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From the blog:

POST:

How to Deal With Work and Life When Your Kid Gets Sick

CATEGORY:

Uncategorized

Date:

April 11, 2019

For the past month, my entire family has been battling winter and eary spring illnesses. First my five-year-old woke up with a wet cough that lasted three weeks and prompted phone calls from the school nurse. Then, my youngest caught the same bug and ended up with a secondary ear infection four days later. My nanny followed suit in what seemed like 48 hours: she let me know with a 5 a.m. text that she had pink eye and couldn’t see, much less take care of my kids, for a few days. Then a round of stomach flu came through, knocking down almost all of us in a slough of vomiting and diarrhea episodes that severely challenged my cheap Target sheets and forced us to buy multiple sets of new pillows. The pièce de l résistance came when I awoke one night to my oldest child LITERALLY vomiting onto my hair from where she was sleeping behind me. Thank goodness we just took a vacation, resetting the sickness cycle in our home, but I’m just holding my breath waiting for the next round of illnesses to start up again.

Worrying about a sick child is one thing but, when you’re a working mom, the additional stress that comes with navigating care logistics for that sick child is quite another. As a pediatrician, I see how competely devastating illnesses can be for moms when it comes to maintaining their own presence in the workplace. And, while sometimes kids really are so unwell that they need constant supervision and isolation to get better, a lot of times parents don’t realize that there are tricks many of us use with our own kids to get through sick season with a little more sanity. Here are my top strategies for dealing with winter and spring sickness worries:

Stay Away From Sick People 

Not all illnesses are avoidable (you read what I just said about the last month at my house, right?), but environmental factors do play a role. A kid that goes to indoor play facilities (like a children’s museum or indoor play gym) multiple times a week will be more likely to catch whatever viruses are floating around there. I’m serious—I swore off almost enclosed shared play places during peak sick seasons once I went through one winter with my first child.  Anything with “Children’s” in the title is a no-go for me during peak winter weeks. I’m not a shut-in, I just pick and choose activities based on the scientific fact that more kids plus more germs equals more chances of your kid getting germs, too. During sick season, I opt for outdoor snow activities, pottery painting studios, and smaller gatherings. Knowing full well you can never completely avoid illness, I try to at least play the odds correctly. 

Likewise, a kid in daycare will be exposed to more germs on a daily basis just due to the sheer number of other children they’re around. Yes, over time that can contribute to a stronger immune system but, for some (especially those gentically predisopsed to specific conditions like ear infections) it can mean a world of hurt every winter. In my office, we sometimes refer to the constant runny nose we see in our daycare patients as “daycare-itis”, since it seems like it never, ever goes away. Every child is different—some kids seem to skate by without a cold or rash—but it is a recurring theme. 

It’s not that the choice to do daycare versus in-home care is better or worse—Lord knows there are about a billion other factors to consider wehen you make that choice (like money)—but the sickness factor is a big one. Even though a nanny or smaller in-home setting can seem more expensive on the surface, your cost-benefit childcare analysis should also account for potential days of work missed due to your child’s illnesses if they’ll be in a group care setting. In my profession, it’s not impossible to take a day off but it is a huge inconvenience to my patients and to my business partners. So that I can avoid missed work days, I look for ways to avoid my kids catching major illnesses in the first place.

Be a Bit More Vigilent

There are a few basics of good health that every parent knows are important but, if you’re a working mom, these things are critical:

Wash Those Hands!

Parents often spend a ton of money on fancy, cold-busting vitamins and supplements, but the best way to prevent catching most germs is free: hand washing. Teach your kids to thoroughly scrub with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds each time they wash and to head to the sink before meals, after using the bathroom, and after they cough or sneeze. 

Keep Your Febrile Child Home

There is a (very good) reason most child care centers and schools have a policy that students should stay home if they’ve had a fever within the previous 24 hours: when a virus or bacteria attacks the human body, fever is part of the body’s attempt to fight back. Schools and care centers don’t want kids hanging out in classrooms while the illness battle is still raging, as the bacteria or virus may make its way to another student in the process. Instead, use the time at home to help your child focus on fluids and rest so he can re-enter care ready to learn and play.

Teach Your Child About the “Cough Pocket”

When you sneeze or cough, little virus or bacteria particles go shooting through the air (I know, science is kinda gross, but it’s also kinda cool). They can travel up to 50-200 miles per hour. In an ideal world, kids would catch all those nasties in a piece of tissue, but youngsters often don’t have that much foresight. Be practical instead. Show your child how to make a cough pocket with his elbow. Don’t be surprised if this takes quite a bit of reinforcing. Good habits take time to ingrain.

Attend to the Basics 

Our bodies avoid and fight illnesses best when they’re in prime shape. Eating a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains sets kids up for health success. Give your kids plenty of exercise and water, focus on healthy sleep habits, make sure they’re up to date on all their vaccinations.

Get a Back Up Plan in Place 

When people ask me how I get everything done in my life—professionally, personally, when it comes to my kids—I always have a simple answer: Back Up. Help. Listen, Murphy’s Law seems to apply even more strongly when you have multiple balls you’re juggling because there are more chances for things TO GO WRONG. When I hear celebrity or CEO moms talk about how they do it all because they’re organized or because “somehow they just make it work,” I want to scream. It’s a lie—one that makes mega millionaires feel better about themselves but that makes the rest of us feel like we’ll never measure up or that we must be doing something wrong. It’s like they’ve photoshopped motherhood right along with their Instagram pages. Here’s the real truth: I get everything done because I have other people who help me do it all—when my kids are well AND when they’re sick as stink. 

Childcare Providers

My first line of defense is my nanny. Yes, just like any other good mama, I feel guilty as all get-out when I think about my kids sick at home with a caregiver while I work. But, then I remember (when it comes to my nanny), THAT’S WHAT I PAY HER TO DO. She’s not just there for the trips to the zoo and the tea parties. She’s primarily there to care for my kids when I can’t be. 

Family or Friends

You’ve got to build a network of people around you who can pitch-hit when necessary. This is one of the most important reasons for getting at least a small tribe of other moms around you unless you live in close proximity to your relatives. My parents live about 25 minutes away in a neighboring city—close enough to help out but no so close that it feels like we’re breathing down eachothers’ necks. They help out for weekend getaways, date nights, impromptu meetings on my days off. Most importantly, they help me when my kids are sick. 

I fully realize that not all families live close by their extended relatives, and that some relationships make relying on family way more complicated. That’s okay. If family is not a realistic option, this is where that tribe of other moms and friends come in.

How do you find them? As my friend Ann Marie puts it, “Making adult friends is stupid. It’s way harder than it was when we were in preschool or kindergarten. Making adult friends requires forced vulnerability.” 

That’s why those infant mommy and me classes are so great at helping you bond with all parents. You’re all scared, unsure of how to raise this little being, totally unprepared. When it doesn’t go well, you’re vulnerable enough at that moment to get help from someone else—even if you don’t know them well—and to build meaningful relationships. 

Traditional mommy and me groups have never been quite my style, but I have developed those more vulnerable friendships through parallel learning activities like baby and me music classes (Music Together is a personal favorite) and postnatal mama-baby or mama-tot exercise classes. I’ve developed some of my closest mom friendships over shared hikes and crunches. Now that my kids are a little older, I make it a point to chat at school pick-up on my day off and to schedule play dates during times my daughters and I can attend. I’m intentionally, slowly connecting with other parents in my neighborhood. We may not end up as besties, but I know I can count on them if I am running five minutes late to pick up or need a 30-minute pitch hitter when the nurse’s office calls me away from work and I need a few more moments to wrap things up before heading home. 

Your Partner

One year ago, my littlest came down with Croup and spent three nights hacking away like a baby seal. I came home from work to her lying on the rug in my living room, curled up in a tiny ball, clutching a stuffed animal while my husband rubbed her back. Then, New Year’s Day, she wound up in Urgent Care after waking from a nap with a 103 fever and labored breathing, bless her little heart.

Needless to say, the mama inside me outweighed my medical degree both of those evenings. I had to force my mind to “think like a pediatrician.” I also had to take a deep breath and try NOT to think about all the work I would inevitably miss, the wasted childcare dollars I would no doubt forfeit, and the sleepless nights I was bound to encounter before she recovered from her respiratory illness. 

When your child is sick, it’s inherently emotional. You may feel like only YOU can be there to watch over your little one but remember to let your partner take the lead on bowing out of work or handling a sick day school pick up when it makes sense.

One mom I talked to explained: “Hey, I’ve got a job where, if I don’t go to work, we potentially lose out on thousands of billable dollars.” 

If that mom doesn’t work for a day, no one brings in money for her small business. Her husband, on the other hand, works for a traditional organization that offers paid sick days and vacation days as part of his compensation package. If he misses a day of work, it’s stressful, but it’s not earth-shattering. While the world may still expect her to drop everything to pick up her child at daycare for an illness, that just doesn’t make sense for them.

“That doesn’t mean that, sometimes, my desire to be with my kids when there’s a problem doesn’t win out over left-brain analytics and money, but nine times out of ten, the choice is a no-brainer.”

Think Like a Pediatrician

As I remind myself to stay objective during cough and flu season, all the sick kid parenting pearls I try to share with my patients’ parents in clinic week after week, are at the forefront of my mind:

Follow Your Gut

If you are worried about your child, call someone. Make an appointment. Get them in front of a medical professional. You know your kid best so, if they seem off to you, listen to that little voice inside your head telling you to take action. Pediatricians aren’t irritated when a parent wants their child to be seen “just to be sure everything is okay.” Actually, we would much rather that than the alternative – a serious condition gone unchecked. Kids tend to rally well at first with sickness but then can crash pretty fast. It’s better to get the parenting tips you need early on so you don’t get to a more critical point.

If you’re a new parent, that may mean you call as soon as your child gets a small cough. No problem. Your doctor or their nurse can guide you through what to expect and what to do- consider it your sick kid mini-education. As you get more and more experienced, you’ll gain confidence, you’ll know the basic ways to handle minor illnesses and you likely won’t need as much assistance.

Whenever possible, you want a medical provider caring for your child who really knows their stuff – someone trained specifically in pediatrics (obviously, if you are on vacation or in an emergency situation, that’s not always realistic). When you do have a choice, choose pediatric-trained providers so they can get the most accurate medical history possible and can provide the most up-to-date care.

Understand Honesty is Important and Details Matter

If your child has had a fever for one day or for five days, those are completely different situations, each of which triggers different levels of testing and medical interventions, depending on age. As I sat in the urgent care clinic with my daughter last week and watched a practitioner shrug a little when I said she had just developed her fever, it was tempting to try to sell how bad her illness was. Sometimes, I know, it feels like elaborating a tiny bit to get the attention of medical providers will help when it comes to a sick kid, but that can backfire. You don’t want your child to have extra bloodwork, imaging (X-rays, etc) or medications when they don’t need them. It can lead to unnecessary and sometimes harmful side effects and even hospitalizations.

Believe That We Believe You

I cannot count the number of times someone has brought their febrile child into my office, completely miserable, so that I can see how sick they really are. No fever-reducers on board, the poor kids and their parents must have had a horrible time on their car ride over to clinic. But there’s no need to show us your child at their worst. It’s fine to give your son or daughter acetaminophen or ibuprofen (these medications can be age- and condition-dependent – check with your health professional if you’re not sure) before your doctor’s visit. In fact, the best way for medical professionals to accurately assess how your child is doing can be to see them WITHOUT THE FEVER when possible, since they sometimes look worse than they actually are when febrile.

Use Antibiotics Judiciously

Sometimes, a parent will seem disappointed when I tell them their child has an upper respiratory infection (aka a cold) and doesn’t need antibiotics. Remember, it’s a GOOD thing if there isn’t a need for extra medicine. You don’t want antibiotics unless you really need them.

Every drug has side effects and, if we give antibiotics for colds, the medication:

-Doesn’t change a thing about how fast a child gets better.

-May give them issues with diarrhea.

-Contributes to antibiotic resistance (when an antibiotic stops working against the bacteria it was designed to treat and makes it harder and harder to treat serious illnesses).

It’s hard to wait out a viral illness, letting the storm pass until the sun comes out again, but it’s worth it to concentrate on comfort care if your doctor prescribes it versus fighting for an unnecessary medicine.

Accept Illnesses Can Change Quickly

When we see you in the office, we’re catching your child at a moment in time. We hear about what has happened so far and we base our diagnosis on our exam that day. It’s one data point. Often, though, an illness can change within hours or days and, without a crystal ball, it’s impossible to predict which direction a sickness will go. It’s not surprising to us when we need to schedule a re-check appointment to make sure things are improved or when a parent calls us back to say a child is still sick. That’s why we give so many contingency after-visit instructions. Most of the time, we can solve an issue with one evaluation but it can take a bit more complex problem-solving with multiple visits at other times.

Find a Provider Who Welcomes Your Questions

Part of my job as a pediatrician is to make sure I translate all the medicalese for my patients and their parents, assuring they leave with a solid understanding of what’s wrong with their child and what they can expect as they recover. I know it is sometimes terrifying (or sometimes just super inconvenient) to have a sick kid and that parents need answers and explanations. I’m used to it. ALL doctors are. So, ask away. Clarify. Pull out the list of worries. Let us know the underlying issues (like, “When will my child be better and when will I be able to go back to work?”). We’re all ears and, in the end, it’s easier for all of us to be on the same page from the get-go than to let frustration or confusion play a role in your child’s illness.

I’m not gonna lie – having sick kids is one of the most challenging parts of modern parenting, especially for working moms. The schedule re-arranging, the miserable little one, the scary unknowns of illness – it all adds up. Remember, pediatricians know how hard it is to care for sick children (I do it myself all the time!) and we want your child to get better as fast as possible, too. Access the resources you have, work on prevention first, make a care plan, and get the answers you need. Above all, follow your gut – if you’re worried, get help (or just peace of mind).

Want More Parenting Help?

Want more information about how to parent and cope when you’re a new mom? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care For Your Infant and Yourself.

new mom, breastfeeding, parenting hacks, new mom hacks

Looking for baby registry or baby shower gifts? You’ll love our Newborn Gift Boxes (in Baby Boy, Baby Girl, and Gender Neutral). They’re full of information, inspiration, and a little love for all the mamas and mamas-to-be in your life (including you!).

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motherhood hacks for working moms of toddlers and infants

POST:

Modern Mommy Hacks | Practicing Patience When You’re All Tired Out

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

March 18, 2019

Patience. It’s hard when you’re a parent.

I don’t just mean when it comes to handling baby blowouts and toddler tantrums, though Lord knows those moments will test most any mom. Practicing patience is the hardest when it comes to the hurdles we wait for our kids to move past, for the milestones we worry they’ll never achieve. Just like being okay with the stage of motherhood we’re in right now is a huge challenge, so is being okay with the stage of childhood our kids are in at this moment.

I thought long and hard about my perspective on developmental leaps and setbacks this week.

In the course of just a few days, we had milestone breakthroughs for both of my daughters—one simple, one monumental:

 

Parenting Milestones

First, my two and a half-year-old started pooping on the potty. She just walked right into the bathroom, climbed onto the toilet, and an announced, “I’m a big girl! Now I’m ready for preschool.” She had been using the toilet to pee like a champion for a few weeks, earning stickers left and right. Suddenly, though, without any prompting or prodding, she was fully underwear-ready.

No big deal. Simple. Easy.

I’m pretty sure I was way more excited than she was, given I immediately started counting up dollars saved now that I only have to buy enough diapers to cover naps and nighttime sleep.

Next, the monumental event came to pass (I’ll just go ahead and warn you, it’s not going to seem monumental to you at all): my five and a half-year-old looked me straight in the eyes and beamed. Yes, she has smiled before, but this time when she did it she was dancing, leaping across the floor of the school gym with an audience of peers and parents at 9:25 on a Friday morning.

No big deal. Simple. Easy. Right? Wrong.

There was a time I held that same anxious daughter in my arms while she watched all the other kids she knew enjoy soccer or dance or swimming, terrified something horrible would happen to her if she gave it a shot. There was a time I wasn’t sure if her fearfulness would allow her to make it in social or classroom settings. There was a time my worries about her worries completely overwhelmed me. So to see my baby walk confidently in front of a room full of moms and dads and flash me a thumbs up before she pliéd across the floor made me all weepy with pride. It’s not that I care if she dances specifically (actually, long term picking some less perfection-driven passion may serve her better), it’s that I care that she’s beginning to develop some resilience and maturity. She’s growing up.

As I look back at what helped her get so big and brave this week, I’d love to pat myself on the back for perfectly parenting my anxious child up until now. I’m sure my pediatrician-level understanding of the brain and the help of several psychologists along the way helped, but in the end, she did it all on her own.

 

The biggest lesson I learned this week?

Often times we bang our heads against the wall for months (or years) trying to move our kids in the direction we hope they’ll go but, along with our parenting prowess, leaps in development (and beyond fears) usually happen because our kids’  desires to experience something awesome outweighs the potential risks they perceive in that activity. In short, joy has to overpower trepidation for them to move forward. When they finally take that leap, it reinforces how amazing it can be to take a chance.  My incremental work over the past several years to move her past her worries mattered but that it was just the foundation: her own excitement over being a part of this particular class performance is what pushed her over the edge.

Every parent has their own moment when they feel at odds with their kids’ progression through a particular developmental challenge—moments they can’t change because they’re not meant to be changed, they’re meant to be waded through or waited for.

We can worry our way through them, we can internet search our way through them or we can, after checking in with professionals and advisors we trust, just sink into them.

For most modern moms I know, worrying is the default when our kids don’t get to whatever’s next quite fast enough, be it a developmental milestone, a social leap or a move toward independence. Anxiety defines our parenting generation. I’m not sure we can help it—we have a constant influx of information, a steady diet of dissidence on almost every topic (including parenting philosophies), a billion to-dos, and conflicting commitments. We’re stressed, not just about our kids but about our own lives. Sometimes we forget that, even if we’re going a mile a minute, and it feels like our struggles should hurry up and get with the picture, too, they cannot. Some things, especially the most painful things, just take their own sweet time. Worrying about them, although it feels productive, just makes them take even longer to pass.

 

“Aha” Moments

Nine times out of ten, my “aha” parenting moments have some element of, “I’ll do it differently next time,” but not this one. This one was about letting things happen like they’re supposed to, waiting for the rain to stop pouring down until the sun comes out again. If you’re in a tough spot—either with your kids or with yourself—remember: time makes most things better. After you’ve worried and worked to find a solution, take a second to decide you may have to just get the support you need, take breaks, and wait a little longer.

 

Confidence begets confidence.

Yesterday, another breakthrough on a cloudless blue sky day. Suddenly, my timid little girl is yelling, “Superspeed mode!” as she careens down the sidewalk on her bike, shedding her hesitation to ride solo from just a few days prior. “I’m building up my stamina, Mama!” she calls back to me, her hair a stream of sunlight as she pumps her little legs and grips the handlebars with all her might, so sure of herself and her newfound strength. My heart is pumping fast, too, as I run to catch up, beating harder from relief and release than from anything else. A million things I’ve held onto, a million things I’ve had no control over, a million things that have to just work themselves out.

Let me remember this next time I’m feeling stuck: growing up, leaps and setbacks and all the mucky stuff in-between. It’s all part of it. Have patience. Don’t rush it, mama.

 

Want More Parenting Help?

Want more information about how to parent and cope when you’re a new mom? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care For Your Infant and Yourself.

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Looking for baby registry or baby shower gifts? You’ll love our Newborn Gift Boxes (in Baby Boy, Baby Girl, and Gender Neutral). They’re full of information, inspiration, and a little love for all the mamas and mamas-to-be in your life (including you!).

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mommy hacks for parents of anxious kids and toddler tantrums

POST:

Why You Need a Family Happy Place: The Power of a Family Vacation

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

March 3, 2019

Three weeks, two days, seven hours and twenty minutes, but who’s counting? I am. The anticipation is killing us at my house as we painstakingly mark days off on the calendar ’til our next family vacation. Even my two and a half-year-old joins in the “Hawaii, Hawaii, Hawaii” car ride chants her older sister spontaneously bursts into on the regular these days. My next dedicated getaway with my family may be almost a month away but, in my mind, I’m already there.

I’m all for finding contentment wherever life finds us, in using mindfulness to appreciate the beauty of right where we are instead of wistfully wasting our lives away on what we’d rather be doing but, sometimes, having a happy place in our minds can actually play a huge role in getting us through the roughest patches we face. I have not one, but three, magical moments seared in my mind that my brain flips to on the regular, especially when my kids are acting up or my day job is making me seriously question my career choice.

In one scene, I’m lying on a yacht along the blue-green water off the Amalfi Coast (I know, it’s a little much—just bear with me here). I can smell fried calamari from seaside cafes and I’m holding a glass of white wine. I am—no joke—lying in a two-piece retro emerald green swimsuit on my back with my pre-baby body and I’m laughing. I’m not laughing like belly laughing. I’m laughing like Beyoncé on her yacht “Oh ha, that’s so amusing” laughing. There’s radio music—classical Italian —and crisp green grapes. The sun is hitting my shoulders and my hair so that I literally look and feel like a goddess.

Now, I’ve been to the Amalfi Coast and I’ve even been on a boat in the Amalfi Coast (a tiny speed boat we rented for $50 an hour with NO grapes and NO wine and definitely NO PRE-BABY BODY), but the odds of me getting back there anytime soon are slim to none. In fact, the trip was a poor financial decision and it took us years to pay down the credit card bill). Still, the romanticized version in my head of what it was like to be there is as real as the sky is blue.

In another, I’m lying in a hammock on the beach in Hawaii (see a theme here)? It’s me and my then 8-month old daughter. We’re giggling and softly swaying as we look up at the blue sky and the palm trees. The sound of ukelele music wafts through the air from our condo, where my husband blends Costco Pina Coladas and plates fish tacos from the local food truck.

For the last one, I’m snuggled in my bed with my husband and my two kids. We took a day off work. School’s out. We’re playing Stevie Wonder on our Bluetooth speaker. The sheets and the covers feel so soft and snuggly. It’s bright outside and peaceful inside. We’ll probably make waffles at some point. We have nowhere else to be, nothing else to do. We’re just here, with our people, in our home.

These are my three happy places. Two are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The Amalfi Coast on a millionaire’s yacht? That will likely never come to full fruition but it doesn’t matter. It triggers my mind to relax, to slow down, to breathe.

Snuggling up in my bed? That one is fully approachable. I could have a “four peas in a pod” moment most weekends if I made it a priority. It just probably won’t be as prolonged or as peaceful as my mind makes me think it will be. Inevitably, one of my kids will complain that the other one is taking up too much room, the other one will steal half the covers, my husband will realize the waffle maker is broken and World War Three will break out between my kids as we decide over alternatives like pancakes or French toast. Still, it’s a good place to go back to—literally and physically.

See, as much as I try to live my life based on a fundamental belief that I can be content wherever I am—that my perspective is what drives my satisfaction, not my circumstances—sometimes I need to physically remove myself from my day to day (or weekend to weekend) life. My kids? They can come along, too, cause it turns out they need to get out of their ruts and tired routines, too.

The research is clear that vacations matter to our kids—toys and stuff can’t even come close. Plus, getting away—not necessarily to a foreign country or to an island, but to just about anywhere that promotes relaxation, communication, and maybe a little boredom, matters for families, too.

Camping and beach trips are just as good, if not better, than high-stress, multi-plane adventures. Vacations not only allow us to take a step back from the drone of life, they also allow us to explore new places, to make new memories, and to simplify—together. Family vacations are an amazing way to model self-care and to get out of our day-to-day grind.

Now, can vacations also be stressful and annoying? Of course. Don’t plan a super complicated, 5-week adventure with your 3-year-old (if you do and you complain about it to me, I will only say I told you so). Do age-appropriate vacations and plan for what can go wrong, when possible, realizing you won’t be able to control everything all the time.

 

What About All That Can Go Wrong On a Family Vacation?

 

For real, though, I hear you saying. What about all the hassles of travel? So much can go right when you travel with babies and young kids—chances for adventure, opportunities to re-connect and to re-charge—but SOOOOO much can go wrong: cranky kids, flight delays, unexpected illness. It can be overwhelming to even start to consider taking your little ones on more than a local jaunt. I’m not about to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a leisure trip if it feels way more stressful than leisurely.

So, is it even worth it to try? Definitely!!

 

Just make sure you follow these parenting tips on how to keep your troupe safe and sane on your family vacation:

 

Bring Help Whenever Possible

When we went to Hawaii two years ago with our then eight-month-old baby and three-year-old toddler, we decided to bring our nanny with us. At first, we felt really embarrassed we were planning it that way. It was a little “too rich for our blood,” my husband said. He barely mentioned it to his family when they asked how we were going to juggle both kids, two flights and our desire to actually relax once we got to our island destination.

But, after we came back, he could not contain himself about what a completely different experience we would have had without her. I’m so glad we made the decision to set aside our pride. We did the simple math on affordability and made a choice that worked for us. In the end, it cost us about $500 more on an eight-day trip to have her come along (since we would have been paying for her to care for our kids anyway during that week based on our contract with her).

Last year when we went on a family vacay, we brought grandma # 1 for the first week and grandma #2 for the second. It was an even more cost-effective way to actually meet our trip-away goals.

I can already feel my blood pressure lowering as we arrange the details of our next stay with extra help on the packing list.

Plan Ahead for Illness and Emergencies

Especially when you travel internationally (or to a more remote destination), don’t assume you’ll be able to find the medications or the products you need. Bring ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) when appropriate (plus know your child’s dose). Pack a first aid kit, plus diaper creams and a sunblock you trust. Make sure you remember a thermometer, plus the normal soaps, shampoos, and lotions your child’s body is used to. In my pediatric office. we see countless patients come back from trips with skin irritation and rashes from using hotel-brand products.

Before you go, look into how to access care in case of emergency or in case of mild illness. If you book on sites like Airbnb or VRBO, take advantage of your host’s knowledge of the local area and the local healthcare system.

Get an international phone plan so you can access family or make phone calls for help if necessary.  Familiarize yourself with Google Translate so, if you are stuck with a language barrier, you can communicate more effectively.

Pack Efficiently

I tend to overpack. I want to make sure I have all the items I need everywhere I go. The upside? I’m ready for most anything. The downside? Usually, I can hardly find the one item I really need as I sift through all the junk I stuffed into my heavy suitcase. This year, I’ve learned to pare it down and lighten my load. It makes it easier in the car, on the airplane and throughout the airport. The less you lug and the more efficiently you lug it the better.

Pick an Itinerary That Matches Your Kid’s Temperament

It might sound like a good idea to travel around the world with your two-year-old and it very well might be. But if your two-year-old is temperamental (or is just typical), think it through before you buy the tickets. On a smaller scale, we have plenty of discussions in my house before a big trip about how to get from Point A to Point B with the least amount of drama. For every adult-focused activity on our vacations, we plan a kid-focused activity. We know when to call it quits on our itinerary, even if we’ve already bought the museum entrance tickets and it feels like we’re wasting our hard-earned money. Dragging yourself through an experience is not a trip, it’s just annoying. No one gives out medals at the end for “Biggest Vacation Martyr.”

Understand That No Good Trip Goes Unpunished

Brace yourself a little for some sleep deprivation and some minor illnesses once you come back from your vacation. If you can, plan ahead so you have a recovery day at the end of your adventure to just catch up on laundry and get the house and yourselves back in order. Anticipate you might have to use your down day to tend to things you forgot to take care of while you were away or that came up when you returned.

 

Special Tips for Traveling in Airports With Babies and Toddlers On Your Family Vacation

 

Carry As Little As Possible, Check The Rest

Know how, when you go through the airport, your carry-on luggage and personal item seem to somehow get heavier and heavier the further you walk? Multiply that times ten with a baby because you now have an extra PERSON you are lugging. There are obviously some items you have to bring with you – a small stack of diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, bottles if formula-feeding. But, the less stuff you have to lug through security, through the terminal or into the overhead bins, the better. Better to check it and forget it, in my book.

Don’t Spend Extra Time in The Airport, Except When Boarding The Plane.

A lot of new parents think they should get to the airport super early if they are traveling with a baby or child. Usually, though, that just means extra chances for meltdowns (for your baby, not you) and germs. Obviously, give yourself enough time to make your plane, but don’t plan to linger excessively. On the other hand, when it’s time to board the plane, consider your unique situation. Airlines offer family boarding early on in the boarding process, which can be tempting. If you don’t have an assigned seat or you have carry-on luggage that demands overhead bin space, take full advantage of this perk. If you haven’t brought much with you, though, consider minimizing the amount of time you have to sit “trapped” in a small space with your infant.

Stay Away From Sick People

This is a hard one since, notoriously, airports and airplanes tend to be germ fests. The number one way to avoid a baby getting seriously ill from air travel? Don’t take them until after they are old enough to receive their first set of vaccines and are out of the highest infection risk zone (in our practice, we don’t give the first set of vaccines until at least six weeks old and recommend waiting a few weeks after vaccination for the shots to take effect before flying. I waited until about three months until flying with my first baby). Once you’re on your way, it pays off to wash your hands well with soap and water often, wipe down the seats, and to keep your baby away from direct contact with sick people.

Help With Ear Discomfort

Once you depart on your flight, you’ll want to help minimize discomfort in your baby’s ears, which can build as the pressure changes with altitude shifts. Giving baby something to suck on (a pacifier, a bottle or a breast) can really help. On the way up, it’s obvious when you need to pay attention to helping your little one with this but, on the way down, it’s easy to get the timing wrong. Instead of waiting for the flight staff to tell you you’ve started your descent, be observant. When you start to feel the plane descending, get your baby going on an ear pain prevention plan by initiating some type of sucking motion (note: if they are asleep, let them sleep). For toddlers, let them know their ears might feel funny on the way up or down. Ask them to look up and make a silent lion’s roar to help initiate a yawn, thereby triggering the eustachian tube to clear.

Give Into (Just a Little) Screentime

When parents ask me about alternatives to screentime on airplanes for older kids (two years and up), I have to laugh. Most of the time, I’m a huge proponent of avoiding excessive screentime for our kids. It distracts us from making real connections as families, replaces opportunities for creativity and physical activity, and contributes to behavioral problems. When it comes to super long plane rides, though, it’s a different story. Since it’s completely unnatural for us to ask our kids to sit for six hours in a tiny seat, it’s also completely natural for them to get bored out of their minds and want to watch movie after movie.

Consider making a plan ahead of the flight with your child. For longer flights, we like to have our five-year-old play games and draw for the first hour or so, then watch a movie, then take a brain and food break. If we’ve still got hours to go, we definitely let her dig back into another show. Treat screentime like ice cream. If you give it to your kids in large quantities every day, it will overwhelm their little systems. If you let loose every once in a while, it’s not such a big deal.

Forget Over-Apologizing

So you have a baby or a toddler on a plane? Oh, well. Tons of other passengers have been in your situation and we’re not irritated when we hear your baby cry or hears you say for the umpteenth time, “Johnny, please get back in your seat.” Those who are will have to just suffer through. If your baby wails the entire trip, it makes sense to at least acknowledge the patience and understanding of others around you. But those little gifts some propose to assuage your neighbors preventatively? Unless you have tons of free hours you would not rather spend doing ANYTHING else, I say forget it. You paid to be on the plane just like everyone else and you’re doing way more hard to work to make the trip successful than any of your seatmates.

When I Am Eighty

My friend Christie, a business exec coach and an all-around amazing working mom puts family vacations and moments into perspective so well:

“I often ask my clients to imagine they are in their eighties looking back on their lives. What do they want to say about it? What would they regret? What priorities and values do they want to say they lived by?… When I’m older and look back at my life and look around the room, (here’s) what I want to see: family and friends. True connection is what actually matters.”

We live in a world where overdoing it is the norm and where taking a break is often seen as a sign of weakness. It’s not. Take a family vacation. You don’t just want, you need, to create some happy places for your family—places you’ll remember when your kids are grown, memories you can access on your hardest days, moments that will, in the end, be the best ones of your life.

Want More Parenting Help?

Want more information about how to parent and cope when you’re a new mom? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care For Your Infant and Yourself.

new mom, breastfeeding, parenting hacks, new mom hacks

Looking for baby registry or baby shower gifts? You’ll love our Newborn Gift Boxes (in Baby Boy, Baby Girl, and Gender Neutral). They’re full of information, inspiration, and a little love for all the mamas and mamas-to-be in your life (including you!).

new mom advice, top tips for new moms, breastfeeding advice, baby gear, baby gift, baby registry

mommy tips and motherhood hacks for vacation with babies and toddlers

 

POST:

Motherhood Hacks: Reducing Your Mental Load By Sharing It With Your Partner

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

February 14, 2019

My husband is not doing what I need him (want him) to do fast enough, the way I’d do it, or with the same level of intensity I think it requires. He’s putting it off, waiting ’til the last minute, choosing to watch a show on the couch with his feet up and his stinkin’ craft beer in hand instead of jumping into action. We’ve got a lot to get done before tomorrow hits and my mental load is piling up while his seems to be shrinking. 

What’s so pressing? Making a five-year-old’s lunch. Yeah, I’m all worked up over packing turkey and cheese into a hot pink lunchbox for my daughter’s school day. I asked him to do it about an hour ago and there’s still a loaf of cheddar on the counter with no other signs of progress in sight and it is irking me to no end. 

It’s not the first time I’ve gotten all up in arms over something completely insignificant and it’s not the first time we’ve had tension over shared responsibilities and division of labor. A fifteen-year marriage, two kids, two (plus) careers, and a 30-year mortgage puts pressure on even the best-intentioned partners. And, as my husband and I sort out how to balance our own individual needs and desires with the needs of our family, there’s often some dissonance. The more I talk to other moms—especially working moms like me—the more I find a common struggle to be a modern mom in relationships that are still in the process of becoming modern. 

 

Modern Partnership Struggles

Here’s what I mean: my husband and I both work full time. I plan the meals, buy the clothes, do the laundry, sign my kids up for all the activities, make sure the school projects are completed. My husband does A LOT (far more than making simple lunches), but when it comes to our house, our lives, and our kids, I take on the mental load. 

I’m not whining, I’m just stating facts. Women still do more unpaid household tasks in most households, even if they’re primary breadwinners like I am. Turns out gender norms may be changing in the workplace relatively rapidly but, on the homefront, things are often still a little archaic. 

My partner is a caring guy who wants the best for our family and who values equality and teamwork. He’s all both of us pursuing our passions and working together to support our kids, but he and I still somehow struggle, no matter how modern we’ve tried to make our marriage. 

 

Blast From The Past

I mean, just a generation or two ago, our life would have seemed ludicrous to most. Our parents and their parents all divided tasks, generally, along gender lines. That wasn’t always fair, and it definitely left women without opportunities and options but, when it came to relationships, it probably was at least less confusing. You do this (childcare, housework, home life) and I’ll do that (work at an office). 

You still see vestiges of the old mentality  whenever multiple generations gather for holidays or in social settings. Almost every month in my office some sweet grandma will come along to the first newborn check-up, smiling at her son as he changes his baby girl’s diaper with swagger. “He’s such a good father, isn’t he?” she asks me. If by that she means he is able to perform some basic tasks related to keeping a child from getting a urinary tract infection, then YES, for sure. And, when I see the dads beaming from the praise, I just smile back and nod. But, the reality is, helping with a few diaper changes isn’t going to cut it for the “Dad of the Year” award anymore. Most moms I know expect more than that in this day of age.

 

Modern-Day Dads and Mental Load

I’m not bagging on modern-day dads (I’m also not saying all family structures or family struggles are the same—far from it—or that all dads are even the same). In fact, I feel kind of bad for modern dads. I mean, not as bad as I feel for modern-day moms. But I do feel bad. It seems like, when we empowered women to be just as fierce in the workplace as at home, forever changing modern-day motherhood, we forgot about educating men on how to change their perspectives on modern-day fatherhood.

We figured they would just adjust without any effort or preparation, magically skilled and knowledgeable in all things baby or toddler. We wrote them hardly any books and developed hardly any support groups or resources for them on the topic. Add in the Mr. Mom monickers and the media depictions of helpless new dads fumbling through parenting — it’s a not a surprise a lot of dads I see aren’t sure exactly where they fit into the new parenting paradigm. By the way, before you send me a note describing how your partner is the bomb and has it all together and doesn’t NEED books or resources, please realize I meet tons of amazingly-talented fathers every day who are killin’ it in the modern dad department—I know not all dads’ struggles are alike, just like not all moms’ struggles are alike.

 

How do successful moms share the responsibilities and pressures of work and home with their partners in a way that approaches equality and true partnership?

 

I sat down and talked with other professional moms about how they successfully handle home and life balance with their significant others. Some work from home, some are high-level execs, but they all used these common tactics to work as a team.

 

They make their partners aware of the tasks they’re carrying and of when they’re feeling overwhelmed. They share their mental load.

One mom, a couples therapist, explained that, instead of telling her husband what to do, she spends a lot of time just sitting down with her spouse listing off what SHE needs to get done (or make decisions about) and then asking her husband to do the same. She comes at it from the perspective that there are a lot of times she knows her husband has no idea about all the things she’s trying to manage and that there must be some things he’s thinking about that she has no idea about, too. She’s giving him the benefit of the doubt. How does she get the conversation started? They plan what she calls family business meetings, put them on the calendar (“I’d love to say every week but, let’s be real, we have two young kids”) and, just like they map out their finances, they talk through their responsibilities.

 

They divide based on strengths and weaknesses—or based on practical time or financial considerations. 

Another mom I talked to explained: “Hey, I’ve got a job where, if I don’t go to work, we potentially lose out on thousands of billable dollars.” 

If that mom doesn’t work for a day, no one brings in money for her small business. Her husband, on the other hand, works for a traditional organization that offers paid sick days and vacation days as part of his compensation package. If he misses a day of work, it’s stressful, but it’s not earth-shattering. While the world may still expect her to drop everything to pick up her child at daycare for an illness, that just doesn’t make sense for them.

“That doesn’t mean that, sometimes, my desire to be with my kids when there’s a problem doesn’t win out over left-brain analytics and money, but nine times out of ten, the choice is a no-brainer.”

 

They use a common language when talking about what needs to get done. 

A part-time mom explained that, since her partner is a businessman, she uses business team lingo when trying to divide and conquer: 

“So, I’m trying to strategize about how we’ll get everything accomplished for Leah’s start to the school year. Let’s talk through the components we need to make this successful. 

Another mom described her approach based on her and her husband’s mutual love of sports:

“Listen, what part of the team can you head up the next few weeks? If we’re going to win with everything going on this month, we’re really going to have to work hard.”

 

They use technology to their advantage. 

        • Shared calendars (I like Google Calendar for visually coordinating schedules and to-dos)

 

        • Communication apps (Marco Polo—a video chat app that lets you communicate like FaceTime but without having to talk in real time)

 

        • Evernote (great for creating and sharing lists, notes, and reminders with your family members)

 

        • Trello (like an electronic corkboard that makes daunting tasks like vacation planning way easier). 

 

Of course, sometimes it’s better just to go low-tech when you really want to accomplish something. I still make lists in a paper notebook and affix magnetic whiteboards and paper meal planners to my fridge. 

In the end, they choose to ignore and realize that, sometimes, “haters gonna hate.” 

They, just like me, totally ignore eye rolls, small huffs, and pained expressions when it comes to handing off a little more of their mental loads to their partners. 

“I feel like I just have to get over it when I perceive that my husband is annoyed when I let him know what he needs to do so we can keep our house and our home running. I get it. No one wants to be told what to do but, in the process of offloading some of my mental load, sometimes that’s just how it has to happen.”

 

They extend grace to themselves and to their partners as we all make this pretty complicated transition.

“Sometimes you don’t get all the recognition you feel like you deserve (when you’re a mom),” one mom told me. “Sometimes I feel like my husband should be on the sidelines with the biggest loudest blow horn, painted sign, pom poms, shirt with my name on it, screaming at the top of his lungs about how amazing I’m doing at life…and when I look over and his eyes are closed on the couch, I first think what the heck? And secondly I think, am I doing that for him? (That’s when I realize) he’s doing “it all” too.”

 

 They take a giant step back.

It’s annoying to have someone looking over your shoulder, micromanaging your every move. If you’ve ever had a super-controlling boss or even a nitpicky parent, you know the feeling. When someone doesn’t trust us or tries to manage us, it makes us feel resentful and irritated. We sometimes even lose our organic interest in the topic and stop putting our best effort into it.

That’s what happens when we don’t allow our partners to play an equal role in taking care of our children. We kind of sabotage our hope of true co-parenting. Instead, be conscious about how to empower your other half to be the parenting boss more often. That might mean actually leaving the house so he has the space to parent without your eagle eyes. It definitely will mean holding your tongue (or your own sighs or eye rolls or judgment) if he’s not doing things exactly how you would do it.

 

Guess what?

My child had food to eat for school today.

My husband eventually packed my daughter’s lunch (at 5 o’clock in the morning when he woke up and wandered into the kitchen to make it). All that irritation and impatience were in vain. My husband, it turns out, is perfectly capable of being a parent if I let him be one—even if it’s not the high-strung one I am sometimes. 

Sometimes the simplest squabbles help us re-evaluate the most complex relationships we have. In my life, as a working mom trying to make things work, my parenting relationship with my husband is often one of those, especially when it comes to balancing our mental load. The more I give into the fact that we modern families are all in transition, in flux, in “figure it out mode”, the less it all seems like one giant struggle and the more it seems like an opportunity for teamwork and for growth.

 

Want More Parenting Help?

Want more information about how to parent and cope when you’re a new mom? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care For Your Infant and Yourself.

new mom, breastfeeding, parenting hacks, new mom hacks

Looking for baby registry or baby shower gifts? You’ll love our Newborn Gift Boxes (in Baby Boy, Baby Girl, and Gender Neutral). They’re full of information, inspiration, and a little love for all the mamas and mamas-to-be in your life (including you!).

new mom advice, top tips for new moms, breastfeeding advice, baby gear, baby gift, baby registry

 

 

Motherhood Tips For Busy Moms To Reduce Mental Load and Improve Parenting Partnerships

POST:

Our Newest Collab: Modern Mommy Doc + Goumi Kids

CATEGORY:

Babies

Date:

February 4, 2019

We’re thrilled to be partnering with GoumiKids, one of our favorite, mama-founded companies, specializing in organic babywear for preemies to 18-month-olds!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Their Diamond Dots Jamms are our newest addition to our newborn gift boxes. You can add them to any pre-filled box or design your own box from scratch!

 

Even more cool, we’ll also be partnering with them this year to provide more information and resources to moms and moms-to-be in the GoumiKids and Modern Mommy Doc community.

Look out for an exciting new launch from GoumiKids and for a coordinated Instagram Live Events on six pillars of new mommyhood:

Sleep

Nutrition

Safety

Development

Bonding + Connecting

and, probably most important: Grace.

Join us for our first joint Instagram Live Session

Thursday, Feb 14th at 10:30 a.m. PST.

We’ll be dishing on our own new motherhood experiences and inviting moms and moms-to-be to share their stories and ask questions about these important topics.

You can visit our shop to check out our newborn gift boxes and to learn about our programs for moms and moms-to-be.

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