On Becoming a SAHM

Today’s post comes from Meggin, who was one of our Featured Moms last summer back when she was a full-time working mom. Now she’s made the transition to SAHM fulfilling a dream she wrote about way back when – and the variety of reactions she’s received since making the change has been surprising. Here’s what she had to say:

In the past 12 months, I’ve gone from working while pregnant to becoming a mom, then working between home and office, to being a full-time work-from-home-mom finally to full-time stay-at-home-mom. Someone hand me a cold adult beverage, because 2013 was a busy freaking year.

I was not expecting to make the WFHM to SAHM transition, but sometimes the chips fall and things turn out differently. The brief low-down is that we were clicking along nicely until my employer informed me that they would no longer extend me the option to work from home. Womp.

At the very least, it was the kick in the pants I needed to finally make the change. I had been hoping for the opportunity to be a SAHM since I learned I was pregnant—here it was! I submitted my notice a few days later with trepidation and maybe just a little glee. As excited as I was, I still had plenty of reservations.

I was absolutely terrified at the thought of eliminating my income, the loss of my company-covered health insurance and the very real lifestyle change we’d have to make as a result. We had been making great progress reducing our debts (credit card, auto loans, student loans…everyone knows that song) and losing my paycheck meant that further progress would be put on hold. It was so gratifying to watch those outstanding balances dwindle!

In addition to that, I was wrestling with the feelings of guilt that I was experiencing. Crazy, I know, but I couldn’t get away from the thought that I would be a financial drag on the family. I hated that I wouldn’t be able to help shoulder the financial responsibility. It didn’t seem like much of a partnership to me.

In both cases, I had to remind myself (more often than I’d like to admit) that I was good for a lot more than financial contribution and that those other contributions were pretty damn valuable…dare I say, priceless. Still, it was a big shift in perspective for me. It’s a tough pill to swallow as a person in a culture that so often measures success with a financial yardstick.

We ended up tightening our budget and bought a health insurance policy privately and then I pulled up my big girl pants and rolled up my mama sleeves. All of that garbage finally aside, I was really looking forward to being able to spend my days with Caroline, who was 6 months old at that time.

My mom was a SAHM, so the idea of staying home with children seemed perfectly normal to me. When I told people that I was no longer working in an office, I was surprised at the variety reactions I received. The people who were married to a SAHP or were themselves a SAHP/product of a SAHP environment were absolutely thrilled for us.

“That’s great!” they’d say, “How wonderful for Caroline!”

On the other hand, people who hadn’t been exposed to such an environment or who had not raised their children as such were much more likely to raise an eyebrow. Most couldn’t fathom what I did all day.

My all-time favorite gem came shortly after my last day of WFHM life.

“So!  You’re a lady of leisure now!”

Um. Wut.

I absolutely bristled. This came from someone who had to work while raising kids—someone I greatly respect but still, a person who had no experience as a SAHP. BE POLITE MEGGIN. Come on though!! Do those ears of yours work, because I’m not sure you heard what you just said! LADY OF LEISURE?!

I’ll tell you what, fellow parents, it was everything I could do to not rudely invite that person to sit on that comment and twist. My unscheduled hours are many but lady of leisure I am not.

“So, do you…clean something…every day?” one of my more industrious and successful relatives dubiously asked, to which I raised my own eyebrow and explained that I cleaned what needed to be cleaned when it needed to be cleaned.

It was hard for me not to snark back in both instances, which is my go-to defense mechanism, I’m sorry to report.  It’s not their fault. When a large portion of life is packed with this meeting or that one for YEARS on end, it probably gets tough to remember what it’s like to have ‘free’ time. I can sympathize with that, I suppose. I had to remember that many people have no frame of reference whatsoever when it comes to this sort of thing.

I’ll admit that I expected I’d have more downtime than I actually have. I thought I could do tons of chores while the baby played in the living room or while she napped. I thought that I’d have lots of time to maintain my blog and to do some contract work for my former employer. I thought I’d go for a good run every morning and work in a strength routine, too. I’d cook every meal from scratch and keep the basement freezer stocked with healthy options.

The reality is that I do have some time to do those things, just not as much as I thought I’d have. Sometimes, any semblance of a schedule/routine/plan I had goes directly into the crapper when Caroline wakes up cutting a tooth and needs to snuggle with me.  But you know what?  I’m completely ok with that. She’s 10 months old, increasingly mobile and curious as all get-out. To miss sharing a new experience with her in favor of cultivating my dishpan hands or culling the dust bunny population under the beds would be completely asinine.

For now, this whole SAHM thing remains a learning experience and I’m sure it will continue to be a learning experience loooong after I expect it to be. I’ve said in the past that my day-to-day hovers somewhere between “my life has zero spontaneity” and “holy crap my life is nothing but spontaneity,” so right now I’m trying to focus on finding something close to equilibrium.

Looking forward, I’m pretty sure 2014 will be just as hectic and messy as 2013. Bring it on, I say! There’s no place I’d rather be.

Check out Meggin’s blog here!

Please Don’t Hit Your Kids: What I Learned as a Victim of Child Abuse

Note: This is part of our ongoing series of potentially controversial posts. While this particular post was written by Mom Meet Mom co-founder Julia, the experiences and opinions expressed therein are hers and not necessarily those of Mom Meet Mom and its staff.

TL; DR: spanking produces a scaled-down version of the same harmful psychological effects of full-blown child abuse.

spanking is child abuseOnce upon a time, I was a kid growing up in a household that, from the outside, appeared to be perfectly normal. From the inside, we were anything but – my mom was bipolar, had suffered from postpartum psychosis, and, having grown up in the 1950s, was staunchly against seeing a therapist. Add to that two stubborn kids and a hefty dose of stress and isolation, and what we ended up with was a powder keg where explosions took the form of physical and emotional abuse.

My sister and I were beat up, yelled at, mocked, and threatened off and on for the better part of a decade. Yes, it included spanking, but there was more to it, too. I can’t speak for my sister, but I remember my mom smothering me, inducing vomiting by forcing her fingers down my throat, threatening my life at knifepoint, etc. Twenty years since the abuse stopped, and 15 years since my mother’s death, and I still struggle with the effects of the abuse – and I don’t mean that sometimes I have off days and feel sad, I mean that every single day I struggle to function as a woman and a mother, and by the end of the day I am emotionally exhausted from the effort of trying not to screw up.

Lots of people have suffered worse abuses than me, and everyone copes differently, but this is my story.

I learned to believe that I am worthless.

One of the things I heard again and again as a child was, “I wish you had never been born.” This was occasionally backed up with very believable death threats, or the occasional, “I will kill you and then kill myself,” double whammy. At some point, I internalized this assertion – since my own mother deemed my existence an awful mistake, I came to believe that I was a horrible drain on the people around me, and that everyone would be better off if I died. I developed what was later diagnosed as major depression. I went to great lengths planning my suicide, but was never able to come up with a strategy that wouldn’t, in the very least, be inconvenient for the person who found me. Since suicide didn’t work out, I settled on cutting. I still struggle with depression, self harm, and suicidal ideation to this day. Actually, I’d managed to go 17 years without cutting, but the stress, sleep deprivation, and isolation of being a new mom threw me right back into the mental state I had worked so hard to escape. I could practically hear my mother’s voice calling me a failure when, after a desperate day with a colicky baby, I started carving lines into the flesh of my upper arm.

As it turns out, this is all completely normal for someone in that situation – the adult survivors of childhood abuse are 2.5 times more likely to develop depression (Afifi, Boman, Fleisher, & Sareen, 2009), and 12 times more likely to attempt suicide (Felitti et all., 1998), and there is a strong causal relationship between childhood abuse and deliberate self harm (Fliege, Lee, Grimm, and Lapp, 2009).

Here’s where things get interesting. Among adults who have no history of being abused, the research suggests that simply being spanked produces a less intense version of the feelings I have. Large scale population studies, the kind with thousands of participants, have found that kids who are spanked are significantly more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders (MacMillan et al., 1999), experience depression (Straus, 1995), and have substance abuse problems as adults (MacMillan et al., 1999).

I learned to try to erase myself.

As with many abuse victims, I learned early on to keep a low profile at home. I remember that, as a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to climb a tree and read a book. I was out of the house, out of sight. When I couldn’t hide, I made every effort to take care of myself. I still generally will not ask for help unless a situation is absolutely desperate. I’ll even turn down well-meaning offers of assistance – right now, my poor partner suffers because he and I haven’t managed to go on a date in over 3 years. When I couldn’t manage to take care of myself, I tried to make up for my imposition on the universe by being superlative – good grades, charitable, taking care of anyone and everyone, pouring my heart into making things better. Certainly not the worst set of traits, but it’s exhausting to feel that if I can’t be perfect, I’d be better off dead.

Again, I’m not unusual here – 43% of kids who run away from home report having experienced physical abuse (Molnar et al., 1998). But, for those parents out there who are thinking about spanking their kids, note that you don’t have leave a mark in order to motivate your kids to leave home; even without abuse, conflict with parents may be sufficient to convince a kid that they are better off on the streets than at home (Westat, Inc. 1997).

I learned to be violent when frightened or angry.

I just want to start by saying that, as a mom, this is really hard to admit, but, here goes: most of the time, I am able to keep my feelings under control. Actually, to be honest, my handle on my feelings is probably too controlled; I hardly ever cry, and I hardly ever laugh out loud. I’m afraid of big emotions because when I have really strong negative feelings, it’s very hard for me to stop myself from screaming, slapping, punching, or choking. Let me say for the record: I do not hit my kids. But what kills me is that even though I do not and will not hit my kids, I can’t shake the violent thoughts. No matter how hard I try to change, when my daughter is in the thick of a massive tantrum about how we are having tacos when she wanted hamburgers and she throws her plate on the floor, the first response my brain suggests is to slap her in the face. And the fact that I would even think about intentionally causing harm to my sweet, smart, tiny little preschooler makes me want to drink myself into a coma.

Sadly, this is one case where I distinguish myself from other victims of abuse – not because I have these thoughts, but because I don’t act on them. Adults who experienced abuse as children are significantly more likely to abuse their own children (Pears and Capaldi, 2001). But, once again, my mom didn’t need to smother me with pillows or hold a knife to my throat to make me violent. Kids who are spanked just once or twice a week are significantly more likely to engage in violent, antisocial behavior, even among well-to-do families that are otherwise emotionally supportive (Straus, Sugarman, and Giles-Sims, 1997).

I learned that I am never safe with other people.

To this day, I struggle with feeling of fear and anxiety when I find myself in a large (or even not-so-large) group of people. Panic attacks in the grocery store? Yeah, I’ve done that. And that’s not all – even when I am with just one person, I assume that they are likely to get angry, even try to hurt me. I get fearful and defensive, especially if someone raises their voice.

Briere and Runtz (1988) found that women who were abused as children are much more likely to report feelings of shyness and self-consciousness than were people who were not abused. These women are also more likely to struggle with anxiety (McCauley et al., 1997). I’ve already referenced the association between spanking and anxiety disorders (MacMillan, 1999).

I learned that I am not worthy of love.

I feel this constant need to be perfect for my friends and for my husband. I worry that any mistake will be the excuse someone needed to abandon me, and I hold myself to a ridiculous standards because I believe that no one could love me as-is. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I knowingly allow people to mistreat, take advantage of, and even abuse me rather than risk losing a friendship or relationship by asking them to stop. I’ve been divorced twice, despite my young age.

No surprise here: the data suggest that kids who are abused grow up into adults who are abused – women, especially, are about twice as likely to experience violence as adults if they were victimized as kids (Mouzos & Makkai, 2004). Abuse victims are also are more likely to get divorced, more likely to walk out on their romantic partners, and more likely to cheat (Colman & Spatz-Wisdom, 2004).

People who were spanked as kids? Well, when they experience conflict in their marriages, they are more likely to respond with physical and verbal aggression, and they have a harder time imagining the conflict from their spouse’s perspective (Cast, Schweingruber, & Berns, 2006).

Here’s the thing – yes, the abuse I experienced went beyond “normal” spanking, but the research shows that spanking does the same things as the intense, repeated abuse I experienced. So tell me: do you really want your kids to learn even scaled-down versions of what I learned? Is it worth opting for the quick fix of smacking your kid for misbehavior rather than figuring out how to be firm without being rough?

After my experiences? I say no. I will not spank my children. Not ever.

References

Afifi, T., Boman, J., Fleisher, W., & Sareen, J. (2009). The relationship between child abuse, parental divorce, and lifetime mental disorders and suicidality in a nationally representative adult sample. Child Abuse & Neglect, 33, 139-147.

Briere, J. & Runtz, M. (1988). Multivariate correlates of childhood psychological and physical maltreatment among university women. Child Abuse and Neglect, 12, 331-341.

Cast, A.D., Schweingruber, D., & Bern, N. (2006). Childhood physical punishment and problem solving in marriage. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 21(2), 244-261.

Colman, R.A. & Spatz-Wisdom, C. (2004). Childhood abuse and neglect and adult intimate relationships: a prospective study. Child Abuse and Neglect, 28(11), 1133-1151.

Felitti, V., Anda, R., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, F., Spitz, A., Edwards, V., et al. (1998). Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction in many of the leading causes of death in adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14(4).

Fliege, H., Lee, J., Grimm, A., & Klapp, B. F. (2009). Risk factors and correlates of deliberate self-harm behavior: A systematic review. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66(6), 477-493.

MacMillan, H., Boyle, M., Wong, M., Duku, E., Fleming, J., & Walsh, C. (1999). Slapping and spanking in childhood and its association with lifetime prevalence of psychiatric disorders in a general population sample. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 161(7), 805-809.

McCauley J, Kern DE, Kolodner K, et al. (1997). Clinical characteristics of women with a history of child abuse: unhealed wounds. JAMA, 277(17), 1362-8.

Molnar, B., Shade, S., Kral, A., Booth, R., & Watters, J. (1998). Suicidal Behavior and Sexual / Physical Abuse Among Street Youth. Child Abuse & Neglect. Vol. 22, NO. 3, pp. 213-222.

Mouzos, J., & Makkai, T. (2004). Women’s experiences of male violence. Findings from the Australian component of the International Violence Against Women Survey (IVAWS). Canberra: Australian Institute of Crimonology.

Pears, K., & Capaldi, D. (2001). Intergenerational transmission of abuse: A two-generational prospective study of an at-risk sample. Child Abuse & Neglect, 25, 1439-1461.

Straus, M. (1995). Beating the Devil Out of Them: Corporal Punishment in American Families. New York: Lexington Books.

Straus, M., Sugarman, D., & Giles-Sims, J. (1997), Spanking by parents and subsequent antisocial behavior of children. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 151(8), 761-767.

Westat, Inc. 1997. National Evaluation of Runaway and Homeless Youth. Washinton, DC: US Dep’t of HHS, Admin on Children, Youth and Families.

Why Every Mom Should Talk About Miscarriage

Once, I had a miscarriage.

And I will not stop talking about it. Probably ever.

I don’t talk about it in a creepy in-your-face way, of course, but when the subject of pregnancy loss comes up, I am not afraid to join the conversation.

Ask me what my tattoo is all about and miscarriage is going to come up.

I will not stop talking about it because things will never stop reminding me of it.

The tired looking new mama pushing the twins in the double stroller. Randomly encountering the ultrasound images of Baby A and Baby B in my desk drawer. Yet another friend revealing yet another twin pregnancy. Or worse, another friend having to tell the world that the happy announcement she made just a few weeks or months prior is now forfeit.

I won’t stop admitting that in a perfect world, I’d have five little ones, not two.

talking about miscarriage P., of course. The babies who died before they were ever mine. And Bo too, who wouldn’t have been born if they’d been born.

I won’t stop admitting I sometimes feel jealous – angrily jealous – of the people I really do care about who just get pregnant and stay pregnant, again and again, as if there actually isn’t a near infinite number of things that can go wrong when egg meets sperm. Jealous of the moms of multiples who come out ahead.

People like me should talk about miscarriage so that people like me don’t find out just how common it is only after they go through it. I don’t shy away from bringing it up in polite conversation so that anyone who has been through it but has never felt like they could talk to anyone will know that they can talk to me.

Years later, I will bring it up so those same people will know it’s still okay to talk years later.

I’m not saying that anyone who isn’t ready should be pressured into sharing their post-miscarriage feelings. Not everyone needs to write about pregnancy loss on their blogs. It’s okay to want nothing less than to discuss your miscarriage in public or even in private. Talking isn’t every woman’s balm. And for some women, it’s just not that big of a deal.

What I am saying is that if you feel like a mother of two or three or four when the world looks at you and sees a mother of two or one or even none, it’s okay to correct people.

If the subject comes up, it’s okay to say “I lost a pregnancy and it still hurts” and it’s equally okay to say “I lost a pregnancy and honestly, it didn’t bother me that much.” No one gets to tell YOU how to feel, after all. And if the subject doesn’t come up, if a different subject comes up, it’s still fine for you to put it on the table because pain is best shared and your pain is both like and unlike her pain and his pain – so you share what you can.

Just share. You never know when your openness will inspire another mama to share her story and on and on until no one who’s experienced pregnancy loss or stillbirth feels weird asking for support.

Throw Your Birth Plan Out the Window and Just Birth that Baby

Once upon a time I was glowing with fecundity, partway through my first pregnancy, and just enamored with the idea of sitting down and writing out my birth plan. Mine was a low-risk pregnancy, so I was all set to labor and deliver at the birth center attached to my local hospital.

I knew what I didn’t want: pain meds, episiotomies, fetal monitoring, or other interventions were on the no thank you list. I wanted a water birth, for sure, and to have the option to watch my baby enter the world with a thoughtfully placed mirror. I wanted to be walking or on all fours or sitting on a birthing stool. Oh, and I wanted to eat. Definitely to eat. Everything I read said that first births could take ages and I didn’t want to be starving on top of it all.

We scheduled a private, customized birth class that would empower us to get all that and more. It never happened.

Here’s what I got… a week of oops-didn’t-realize-that-was-labor a month and a half before my due date and an immediate admittance to the labor & delivery ward because, whoa, those were contractions and hey, I’m dilated and effaced. The knowledge that I fall into the 1% of people for whom the fetal fibronectin test is inaccurate. Contractions that only stopped with an active turbutaline drip. And constant fetal monitoring, even during sleep, which came only thanks to drugs. Steroids to help my baby’s lungs develop ASAP. And then once they finally told me “You’re going to have a baby today,” a few hours of hanging out and 20 minutes of the worst, most panicked pain of my life experienced flat on my back because turns out that I, unlike almost all mamas ever, prefer to birth that way.

I also got this:

The only overlaps between my birth plan and my actual birth were the midwife overseeing things, the lack of meds and the happy absence of scissors near my junk.

I’m okay with that. I know now from speaking with a lot of mamas who had really rough birth experiences that the unexpected and the unwanted aspects of pregnancy and labor and delivery can stick with you for a long time. Deviation from a birth plan can take many forms, some more traumatic than others. But sometimes even just being really super invested in a plan that doesn’t pan out can be traumatic in and of itself.

The thing is that for a first timer, a birth plan is like a wish list versus a list of must-haves because you don’t actually know what you want and you may be surprised by what you need. I’m not saying don’t write up a birth plan to share with your midwives or OB and your partner but think of it as an intellectual exercise instead of a iron-clad contract between you and your baby and your birthing team.

Have birth hopes. Birth preferences. Birth wishes, even. And then remember that things change. Can change in an instant. They don’t tell you this in cheerful prenatal appointments but you can go into labor at 24 weeks and actually come out on the other side with a baby. A c-section may be the last thing you want but still the thing that saves your life. You may, like me the second time around, find yourself appalled at the very idea of water touching your skin while you’re riding the wave of contractions and so there goes your water birth. You may, again like me, find you prefer birthing flat on your back like a sitcom mom instead of on that comfy-looking birthing ball.

That’s why I say when it comes time to push or prep for surgery or whatever, just have your baby. That’s not to say you shouldn’t ask for what you want – always advocate for yourself. Always. But be flexible, too. You may just have a better birth experience for it.

5 Winning Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for Dads

While Valentine’s Day is typically all about the momma – with jewelry, roses, chocolates from your man and homemade cards and pasta necklaces from the kiddos – dads need love to! Your commitment to Valentine’s Day shenanigans may have dwindled since your kids came along, but that doesn’t mean the spark in your love life needs to go out. Your man may have swept you off your feet with his single dude swagga, but what’s more attractive than him now as a father?

This Valentine’s Day, make the dad of your children feel special by putting a little extra thought into his Valentine’s Day gift. And that’s where our our Valentine’s Day Gift Guide for Dad comes in. Here’s what you need:

The Accessory

Come on ladies… we all remember that scene in Pretty Woman when our girl Julia waited for Edward in their penthouse hotel suite wearing nothing but the tie she bought him on her shopping spree. Splurging on the perfect accessory for your Mr. – be it a Vineyard Vines tie, waterproof watch, handyman toolbelt, engraved gold chain and pendant, sexy aviators, or maybe a bottleneck slide for his guitar - will make him feel like you think he’s worth a million bucks.

The Experience

Sometimes gifts can get a little old. Let’s face it – if we want something bad enough, we can go to the store and buy it ourselves. Throw a curveball at your man this Valentine’s Day by treating him to the experience of a lifetime with you as his copilot. Some ideas: F1 car racing, salsa dancing, Super Bowl tickets or just tickets to the local game, a ski trip, a challenging mountain hike, or if you’re really the living-on-the-edge pair, something a little crazier like bungee jumping or skydiving. I’ll be nervous for you but I can dig it.

The Scent

This one’s for him and for you as well. Who doesn’t love a man who smells nice? Make the father of your kiddos feel like a stud with a splash of the newest male fragrance of the season. Or bring back memories of your dating days and refresh a bottle of his favorite magic potion. Make sure you do the rest of us a favor and give him a lesson on application if he needs it ;) And if cologne is not his thing, you can always get him a man candle!

The Taste

Throw some pillows on the floor for exclusive seating for two, crank up an ethnic station on Pandora, dim the lights and whip up an exotic meal he’ll never forget. Pair it with the perfect wine or special cocktail to take home the trophy wife of the year award. An if cooking is not your thing – it’s not mine, so I get it) – order takeout from your favorite restaurant or maybe an exotic one you haven’t tried yet. Aside from the obvious, very little makes a man happier than good food.

The Escape

Book your sitter now for a date night. It may sound cliche – everyone goes out on Valentine’s Day – but if anyone should feel like they’re back in high school again, blushing, blood rushing, it’s the couple with poop stains on their sleeves. That’s right, pretend you’re newly in love again and hit your favorite restaurant for a Valentine’s Day special. Or the V-Day crowd is really, really not your cup of tea, book the sitter for the following night. Tip: hit a restaurant that reminds you of your dating days to make it extra special.

Do you have other ideas for Valentine’s Day gifts for dads? Help a fellow momma out and share in the comments!

Helping Kids Connect with the Community

Researchers are weighing in on parenting once again, this time coming out in favor of neighborhoods. There’s great research out there showing how kids develop best in strong, connected communities (for example, this article http://www.psychologicalscience.org/journals/cd/12_1/Leventhal.cfm), but many parents struggle to integrate into their own communities, especially in this day and age when so few people live in close proximity to family. Things get even more complicated when you are trying to connect with your kids in tow!

Here are some simple ideas for helping you and your children feel more connected to your community:

  • Start by learning the basics: What is your neighborhood community named and why? Where are its physical boundaries? What makes your neighborhood different from others around it?

  • Take advantage of community resources: go to the park closest to your house, visit the local branch of the library, join the community pool. By using local resources, you’ll create opportunities to connect with your neighbors. Plus staying local strengthens your neighborhood economy!

  • Introduce yourself: whether you’ve just moved into a neighborhood, or you are a longtime resident, take a moment just to say hi to the people who live in the homes closest to yours.

  • Ask questions: this is a great one for kids – come up with a list of questions to ask your neighbors, then go door to door and help your kids conduct their, “getting to know you,” survey. Make sure you keep the list short so no one gets frustrated!

  • Volunteer: at your kids’ schools, at a local food pantry, at a neighborhood assisted living facility. Helping those in need creates strong community ties, and teaches your kids about social responsibility

  • Check in: Bad weather coming? Knock on the neighbor’s doors and ask if they need help securing outdoor furniture! Bumper crop in your container garden? Share with the folks in your apartment building!

  • Share activities: when you’re taking advantage of those community resources, ask another mom along.The moms you meet on Mom Meet Mom may be similarly inspired to connect with the community but feel awkward doing it alone.

How do you connect with your neighbors? Do you have a story about a neighbor who made an effort to connect with you? Share in the comments!

Self Care for New Moms by Ramona Fasula

Ramona Fasula

Becoming a mom is a special time in a woman’s life. With it comes so many responsibilities. Sometimes it seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day.  Women are the nurturers. We take care of everyone else and always put ourselves last.  As caregivers, women must realize that being the best caregiver means taking the time to take care of ourselves.

Self-care not only means giving your body the nourishment that it needs, but also nourishing your mind and your soul.  It is so important to take the time each day, even if it’s a short period of time, to focus on the things that bring you joy. Happy Mommy=Happy Baby.  Think about all of the things that you liked to do before you had the baby and start doing them again.  Just because you had a baby doesn’t mean that you have to stop being you.

Here are some self-care tips for making a healthy, happy mommy:

  1. Eat right: first and foremost, you are what you eat. Nutrition affects every aspect of our lives, from our energy levels to our mood.  We all know that taking care of a baby requires lots of energy. Add that to sleep deprivation, and proper nutrition becomes even more vital.  Make sure you eat lots of fruits ,vegetables, and whole grains for energy.   Chia seeds are also a great source of energy, in addition to all of the other health benefits that these miracle seeds provide. Sprinkle them in soups, on salads, in smoothies, or just drink them in water. They provide a huge energy boost.

  2. Get a massage: there is nothing like a relaxing massage to revitalize you and release stress and anxiety.  In addition to decreased stress and anxiety levels, a massage also enhances sleep quality, gives you more energy, improves concentration, and reduces fatigue.  So get on the phone and book your massage today.

  3. Laugh: they say that laughter is the best medicine.  Taking the time to integrate humor into your life can have a profound effect on both your physical and mental health.  Numerous studies have shown that laughter plays a role in combating heart disease, stress reduction, and chronic illnesses like diabetes.  It also affects your mood and boosts your sense of resiliency.  Our biggest problems can become more manageable when we laugh about them.   Watch your favorite sitcom, or book  tickets to see a comedy show. Laughter really is the best medicine.

  4. Yoga: yoga is a great method for getting your body back in shape, but it also supports your mind and spirit. There are many different styles of yoga out there. Some focus on strengthening the body, while some focus on clearing the mind.  Yoga will not only reduce your stress levels, but also make you a more patient parent. Join a yoga group with other moms (ed.: or invite your Mom Meet Mom friends!), so not only do you get all of the benefits that yoga provides, but you also get to interact with other moms who are going through the same things that you are.  Having the right support system in place in not only good for your wellbeing, but for your baby’s wellbeing as well.

  5. Get Beautified: when you look good, you feel good.   Step out of those maternity clothes and buy some new ones. You will need new ones when you start losing the baby weight with each passing yoga class anyway. Get a new haircut. Try a new look.  Get a manicure or a pedicure. Find ways to pamper yourself.  Being a mom is hard work. You deserve to be rewarded for all that you do.

Taking the time to care for yourself can go a long way in helping you bring better care to others.   Nourishing your body, mind, and spirit will help to rejuvenate an over-tired and over-stressed body.  Self-care also means knowing that as a mom, you are doing the best that you can. Don’t be so hard on yourself.  Your baby doesn’t judge you, so why should you?  Take the time to show love to yourself and your baby will thank you for it.

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Must-Have Winter Gear for Babies and Toddlers

Baby, it’s cold outside, but that doesn’t mean that we get to hole up indoors under a blanket until April. Make sure your little ones stay warm this winter with winter gear that not only looks good, but gets the job done. Here’s what you’ll need:

A great stroller bunting:

7 AM Enfant Bunting

For little ones still small enough to stroll, I love the Blanket 212 from 7 a.m. Enfant. It repels water, keeps kids warm with plushy fill and fleeze, grows with your toddler, and has a no-slip back.

A high-tech snowsuit:

baby snowsuit - winter gear for babies

Down rocks but I’m loving Columbia’s “Omni-Heat Thermal Reflective Microtex.” Er, whatever that is. All I know is that it stays as warm inside as my daughter’s old down snowsuit with almost no bulk.

Super cute mittens:

bearhands infant mittensBearHands give your baby paws. Nuff said. For older kids who want to bury their hands in snow, try these!

A toastie toesies solution for babies:

Baby shoes? Do not stay on wiggly baby feet. Furry lined slippers on the other hand may just resist the kicks and wiggles of your little one. Wish they made these in my size!

And Uggs for your toddler:

The classic winter boot may be the subject of a whole lot of mockery but there’s no denying that they keep feet warmer than almost anything. Hate Uggs? Try these instead.

Hats that cover little ears:

A hat that doesn’t cover toddler or baby ears isn’t going to do you much good when the mercury plummets. This adorable wee hat from United Colors of Benetton will keeps heads and ears warm – and look too cute in the process.

Tights, tights, and more tights:

Tights, unisex? Sure! Under pants or as leggings, knit tights can keep boys and girls toasty on the coldest days and nights. I’m in love with these vintage-look tights from Dulce Liya! Babylegs are pretty awesome, too.

And of course, a jacket to top it off:

There are about eleventy billion styles of winter jackets for babies and toddlers out there – pick any you like, but look for deals on down and other features that mean a jacket doesn’t just look roasty-toasty.

What are your go-to brands for cold weather gear for babies and toddlers?

5 Alternatives to Time Outs

My four-year-old has had her share of time outs. Time outs typically involve her have to go to her room for two minutes. The door can stay open if she’s not having an epic freakout. Why I like time outs is that it puts some distance between me and her so we can both cool off before getting back to whatever it is we were doing. Time outs don’t always work, though. Sometimes if she’s upset, the time out just makes it worse because even though she’s acting out what she really wants is me. Sometimes the time out is actually for me, so I don’t end up having an epic freakout of my own, but isn’t going to do anything for my daughter’s ‘tude.

time out alternatives - alternatives to time outThat’s why I decided to research alternatives to time outs. Oh, I still keep the time out in my parenting toolkit but I certainly use time outs less frequently now that I have options like the following.

A Few Deep Breaths

Time outs seem to happen as the result of a child is doing/not doing something the parent doesn’t want/wants. Usually everyone involved is frustrated. Things escalate. But what if you could both take a step back from the situation. Not in the direction of consequences (which may come later in some other form, like having to clean up a mess) but rather just out of the moment. When you’re reaching your breaking point and sense your child is, too, ask them to join you in taking a few big monster breaths. Who can breathe more deeply? How much can you push out your chest with just your breath? This alternative to time outs does double duty – deep breathing may calm you down while also distracting your child.

The Family Time Out

On particularly stressful days at our house when – if we’re brave enough to admit it – the adults are being just as loud and obnoxious as the kids, I will sometimes declare a family time out. That’s when we all sit down to spend time with each other doing something that puts us close to one another but doesn’t involve a lot of conversation and leaves no room for lectures. For us a family time out usually involves making popcorn and watching a show but if TV is not your bag then a taking a family time out could mean doing a puzzle or reading to one another from a chapter book. The idea is to acknowledge that everyone was having an off day and we can all forgive each other.

Natural Consequences

While grownups who do wrong can face the ultimate time out – prison – you have to admit that the time out isn’t a natural or logical consequence. Time outs are an easy go-to disciplinary tool but they’re best used when parents and kids just need a few minutes apart. When there’s more on the line, why not craft a consequence that fits the crime? Caught your kid making a mess very deliberately? Have them clean it up. If they hurt someone’s feelings, have them think of a way to make it up to the injured party and make sure they do it. Or if what’s happening is something as simple as not putting on a coat or shoes let the consequence be being cold or having to walk into a playdate sans sneakers.

Distraction with a Side of Silliness

Going back to the example in which your little one refuses to put on a coat, sometimes the solution is actually as simple as switching gears. They’re expecting you to say “Put! On! Your! Coat!” and they’re ready with their response. Instead you say “Well, then, get your boots on your hands and your mittens on your feet and let’s go.” At my house, this’ll stop the four-year-old in her tracks while she mulls it over and then she’s either going to laugh or put her hands on her hips and say “MaMUH! Boots don’t go on your HANDS!” in exasperated tones. Jacket drama? Forgotten, and we can both move on.

Empathy and Listening

Do you ever catch yourself only half listening to your child? I know I do! Sometimes family drama can be chalked up to a parents’ failure to really listen and understand what a kid is trying to say. This won’t work during a full-blown tantrum, of course, but if that’s where you’re headed and you’re not there yet why not take a minute to listen? I have literally been in a jacket drama situation where I’m raising my voice and threatening that imminent time out only to find out when I stop and listen that the whole reason she doesn’t want to put on her jacket is because she has to pee. Oops.

Other alternatives to time out include going to a chill out corner together to read a book, going outside for some fresh air, or even just doling out a more fitting consequence. Time outs, I think, still have their place. I’m not in the camp that believes that one minute in a room that’s 10 feet away from mama and in full view is going to scar anyone’s psyche for life. But in that same vein, time outs don’t always work or even work at all for some kids, so why not try something different for a change?

Now you tell me: What alternatives to time out have worked for your family? (And please, don’t say spanking!)

Why I Let My Daughter Negotiate

“Convince me.” These are two words you might hear on any given day in my household. The person saying them will be me – and I’m saying them to my four-year-old daughter.

letting kids negotiateDid anyone ever teach you to negotiate? Because no one ever taught me, which has a lot to do with the fact that my salary at my first full-time job (one that required some nights and weekend work) was well under $20k and that was in the early 2000s and I was living in NYC. I didn’t negotiate raises. Heck, I didn’t even ask for raises. It pretty much took until I was in a place where I didn’t care anymore about getting fired or what my employer thought about me to ask for and negotiate a raise for the first time. I got the raise and then a higher raise than first offered.

All because I asked and then asked again while making a compelling argument as to why I deserved it.

Yay, right? Except boo that it took me like over two decades to accept that I could just ask and to have the courage to do it.

What does that have to do with letting my daughter negotiate? Well, kids ask for so much. Another cookie. 15 more minutes of TV. Later bedtimes. Another story. More juice. A new toy. Most of what they ask for is so simple but the requests come so frequently, so it can be incredibly easy to say no. Sometimes there is a good reason for saying no, like if a new toy is not part of the week’s budget or your little one has had three glasses of juice in 10 minutes and bedtime is in half an hour. But sometimes the no just comes out because you’ve been bombarded by requests all day and you’re kind of sick of it. Or the request comes in the form of “CANIHAVEANOTHERCOOKIEPLEASEPLEASEPLEEEEESE?!”

And of course kids ask again even after no. We all know that. There are probably thousands of articles telling parents to stand firm. To never take back a no. To never, ever negotiate with a child.

Except if I never ever let my child negotiate – if I never give her space to make a compelling argument in favor of yes, even when it’s just a cookie on the line – how exactly is she going to know how to do it when she’s looking for summer jobs in high school or applying for her first job out of college? I want her to believe that she deserves to ask and to make her case when a yes isn’t forthcoming, and here’s why I think it’s so very important for my daughter.

According to the official website of the book Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever:

  • Two and a half times more women than men said they feel “a great deal of apprehension” about negotiating.
  • Men initiate negotiations about four times as often as women.
  • 20% of adult women say they never negotiate at all, even though they often recognize negotiation as appropriate and even necessary.
  • In one study, eight times as many men as women graduating with master’s degrees from Carnegie Mellon negotiated their salaries. The men who negotiated were able to increase their starting salaries by an average of 7.4 percent, or about $4,000.
  • In the same study, men’s starting salaries were about $4,000 higher than the women’s on average, suggesting that the gender gap between men and women might have been closed if more of the women had negotiated their starting salaries.
  • Another study calculated that women who consistently negotiate their salary increases earn at least $1 million more during their careers than women who don’t.

Negotiating for the cookie may not look like negotiating for another $10k but I believe that by giving her room to try to get what she wants I can give her the confidence and the skills to get what she wants later in life.

Does all this mean I never say no, end of story, you asked and I answered? Of course not. There are plenty of instances in which there is no room for negotiation and I make that abundantly clear. But there are also specific moments – teachable moments – where instead of saying no outright when P. says “Can I…” or “Just one more…” I respond with “Why do you want to do that?” or “Convince me it’s a good idea.” Hopefully the mental gymnastics she sometimes goes through to get what she wants will serve her well for the rest of her life.