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From the blog:

POST:

4 Ways to Help Dads-To-Be Get Ready for Parenthood

CATEGORY:

Babies, Parents

Date:

April 13, 2018

I know some amazing dads. My husband is one of them. He cares so much about teaching my kids about their worlds. He’s great at getting them excited about cooking and sports and gardening. He gets an A+ in my book (most days).

But the day my daughter came home, when he first earned his dad badge, he said he felt unprepared. Sure, we’d both been present at our birthing class and learned how to swaddle together. Looking back, though, he said he felt like he didn’t know what to expect when it came to normal baby behavior and definitely didn’t feel ready to take the lead on newborn care. I’m sure it didn’t help that his wife was a pediatrician. Still, the more dads I meet, the more I find so many feel the same way.

I feel kind of bad for modern-day dads like the one who lives in my house. 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 perspective on modern-day fatherhood. We figured they would just adjust without any effort or preparation, magically skilled and knowledgeable in all things baby. Add in the Mr. Mom monickers and the media depictions of helpless 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.

How do we include dads in the early baby care process? How do we, as mothers-to-be, encourage and empower them to be equal players as we parent our young children? I say, start here:

Get Educated Together

How does someone become an expert in any field? They study. If, as a mom, you are the only one in your family studying up on babies before or after your infant arrives, you’re going to be the only one who knows anything. And, that means, you’ll be the only one who feels confident enough to take charge.

Everyone learns in different ways. If you learn best by reading, your partner may learn best by attending a class. Or, he may learn best by talking with other dads who have been through the newborn dog days. It probably won’t work to force your partner to learn the exact same way you do, but it will work to expect that both of you have a working knowledge of common baby issues, newborn care basics and proven calming techniques so you can problem-solve from the same educated perspective.

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. If you’re breastfeeder-in-chief in your home, make him soother-in-chief, in charge of calming your baby. 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 sighs or eye rolls or judgment) if he’s not doing things exactly how you would do it. If you both get educated together, you can be equal “experts” and this won’t be so hard.

Take a Strengths-Based Approach

All of us bring amazing things to our parenting partnerships. I see it in my clinic all the time — analytical types asking tons of specific questions, the research-focused contingent searching for the evidence behind pediatric recommendations, laid-back parents letting the stresses of early parenting easily roll off their backs. We all have something we bring to the table. Your partner may be great at diaper changing while you are the baby bath master. He may be able to problem-solve sleep issues while you take the lead on starting solid foods. If you divide and conquer according to the things you’re naturally good at, you’ll be a stronger team.

Give Some Respect

Dads are not complete duds in the baby care department, despite how most TV shows and movies depict them. Seriously, the next time you watch any sitcom with a dad character, look out for all the clueless parent references they make, especially if the child is under three years old. Sometimes, we carry that same attitude toward our partners in real life. We act like, if our partners didn’t birth our babies, they can’t ever be bonified baby whisperers.

The truth is, if we don’t allow dads the space to be amazing family contributors, not just as winners at the office but also as dust-mop wielding, dinner-preparing, diaper-changing Jedis, we miss out on a ton of help and on a ton of balance in our lives.

If you’re about to have your first baby, you’re bound to go through some major changes. So is your partner. But, unlike you, your partner isn’t going to get much guidance at all on his transition to parenthood unless he actively seeks it out. That’s just the way our society works (don’t worry – moms don’t get off easy in the end, either — the pressure to be constantly glowy and happy as we’re compared against the Motherhood Goddess Myth is just as strong and it hits us before our babies even arrive). You can play a major role in helping your partner get ready to be a new parent, though: Let dad be an equal parenting partner and an equal parenting expert from the very beginning.

POST:

There is a Season: Being Okay with the Stage of Motherhood You’re In Now

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

March 28, 2018

I just finished an early morning exercise class. It was only 45 minutes long. By about minute 40, right when the final stretch got underway, I took a second to look around. Half the class had vacated the room and were on their way to the showers, rushing out to the rest of their days.

Now, I get that people have busy lives. I’ve definitely been in the “hurry out the door” pack before. There are times that important meetings or tasks take us quickly from checkbox to checkbox on our daily to-do list – no judgment there. But, still, the hasty mass exodus struck me as a powerful metaphor for the angst of early parenthood. For the frustration most all of us face as we hold our screaming newborn (or toddler) in the middle of the night and say to ourselves, “When will this be over? Can I just skip ahead? I’d like to leave this stage a little early.”

It’s so normal to wish away the painful parts of parenting, despite the admonishments of those further along the parenting path to “treasure the time you have.” I swear, those people must have memory loss. There are plenty of infant and toddler precious moments but there are also plenty more moments of pure stress and strife.

The real danger isn’t just with wishing the nasty parts away. It’s with these two fatal mistakes: 1. Trying to fix every natural stage a child goes through and 2. Expecting the transition through those stages to progress in a straight line, instead of a messy zig-zag.

It’s a trap reserved mostly for first-time moms and dads, but all second-timers fall into it from time to time, too, especially when they have more than one kid to juggle. I see it a lot in my practice. While a lot of new parents understand pretty quickly that feeding troubles and sleepless nights are just part of the game, some seem to bang their head against the wall with what seems like shock and terror as each new developmental stage (and headache) arises. They can’t seem to accept that certain childhood behaviors are just a normal part of growing up. And, while I’m impressed by their tenacious desire and willingness to problem-solve, sometimes I think they’ve been misled along the way by their friends and by our society.

No one tells them this crucial parenting pearl: yes, we can prevent and address a lot of health issues that come up for newborns and young kids but some things (like cluster feeding, sleep regressions and colic) are more about muddling through with the right perspective than they are about finding quick-fix solutions. Some things just take time to get better (major caveat here: if you have a serious health concern about your child and are worried about their safety or about potential illness, contact your doctor right away).

Plus (and don’t let this get you too depressed but it’s totally true), seasoned parents know that it’s not worth it to wish too hard for each stage to pass because they ALL have some annoying component in the early years. As soon as you breathe a sigh of relief that the “Terrible Twos” are over, in come the “Threenagers.” I mean, why do we even bother naming separate stages of annoyance for early childhood?

Please don’t misunderstand me. There are amazing, chart-topping experiences sprinkled in between the pain points. Like last night, when my eldest scampered up the stairs to sit through her baby sister’s bedtime story and song, crooning right alongside me to “Good Night My Someone,” my husband grinning as the two shared a hug and an Eskimo kiss. I tried my hardest to seal our fleeting seconds of peace into my memory, onto my parenting balance sheet.

So why is it so hard for us to get okay with the place we are in on our motherhood journey?

The more I struggle in my own house and watch others do the same, the more clearly I see the true reason: The rest of our lives, on the surface, have some semblance of controllability. All of our two-hour grocery delivery options and pick-up dry cleaning services trick us into thinking that, if we just complain to the right customer-service agent or do the right google search, we can fix most anything. We can get anything faster if we just pay more for it. Resolution is an easy click away. When we look deeper, though, nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to the challenges of non-consumer life.

Plus, we’ve made our vision of perfect parenthood a nostalgic mess. It can seem like the bar is set too high to ever reach modern-day parenting perfection. The further we get away from living with a village mentality – where we are sharing experiences and burdens with other parents and multigenerational mentors – the harder it is to see the truth clearly: no parent or child is perfect – we all have troubles and trials.

So what can we do? Get educated about normal baby and child development. Get mindful. Prioritize self-care. Plan really enjoyable, special one-on-one moments with our kids to balance out the negative drama. Surround ourselves with other parents who get it and with experienced confidants who can give perspective. Then, relax, get comfy and wait.

There are seasons. Seasons of struggle. Seasons of celebration. Seasons of muddling through. And, seasons of letting it ride -just being okay with the stage of motherhood we’re in now.

POST:

What I’m Doing To Keep My Children From Becoming Complete Jerks

CATEGORY:

Elementary School, Toddlers

Date:

March 15, 2018

It’s not looking good for my family’s gold star status chances today. One of my children is at the indoor play gym posturing for her position in line for the slide. The other is grabbing her sister’s toy out of her hands, seemingly oblivious to the shrieks of offense and horror coming from her sibling.

Cue pediatrician mom, full of understanding about what’s normal at all kid ages and stages but faced with the reality that MY kids are acting, at that moment, like complete jerks. And commence re-committing to the idea that, while perfectly-behaved kids are indeed totally overrated and totally unrealistic, it’s also my responsibility to not let them stay complete jerks their whole lives.

For me and my kids, preventing jerkdom means that, when they do act unkind or selfish, I try my best to use it as it as a learning and guiding opportunity. Somehow, though, my authoritative parenting style (firm but loving, high expectations with consistent consequences, high level of emotional responsiveness) is often met by other parents with a lot of shock and negativity depending on the crowd.

I think it’s because, as a culture and as a generation, we’re having a hard time these days figuring out where to land on the parenting style spectrum. There’s a lot of talk about letting our kids work it out themselves, about being more hands off. And, while I agree that helicopter parenting is no good, I also know we can’t just let our kids run amuck, oblivious to the needs of others. Passive parenting (super responsive and loving but hardly any rules or expectations) has its own major downfalls. Lord of the Flies didn’t turn out so well and neither will a candy shop full of tiny humans with a “me complex” left to their own devices. I’m sure your kids are perfect angels all the time but none of the other kids I’ve ever met are. Nope, the children I know need clear expectations and boundaries.

Now, can people take it too far with the whole rules and regulations thing? Can getting overly involved in every squabble hinder a kid’s ability to learn how to problem-solve on their own? Absolutely. I’m not talking about holding your kid’s hand through every single social situation they encounter. I am saying, though, that it is not only our right, it’s also our obligation to be explicit and consistent as we teach our kids values like compassion and kindness.

I’m also not saying that setting boundaries means we can’t use Positive Parenting to implement our “I Will Not Let You Become a Jerk” plan. In fact, looking at what’s behind the behavior our children exhibit (hunger, fatigue), guiding our kids to make their own good choices and giving realistic expectations beforehand when possible are all great tools for setting and enforcing boundaries. Tracy Cutchlow writes all about these positive parenting techniques in her book, Zero to Five.

As a pediatrician, I see my colleagues working tirelessly to impart balance in this area to the parents they meet. Encouraging parents to not be afraid TO PARENT. Almost needing to give permission to set a limit, set a boundary or set a consequence.

I’m not a perfect parent to my kids, by any means, and sometimes I look back on my parenting decisions with regret. It can be especially tricky to navigate when creating structure for a more sensitive, spirited son or daughter. Some kids, based on their temperament or personality, need more redirection or firm boundaries than others. But I do believe that, just like authoritarian (demanding, harsh, inflexible with no warmth or responsiveness) parenting tactics usually don’t turn out so well, passive parenting doesn’t do children any favors. Like a bridge without rails, the path of life becomes more precarious without the security that comes from structure.

I’m trying hard to not let my kids become jerks, even while I accept that sometimes they will be selfish and mean no matter how hard I (or they) try. It’s our natural instinct to be selfish. Add in their limited self-regulation skills and their high sensitivity to hunger and fatigue and, sometimes, it feels like an uphill battle to get involved and hold them accountable. It’s worth it, though. In fact, their future friends, partners, and bosses all depend on the hard work we’re putting in now.

POST:

How to Set Yourself Up for Breastfeeding Success

CATEGORY:

Uncategorized

Date:

March 5, 2018

Are you pregnant or know someone who is? For most moms-to-be, breastfeeding prep is at the top of the learning to-do list. If you’ve breastfed in the past, you know it can feel overwhelming and defeating as you’re first getting started. Most new moms wish someone had guided them through the process before they were in the thick of it. That’s why we’re offering a free webinar this week: How to Set Yourself Up for Breastfeeding Success.

I’m sharing my top tips for getting ready for this major undertaking which is totally natural but does not always come naturally!

Share with a friend, sign up yourself. Get ready to learn and prepare!

FREE Webinar

How to Set Yourself Up for Breastfeeding Success

Wednesday, March 7th

6:30 PM PST

 

 

POST:

Yep, Mama. You Are the Problem…and the Solution

CATEGORY:

Parents, Toddlers

Date:

February 22, 2018

“Well, she’s your daughter.”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard that before. It’s usually in reference to some sensitive, drama-queen episode my husband is watching my daughter work through with his eyes rolled so far back into his head they might very well get stuck there. It could be the household motto.

He’s right (and he doesn’t mean it disparagingly – he’s just calling it like it is). She is so much like me. We’re both sensitive, we’re a bit anxious, and we’re definitely drama queens. Sometimes I feel like she is, in fact, me on steroids – uninhibited and uncensored. And it has been true since the beginning. She used to sob when we left her with a sitter – even if only for 15 minutes. She tells my spouse and I we’re not being kind if we use a tone of voice that has a hint of irritation. She’s easily worried and easily offended.

But her struggles are also her strengths. With sensitivity and high emotions comes high levels of empathy. While she is intense and easily frustrated, she also has a huge heart. If there is no justice, she is crushed. If she senses sincere need, fear or pain in others, she is there to lend a hand.

“Maybe a hug would help,” she says to her friends or sister when they are teary or injured. “It will be ok. I’m right here.”

I’m all about trying to see the issues that challenge her as strengths (she’ll be the head of some world-saving, peace-making nonprofit when she grows up, no doubt) and psychological research strongly supports that approach. But, when she’s having her most difficult, high-emotion times, it’s harder to focus on the positives. Instead, like a lot of moms I know, I go searching for reasons why my kids are the way they are. Often, that search leads me right back to myself and to a whole new level of mommy guilt.

I find myself forgetting that my children are a mix of genes (not just mine, my husband’s too!) and environment. That there are tons of individual temperament components that influence how she deals with and reacts to the stresses that come her way. That my own tendencies are not the only influence on how my child turns out. More importantly, I lose sight of the fact that those amazing, perceptive, emotionally in-tune parts of my child’s makeup are also an extension of my genetic attributes and that the fact we share some of those characteristics puts me in a unique position to empathize with and encourage her as she works through it all.

Even if they don’t verbally express it at each visit, this grating part of mommy (or daddy) guilt is underlying the questions of so many of the parents I come in contact with at my practice. It’s especially relevant when it comes to behavior and mental health issues, but it’s also there when it comes to all sorts of other health conditions. Obviously, the attention and the effort we put into our kids makes a difference, but, even if we try our bests to better ourselves and our kids, we have to remember it’s not all about us.

If you are feeling guilty that, by just being you, you are messing up your child, take heart. I mean, don’t get me wrong. You probably are. We all are. But the strengths you bring to the table when it comes to parenting are also uniquely yours. They will positively influence that mini-me child of yours. Let go of what you can’t change about yourself, work on the things you can tweak, get your child professional help if you need to. Above all, focus way more on strengths – on the special, awesome, unique parts of your child and of you. Yes, you may be part of the “problem.” But you’re also a major part of the solution. Your kids have you as a mom for a reason – they need you and they’ll do just fine with you by their side.

Want more about taking care of yourself while you take care of your kids? Click here.

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