Guest post: Erin, mom of two (among other things), shares her story

Hi friends!

It’s been a heck of a week already (more on that later), so I am *super* glad I reached out to an old friend from high school, who just launched her own blog to help people coping with eating disorders (and, oh yeah, NBD, had her second baby) to help me out with a guest post, Q&A style. As the reality of being a mom of two sets in, I am grateful to have her share some wisdom on motherhood.

Without further ado, I am pleased to introduce Erin.

Erin and her family
Erin, her husband and her two little ones, under the Gateway Arch in their current hometown of St. Louis

Erin’s bio:

My family and I recently moved to St. Louis from Georgia for my husband’s job when I was about halfway through my second pregnancy. The Second Kid, a baby boy, is now 4 months old and The First Kid, a girl, turned 2 years old at the end of May.

In Georgia, I owned a private practice as a dietitian specializing in eating disorders and related issues. Right now, I’m staying home with the kids until we’re ready for me to go back to work part-time. Until then, I’ve been enjoying writing my blog at RecoveringWithGod.com.

How were your two pregnancies different? In general, do you like being pregnant or is more of a necessary but miserable means to an end?

I thought I liked being pregnant until The Second Kid! I had more nausea, fatigue, and discomfort with the second pregnancy. I think moving out of state and chasing around a toddler made the experience much different.

What were some things you learned in your first pregnancy, childbirth experience or early parenting days that you wanted to be sure you did differently the second time around? What were some important consistencies you wanted to maintain between the two?

This is a BIG question. The short answer is: get less tests and be choosy about health care professionals. The explanation is long and intense, but worth sharing with you and other parents.

We almost lost my first child based on a diagnosis that was made in utero. We were told by a specialist doctor that our baby would likely not survive to term and if she did there was a 0% chance that we’d have a healthy, normal baby. The doctor insinuated that terminating the pregnancy was the way to go based on a growth he spotted on the back of the baby’s head at 11 weeks. He said that it was an encepholocele, a type of neural tube defect in which brain matter protrudes through an opening of the skull. He left us with very little hope, no follow-up appointments, and no recommendations for other consultations or specialists.

It was the absolute worst day of my life. But our friends and family prayed. After I made the initial call to the abortion clinic (please no judgments), I felt God nudging me to get a second opinion. More prayers.

The second-opinion-doctor made us feel like we were in this together and gave us options. We waited. With every visit thereafter, the growth miraculously shrunk or stayed the same size. By the third trimester, the malformation was no longer detectable and the issue was considered resolved.

Against the odds, our baby was born as healthy as can be.

SOOOOO, how did all this change the second pregnancy? Well, the reason we went in for that 11-week ultrasound with The First Kid was because we were going to test for a genetic disorder that runs in my family that has the potential to be fatal. With The Second Kid, we decided NOT to get that test. We learned that (1) test results don’t always predict outcomes, (2) the test results wouldn’t change our actions during pregnancy—we wouldn’t terminate, and (3) God can heal.

I’m not really sure how to segue from that, but there are plenty of other things I did differently as well. I chose a birthing center instead of the typical hospital setting to give birth. Reasons include the following experiences that I had at the hospital with The First Kid: (1) getting my membranes stripped without consent, (2) my birthing plan was not followed or even saved in my chart to refer to, (3) I had to wait for the doctor to arrive before I could push, even though my body was screaming at me to PUSH! (4) Oh yea, I had to go through the transition stage of labor in the crowded waiting room, like WITH THE FAMILIES (who were staring at me because I was apparently making scary noises). In contrast, I loved the birthing center. Their practices were in line with everything I wanted, so I didn’t have to constantly worry or double check what they were doing. They listened. They didn’t rush. Gosh, I loved them so much. If you don’t like your healthcare team, look for someone else. I say that as a healthcare professional and I would say it to my clients too.

How were your two labor experiences?

I was told the second labor is typically half the length of time as the first. This made me quite nervous because I barely made it to the delivery room with The First Kid, but it was true! I was in labor from about 6pm-midnight for The First Kid and 9pm-midnight for The Second Kid. (To the women who have long labors, I am sorry and you are all amazing warriors).

There were no false alarms with The First Kid—once contractions started, they were regular and the real deal. With The Second Kid, I experienced contractions that didn’t turn into labor, which drove my anticipatory anxiety out the roof!

I labored at home longer for The First Kid because I was only 1 cm earlier that afternoon. With my second labor, the midwives never checked dilation at any appointments, but I knew I had to leave ASAP once contractions were at regular intervals.

Both babies arrived the day after their due date.

Both labors were medication-free. I used some Hypnobabies concepts with both labors even though I personally think it’s a bit cheesy. I really enjoyed the practices in Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke and highly recommend that book. It’s more evidence-based, less judgmental, and the skills can be used throughout the parenting experience. I need to go back and reread some sections!

I keep being reminded to expect my two children to be very different from each other, though it’s hard to imagine my second baby beyond what I know from my first. How are your two babies different so far?

The First Kid came out small and dainty and always falling asleep. The Second Kid came out sturdy and big and eager to eat. The First Kid was laid-back and The Second Kid is usually tense, but both happy. The First Kid was very observant and could entertain herself easily, interested in the smallest of details. The Second Kid (at least in this stage) seems to need a lot more stimulation. Thankfully, he loves watching his older sister as she runs around, dances, and gives him toys.

How did you prepare your first child for the arrival of your second? How has she adjusted to being a big sister? Are there any specific books/philosophies/etc. you relied on to help guide you through getting her prepared?

We talked about baby brother while I was pregnant and read the book “I Am a Big Sister” by Caroline Jayne Church, which I highly recommend. I’m not sure how much she understood, but she does mimic the girl in the book by helping. I also instituted “special time” with her while I was pregnant. We sing a song about special time, set a timer, and I spend 10 devoted and undivided minutes with her. Quality (attentive time) is over quantity (distracted time).

She’s loved and adored her baby brother since she met him. It was an adjustment (aka Tantrum City), of course, but she took her frustrations out on her dad and me for not giving her enough attention. She never acted resentful toward her baby brother. I’d say it took about 3 months for her to adjust. Now that she’s adjusted, she can truly be a big help to me at times even though she’s only two.

Talk about the first few days/weeks of being a mom of two, in general. What was the hardest part? Was there anything that went easier than expected?

The hardest part was definitely not having the ability to be there for my little girl. There are moments when you have to choose which child to attend to first, and the crying baby usually takes priority. Thankfully, The First Kid encourages me to go help The Second Kid when he cries, but she forgets that means she can’t get what she wants right away!

Taking care of a baby in general has been easier this time because I knew what to expect. I’m no longer trying to follow every rule or sift through all the conflicting baby advice on the internet…there’s no time for that!

I had a really rough time getting started with breastfeeding the first time around. If you nursed both times (and are willing to share), what was it like starting again?

It was a cinch! I had some insecurities the first time around, which I think most women do, and a naturally petite baby, which our first pediatrician freaked me out. However, a year’s worth of practice with the first child makes a huge difference for the second. Now the real challenge is breastfeeding while doing other tasks, such as reading a book with The First Kid in my lap, pouring a glass of milk, or putting on a shoe!

How did you and your husband adjust to having two? 

In general, my husband watches the The First Kid and I’m in charge of The Second Kid, especially in the beginning when I was nursing non-stop. We had visitors the first several weeks who we could hand either kid off to, which was loads of help! Then we were forced to figure out how to handle both at the same time when my husband returned to work and I had occasional appointments I needed to attend. We’re still figuring it out!

In general, what advice that I may not have covered that you’d offer to parents expecting their second child?

Go easy on yourself. You won’t be able to do it perfectly, if there is such a thing. It’s okay to plop your toddler down in front of the TV to attend to the baby, or *gasp* get a moment to yourself. (My husband is constantly reminding me of this). Are they smelling a little ripe because you haven’t bathed them in awhile? They won’t remember! Did you just yell at your toddler for a stupid reason? Genuinely tell him you’re sorry and that you feel sad/mad right now, and hey it turns into a teaching moment! Even if you don’t muster up the apology, life goes on and you are a good mom. Some mood swings and bending the rules won’t change that.

Do what’s easiest. Opt for grocery delivery, Amazon Prime, carryout meals, a cleaning service, and any other convenience you can find. If you’re thrifty like me, tell yourself it’s just for this season. You’re in survival mode the first couple months, so only expend energy on the priorities.

And finally, picking your nutritionist/disordered eating expert brain, I wondered if you had any wisdom regarding self acceptance/body positivity for new moms and/or setting a good example of this for your kids.

It’s important for postpartum women to give themselves space to grieve their old bodies. We have constant messages thrown at us to “lose the baby weight fast”, and then we’re also told to “appreciate our stretch marks and mommy tummy” because it’s “so worth it.” We feel guilty if we can’t get back to our pre-baby bodies AND we also feel guilty if we aren’t “positive” about this new body.

It’s okay to feel sad about your body sometimes. It doesn’t mean that you’re vain or shallow. It doesn’t mean that you lack gratitude. Avoiding feelings and pretending you’re fine never ends well. Journal or talk to a trusted fellow mom. Give yourself grace—your body just went through a traumatic experience, you’re healing, your hormones are crazy, you’re tired. Look the way you look and feel the way you feel.

Try to accept both your body and your feelings, and don’t beat yourself up if acceptance is a tough concept right now.

As for setting a good example for your kids, be nice to yourself. Even when we think they may not be looking, kids notice those under-the-breath remarks in the fitting room or self-deprecating comments over second helpings of ice cream. Then they mimic us. Give yourself the love and respect that you give to your kids.

There you have it! Aren’t I lucky to know her? She shared such an incredible story  — I’m stunned at her strength through the terrifying diagnosis in her first pregnancy and utterly appalled at her hospital experience with her first childbirth!!! — and so many good ideas — the “Special Time” idea is getting implemented STAT in our house, and I’ve got some new reading to tackle. (As usual, nothing on this site is sponsored, so the Amazon links are just for your convenience.)

I really needed some encouragement today and was so happy to find Erin’s words in my inbox. I hope you enjoyed it, too.

While her blog is a faith-based resource for people struggling with disordered eating, and not a mom blog, I know that there certainly is overlap between those two groups of people. In addition to selfishly picking Erin’s brain to prepare myself for parenting two, I also hoped that connecting with her would help connect any of my readers who might be struggling. If you are (or know someone who is) dealing with an eating disorder, visit RecoveringwithGod.com for words of encouragement. (And, as Erin points out in her bio, you should also seek treatment with a health care professional.) Take care of yourself, Mama.

P.S. I can’t figure out how to get someone a draft for review on WordPress without it going live, so sorry if you got a blank/password protected email post!

Guest post: Erin, mom of two (among other things), shares her story

No bees, green trees, baby knees

dogwoods
Dogwood in bloom

Last week, The Husband took off work and stayed home with The Toddler while my dad and I drove 100 miles to pic up two nuclear hives of bees (known in the bee worlds as “nucs”). This was the final of three additions to our little hobby farm, and while I was apprehensive about keeping them alive, I was also excited for honey and felt righteous about pressing ahead, because bees need all the help they can get these days.

Unfortunately, we arrived to find a handwritten note on the door and a few sheriff’s deputies collecting everyone’s names and phone numbers. Apparently the apiary had lost its load of bees, and instead of trying to notify all its (prepaid) customers, some of whom had driven from out of state, they left a short note. The deputies explained that the owner said she’d be issuing refunds in the next few weeks. (They had been called to the apiary by angry customers who arrived before us–it’s not a criminal matter until/unless the owner doesn’t refund us our money.)

I made a bunch of phone calls that afternoon trying to find another source for bees. My local beekeepers association and even the Ohio State Beekeepers Association were incredibly helpful and sympathetic, giving me lots of leads to chase. It’s very late in the season, though, and most other apiaries are sold out. The closest one I found was a 2 1/2 hour drive, which isn’t something I can do with The Toddler, and The Husband can’t take more time off work before the end of the school year. We decided we’ll wait until next year to try bees. It’s frustrating, because we spent close to $1,000 on all our hives and equipment (and no-show bees), but a small part of me is a little relieved we have a year to get the hang of chickens and goats before we add bees to the list. I just hope I get my money back!

In other news, spring has truly sprung around us. The flowers are blooming and the trees are leafing out, and our morning walks, though muddy, are so fun. It has been a wet spring, so we took advantage of our one warm, sunny day this weekend to cut the grass, and I spent a good hour or so pulling poison ivy up from around the garden beds surrounding our house. (I’m covered in poison ivy now, because I did a crap job covering up. Don’t be like me.) We’re continuing the tradition of accidentally neglecting our vegetable garden, but despite this, there are carrots and beets and greens sprouting. The Husband planted a bunch of new fruit trees, which he waters dutifully every evening.

On our daily walks, The Toddler mucks around on his boots, blowing dandelion fuzz and collecting gravel from our driveway and carrying sticks. He’d live outside if we let him. It’s unbelievable how quickly he’s growing, in every way. He is tall and sturdy on his feet. He can run and play ring-around-the-rosy and nod his head when I arrive at his chosen option for snack. He wiggles his butt to music and shriekingly chases the pets and puts all the toilet paper rolls away when we come home from shopping. He knows the words for lots of things but prefers to imitate their sounds than to name them: nay, moo, meow, choo choo!

Yesterday, my friend and her sister came over with her sister’s new baby, who is two months old. It felt like 100 years ago that my kid was that small. The Toddler hasn’t been around a baby that young, and I was curious to see how he reacted. I wasn’t disappointed — he was over the moon. He kept bringing up toys and trying to hand them to the baby. He patted his knee, rubbed his belly, held his hand. He wanted to sit right next to him, and even got his baby doll out to hold in imitation of the baby’s mom.

It almost killed me, it was so cute.

Good thing The Toddler is 95% a joy during the day, because we have concluded he is going through a precocious “18 month” sleep regression (he’s 16.5 months, but close enough), as he literally will. not. go. to. sleep. unless someone is in the room with him, and has been waking 2-5 times a night. We had about four blissful sleeps through the night before this struck. Please, please come back.

So that’s been the past couple of weeks. Oh, to update you from the last post– the bunny died the following morning, to my mild dismay but not to my surprise. Also that evening, our dishwasher died. I’m waiting on delivery as I write for the new one, so most of my time the past 1.5 weeks has been spent washing dishes by hand–that is, when I’m not helping The Toddler down from a dining room chair or picking up the dry cat food he has scooped and scattered across the pantry.

The Husband built the goats a new, wooden day shelter that they have not yet attempted to scale, but which, I daresay, can handle the weight of a goat or two. Good man.

No bees, green trees, baby knees

The kids are all right

On Saturday, The Husband and I left The Toddler with Grandma and drove an hour and a half into the heart of Amish country to pick up three young Nigerian Dwarf goats we found online. Their owner was selling them as almost year-old wethers (the name for neutered male goats), as she has milk goats and her herd was getting too big.

We ended up cramming the poor guys into a dog crate in the back of my Subaru hatchback because we need to do some repair work to the cool but temperamental old yellow 1972 Ford F250 we co-own with our friends. The ride home was a quiet but tense one, The Husband gripping the steering wheel and doing his best to keep the turns smooth and slow on the winding back roads, carefully passing Amish families in buggies while the goats stumbled around in an increasing puddle of urine in their crate. Not an ideal way to start the relationship, I’m sure, but they were exceedingly patient with us.

They arrived at our house and we corralled them into an area we have cordoned off with portable electric fencing very near our house. This is one of the big garden beds my grandparents used to manage, but which has over the past decade or two become utterly overrun with poison ivy, wild roses, blackberry bushes and feral garlic (from the time my grandmother threw some old, sprouting garlic cloves out her window. Advice: Do not do this. All last spring and summer the overwhelming scent of garlic wafted through our windows.)

Anyway, to answer a few questions we’ve been getting:

  • The goats’ main purpose is to help us manage this overgrowth (they prefer “browse” or “forage” to pasture–they like reaching above their heads to eat, more like deer than cattle. So the brambles and vines and saplings are prime eating for them.) They will also serve as pets. Also, their poop makes great fertilizer. Also, they’re pretty cute.
  • We have no interest at present in running a dairy. Nigerian Dwarf goats are bred for milk, but you have to breed goats about annually to keep the milk flowing, and breeding goats brings an overwhelming element to the adventure that we’re not willing to entertain right now: stinky, aggressive bucks (non-neutered males), helping with deliveries and keeping kids alive in the dead of winter, when they’re usually born, twice-daily milking and figuring out what to do with all those extra goats.
  • We haven’t picked new names for them. They’re still pretty leery of us (they were quite friendly toward their former owner, but being a year old and only with us for a few days so far, they’re taking their time warming up to us). So we’re keeping their old names for now in hopes that a little consistency in that regard helps open the lines of communication. I’m not going to get into what the currently are, because it’s kind of a longer story than you’d think, but we’ll let you know when we settle on new ones.
  • The Toddler adores them. He can see them out his bedroom window, and they have been added to the good night tour each night along with the chicks.
  • The Dog, poor Louise, got a nose full of the (honestly potentially not strong enough, it feels only slightly worse than getting a static shock from socks on a rug) electric fence when she first encountered the goats, and holds me personally responsible. She’s avoided eye contact with me since Saturday.

Here are some photos for your enjoyment… I hope as the goats get more used to us, there will be better shots, but I can’t get very close right now (and if I am, I have a spoonful of molasses in one hand and a lead in the other, which doesn’t make for easy photography.)

Nigerian dwarf
One of the guys before we brought him home. (Behind him is one of the bucks from the herd, saying his goodbyes.)
Nigerian dwarf goats
The boys stayed shoulder to shoulder the whole first day they arrived, but did nibble on some forage.
Nigerian dwarves exploring
This photo is from today. They like to stand on that falling down fence, and here they are nibbling some wild roses. Get it, guys!
Tucking in for the night
This is where they sleep in the barn at night. Check out my Instagram @arkayokay to watch a video of them basically sprinting to the barn on leads as I try to mimic the “praise voice” their former owner used (embarrassing).
20170326_194730
The apparent leader of the herd in his favorite spot. They started to let me get a little closer today so long as I sat still.

In chick news, the girls are getting bigger and bolder and feathering out nicely. I bring them a treat each day (either hard boiled eggs… yep, the original chick feed, as weird as it sounds, or smashed chick peas, or raisins or freeze dried meal worms, but eggs are their No. 1 jam) and they hop into my hand and go nuts. A couple of them have even been testing out the mini perches we put in their brood box. So cute!

They also survived an attempted massacre by my cat while we were out picking up the goats. Fortunately, everyone was accounted for soon after we got home. We have reinforced the boxes to keep that from happening again (I hope.)

In parenting news, The Toddler is 15 months old now. He’s absolutely a toddler, exploring everything, throwing tantrums, picking up more and more words (his current favorite word is “gouda.” Ha!) and being equal parts heart-explodingly sweet and unbelievably challenging. I am addicted to his hugs.

This week, The Husband is on spring break from school so we’re finally working on a gentle approach to night weaning. (Yeah, I know a lot of moms figure this one out 6 or 10 months in or whatever, but we’ve been lazy and he’s been down to one quick nurse a night unless he’s sick or teething.) Anyway, every night the husband is “on duty” no matter what for an increasingly longer amount of time. Usually if I send him in, The Toddler screams and points at the door for me until we cave, but he’s going to have to take comfort with his dad for longer and longer period of time until he figures out we can’t all get 3 a.m. milkshakes every night.

Speaking of 3 a.m. milkshakes, The Toddler’s dwindling need to nurse, coupled with my persistent attachment to frozen yogurt and string cheese and buttery toast, means I’m starting to gain back a little of the baby weight that fell off so easily from breastfeeding. So today starts a conscious effort to pay attention to my appetite and get some exercise. I went running outside for the first time in eons. It felt like I was running with a backpack full of bowling balls, but I got through it and it felt good to break a sweat. Here’s hoping my saying it on the Internet will help me stick to it.

Time for a very desperately needed shower! Until next time.

The kids are all right

Revisiting cloth diapers

 

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Image via Amazon

A few weeks after The Baby was born, The Husband and I tentatively got out the stash of cloth diapers we had accumulated leading up to baby’s arrival. We were hoping to save some money and reduce the environmental impact of our family,  and, if I’m being honest, prove wrong the people in our family who told us we’d get sick of it and give up, as they had.

When we finally braved the transition at around four weeks, I realized it really wasn’t a big deal. There was already a mountain of laundry, so it didn’t feel like much of an extra burden (although our second-hand all-in-ones that made up the most of our collection took forever to dry). It felt really good to not have to run to the store when we were out of diapers. We stuck with disposables for nighttime, and I expected smooth sailing at least until The Baby was no longer exclusively breastfed.

The Baby, however, had other thoughts on the matter.

He hated having a wet cloth diaper, so much so that it would rouse him from each and every nap during the day.

Finally, after about two months of trying to power through it, in the midst of our big, overwhelming move, I conceded. We started using only disposable diapers, and I sadly packed away the cloth diaper stash in hopes our next baby might be more amicable to them. While the rational side of me knows that The Baby’s comfort, and above all, SLEEP, are more important than my proving a point, I am also really stubborn and didn’t want to hear, “I told you so,” from the people who had told us so.

Nobody really did that, but I still felt a little sour about having to give up this thing I had been pretty sanctimonious about.

About a month ago, The Baby and I were visiting the library when I saw another baby, a little older than him, crawling around with a big fluffy butt–obviously cloth diapered. I had honestly forgotten about them. A few days later, running low on diapers and not particularly wanting to go buy more, I unearthed our stash and decided to get back on the proverbial cloth diaper horse.

It worked! The Baby sleeps soundly through a wet diaper (though we’re still disposable at night, I’m not crazy!) and we’re back to saving a million dollars a month on diapers and not throwing away so much.

To be clear, I totally get that cloth diapers aren’t for everyone. I was one of those people for most of The Baby’s life. The further into parenting I get, the more I realize I really like the path of least resistance… for me, that’s eliminating a Target trip here and there to buy diapers.

I’m so glad I decided to try again. It’s probably a good lesson for parenting in general–I’m not going to get to decide how everything goes, and I have to be flexible; but also, just because something doesn’t work during one stage of our lives doesn’t mean it’s off the table forever.

In case you’re wondering… here’s my gear list:

My cloth diaper stash

Diapers:

11 Bumgenius all-in-ones (bought secondhand on Craigslist for ~$100)

2 Motherease fitted diapers

2 Econobum covers plus 6 prefolds (Honestly, these work great and are very cost effective, but I can hardly get The Baby to hold still long enough to get them on)

I also use these liners now that The Baby is pooping more than just breastmilk (I’m thinking about getting the hose thing that attaches to the toilet, but for now, these have been working pretty well.)

Wipes:

Two dozen Bumkins flannel wipes

For wipes solution, I use these great Baby Bum Drops by Knickernappies

Holding dirty diapers:

1 Planet Wise large wet bag and small wet bag for taking wipes to-go

1 Kanga Care pail liner (suspended from the door, rather than using a pail, because my baby is essentially Godzilla in his room)

Laundry:

Charlie’s Soap for the diapers – I haven’t had much issue with staining; actually, we started using this soap for all our laundry and I’m really happy with it. You only need like a tablespoon for a whole load! I wash in hot/warm and run everything through a presoak and extra rinse cycle

I also dry everything with wool dryer balls (except the pail liner, which hangs dry). As I mentioned, the downside of the all-in-ones is they take 300 years to dry, but when the weather is nice I’ve been hanging them out to dry either straight from the washer or after an hour in the dryer to finish them off. There’s something so nice about seeing your laundry swaying in the breeze, and the sun also helps with staining.

I wash whatever is in the wet bag at least every other day, or when we start to run low on the all-in-ones. Now that The Baby is almost 10 months old, we’re going through probably six cloth diapers and one disposable a day (which feels like nothing compared to those early days!)

Now here are a few questions I have for you:

  • Do you use cloth diapers? Any tips and tricks or favorite products?
  • What’s something you had your heart set on for parenthood that didn’t work out the way you hoped?

 

Revisiting cloth diapers

Embracing the hustle

embracing-the-hustle

First and foremost, let me say that the “just” in front of any reference to stay-at-home-mom (i.e., “I’m just a stay-at-home-mom”) diminishes what is a very difficult, very important job. Being a stay-at-home mom of one baby for the past five months is the toughest gig I’ve ever had.

So if you’re a stay-at-home-mom and keeping your children alive and fed and entertained is “all” you’re doing, it’s plenty. You’re killing it. Nothing I’m about to say is intended to diminish or denigrate what you’re doing. Okay? (And cut it out with the “justs!”)

So.

I really like writing. I also really like dabbling in the print design (desktop publishing?) I’ve been doing since I was editing my high school newspaper. Writing greases the gears in my brain when they seize up from all the breastmilk and high chair hose-downs and endless rereadings of Brown Bear, Brown Bear. For some people, self care is getting a haircut more than once a year or browsing their favorite store. For others, it’s typing, alone, over a bowl of ice cream while dad rocks the baby to sleep. Different strokes.

This blog has been a nice outlet for my creative pursuits when I find the time to put my thoughts together. However, we’re working with a pretty thin margin on my husband’s income, so freelancing has been an important contribution to my family since I left full-time work, too (and thus has had to take priority over blogging on many occasions. I just don’t have it in me to try to monetize a blog right now.) Freelancing also scratches the small but persistent entrepreneurial itch I’ve had all my life.

One of the reasons I was afraid to embark on parenthood earlier in my life was the daunting mountain of responsibility that children come with–I didn’t feel like I had enough financial security, even with nonstop full-time work with benefits–to hack it. The irony is, now that I’m home with the baby, living really frugally and making smaller change in weird spurts, I feel less of the suffocating anxiety I felt before The Baby arrived and more of the vastness of possibilities that lay before me.

In addition to money worries, I also feared that giving up my full-time career would mean losing the fulfillment and pride that came along with it, but I’ve learned to embrace the hustle that is gig work. It’s a tough juggle, but it’s also exhilarating to choose projects that excite me and to deliver good work to satisfied clients.

I’ve also started babysitting a friend’s baby one day a week (what a workout!), and today I visited an amazing flexible child care center where The Baby is going to spend a few hours a week so I can grow my business a little bit.

I have far, far less free time than I used to. But I’m also operating at maximum efficiency with the time I do have.

As many obstacles as parenthood throws out for us, The Husband and I are relishing the great privilege we’re realizing we have: We can build the life we want for our family, however we want. Being parents doesn’t mean that we are chained to the traditional gender roles of American families, nor are we condemned to both working 60-hour weeks and missing our kids in daycare all the time.

Yes, for the foreseeable future, The Husband is going to continue to work long hours and have a crap commute (and to come home and summon a second wind so he can bathe, chase and otherwise thrill The Baby while I catch a breath), and I’m going to pound out articles and design annual reports in the stolen 15-minute increments I can find during naps. But none of that is preordained and none of it has to be forever.

In the not-too-distant future, we will finally be able to pay off our student loans and start thinking about the real long term, now that we have a feel for what it’s going to be like. Maybe we’ll save up and start a small business. Maybe we’ll switch places and The Husband will stay home with the next baby while I go back to work. Maybe we’ll get really wild and go off the grid and become self-sufficient preppers. (Unlikely scenario, but it is an election year!)

I don’t know what the future holds, but five months after hesitatingly stepping into the SAHM/WAHM life, I’m so glad this was the choice I made.

Fellow moms (working from home-for money or for the satisfaction of keeping your kids alive, working out of the home, or whatever combination applies to you right now), how did parenthood affect your ambitions? Your perspective on your career? What greases your gears when they get locked up from the parenting drudge work?

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Embracing the hustle

Working at home

The baby seems to be (knocking on wood) emerging a little from the worst of the sleep regression, though he still giggles himself into full alertness (how can something so cute be so frustrating) if I try to put him down drowsy in his crib for naps.

Whatevs. Parenting isn’t supposed to be easy, right? If he’s making my heart soar 75% of the time, and the other quarter of that time is spent rocking him and doing deep breathing exercises, I’ve got it pretty good, I think.

The Husband and I will be hosting a Sleep Summit at the end of this week to try to hatch a plan moving forward (a plan that doesn’t involve one of us taking impulsive and drastic measures on a whim.)

In the meantime, my parents have returned from their first vacation in a week. And as much as my 18-year-old self would be doing a spit-take at this next sentence, here goes: I missed them and I’m really glad they’re around.

Both of my parents adore The Baby. My dad is retired/disabled and thus is around during the day when he’s not taking care of my grandfather and is good company as I adapt to SAHM-hood. He’s also great with The Baby. But my mom is FANTASTIC with The Baby and can keep him occupied and giggling for a good long time. Her many years as a home child care provider are really shining now that she’s a grandmother.

She is currently at the park with The Baby so that I can get some rush freelancing work done. This is the first outing The Baby has gone on with someone other than his parents. While a gigantic part of me wishes I were also at the playground with them, I’m grateful to be able to hand him over so I can clock some time and earn some cash.

I came to a good break point while awaiting some feedback so I might go do something reckless like take a shower.

One last thing: Thanks to everyone who commented with well wishes and commiseration and book suggestions and sleep training (or not sleep training) suggestions in response to my previous post. Sometimes motherhood can really knock you off your feet. Thank you for helping me back up. ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

Working at home

Raising a low-tech baby (isn’t easy)

Raising a low-tech babyHere’s another post in the Things I’m Trying Not to Sound Sanctimonious About series I have accidentally started…

Among the many things I decided were important to me as a parent was the hope that electronics, and specifically devices with screens, would not become staples in my child-rearing arsenal. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents of children under two should avoid exposing them television and “other entertainment media,” with the reasoning that children this young learn best when they’re interacting with people, not screens.

While the AAP and I differ on some topics, I think it makes good sense to try our best to delay as long as possible The Baby’s inevitable obsession with screens. I want him to be able to use his imagination, to be able to engage face-to-face with people and to not need a screen as a crutch when he is bored, frustrated or lonely. As much as screens can connect us to each other, I find the very exercise of trying to get away from them more myself has proven to me that life feels more meaningful when you’re not staring into the glow.

I know as he gets more mobile and grabby and demanding, the temptation to stick a phone in his face so I can have two minutes to use the bathroom will grow stronger and stronger, but I’m really going to try to resist as long as I can, and even after he hits two, I hope we will be able to introduce screens in a way that keeps our values intact.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the first six months of this experience, though.

It’s really hard.

As someone who grew up watching 37 hours of TV a day, who had physical fights with my brother over whose turn it was on the computer, who makes money and nurtures a career on a computer and who is absolutely addicted to my mobile device, I have had to make some big life changes to accommodate this aspiration.

The Husband and I binge-watched Netflix the first three weeks home with The Baby (who certainly was not watching any of it), but as soon as he went back to work, I committed to only watching the morning news and keeping the TV off until TH came home from work to wean myself from the habit of keeping it on all the time. When we moved, we didn’t have the TV set up for over a month.

As soon as The Baby took an interest in glowing screens around two months or so (I think?) we began to try to make sure they’re off when he’s around. It’s hard to even quickly check my email with The Baby around, because the second the screen lights up, he’s whipping his head toward in wonder.

I’ve started listening to the radio and playing music for him when we play. I listen to podcasts when I need to hear adults talking as I do the dishes. I’ve tried to keep battery-powered, lights-and-sounds toys to a minimum because I want him to be able to use his imagination (and honestly, because battery-powered lights-and-sounds toys are annoying as hell on top of being horrible for the environment. Sanctimony achieved. Let’s go back to me describing my weaknesses and flaws, shall we?)

I try my best to look him in the eye and save my idle screen scrolling for when he’s asleep, but those flashing notification lights are like a siren’s song, luring me to check out of whatever I’m doing with The Baby. I know he doesn’t need perpetual direct attention from me, but I also know that even though he’s very small, I’m setting an example, and it’s not always a good one. It makes my heart explode with guilt when I look up from my phone to see that my baby has been smiling at me and trying to get my attention. I know The Husband struggles with this too. We are equally guilty of this frustrating habit and I so wish we could do better.

I hired a mother’s helper last week to come entertain The Baby for a few hours a few days a week so I can get work done. I’ve started putting him down for his first stretch of the night in his own crib so The Husband and I can spend some time watching a little TV together after dinner. There are plenty of other things I’d like to be doing: online classes and tutorials to hone my graphic design skills, being a more attentive blogger (and blog reader), and keeping in touch with friends, but for now, it’s more important for me to be present for my baby.

That’s the crazy dilemma and the irony that technology brings, especially for parents and probably most especially for stay-at-home parents. It’s easier than ever before to continue to make money, to stay connected and avoid isolation as you stay at home with your kids, but it’s also easier than ever to check out and miss out on meaningful time with your kids.

Fellow SAHMs, fellow mommy bloggers, fellow phone addicts, tell me: Do you share these challenges? Are you keeping your kids away from screens until two, or did you give in? How do you help yourself and your family manage media consumption and stay present for each other?

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Raising a low-tech baby (isn’t easy)