Why You and I Need Mom Friends

If you’ve ever questioned why it’s so important to meet moms, consider your childless friends.

It comes up now and then in blog posts and on Facebook that people without kids feel like they never see their friends with kids, and these folks usually suspect that it’s because the wee ones have taken over their friends’ lives. And then you hear the people with kids saying they never see their unprocreated peeps like they used to, and I suspect that they suspect that their old friends have decided they’re no longer fun.

But I discovered that, in most cases, neither group is right. People don’t change all that much after having kids – yes, they devote a certain amount of attention and emotional energy to their progeny, but for the most part, parents are deep down still giggling at off-color jokes.

So, nope, people with kids and people without kids don’t magically lose the ability to find common ground. It’s just that the people with kids are suddenly saddled with tiny drunken deconstructionists, whose intense curiosity appears to correspond with a raging death wish.

Stick my fingers in a socket? Sure! Climb up onto and then throw myself off the counter? Great idea! Shove a pencil up my nose? Excellent! What happens if I smash this? Or this? Or this? And for goodness sake, what does poison taste like? I need to know!

My theory is that the main reason people with kids and people without kids have trouble keeping in touch is that for a great long while there are all kinds of places that they can’t be together that were once prime hangouts. Bars. Restaurants that don’t start service until 6 p.m. Quiet places. Unchildproofed rooms.

To give a specific example, once upon a time I met up with some old peeps for a barbecue that sadly got rained out about an hour after I arrived. More than one person asked me if I’d be joining everyone else at the event organizer’s place of residence. I had to decline, but not because I’m some old fuddy-duddy who hates fun.

No, I had to decline because at the time I had a 15-month old in tow who would have liked nothing better than to have been invited into a house with delicious and breakable wires, books, games with small pieces, electronics, and so on. Had I gone, I would have spent the entire visit NOT socializing, but rather chasing my daughter from room to room saying “No” over and over again, frustrating us both. Not fun.

Other moms understand this kind of thing. Even moms who are past the childbearing years get that inviting a toddler into their homes means that something might get broken. They know the deal and they either accept it or they put stuff up for the duration of the visit. That’s why you NEED mom friends. Yes, you can still be friends with people without kids – if they’re willing to come to you and stop assuming that your decision to decline yet another party invitation is anything other than you doing the right thing.

christa terry - mom meet mom

It’s Time to Celebrate!

Do you love freebies as much as we do? What mom doesn’t?!

mom giveaways - giveaways for momsThat’s why, to celebrate our Boston Beta launch, we’re planning two months of giveaways as a thank you to all the moms who are cheering us on as we work to make Mom Meet Mom amazing – starting with an especially delicious giveaway in honor of Father’s Day! Once a week, through June and July, we’ll post a new giveaway that’ll be open to any mom in the continental U.S.

All you have to do to enter is:

  • Have a complete profile at Mom Meet Mom, including a photo. If you haven’t signed up already, it’s free and takes just a minute or two! Remember, your profile has to include a photo to be eligible to win.

Pretty simple, right? And so much fun since you’ll get to meet moms in the process! Though the best part might be that once you’ve created your profile, you’ll be automatically entered in every single one of the weekly giveaways we’re running from now until the end of July!

So stay tuned for an exciting lineup of surprise prize sponsors who have been super generous with their contributions to our two month long giveaway event. The fun starts on June 1, so check back soon to see what the first week holds.

We can’t wait!!

Featured Mom: Sarah, Mom to Teens and So Much More

This week’s featured mom is Sarah. She’s a single mom with not one, but two TEENAGERS! Those years bring with them a whole new set of mothering challenges, but for Sarah, even the supposedly easy phase of parenting was full of slings and arrows. You are going to love her take on parenting and her mothering superpower is pretty darn cool. Here is Sarah’s Q&A.

meet moms - where moms meetHow has making mom friends changed as your kids have gotten older?

My kids are 13 and 14 (19 months apart), and I’ve had many of my mom friends since my children were babies, so I don’t search for playdates any more. I don’t really seek out new mom friends as much as I pursue friendships in general. Though, a lot of the friends I have made in the last few years are women in their 50’s, with older teens or college age kids, which has been very interesting. I find it helpful to have friends with older children, it helps you get an idea of what’s coming around the corner.

How did you meet your best mom friend?

I met my best mom friend when my daughter was about six months old, at a Christmas party held by my midwives. I almost didn’t go because my husband had to work and I was nervous to drive alone with the baby in bad weather. To make myself feel better during the drive I decided I was going to meet a mama friend (I needed one desperately), and I made up what I thought my new bestie would be like. I wanted her to have a daugher the same age as mine, a solid relationship with her husband, an exuberant laugh, and an easy going nature. I also decided she should be a fabulous cook, love NPR and dancing and also be a writer, with bonus points if she painted or ever worked at a library.

The party was kind of disappointing for me at first, I was paralyzed with shyness and lack of sleep and all the new parents were so tender and edgy, and hen-like. The few people I was able to meet seemed to split between two camps, those who gave birth at home out of religious convictions, and those who seemed to have done it to express more political views. I found it hard to ease into conversation with either. I was getting ready to leave but needed to nurse my daughter before the drive. As I was sitting there I heard a laugh and looked up to see My Dream Friend. Hearts pretty much flew from my eyes. She had a baby girl and a charming husband she clearly adored. I practically ran over to her. I knew before I even had her phone number that she was going to be my friend. She had even met her husband when they were both working at the library. Everything was exactly as I imagined it, plus radness I didn’t even know about yet, like her cupcakes will blow your doors open and her potlucks always turn into dance parties. We have known each other for 14 years, and our daughters are best friends. I tease her sometimes that I just made her up on the drive over, which is the only way I can explain that she has three kids, a carpenter husband and two dogs and her house is barely ever messy.

What is the biggest parenting challenge you’ve faced so far?

The divorce presented the greatest challenge by far. I went from super intense, non-stop, no sleep ‘til Brooklyn, full time mothering of a two and four year old, to terribly sad and lonely, corporate worker bee divorcee who sometimes had to wait an entire week to see my children. I cried a lot in my first apartment. It was the absolute worst time of my life. There was no exhausted weening, surprise sassy back talk, lack of sleep or teenage whining festival more challenging than the time I spent aching for my babies.

What is your mom superpower – something you feel extra good at?

When my son came running into my office at 9:30 on a school night and announced, “Mom! I forgot! I need an Elizabethan collar!  We’re going on location to shoot a video about Colonial WIlliamsburg! Tomorrow morning!!” I whipped that sucker up like I was made to crank out Elizabethan collars on command. I am also able to do that with birthday gifts. Apparently, when I’m under the gun I’m capable of some serious Mom Fu.

How has your divorce impacted the way you go about making mom friends? Did you lose any close parent friends when you got divorced?

The divorce hasn’t had any impact on the way I go about making mom friends. A lot of my friends are married, some are living in long term committed relationships, some are divorced. I didn’t lose any friends over the loss of my marriage, the divorce was about my ex and myself and had nothing to do with my friends. There are two interesting observations that I can offer about the impact of divorce though:

1. My core group of in-town friends has been in place for over a decade. They function as a big extended family and our kids are close, sometimes like cousins (people you hang out with when your families are together for potlucks or camping), some of them are more like best friends (people they hang around with on purpose, outside of parent orchestrated gatherings). Most of the parents are still married. It’s hard for my kids to express their divorce frustrations to their friends. They have two involved parents, two of nearly everything else, and sometimes their father and I don’t see eye to eye. My daughter doesn’t feel like she can talk much to her friends about these particular struggles because her friends can’t relate and seem worried that talking about it will make it happen to them. I’m very close to both of my kids, and there is virtually nothing we haven’t discussed, but I am also aware that they have emotional needs that can only be met by friendships with a relatable peer. I encouraged my daugher to reach out to other kids with divorced parents, and that actually helped her a lot.

2. At the outset of the divorce I put a lot of my parent friends at arms length. Part of me was afraid they were judging me (they weren’t, I made that up because I felt guilty for not sticking out the marriage and being miserable until my kids were adults). Part of me was afraid my divorce and new dating life would somehow poison the perfection of their lives (which is understandable but pretty silly, no one has a perfect life, perfect kids or a perfect marriage and also, divorce isn’t contagious). Part of me wanted to get out of the way a bit so my my ex could solidify his place with an approved network of people I already trusted with my children. I also wanted to run into him as little as possible, so we were careful not to attend events at the same time if we could help it. It was a little rocky for the first few years or so, but I didn’t lose friends over it. In fact, the bumpy parts showed me how deep my friendships could be, and how much I love them all for being exactly who they are. I really appreciate the fact that we all look out for each other and all of our children.

How involved are you with your kids’ friendships? How has that changed over time?

I used to be in charge of making playdates for my kids, right down to the part where I’d call the other parent and find out when their kids could have a sleepover. At this point they are old enough to work things out together and then ask permission to carry out their plans. Which is great because I was starting to worry that my kids would never be comfortable calling another kid and saying, “Hey! Do you want to come over?” and that I would be forced to make all their dates for the rest of ever. It used to be like “Mom, I’m bored!” and it was my job to get on the phone, or, I would make plans they hated and there would be all kinds of whining about it, Being their social director got old, and after a certain point I felt it was in their best interest to take a more active role in their own lives. So they did, and it’s been awesome.

At this point I’m pretty hands off about their friends, mainly because there haven’t been any problems where I felt I needed to intervene. They each have close friends, the same kids I’ve known since they were tiny, but they have also made new friends through school. I keep most of my friendship opinions to myself unless I can see they are struggling, and then I ask them if they want advice or help. Jr. High has not been without typical drama, teasing and the same stuff we all remember from puberty, and when you’re 12, those are huge issues to handle for the very first time.

I do a lot of listening. My daughter is in 8th grade now, and there are a few girls in her class who are a little more “advanced” than she is, which is uncomfortable to contemplate, but it is what it is and my opinion has not been requested, nor would it be welcome or helpful, and a heavy handed approach just makes kids feel like they can’t trust you enough to be honest with you. It’s not that my eyebrow hasn’t shot up when I see pictures of one of her school  friends making out with a boy and making joint smoking hand gestures, it’s just that I also remember being 14 and trying to be cool. I also know that some kids don’t have parents that listen and some have parents who only yell or are never around, My role now is to listen and help my kids suss out their own boundaries. I need them to know I will love them no matter what they say, do or think. I want them to understand how to make choices for themselves without telling them who to be. I have taught them to identify the people who take more than they give back and how to shut that down. I tell them to follow their gut, if they can feel that something is off, or wrong or not a good choice, they need to listen to that, because that will serve them for the rest of their lives, even when I’m not there to tell them what they should do.

So far they are both comfortable telling me what’s going on in their lives and how they feel about it. What I am learning by listening is that some kids have super overprotective parents and now they are afraid to fail, or be hurt, because they never had the chance to build up the skills they need to handle danger or conflict. Some attention seeking kids have parents that mean well but never engage and treat their kids like a project they keep meaning to get back to. Some kids show how much they are hurting by being mean and judgy to others. The ones that seem the most well adjusted have embarrassed themselves and gotten through it, failed and managed anyway, recognized how much it hurts to be a jerk, witnessed their parents be human and realized, it’s OK and know they are loved no matter what. Our job as parents isn’t to make everything smooth and comfortable and perfect, to never cry or be frustrated or make a mistake in front of our kids. Our job is to teach them how to handle the inevitable realness, to be responsible for their own lives and internal landscape, to know it’s OK to keep trying when they get it wrong. There is no perfect. If I parent out of fear I am rigid and judgmental, if I parent from love I am resilient and forgiving. Parenting from love makes confident kids, the kind you want to hang out with on purpose.

Do you have any tricks for balancing your work responsibilities and family time? What about making sure your personal needs are met?

If there is any silver lining to my divorce it’s that we split time with the kids, which means when I’m on Mama Duty, I am ON IT. But when I’m not I can do crazy things like sleep in or eat cereal for dinner.

My life has lots of intense components. I have my kids every other weekend, every Monday and every Thursday. I’ve been in a long distance relationship for almost five years and we see each other when we can.  I nanny on Wednesdays for a delightful girl child who is nearly three, I run my own business as a Clutter Consultant/Organizer, I make sock monkeys, magnets, amigurumi dolls, t-shirt rugs and baskets, jewelry and paper flowers. I’m working on another play, a book about organizing and a memoir, I maintain a four bedroom house and cook all of our meals. I have two cats, one grey sweet easy kitty, one mammoth ginger beast who is more like a fuzzy toddler with a short fuse. I’m on the board of a local community art space. I’m on stage telling true stories live once a month. And I am pretty much constantly searching for freelance gigs.

As you can imagine some days are pretty full and hard to relax into. For a while all these components felt like a jumble and I wasn’t doing a good job of managing any of them. My secret is therapy (seriously, I owe my therapist a hug, a round of applause and a pony) and regular gut checks. I take my vitamins, I sing. I ditch the office chair for a yoga ball. I practice gentle self compassion. I spend time alone when I need it. I try to keep a sense of humor about the sucky parts.  I don’t expect my children to be anyone other than themselves. If I miss my boyfriend I tell him that. If I am tired I sleep. If I am hungry I eat. I write down all the things I need to keep track of on Post It notes and stick them where I need reminders. One of them says, “Breathe. Because you can”. It’s the little things that keep a mama sane and put together. And coffee. That helps a lot.

Do you have a story to share that would make you a great Featured Mom? Email with a brief summary of what makes your story special and whether you’d like to write a guest post or do a Q&A for a chance to be featured at Mom Meet Mom.

Are Non-Parents Happier than Parents? Maybe, maybe not.

Every few years, someone does a new study that proves that moms are less happy than non-moms. I don’t know why it makes the news over and over again, but it does, and naturally it gets us people with offspring to wondering if it’s actually true that moms are less happy than non-parents. It’s a toughie – how does one objectively measure happiness? Is my happy the same as your happy?

Personally, I don’t feel less happy than I did before my daughter and son were born. If you discount that first six months of intense sleep deprivation that were a consequence of having a preemie, I think I am overall more happy, more cheerful, and less prone to depression than I was before I became a mom. I know that’s not every mom’s story, but it’s mine.

Maybe it’s just that I feel like I have to make the effort to see the good things in life because I don’t want to teach the Babby to focus on the not-so-good things? Happiness, much like love, is often less something you feel and more something you do. Happiness is so subjective that we each invent it for ourselves, in other words.

That said, I have another theory about why moms report being less happy than the “no kidding” crowd and it has to do with expectations. When a woman is pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant or dreaming about what it will be like to be a first time mom, they tend to focus on things like baby’s first smile or planning playdates or mommy and me classes or lots of huggies or teaching their little ones to ride a bike.

Very few moms-to-be sit around daydreaming about poop explosions so bad they require cutting a onesie off of the baby or waking up to a crying infant for the seventh time in a night or a kid screaming “I hate you!” over and over again.

But these sorts of things happen and they happen a lot. Maybe having lots of younger brothers and sisters made me see early on that being a mom is not all newborn coos and picking out cute outfits. I knew that being a mama would sometimes be kind of disgusting, kind of frustrating, and even kind of annoying. Not all the time… not even most of the time. But, yeah, sometimes.

And then you’re looking at your friends with no kids who are enjoying their disposable income and free time and suddenly you’re thinking about shipping yourself to Dubai via FedEx Overnight.

But here’s another thing that may contribute to my happiness: I have made a conscious effort to engage in hobbies and activities that enrich *my* life. I take “me time” and I don’t feel guilty. Or at least I don’t feel too too guilty. Just a little when my daughter cries because she knows I won’t be there to read at bedtime. Even so, I think “me time” is what keeps me happy more than anything else. I’m a mom, but I’m still me!

How do you stay happy with all of the demands of motherhood?

christa terry - mom meet mom

 

Mom Guilt: Let It Go!

If there’s one thing you can say about moms, it’s that we are sure a guilt-ridden bunch.

If we stay home with our kids, we worry that they’ll think we didn’t accomplish anything with our lives. If we have to – or want to – work, we worry that we’re turning our children bad by letting someone else dole out their snacktime Goldfish. If we splurge on supermarket ice cream, we’re afraid Michael Pollan is going to jump out of the bushes on our way out to the car. If we splurge on organic produce, we’re guilty about the dent it’s making in our budget – and is it really better if it’s being flown in from South America?

mom friends - meet momsI could go on. Take some “me time” with mom friends and we suddenly feel neglectful. Never take “me time,” and we feel like helicopter parents. Too permissive? Are you sure you’re not too much of an authoritarian? Will attachment parenting lead to needy kids? Is cloth diapering secretly grossing out your friends? Should you have been nicer? Or maybe meaner? Why did you blow your top like that, anyway?

Okay, now let’s not go on (even though I could). Because all this stuff and more has the power to make us, as moms, feel pretty bad about ourselves. There are a million zillion magazines and blog posts and TV shows whose advertisers pay big bucks to be a part of a fiction. The myth of the perfect mom. The rest of us, aka real actual moms, don’t live up and could never live up because what they’re feeding us is fake. And furthermore, designed to make us feel guilty.

Truth: Mom guilt makes us buy stuff. Advertisers and retailers love mom guilt. When we’re guilty, we’re not paying attention to what kids really need. What really matters.

Here’s the deal. Love, fun, nutritious food, books, and forgiveness go a long way. Unless you’re abusing your children (which we hope you are not) with smacks or mind games or otherwise instilling in them feelings of worthlessness, you can make a lot of day to day mistakes without ruining your sons and daughters. Whatever ruining even means.

Have you ever yelled like a banshee all morning because you were running late and kids just do not understand what it means to be on the clock? And then relaxed into joy that same night as little arms wrapped themselves around your neck for “just one more hug”? I have, so I know that’s it. Right there. That’s motherhood. Because moms, no matter what bull turds the media wants to feed you, are also people and people make mistakes. Luckily, children are remarkably forgiving.

So let that mom guilt go, before it gets in the way of something better. Like enjoying your family and building a beautiful life.

christa terry - mom meet mom

13 Extreme Playdates for Kids: Mom’s Summer Bucket List

As summer weather fills the air, outdoor activities become the norm for children everywhere. But with daily schedules and routines getting in the way, do you ever feel like you’re sitting at the same park or backyard watching your kids engage in the same activities?  Today I was at the park with Jack and found myself lost in a daydream, thinking back to when I was a kid.  Sure, growing up I had my regular hot spots for playdates, but there were some pretty cool adventures sprinkled in throughout the way. Adventures I’ll surely never forget.

kids-at-petting-zoo - meet momsWith this in mind, I thought I would put together a bucket list for moms like me who are looking for new adventures for playdates or otherwise. Keep in mind you might want to push some of these bucket list items off until your children are old enough to really enjoy them. But all of these activities can be shared with the immediate family, or your local mom friends.

1. The Zoo

What kid doesn’t love meeting the exotic creatures? You don’t have to travel to Africa to experience wildlife. Your local zoo will give your children the up-close wildlife experience that they will never forget. This is definitely an all day adventure, so pack a lunch and a poncho in case the forecast is gray. Babies can navigate the zoo in strollers, giving moms a chance to get some low impact exercise in.

2. The Beach

Building sandcastles, riding waves, playing frisbee… the list goes on. There are so many fun activities for children and families at the beach. Make sure you pack enough sand toys, sunscreen, water, and snacks.

3. The Children’s Museum

With a variety of hands-on engagement exhibits, your local children’s museum focuses on educating children about science, culture and the environment through play. And these exhibits are not just stimulating for children; you’ll find yourself instantly captivated by the creativity behind each interactive display.

4. The Water Park

Regardless of your kids’ ages, you can never go wrong with the water park. Make sure you pack a towel for yourself, as well, because there is a good chance you’ll find yourself hitting the water slides right next to the kiddos.

5. The Museum of Science

Escape to the planetarium and IMAX theatres or sit back and learn about the latest innovations in robotics, clean energy, medical, and biotech. Your local museum of science is the perfect escape for both parents and children.

6. A City Tour

Often when we live near a big city, we take for granted the many historical monuments, buildings and museums that tell the story of the city history. Hop on a tour bus/boat, or grab a spot in line behind one of those dressed up tour guides you always see. You’ll be surprised how many new things you and your children will discover along the way.

7. Boating/Sailing

Grab your Nantucket reds and your favorite shades, and schedule the family for a boat tour or sailboat charter along your local coastline, riverway, or lake. Don’t forget your camera so you can capture some photos of the surrounding wildlife and a perfect family photo – maybe your next holiday card.

8. A Big Hike

Adults can always use the extra workout and let’s face it, kids have plenty of energy to burn. Open up your local state map and start circling exciting trails. Make sure to pack a lunch, bug spray, your camera and a first aid kit.

9. Camping

C’mon, when was the last time you went camping? Turn your cell phones off (bring them though for emergencies) and round up the troops for a weekend long camping excursion somewhere extra fun. Pack the bathing suits as there are likely some swimming holes nearby — and don’t forget the marshmallows!

10. Family Road Trip

Vacation travel can get fairly pricey when you start to figure in the cost of airline travel for your whole family. Rather than wait for the big ticket vacation, save up just enough money for a short family road trip (crossing a few states is plenty). Pack a cooler for lunches and maybe even a tent if you pass a campground along the way. Oh and before you go, cozy up with your favorite Griswald Family Vacation movie ;)

11. The Circus

Get online and find out when the next circus is coming to town. You may need to travel a few towns over, but come on, it’s sooo worth it! You and your children will get absolutely lost in the sea of acrobats, trained animals, trapeze and tightrope acts, jugglers and stunt-oriented artists. Summer is the season of the circus. Don’t miss it!

12. The Carnival/Local Fair

Similar to the Circus, the local carnival/fair only comes around once or twice a year. Make sure to look this up in advance and book it in your calendar before it fills up with summertime commitments. Your kids will go bonkers for the Ferris wheel, shoot the prize games, and cotton candy.

13. The Ball Game

Catch a major league game or save some dough and hit up your closest minor league stadium. What’s better than indulging in an ice cold fountain soda or draft beer in the hot summer while your kids wave foam hands in the air and scream for strikeouts and home runs?

Alright, this is enough to get us all started on summer adventures. If you have other ideas, please share them! And have fun ladies!

Where are All the Wild Things? 10 Creative Ideas that will Bring Magic to Playdates for Kids

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’ve been pretty turned off by the number of noisy toys that scream “technology!”. It’s not that I’m against one or two toys like this, but when almost every toy comes in singing and ringing, it makes me wonder if our modern society is thinking a bit too hard. It’s gotten to the point in my home where I put away a lot of these toys and swap them out with new ones now and then. Just one toy box is all I have for Jack.

One toybox is not the worst thing in the world, as long as the toys in it aren’t lame. Unfortunately, a lot of the non-screaming toys on the market are pretty lame. So let’s just say that when my  mom friends come over for playdates with their children, it’s pretty obvious that this is not the “cool house”.

wherethewildthingsare - meet momsAs I reflect on this, to my right is the book “Where the Wild things Are”. What an amazing story. This book truly portrays the mystical world that every child should live in. The main character, Max, is able to transform his bedroom into a magical kingdom that fully comes to life and takes us all on a mystical journey through fantasy and imagination..

So how do we foster a “Where the Wild Things Are” environment so that our children and their neighborhood friends can creatively entertain themselves without the modern noise? We roll up our mama sleeves and go back to the basics. The following homemade items will surely make your home a playdate magic kingdom, while fostering an environment that allows your children to dive deep into their imaginations.

1. Magnet Wall

magnet wall - meet momsLet your children get lost with letters and words by making them a homemade magnet wall for their rooms. All you need is an industrial-sized pan and a few sets of letter/number magnets.

2. Homemade Kitchen

homemade play kitchen - meet momsThis is sick. I love it. And please let’s not pretend that kitchens are just for girls. Look at all the male celebrity chefs out there. A little gray, navy, or green paint can turn this girly kitchen into a male grilling machine.

3. DIY Teepee

A few sheets and dowels from the Home Depot and you’re all set. What kid doesn’t like their own space? And why not give that space a story? Plan ahead: Lay in bed with your child and read him or her a story about Indians. The next day plan an activity that gets your child out of the house. While they are out, get to work on building them a teepee in the corner of their bedroom. Cut out photos of real Indians and include fake firewood and a safe night light to make it even more magical.

4. Wooden Sailboat

Pretend that your family was washed away to an exotic island and you must build a boat of wood to sail out and fish for dinner. Take your child out into the yard and find real wood pieces, then build a boat together!

5. DIY Bowling

You can make a DIY bowling set with water bottles and any old ball. Decorate everything or don’t – most kids won’t care about the aesthetics. This is a really cool game that is pretty easy to clean up. Play it inside or have the kiddos bring it outside and line the pins up in the driveway. It will be a neighborhood hit before you know it.

6. Recycled Ball Maze

cardboard_ball-maze - meet momsWhat mom doesn’t go through about a dozen paper towel rolls in a month?  Why not recycle the remains of them and give your child a dream toy. All you need is an old box, some glue, cardboard paper towel roll tubes, and a few of dad’s old golf balls.

7. Shoe Box Banjo

box banjo - meet momsThis is especially great if you want to foster an environment of music, without destroying your expensive instruments.

8. Sheet Fort

blanket fort - meet momsC’mon, we all made one at one point in life. Every little kid needs a sheet fort! Break out your old sheets and use your imagination to secure your fort.

9. Club House / Tree House

This is a bigger project, but one that will certainly get great use. My theory on the club house – go big or go home. You want to build something that your kid and his friends can sleep over in when they are old enough. Don’t be stingy, but save some of the final details for your child. Let him/her think come up with some ideas, like wiring messages via a string to mom in the kitchen, picking paint colors, and interior “furniture”. This is where kids get their independence.

10. Box Car Racers

I can’t stress safety enough with this one, especially if you live on a steep hill or on a busy street. Nonetheless, box cars are an old tradition that every kid loves. The key is to use all the right tools and plan to use the car in a controlled area. Look online for building plans!

Pardon My Partum: Pre- and Post-Partum Depression Support

I’ll admit it, I have a past. Specifically, a past history of depression, going back to when I was a teenager. And it runs in the family, too – my mom even suffered post-partum psychosis after my birth. So, really, I should have been prepared for what happened when my daughter was born, and I should have sought help.

Here’s what happened: I had a moderately traumatic birth that resulted in me being left in charge of a perfectly healthy baby who was, nonetheless, completely dependant on me for basic survival. And while I did manage to fall in love with her, I grew progressively more despondent as I rapidly concluded that I was wholly unfit to be a mom. I cried and only ate because I was breastfeeding, I constantly thought about how my family would be much better off if I just died. I didn’t sleep. I struggled to leave the house.

My docs noticed, my husband noticed, but by the time they started hinting that I needed help, my maternity leave had run out, and between full-time employment outside of the home and attempting to reconnect and care for my still exclusively breastfed baby, it just didn’t feel like there was time.

Eventually, I cut down my hours at work, at that helped a little. But then the ball dropped – we discovered that our daycare provider had been abusing and neglecting our sweet little girl, now all of 14 months old and only just walking on her own. I put in notice the next day, and worked from home or used my accumulated leave for my final month of work. The Mister found a higher-paying job in a lower cost-of-living area (because, trust me, it’s impossible to raise a kid in DC on a single income), which meant moving the whole family across the country. My depression, which had only barely waned, came back with a vengeance as we uprooted and I found myself alone, totally responsible for a toddler who now (understandably) had very intense stranger and separation anxiety.

Once again, I barely slept, I struggled to leave the house. And while I worked very hard to make friends with moms and dads who had toddlers the same age as my little one, I held myself back from emotionally connecting with anyone. I was honestly afraid – afraid that if they knew how sad I was, they would decide that I wasn’t worth the effort of friendship. For the first time since I was a teenager, I started cutting again. Somehow that clued me in, and I finally sought help from a charming therapist with a moustache you could hide a sandwich in. Things got better.

Then I got pregnant.

This time, I thought I would be prepared. I warned my midwives, my therapist, and my sister to look out for signs of depression. I asked my midwives to hassle my husband, and vice versa, about warning signs for PPD. I told my husband I’d rather have him check me into a mental hospital than put me at risk of harming myself or our littles.

Naturally, my body threw me a curveball, and I developed severe antenatal depression.

Once again, not sleeping. Struggling to leave the house. Mom friendships struggling because I just couldn’t talk to anyone.

Did you know depression during pregnancy is a thing? I had only come across the occasional reference to antenatal depression in my readings about PPD. And thank goodness I did, because it meant that I had a label and a recommended set of actions to take when I finally admitted that feeling suicidal all the time was neither normal nor okay.

I hadn’t seen moustache therapist in a while – he’d suffered a concussion in an accident and was taking an extended leave of absence while his brain healed. So I talked to my midwives. Turns out there was a therapist they liked to recommend, a gal who specialized in pregnancy-related mood disorders. Oh, and her office was just upstairs from the birth center. I set up an appointment, and I was hooked.

We came up with a game plan – weekly therapy to help me address the psychological issues with fear, guilt, and anxiety that was driving the depression. Because my case was severe, we reviewed the risks my depression was causing for my pregnancy (including my lack of sleep and the fact that I wasn’t gaining weight well) versus potential risks associated with antidepressants, and put me on the lowest dose possible of the antidepressant currently rated safest during pregnancy. And things got better. Within just a few weeks, I was feeling like myself again, feeling like I could make playdates and be more present for my little lady. The whole family was happier.

Here’s the thing: I’m not saying that having a strong network of mom friends can prevent PPD or antenatal depression. But I think that if I had known there was someone I could talk to who had similar experiences, who wouldn’t judge me for not being a happy supermom, that would have helped. Heck, if I had been able to reliably talk to a mom friend online at those times when I was too anxious to leave the house, that would have helped. I was still building my mom tribe when I had PPD. I had more, closer friendships with antenatal depression – and a much better outcome.

I’d like to invite our users to speak up if they are experiencing these problems, and to use Mom Meet Mom as a means to help alleviate the isolation that comes with pregnancy-related mood disorders. Let us help you find the support you need when getting yourself to the park or library story hour is just too much to handle.

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Featured Mom: Kayce, Mom to Preemie Kaiya (Pt. II)

This week’s Featured Mom is Kayce, and this is part two of her story. See Pt. I here!

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Kaiya in the NICU

You were in an interesting position as a professional who knows a lot about the potential health outcomes associated with prematurely. How did that help and how did it make things more difficult?

Knowledge, like most things, can be both a blessing and a curse.  The curse was evident in that there was a different weight experienced with every test and potential complication that Kaiya could have had. When she was undergoing her brain ultrasounds, I could only think about all the kids I have treated over the years. I worried that she, like them, would have some neuromuscular imbalance or a wide array of learning disabilities that can present life-long challenges. I was not just experiencing the immediate horror associated with your child having a brain hemorrhage. Once through the first several weeks in the NICU, our collective knowledge base helped my husband and me advocate effectively for Kaiya.

Being healthcare professionals, it felt like we were granted a different level of presence by the medical team. The NICU staff allowed us to assist with most of Kaiya’s care, and trusted our input, not just as being the parents, but also as healthcare peers.  This was also a double-edged sword, as they felt that because we were medically savvy, it was assumed that we were fine and needed less dedicated time from the NICU staff.

In the NICU, were you able to connect with other moms of preemies? Did you get all the support you needed?

During our 6 weeks at the NICU in Boston we spoke with a few parents on the elevator or in passing to and from the unit. Most of the support groups and parent social meets were in the evening. Once I was discharged from the hospital to home I was really only able to get into Boston once per day, in the afternoon, to spend several hours with Kaiya before trying to beat rush hour traffic out of the city and back to Beverly. Once we were transferred to Beverly Hospital’s Special Care Nursery, Kaiya tested positive for RSV. This reality placed us in the isolation room for our entire 3-week stay.  We were in a fish bowl. Parents of other preemies would walk by the room and look in, but never interact beyond that.  I spent most of the day at Beverly Hospital beginning to work on nursing. Most of my interaction was with the nursing staff. The few conversations I had with other parents occurred in the lobby outside of the actual unit.  Unfortunately there was little follow-up with them, as we were physically separated from everyone.

Medically, we received great care, but socially we were limited in the context of the hospital due to it being the height of flu season. We were allowed four visitors total – who all had to be on a documented list. Outside of the hospital, we had loving support from family, friends, and neighbors. We also found solace in the use of CaringBridge, a website/blog, where we could decompress and share our thoughts and experiences with a wide network of all those thinking of us.

Did you get any ‘they meant well’ type comments from people who don’t know anything about the realities of early prematurity?

Comparison is a way for people to attempt to connect with an unfamiliar event.  We all do it, not out of harm but rather, to help us understand each other better. People who have not been through the craziness of having a preemie only have their experiences to draw from – so often comparing their child’s birth and life to yours is only natural to them.  Even within the NICU community ever family’s journey is totally different. There are so many factors that play into the perspective and processing of the day-to-day NICU life  This makes it hard to compare one story to another. I have found that the comments or comparisons made during our time in the NICU, and even now that Kaiya is almost six months old, are all coming from a place of wanting to understand and connect to my perspective. It is basic human curiosity. You can respond with a curt answer and be upset, or take the opportunity to educate their curiosity and tell your story.

If you had pregnant friends, was your relationship affected by your early birth?

I had two friends pregnant at different stages during my pregnancy. Both of them actually benefited from our experience. The first was a childhood friend of mine who had two miscarriages prior to this pregnancy. She was able to relax after week 28 of her pregnancy knowing that Kaiya was doing so well.  Kaiya’s life and strength gave her hope. She understood that even if she were to give birth at that point, her son would have an excellent chance of survival. We spoke on the phone every few weeks of her pregnancy from start to finish. I was happy that my experience was able to decrease her anxiety level during the last trimester of her pregnancy. She made it full term and has a happy health baby boy.

The second friend was the wife of a childhood friend. She had just been up to Boston for another event and was able to meet Kaiya in the hospital at 32 weeks. She and her husband asked how I was able to cope with everything that had happened, and that still needed to happen before Kaiya could come home. Retrospectively it was such a lucky chance that they were able to come see how good we were doing as they ended up having preterm labor, and delivering a little over a month early.  They have since told me that being able to visit us and read our CaringBridge site helped them process their NICU experience.

Having a preemie right at the start of cold, flu, and RSV season is difficult for so many reasons – can you tell me a bit about the isolation that comes with needing to be extra careful?

Kaiya was born a freckle under two pounds right at the beginning of flu season – which also coincides with the holiday season.  It was difficult to be celebrating Thanksgiving with family, while Kaiya lay in her isolette in Boston; however she was safe from those nasty germs and had the best babysitters ever. Kaiya came home two days before Christmas. We struggled with whether to get together with family or stay home. It was a game time decision. We called the morning of Christmas to make sure no one was symptomatic or had running noses. We then proceeded to Purell bomb anyone that came close to her, and her cousins were only allowed to come within an arms reach. After the holidays were over we really had little to no contact with other kids and limited contact from adult friends and family until March. Kaiya had RSV in the hospital, but luckily never became symptomatic. That said, we were not willing to risk her getting ill. We really should buy stock in Purell as our entire family basically bathed in it for four months.  I thrive on social interaction so it was very hard on me to not be around other people.  The isolation that we experienced in the NICU continued once home. Luckily with current social media, I was able to connect with people via Facebook, e-mail, Skype, and Facetime. Granted it is not the same as in person interaction but it helped.

What, if anything, do you wish you’d known about having a preemie from a mom’s point of view?

Not sure that anything really prepares you for the preemie experience. I did find comfort in the shear numbers of moms that have had preemies and the good outcomes that I had heard their children and families experienced. Once a person knew I was a mom of a preemie, the stories just flowed from friends and strangers alike. I found it calming to know that even thought at times I felt very alone and isolated there were so many others out there going thru similar trials.

What would you want new preemie moms to know about the journey from birth to NICU to home? What kind of support really helped you?

I think that the only thing to do is focus on one day at a time. Otherwise you can quickly get swallowed up by all the information and “what if’s.” Also that even though it may seem counterintuitive, the hardest part of the journey is the days/weeks leading up to your discharge from the NICU. You literally are not discharged until you are in the car leaving the hospital with your child. Any discharge date given should be considered “soft or possible” as plans can change in the blink of an eye. For me that was the hardest part. The last week of our NICU stay. I got my hopes up that Kaiya would be coming home on a certain date and when that did not happen I broke down. Exhausted from the months of visiting the hospital and emotional stress of the whole ordeal I saw the light at the end of the tunnel my heart broke when that light got dimmer.

My husband and I found that our CaringBridge site was our most potent tool allowing us to decompress the day’s events and get support from family and friends. It was nice to see the number of people visiting the site go up each day and to read the comments from everyone showering us with love. It was humbling to see just how many people cared for us and shared in our experience through the website and in person.

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Kaiya today

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Featured Mom: Kayce, Mom to Preemie Kaiya (Pt. I)

mom-meet-mom-featured momThis week’s Featured Mom is Kayce, whose story will appear in two parts. First, we’ll meet Kayce and her family, including husband Ian, her kitties, and Kaiya, who made her entrance into the world unexpectedly at 28 weeks gestation, in a guest post. And tomorrow, we’ll share more of Kayce’s story in an interview about what it’s like to be not just a preemie parent, but a preemie parent who really knows the challenges that come with prematurity.

In the time before Kaiya joined us, I was what you would call a bit of a workaholic. I typically held at least two jobs as a Physical Therapist, on top of all my side ventures such as photography and assorted home improvement projects. My husband, Ian, and I have dated since college and in the past four years, we have experienced some of life’s biggest milestones, buying a house, getting married, and now having our first child. We have the love and support of two feline friends, Demie Cat, age 18, and Millie Cat, age 3. Ian’s family is local, living in Ipswich MA, and my family lives just outside of Washington D.C. in Fairfax, VA.

Ian and I were in discussions about potentially adding to our family with a new puppy when we found out we were pregnant. We thought it best to hold off on the new four-legged friend, deciding that we could wait and be those cool parents that get their kids a puppy later in life. My pregnancy was typical and uncomplicated, except for one trip to the ER while on vacation due to some bleeding at 14 weeks. Once given the okay, I resumed my normal day-to-day activities and work schedule.

The week of October 22, 2012 – I began to notice that Kaiya was not kicking as hard or often as she typically did during the night. My husband and I poked at my belly to illicit her response. She kicked back, as she typically did, but still I was worried. I called my OB/GYN on Wednesday to pop in for a check-up and have them use the Doppler to hear her heartbeat – just to make sure everything was huncky dory. I rescheduled my Thursday patients so that I could work a half-day, and so that I could make my OB/GYN appointment at noon. No one suspected anything was wrong as I came into the office. The staff was lighthearted and relaxed – they didn’t even collect my urine. The cold blue ultrasound gel was smeared onto my belly and within seconds a good strong heartbeat was heard. The nurse looked at me and said, “Everything sounds great with the baby. She is good and strong.” They proceeded to take my vital signs, temperature, hear rate, and blood pressure. This is when the story shifts from all sunshine and flowers to grave concern. My blood pressure was 160/85 mmHG, which is very high for me – my typical reading was 108/60 mmHG. The covering OB/GYN, yes… covering OB, lest I forget to mention my OB was away for vacation, came in and told me to walk across the street and go up to the Labor and Delivery floor at Beverly Hospital to be admitted for observation.

Shortly after being admitted and strapped into the fetal monitoring system, the attending physician came in to tell me the following…

“So you’re done. You can call work and tell them you will not be coming back.”

Now I, feeling fine still and having literally just come from work, said, “ No problem, I am done for the day anyhow.”

To which he replied, “No, you are done for the rest of your pregnancy. If we are lucky you will just remain on bed rest for the next 10-12 weeks.”

My husbands response to this prognosis was,  “That’s fine but we are going to need a prescription for a Posey vest and some Haldol.” For those of you who don’t know, a Posey vest is a physical restraint and well Haldol is a medication often considered a chemical restraint.

I was placed on strict bed rest and only allowed to get up to go to the bathroom. By Thursday night, I was sick. Pre-ecclampsia had reared its ugly head and had begun to take its toll on my body. Friday morning I was transferred via ambulance into Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston. As soon as we got into our hospital room we were bombarded by multiple clinical teams.  The high risk OB team, the neonatology team, the anesthesiologists, and the nurses all came in requesting that I sign the consent forms for any and every possible situation that could come next.  All while, my nurse was trying to do her initial assessment and get me settled. By 5pm on Friday, my test results came back showing that my organ systems were on the verge of decline, and potentially heading towards a systematic failure. I was given magnesium, a horrible drug that burns as it is pushed thru the IV line, to protect Kaiya’s brain and to keep me from having seizures.

At 7pm, they did another ultrasound (my third of the day) to check my baby’s movements. As I watched the monitor, which typically was a joyous opportunity for me to peek at my little one, a large knot began to develop in my gut. My spirited little womb ninja was not practicing her sick-kick and round houses as per usual. She was now just floating with only one or two notable movements.

I began to cry knowing that we were about to become separated. The next few hours seemed to transpire at light speed and in slow motion both at the same time… I grabbed my belly and told Kaiya, “Now listen little girl, I need you to scream when you come out so I know that you are ok.” We were wheeled into the operating room and the emergency c-section began. Shortly after the first incision, as Adele’s “Someone like you” played in the background, I heard three high-pitched cries.  My daughter was delivered.  She was quickly intubated and stabilized by the neonatology team. She was briefly brought behind the curtain for me to catch a glimpse and then she was whisked away up to the NICU.

Stay tuned for Pt. II of our interview with Kayce… and some pictures!

Do you have a story to share that would make you a great Featured Mom? Email with a brief summary of what makes your story special for a chance to be featured at Mom Meet Mom.