me out of my ‘Envy–>Self-Doubt–>Repeat’ cycle?  It may seem totally insignificant, yet it was a game-changer for me.  Not too long ago I was out to lunch with my best friend and my son.  On paper he should have been fine; he had just eaten, napped, and been changed.  Except, right around the time when I was getting ready to eat, he decided to have a meltdown.  So there I was, in a restaurant full of judge-y eyes, feeling the “shame sweat” begin to bead up on my forehead, trying to gently bounce him on my knee and maintain a smile as if he wasn’t letting out a demon-summoning shriek.

...basically

…basically

And you know what happened?  My best friend, God bless her, looked me dead in the eye and said, “Hey, you are doing great right now.  We all need to feel validated and I’m here to tell you that you are doing great.”  At the time, I just shrugged, nervously laughed, and mumbled out an awkward thank you.  But as I drove home, with my untouched lunch in a to-go box and my mini-monster blissfully asleep in the car seat, I let her words really sink in.  She saw, as only another woman can, the exact kind of panic I was in.  And she didn’t try to flatter me with superficial cliches nor did she avert her gaze and pretend not to know me (which I wouldn’t have blamed her for).  Instead, she told me exactly what I needed to hear.  It’s not about comparing yourself to someone else; it’s about being told you’re doing great, warts and all.

Gorgeous

Gorgeous

So to all the women (mothers or not) who have validated me, I sincerely thank you.  And in case no one has told you yet, you are doing great.

How to Survive Baby’s First Holiday

The holiday season is upon us once again!  This time last year I was on bed rest, beyond ready for the baby to come, and feeling like a beached whale.  This year, I’m always on my feet chasing my mini monster, beyond ready for a nap, and… actually I still kind of feel like a beached whale some days.  I guess some things don’t change *wink wink*  Another thing that hasn’t changed is the high level of stress that the holidays can bring.  So here are some tips to help you survive your baby’s first holiday season!

Plan Ahead

Nothing is worse than that ‘trying to keep my head above water’ feeling when it comes to getting overwhelmed by the holidays.  Okay, well maybe a few things are worse than that, like explosive diarrhea in a bathroom with no air conditioning or driving on I-4.  But holiday stress is still pretty gnarly.  One way to try and make the season more manageable?  Plan ahead.  Things become a lot less intimidating once you start breaking them down.

This cool cat is taking it one step at a time

This cool cat is taking it one step at a time

If the thought of driving 3 hours with your baby to go see relatives is keeping you up at night, try envisioning the actual situation in your head.  For instance, if you know you will be going somewhere your baby is unfamiliar with, bring a blanket or toy from home to make them feel comforted and safe.  Thinking ahead makes things less scary and helps you figure out what you need to do to be prepared!  Speaking of prepared…

Extra Clothes (for mom AND baby)

You can never have too many back-up outfits when you’re getting ready to take your baby on a trip.  Whether it’s a quick visit with Grandma or an all-day event, always pack extra clothes!  My son has acid reflux issues so he spits up frequently and thus goes through more wardrobe changes than Lady Gaga.  But it wasn’t until one day early on, when I was still a wide-eyed mom full of optimism, that he puked all down the front of my shirt (and missed himself, of course) and things changed.

I call it "The Embarrassment Sweats"

I call it “The Embarrassment Sweats”

 

I had tons of onesies for him in the bag, but nothing for me.  A lesson I only needed to learn once!  So save yourself the embarrassment and subsequent awkward explanations – “Oh this?  Haha yeah, it’s pureed squash and puke. Hashtag ‘mom life,’ riiiight?? Haha okay bye! – and pack a back-up shirt for you and your partner.

Don’t Underestimate People

If you know me or have read any of my previous posts, then you know I’m inclined to convince myself that the worst case scenario will happen.  I also carry a nice British-sized dose of guilt and awkwardness around.  So I tend to get nervous about how people will react when something bad (inevitably) happens.  What if my baby spits up on my in-law’s rug?  What if I have to say no to an event invite altogether?  What if we have to leave a party early because my son is reaching a nuclear reactor level meltdown?

It's about to get real

It’s about to get real

Having actually experienced all of these things, I can tell you firsthand the surprising outcome: everyone was actually super nice and understanding about the situation!  Unless someone is just a major Grinch (get it? Holiday humor!), people are actually fairly accommodating and sympathetic to life’s little mishaps especially when it concerns your health and/or babies. So breathe a sigh of relief and don’t underestimate the kindness of people.

Smile… a lot

This one may sound a little cheesy, but hear me out.  As a mom with multiple chronic illnesses, I’m often in some degree of pain or discomfort.  Don’t go pulling out the violin, I’m just stating fact here and I’m sure all you other moms with similar issues can appreciate my candor when it comes to health.  And since I’m no stranger to feeling uncomfortable, I’ve mastered my “serene” face.  However, upon looking at some photos a few weeks ago, I noticed just how calculated my “serene” face looked.  It was a cross between a mannequin and a the snob who just has to mention that she knows those are last year’s  shoes you’re wearing.

In my head, I thought I looked totally dignified

In my head, I thought I looked totally dignified

Basically, my face didn’t display the kind of mirth and joy one expects to see in family holiday photos.  You may think this sounds a bit superficial, but trust me.  Any other time of year I would say, “Hey, I’m gonna wear sweatpants, I don’t care.  Deal with it, blah blah feminism blah blah.”  But since this is my baby’s first holiday season, I don’t want the pictures of our new little family to remind me of my disease every time I look back at them.  I want the photos to capture all the wonderful emotions my heart feels in spite of my health.  So if that means having to summon the majestic power of a thousand bald eagles to keep a smile on my face for a few minutes, so be it.

Make time and BREATHE

If you remember only one thing from this post, let it be this.  Take a moment during this busy season and just breathe.  Everything will be okay and the world will keep on spinning even if things don’t turn out quite the way you had pictured.  If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, remember that it’s all temporary and things will be calmed down and back to normal soon enough.  Try not to let the little things get you down.

Rise above it!

Rise above it!

And most importantly, take time to just celebrate your wonderful baby and allow yourself to forget about all the hullabaloo for a little bit.  My partner and I always make a point to snag a moment where it’s just us and our baby.  Granted your baby will have no idea what’s going on, but it can be special bonding experience for you and your partner to revel in the awesomeness of parenthood.  Treasure this first holiday season with your little one because it only happens once!

Happy Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Pancha Ganapati, Soyal, Yaldā, Yule, and Festivus to you all!!!

(Sorry if I forgot anyone!)

Why It’s Okay to Complain

Maybe it’s because I’ve lived with health issues my whole life. Maybe it’s because I’m a new mom. Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it’s not. But I’ve long felt the necessity to stay strong and never complain. Perhaps I felt as if I were betraying all the strong, fierce feminists that came before me. I’ve always thought that if I complained, asked for help, or took a break that it somehow meant I was giving in and letting my struggles get the best of me. Thankfully, I’m here to tell you that that’s just not true. It really is okay to complain sometimes.

It wasn’t easy to allow myself the freedom to complain. Honestly, it still isn’t easy even now. I still hesitate sometimes when asking for help. And when I do ask for help, I’m convinced that the other person is secretly mad that I bothered them. Again, this could just be me dealing with my own issues, but from the other moms and women with chronic illnesses I’ve talked to, it doesn’t seem like I’m the only one. So here are five reasons why it’s not only okay to complain, but it may just be the best thing you could do for yourself.

5. It Puts Your Pain into Words

So often, when I’m having a health issue or beyond exhausted, pain just becomes a part of this unspoken routine. Even before I had a child, I still couldn’t just take a day off whenever I was in pain or sick. If that was the case, I would have been home more days than I worked. So, you learn to just “deal.” But I did eventually get to my breaking point, as we all do. So I complained. And it was awesome! I got to put into words exactly what I was feeling which did two things: 1) it helped me articulate just how debilitating my health issues can be, emotionally and physically, and 2) it gave everyone around me a better picture of what I was going through and how to help. Contrary to popular belief, glaring at someone does not actually tell them what’s wrong.

4. Better Out Than In!

That saying has stuck around for a reason. It really is better to let it out than to keep it all in. When you keep things in – health issues, relationship problems, anger, sadness, etc. – it becomes toxic. And what’s even scarier is, if you hold on to the problem long enough, it becomes a part of you. One day, I caught myself in the mirror and realized I looked miserable. Not sad, not unhappy, not even angry, just plain miserable. I was holding in all this frustration that it was physically manifesting on my face and it wasn’t cute. So I wrote down a list of all the things that were causing me stress or pain. Then I showed it to my husband when he got home. The conversation that followed wasn’t exactly cute either, but I caught myself smiling for no reason the next day 🙂

3. Perspective

Not all the things I put on that list were really stress-worthy. Sure, some issues on the list were serious (like finances and health), but some were downright silly. I wrote “all out of Baked Lays.” It’s funny now, but at the time I’m sure it was a very legitimate thing to be stressed out about in my life. But reading it on that list not only let me see how small and easily fixable some of my problems were, but it also showed me (and my partner) that if you let things build up, it only takes one little thing to push it over the tipping point. That saying “the straw that broke the camel’s back” definitely fits here. And not to worry, I finally got my Baked Lays and all was right in the world again.

2. Healthy Alternative

I’m not suggesting everyone who bottles up their issues immediately becomes destructive, but I have seen firsthand the negative consequences that can come of it. One of the most important things I should point out first, is that this can happen to women and men. I’ve seen both mothers and fathers who never complain, yet they are visibly unhappy and some are even resentful or bitter. I’ve also seen pain eat away at someone until they’re just a shell of who they used to be. Partly because of what I had seen, I knew it was important to me, my partner, and my son that I never let myself become overwhelmed under the weight of chronic illness and motherhood. So if a little venting from time to time prevents you from a life of resentment or unhappiness, then I say it’s worth it.

1. Forming Bonds Stronger than Denture Cream

Believe it or not, giving myself permission to complain didn’t help just me. It was like a magic wand had been waved! Out of nowhere, all these friends and mothers were released from their guilt-ridden spell of silence. Suddenly I was getting texts and calls and Facebook comments and messages from both friends I’d known forever and people I’d just met saying things like, “Oh my God! I thought I was the only one!” or “Finally, someone is talking about it!” I began to forge new friendships and strengthen existing ones by simply “complaining” on social media about how real the struggle of balancing motherhood with chronic illness can be. So if you haven’t already, be the first person to break the “Guilt and Silence Spell” and enjoy the deep sense of camaraderie that you will find among friends new and old.

What Your Parenting Style Says About You

In our four-part series on parenting styles, we looked at four very different kinds of moms.  We talked about everything from being super-strict (like the Helicopter Mom) to ultra-lenient (like the Laid-Back Mom) and hippies (like Crunchy Mamas) to geeks (like Techie Mommies).  And whether you identify fully with one style or just pick out a couple of similarities, it says something about you.  So what does it all mean?

Besides the obvious judging, of course

Besides the obvious judging, of course

 

Let’s take it back a bit first.  The whole idea for a series about different kinds of parenting came about in a rather serendipitous way.  I was at a local mommy & me type play place and couldn’t help but notice that there were so many different kinds of moms there – moms on their phones, moms hovering, moms talking about amber necklaces, moms “asking” their kids to obey, etc.  And it got me thinking: where do these habits come from?  Are we just carbon copies of our own childhood, mirroring our parents?  Is it instinct?  Or is it a combination?

It's confusing, I know, but bear with me

It’s confusing, I know, but bear with me

I think we can’t help but bring some of our experiences into the process of parenting.  If you were raised never to eat meat, and you continued that lifestyle into adulthood, then chances are you’re probably going to pass that on to your children, too.  Yet I also remember poring over countless books and online articles during my pregnancy, bound and determined to learn everything I could to raise the most perfect, well-rounded little person… and then I clearly remember forgetting everything I ever read or experienced the moment I held my son on my chest for the first time.

Similar reaction, basically

Similar reaction, basically

So what does it all mean?  Obviously I’m not a doctor or an expert by any stretch of the imagination (unless you count my own, then yes), but I believe that all mothers instinctively want what is best for their child, and that may mean something different to each mother.  For the Helicopter Moms out there, they show their unconditional love by being a constant presence in their child’s life.  And for many of the self-professed Hoverers I’ve talked to, it’s because they themselves felt unsure or distant from their own parents as a child.  So they have vowed to do the exact opposite for their children by doing everything they can to be there for and protect them.

Not all moms share in the same upbringing or ideology, and that’s okay, too.  A lot of the more “hands-off” or free-range parents I’ve talked with don’t even dig that deep when I ask them about why they parent the way they do.  For them, it’s not something they even have to devote that much thought to – it just came about naturally.  Though they may tend to do their research when it comes to important issues (like health or education), at their core they care more about living in the moment with their child than anything else.

As I finished up the last of the four-part series last week, I was already wondering how I wanted to tie up the whole thing.  And wouldn’t you know it, the idea came to me in the same place that started it all.  Back at the play place with my fellow moms and my baby’s bffs, I stopped (subconsciously or not) putting parents into categories.  I stopped seeing “Crunchy Mamas” and started seeing the beautifully complex women that they always were.

You are amazing, don't ever forget that

You are amazing, don’t ever forget that

So that’s my takeaway from the whole thing.  You may have some helicopter tendencies or geek out from time to time, but that’s kind of the point.  We differ a little bit in our parenting styles, but when get right down to it, each and every one of us just care about helping our little one make it through this crazy world.  What do you think?