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!

Advertisements

How to Survive a Four Hour Drive with a Toddler

Prior to becoming a mother, I told myself I wouldn’t be caught dead driving long distances with a child. I figured I could put off accepting any kind of out-of-town social event until the kid was say, oh I don’t know – how old are they when they stop misbehaving? Oh right. Never. My genius pre-motherhood plan lasted less than two years. Last week my husband, eighteen month old son, and I set off on a cross-state drive for a wedding and I’ve lived to tell about it!

If you want to survive a long, family car ride without needing to call someone for bail money (presumably for assaulting whoever woke your sleeping child), then read on:

1. Expect the Unexpected

Before our trip could even get off to a proper start, I somehow managed to dislodge the right side of my front bumper. I’m talented like that. I’m like ninety percent sure it wasn’t my fault, but let’s not squabble over details. There we were: in the predawn hours, dragging rubber and plastic down the highway, praying to the travel gods the baby would stay asleep while anxiously looking for a safe place to pull off .

This looks safe, right, Honey?

“This looks safe, right, Honey?”

Despite neatly packing snacks, quietly transferring my sleeping son from the crib to the car, and carefully hanging fancy clothes without wrinkling them, I was not prepared for this. So what do you do when the proverbial fecal matter hits the fan? Aside from performing a ritual goat sacrifice, I strongly suggest you embrace the chaos. The more you try to fight against the craziness, the less calm you (and everyone around you) will be. Just try to roll with it – even if you’re screaming internally.

Just breathe in and out.

Just breathe in and out.

2. Breaks. SO. MANY. BREAKS.

Keeping in theme with the previous rule, you’ll need to adopt the mantra “F*** The Schedule!” When the mini vehicular catastrophe was finally remedied (thank you, zip ties!), we were a solid two hours behind schedule. I thought to myself, “That’s okay. We factored in a bonus hour for breaks, so we’re really only one hour behind. I can make that up with clever driving and no breaks. It’ll be fine!” Oh how innocent I was.

So young, so full of hope I was.

So young, so full of hope I was.

A funny thing happens when you try to drive long stretches without a break. Perhaps “funny” isn’t the right word. Pee. Yup that’s the word: PEE. Pee happens when you don’t take breaks and you have a toddler with the bladder the size of a thimble. Unfortunately my seizures left me with the inability to smell (True story! Ask me about it some time) which meant I was blissfully unaware of the urine soaked car seat and horrifyingly wet toddler until it was too late. Do yourself (and your upholstery) a favor, and take as many breaks as necessary. Those with functioning olfactory receptors will thank you.

WHY, GOD? WHY?!?!

WHY, GOD? WHY?!?!

 3. Baby = “Get Out of Jail Free” Card

Okay, this one may sound like I’m a horrible person – and maybe I am, who cares? – but one of the perks to having a baby is that it is the best excuse you’ll ever have! I’m not recommending you lie and say your baby is sick to get out of a party because, ya know, karma. But if you have a legit situation which has created some negative outcome, don’t be afraid to blame your exit strategy on the baby. Just don’t get drunk with power.

drunk with power highlander

It’s deceptively easy to use the excuse too much.

The final key to being able to survive a long drive with your toddler is to not worry about what others may think. Merely showing up in one piece should be accomplishment enough, in my opinion. Yeah, we were late and probably smelled of baby pee, but we MADE IT! The ride back? Now that’s an entirely different story…

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?”

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.

Is “Me Time” Necessary or Narcissistic?

Every mom, newbie or old pro, knows her baby is the number one priority.  At least that’s what society tells us.  Everything from film to television to social media tells women that once they become mothers, they are to wear their unkempt hair and blood-shot eyes as a badge of motherhood pride.  We’re supposed to be tired, selfless, angels who never complain about performing the same endless tasks without ceasing.

But guess what?  That’s not reality.  The reality is that yes, we get to a point where we don’t care if there’s a little spit up on our shirt, but we also know that we need a break every now and then, too.  I’m not suggesting you put in earplugs and take a bubble bath while your baby cries in the other room.  I’m suggesting we all stop pretending to be robots that are capable of indefinitely living on no sleep and able to do everything without help or support.  After all, even robots break down.

So here are some of the reasons I think we should start a new trend of unapologetically taking care of ourselves so that we can continue being the awesome mothers we already are.  And just for fun, all the gifs are of Leslie Knope from Parks & Rec because why not?

It Helps You Compartmentalize

Sometimes, when you’re knee-deep in dirty onesies and your hands are full or drooly toys, you can get overwhelmed and your to do list can seem insurmountable.

leslie thoughts

Enjoying a nice cup of tea for a moment allows you to take a step back and look at the problem with a fresh pair of eyes.  A little breather can make any to do list less Mt. Everest-y and more pitcher’s mound-ish.

It Lets You See Your Child Differently

When you are with your baby 24/7, life can become a routine.  Feed the baby, change the baby, play with the baby, calm the baby, repeat.  Did I mention life has no pause button?

leslie oh ann

Even a little time apart can put your baby in a new light.  All of a sudden it’s not a routine you have to keep up with; you get to watch this funny little human grow up right in front of your eyes.

It Clears Your Head

This one is a no-brainer, no pun intended.  When you’re running around worrying about doing the laundry, taking care of the baby, and running errands, you can easily become frazzled.

leslie music

Even meditating for fifteen minutes can give you time to clear your head of any fears or worry and be able to face the day recharged.

It Extinguishes Anger

We all get angry, don’t lie.  Whether your baby soiled his clothes for the umpteenth time or your partner forgot to clean the bottles, even the littlest things can cause you to see red when running on little sleep and a fried brain.

leslie angry

Stepping away from the situation can put things into perspective and calm you down.  You may even laugh about whatever it was that initially got you grumpy in the first place!

It Can Make Your Partner Appreciate You More

You know that saying, “A pictures is worth a thousand words,” right?  Well thirty minutes with a fussy baby is worth a million words.  You can tell your partner a hundred different ways about what all goes into your day and that the baby isn’t always a perfect little angel.  But…

All moms are like ninjas crossed with Jedis

All moms are like ninjas crossed with Jedis

Some one-on-one time will show your partner just how hard you work while taking care of the baby, and I bet you will be more appreciated.

So go on ladies, it’s time to do away with the guilt and the fear of judgement.  After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, then you can’t take care of your baby.

Why I’m Not A Mom (and neither are you)

No, no, no.  Calm down.  No one needs to call Social Services or anything, my son is very well fed (as is evidenced by his Michelin man legs).  I’m just on my  soapbox  again.  I don’t like the label “mom,” never have.  Mom is a palindrome; it’s written the same forwards and backwards.  I also have an irrational fear of palindromes, in case you didn’t know.  The “M”s on either side of the “O” are like little bookends.  They’re little, mean bookends confining the “O” in the middle.  The word is stuck as it is and can be nothing else.  Yes, I’m writing this on very little sleep.  So allow me to explain, since my previous sentences sound like the ravings of a madwoman.

Ooooh watch out!

Ooooh watch out!

Seemingly, when you become a mother and other people begin to refer to you as a “mom,” the world around you gets a little smaller.  You’re now “just a mom.”  The media isn’t interested in you as a “woman” anymore.  Magazine articles either cater to alluring, interesting young women or to “moms” and their quilting and hors d’oeuvre making.  You find yourself wondering if you should just resign to wearing sweats and always smelling just a bit like baby spit up.  The suggested ads in your Facebook are suddenly about minivans, artichoke dip recipes, and losing weight.

Yes, FB, this is totally accurate

Yes, FB, this is totally accurate

What happened to everything else I am?  I love to travel, discuss religion and politics, sketch, and watch an ungodly amount of BBC America.  I’m still an activist for animal rights, environmental issues, gay rights, and raise awareness for invisible illnesses.  I still shop at H&M, Urban Decay, and (embarrassing as it may be) Forever 21.  Why does becoming a “mom” mean to many that I am no longer that person to so many people I’ve encountered?

I FINALLY GET TO USE THIS GIF!

I FINALLY GET TO USE THIS GIF!

I am so proud to be a mother and so humbly grateful to have received a gift that many women desperately want.  Through all the ups and downs, I would still do it again for my sweet son.  I am responsible for him and to him now.  But I’m also obligated to show him what a strong woman looks like.  What disservice would I be doing to him if I sent the message that once a woman has a child she ceases to have any other identity except that of a mother?  Or what would it imply about women who are unable or choose not to have children?  Are they less of a woman or somehow less caring?   How would he then treat women?  I hope to show him that women can be nurturing yet independent, kind yet bold, and yes girls can like mud and science and Tonka trucks, too.  I hope he will in turn exhibit respect and empathy towards others and strive to be aware of his impact as well.

because babies holding hands is adorable

because babies holding hands is adorable

So that’s why I’m not a mom and neither are you.  We’re mothers, partners, artists, goofballs, chefs, secret-keepers, dancers, nerds, and everything in between.  We owe it to ourselves and our children to be a full person, flaws and all.  Children learn so much about the world by watching what we do, how we act, what we say.  Show them, tell them that you are, not were, an artist or a nerd or a thrill-seeker or a musician.  Let them see all that you are so that they might know who they can be.

They'll grow into those shoes quickly, trust me

They’ll grow into those shoes quickly, trust me