POST:

3 Ways Moms Can Work Less and Play More As They Parent

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

July 12, 2019

“Doesn’t it feel amazing to have an hour every once in a while to move and to breath and to just be however you want to be?” That’s what the yoga instructor asked our class this week as I stood, almost shoulder to shoulder, in a crowded room with the heat turned up for an hour-long class. Sweat was dripping off my face as I dove forward, planted my hands on the mat, and scooped my chest up, then back again to downward dog. “In this hour, you get to play. You get to do whatever you want to do,” she continued on above the music and the sounds of coordinated breathing. As I huffed and puffed, it didn’t feel much like playing but I realized as I drove home to my real life and the real stresses that come with it, she was speaking wisdom.

I’ve thought a lot about the power of play lately. It’s a silly word, one that evokes an image of preschoolers mindlessly sifting through sand at the park.

Play? As an adult? As a mom? Without my kids? What does it look like? And who has time for it, anyway? 

Defining play for hard-working moms is easy. It simply means they take a break from their obligations and their stressors. They think about the activities that make them happiest and they do those things, guilt-free. They sign up for a massage. They go out for a long dinner with their friends. They go to an excruciatingly hot yoga class (I’m not sure why that’s my version of play, but it is). They flop on the couch and binge watch Netflix all night long in a pair of sweatpants. They take a nap. They forget about all the things they have to do and they do what they want to do for a little while. 

Sometimes, it means they spend time doing something loud and sweaty and memorable with their partners, like I did last weekend. I know what you’re thinking but I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about rocking out to our favorite band at an outdoor music festival, singing along to the lyrics at the top of our lungs as the lights blared down from the stage. Sometimes it means they lose themselves for a second in a shared sunset or a good conversation, washing away their exhaustion momentarily. 

We’ve definitely been exhausted in my family lately. Over the last few months, we spent our nights and weekends preparing to get our family moved and settled for our year-long family adventure. Now that we’re fully-transitioned to our new home, there are all kinds of new issues to navigate, both for our kids and for ourselves. Emotions are running high and its hard to adjust. There are all sorts of moments when we all have to be especially brave as we deal with a new living environment and a new routine. Playing has not been at the top of our to-do list.

For most parents (and families, for that matter), making time for play is a lot harder than defining it.

No mom I know weaves what makes her happy into an already full life without a major amount of effort. Nevertheless, the most successful moms I know make time to do it. They prioritize play because they know this: if we want to live our lives with intention (including parenting with intention), if we want to approach those hard mommy moments with courage (moments like sleepless newborn nights, toddler tantrums, or moments when our kids’ true selves go hiding), we have to build in opportunities to rest.

As Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code and author of Brave, Not Perfect says, “You can’t be brave if you’re tired.”

Almost every mom I know is tired but ninety-nine percent of new parents I meet — both male and female — are really tired. New parents are earning their bravery stripes day by day by day. They’re learning how to take care of a human being for a first time and, if that doesn’t take guts, I’m not sure what does. If you’re a new mama, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s even easier for those moms to be brave, though, when they get the rest they need. When they’re less physically and mentally tired, they have the energy to handle the challenges that come their way with more perspective and resolve. 

Seasoned moms may get the physical rest they need on a more consistent basis but mental rest is quite another story. Just like burnout is real in the workplace, its real on the home front, too. hBeing over stressed and under rested seems to be the name of the motherhood game these days. It doesn’t have to be, though. You can choose to:

Choose Play Over Perfection

You cannot and you should not do it all. So what if your house isn’t perfectly kept and your life is not perfectly organized? Choose to concentrate on the things that really matter to you, then let the rest go. The most peaceful parents learn to prioritize early on and they prioritize play. 

Expect Your Parenting Partner to Pick Up the Slack

You are not the only person who is capable of taking care of your kids. If you have a partner, share your parenting responsibilities with that partner. Work toward parenting as a team. Give your partner the space to take care of him or herself and be committed to taking care of yourself.

Take Care of Yourself So You Can Take Care of The People You Love Most 

Resting is not selfish. Playing is not selfish. Yes, our kids need our focused attention at regular intervals but they don’t need us to be with them all the time. Caring for the people we love most is about setting aside moments to be together, looking for our kids’ deeper needs, and approaching motherhood as less of a perfect balancing act and more of an intentional practice. It’s not about martyring ourselves. 

What does it mean to play when we’re busy, burdened modern moms? It means setting down our heavy loads (and handing them off to someone else for a while if necessary). It means paying attention to what we really need. It means taking a break, tipping the scales away from exhaustion and toward bravery, away from burnout and toward joy. 

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!).

screen time, toddlers, working mom tipss
hacks for new parents, peaceful parenting, motherhood tips

POST:

Motherhood Tips | Working Through Your Kids’ Complicated Emotions (and Your Own)

CATEGORY:

Toddlers

Date:

June 25, 2019

This weekend I packed up all my belongings, cleaned out my house, and hauled everything across town. We’re setting up camp for one year at my parents’ while we rent out our space to a lovely family from The Netherlands. It’s all part of a master plan to pay off remaining student loan debt that we just can’t seem to wipe clean without some major overhaul, even after fifteen years of working full time and making monthly payments.

They say moving is one of the most stressful life events — right up there with getting married and starting a new job. I knew parts of it would be rough when we made our decision to go all out on debt repayment but I also knew we had to make a major shift in our financial plan if we wanted to ever feel a little more free. Once we signed on the dotted line, there was a lot to do to make it all happen, from arranging cleaners to buying UHaul supplies and getting everything packed up in time.

I wasn’t trying to Type A myself through this major life change, but I sure was good at it. I made the checklists. I checked off all the boxes. It felt good to be organized. Even so, two months after accepting our tenants, making child care shifts, and getting everything else arranged in a logical manner, it all hit me full force emotionally.

It hit my kids, too.

All their toys were in boxes and half the rooms in our house became off-limits last week to accommodate drying touch-up paint. My girls tried their best for about two hours the morning their playroom was cordoned off to find something else to do. The fix it guy maneuvered around them, trying to avoid their antics as I unsuccessfully encouraged them to get creative. Then one of my girls hit some kind of behavioral limit. A shoe was thrown. Some hair was pulled. There was an all-out screaming event held by the toddler. She should have charged admission it was so dramatic.

I piled them in the car, understanding full-well kids sometimes express their frustrations and stress in less than ideal ways.

“Let’s go to the berry farm,” I said, imagining myself peacefully meandering through rows of blueberry bushes with a wagon of equally-serene children behind me. “We can grab some lunch on the way.”

The kids were ecstatic, ready to spend a more enjoyable afternoon with a less distracted mom. We stopped at our favorite burrito bowl place, adding three lemonades to the order just because. I could feel the mood lift, my littlest now happily skipping along, holding my hand. She swung herself up onto my arm, making monkey noises as she attempted to climb me. The drink carrier tipped as I tried to set it down on the sidewalk so I could rearrange my crew and our food. Off we went again, past the shops and other families enjoying their days.

I’d almost made it to the car when the first lemonade fell out of the carrier, tumbling to the ground as my daughter tried again to use my body as a jungle gym, despite my admonishments. I set the carrier on the hood, presumably safe from mishap while I strapped everyone into their car seats and took a big breath.

I let my guard down too soon, though. The second lemonade made its downward turn as it slid across the wet hood, exploding like a yellow bomb as it hit the pavement. I grabbed the carrier just before the final cup met its demise, only to have the lid flip off when I tried to set it into my cup holder. Before I could catch it, a sweet, sticky film covered the console. It splashed onto the passenger seat and down to the floorboards.

Lemonade was everywhere. Everywhere.

I felt a low, guttural sound come from somewhere around my mid-chest.

And then I felt myself start to cry.

This was not a controlled, adult, tears around my eyes kind of sniffle. It was a full-on, body shaking, sobbing into my steering wheel kind of cry—the kind that makes your kids really quiet, the kind that makes you really quiet after five seconds because you realize you are surrounded only by the sound of silence. It was only spilled lemonade but somehow it meant more.

“Mommy, why are you crying?” My oldest whispered.

“Yeah, mom, only kids are supposed to cry,” I heard my baby girl quip.

“No, mommies can cry,” she responded. “Especially when they’re having a hard day. Mommy is having a hard day. All of her lemonade spilled and it ruined the car. And we’re moving, Sissy. Moving can be very hard.”

“Oh, yeah,” she answered back. “It’s okay for adults to cry about that. Don’t worry mommy, it will be all right.”

I sat listening to my very young children have a very grown-up conversation about the way life works as I pulled myself together. I looked back at them, feeling a little sheepish that the only adult in the car was having the most difficulty being wise. I saw their earnest faces smiling back at me and I remembered this truth:

Our children learn just as much from our real emotions, from our in-the-moment mistakes, even from our flat-out parenting failures, as they do from the scripted, controlled learning experiences we arrange or manipulate for them.

When they see us being vulnerable about the way we feel, they can be honest about the way they feel, too.

Now that I was a bit more composed, I explained myself:

“You know, mommy is really excited about our move and what that’s going to mean for our family—that we’re working on a goal to spend more time together and to be stronger as a team. You’re right, though. All the little parts and pieces that have to come together to make this move happen are sometimes overwhelming. Those lemonades falling—one after another—was what they call ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back.’ Every once in a while your body needs you to just let your emotions out a little so they don’t keep getting bottled up. When you least expect it, sometimes the kettle lets off a little steam. Just like that happens for you guys sometimes, it happens for mommy, too.”

I watched their little heads nod, like old sages. My kids are not always that attentive but at that moment they sure were. I had a captive audience, maybe because I shocked them a bit with my sob-fest but, hopefully, also because they truly know that feelings are okay.

They know they’re loved no matter what their emotions, however mixed up they feel. They know it’s all right to work through all the complex feelings that come with making big changes. They know it’s okay for things to be not all bad, not all good, but somewhere in-between. When you are authentic with your kids, they learn that authenticity is something to be desired.

Now, let’s not take this too far. I’m not suggesting you let your kids in on every deep, dark emotion you ever have, or that you overshare your mental play by play on the regular. Obviously, sobbing through our days is neither productive nor healthy for our children. What I am suggesting is this: it’s important to let our kids learn how to be strong and brave, to get past their fears, to build resilience.

It’s equally important that they learn how to be vulnerable.

I’m suggesting we show them that when they’re weak, they’re still lovable—that they’re still strong, even when they don’t feel like they are—that accepting and working through our emotions is another form of developing that all important “grow from your struggles” skill, that they’re part of a community that loves them no matter what.

The dinner table replay of the day’s events was pretty epic that evening, but what was most impressive was the way my kids jumped in as I summarized the story to my husband. He sat there wide-eyed as I recounted the tumbling drinks, the lemonade bath, and the crazy conversation that ensued.

“Mommy lost her marbles a little bit this afternoon,” I laughed to my husband.

The toddler piped up quickly as she slurped her noodles off the fork. “Yeah, but we helped her find them again.”

Yes, baby girl. You sure did.

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!).

screen time, toddlers, working mom tipss


behavior tips for toddlers, toddler behavior management and emotion-coaching, motherhood hacks

POST:

Modern Motherhood Hacks | Re-Thinking Your Family’s Relationship With Screens and Devices

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

April 29, 2019

Something terrifying happened in my kitchen last week. My daughter hoisted herself halfway onto the counter and reached for a pen against the wall. On her way down, she bumped her elbow, hitting right on her funny bone. She burst into tears.

That wasn’t the scary part.

Here’s what really shook me up. As she let out her first wail and rounded into a ball in the floor, the first words out of her mouth were, “Mama, can I watch a show?”

Seriously, like mid-scream, the absolute first thing that came into her mind was not physical comfort or emotional support, or even some verbal proclamation of pain. It was TELEVISION.

She’s never had that kind of Pavlov’s dog reaction before to an injury (thank goodness) and, at first, I kind of brushed it off, but then I started thinking more and more about her relationship with screens and about our current culture of quick-fix distractions and personalized, immediate conveniences.

 

Screentime and Our Kids

It would have been tempting to blame the TV—the device itself—for my daughter’s behavior. I can’t count the number of times I’ve rattled off recommendations in my pediatrics clinic about limiting the total amount of time per day parents let their kids use their screens or made suggestions about caring equally about content versus total screen time.  Families seem to get that too much and the wrong kind of screen use is bad for their kids.

I practice what I preach, too, most of the time—more science shows, less Sophia The First, a heavy emphasis on learning and positive social skill building à la Daniel Tiger. 

This, though, was a different part of the technology revolution I’d never even stopped to consider: not only was I letting my child be entertained by screens, I was letting my child be comforted by screens, too. The screen was a proxy for a bigger, societal problem. 

See, we live in a world where it has become incredibly difficult to say “no” to our children because we have so many ways we can say “yes.”  Over the first post-millenial decade, the cultural norms around how we navigate our daily tasks have so dramatically changed. There’s increasing pressure on parents to have 1,000 convenient-but unhelpful-ways to keep our kids happy. The Tech Culture of Convenience has rewoven the task of raising children.

“Our culture, in large part, has been influenced by the technological revolution—a series of amazing advancements that have modernized everything from shopping to scheduling doctors’ appointments. But has it all been for the better? It turns out kids who grew up with the technological coming of age (typically born in the early 2000s—the iGen Kids (or GenY Kids)—are struggling as a result of it,” says Dr. Kristin Valerius, a child psychologist and director of Sundstrom Clinical Services.  

The Evidence

The research backs her up.

First of all, it shows heavy childhood screen use is ubiquitous:

“…Members of this generation are growing up with a smartphone, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time without the internet. The Millenials grew up with the web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night. iGen’s oldest members were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced, in 2007, and high-school students when the iPad entered the scene, in 2010. A 2017 survey of more than 5000 American teens found that three out of four owned an iPhone.” said Dr. Jean Twenge, a psychologist and researcher, in her 2017 The Atlantic article. 

Twenge has been analyzing adolescents’ levels of happiness and wellbeing across generations for over 25 years using the Monitoring the Future Survey. The survey, conducted since the mid-seventies, asks 8th, 10th, and 12th graders about their self-esteem, life satisfaction, and daily activities like tech use. Kids, of course, have always had fluctuations in happiness from year to year but in 2012 something astonishing happened: well-being dropped off dramatically. Not just a little drop off. Like, drop off a cliff drop off and it stayed that way. After 20 years of relative stability in overall happiness, life satisfaction, and self-esteem, it went downhill fast…and never recovered. It didn’t matter the kids’ financial situations, they—across the board—seemed to be having a harder time.

“In all my analysis or generational data—some reaching back to the 1930s—I had never seen anything like it,” Twenge said in that same 2017 article inThe Atlantic.

Of course, no single event, including the advent of pervasive, individualized technology defines a generation. But the dual increase in mental health concerns and media use seem to be strongly connected. We know that factors like heavy social media use, texting, computer games, and accessing the internet are not the keys to a teen’s happiness. In fact, studies show heavy screen use is actually associated with decreased happiness, whereas things like sports and in-person social interactions are associated with improved life satisfaction.

So, what happened in 2012? Technology with its apps, and devices, and new ways of doing everything became fully infiltrated, that’s what happened. In 2012, the year of the huge drop-off, the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50 percent. Between 2012 and 2015, the percentage of iGen Youth with smartphones went up from 37 to 73 percent. By 2016, 89% had devices. The changes Twenge saw were not based on ethnicity or on social-economic status, nor suburban or rural location. Across the board, no matter what their demographics, suddenly teens were living on their smartphones. 

“I don’t think (we have a problem) because 89% of kids are on their devices,” says Dr. Valerius. “If that were the case then just taking the phone would solve it—but that doesn’t. I believe device usage is a proxy measure for how ubiquitous the individualized convenient way of doing things had become. And in reweaving the task, our parenting job became harder, our kids missed out on important developmental tasks, so that by the time these iGen were teenagers circa 2012 they were showing the stress-fractures of growing up in this Brave New Tech World.”

Everyone talks about how screentime is bad, that devices are bad, but Dr. Valerius thinks that misses the point. By focusing on device-use, we keep parents focused (and yelling at their kids) for how often they are on that device instead of focusing them on how many ways they need to help their kids navigate life…and it keeps parents focus away from themselves and why they are feeling so much pressure to just satisfy their kids at every moment.)

What’s REALLY So Bad About Kids Using Screens

It seems we all use our smartphones 24-7, our heads bent down over a small screen, our fingers moving in a perpetual scrolling motion. Deep down, I think we’re aware it’s probably not the best thing for us, no matter what our age. But is there something specifically bad about personal device use for our young kids or for our parenting? YES.

When we allow technology (and any other knee-jerk easy solutions) to soothe and entertain our kids, we replace patience with immediacy, we limit our kids’ abilities to deal with negative emotions on their own, and we give quick-fix, personalized solutions to boredom, reducing our children’s abilities to handle less stimulating environments. We take away the opportunity to develop grit.

As a working mom, my family time is limited throughout the week. In the evenings, I’m tired. On the weekends, I’m always hoping for reduced stress, but with two little ones in tow, that’s hardly ever the case. Nothing is worse than coming home from an exhausting day at work only to be inundated with tears and squabbling and strife. It’s extremely hard for modern, stressed-out families to “just say no” to letting screens parent our kids in the name of peace and harmony, but I firmly believe that we have to be fully aware of our choices if we want our children to be resilient and our parenting to be successful.

How Do We Manage Screens and Mitigate Their Use? 

Dr. Valerius gives some powerful suggestions:

1. Deepen Your Genuine Connection with Your Kids

In this modern world, we have to create space to more deeply connect with our kids. It’s not going to happen on its own. We have to be intentional about it. Mealtimes, bedtimes, outings, vacations, holiday rituals—when we focus on using these moments as ways to build community and connection, we glean their true value. Connectedness helps with emotional regulation, self-soothing, and other skills that are lacking from your child’s digital experience.

2. Help your children build a network of people that know them, including their weaknesses

“True relationship and intimacy come from vulnerably failing and then reconciling, not from being fake or perfect all the time,” says Dr. Valerius.  When you let your kids experience that kind of transparent connection with others, they learn that they have value no matter what, that they don’t have to be perfect to be loved.

3. Learn To Value Negative Emotions and Failure in Your Kids and In Yourself

Dr. Valerius says, “You and your child can have different emotions. Your job isn’t to keep your kids happy or to make them mind perfectly. Your job IS to help them trust they will be okay when happiness comes and goes.”

How do we do that? We let our kids be bored and uncertain about how to fill their free time. The creativity and problem solving that happens in that “bored” space is crucial for the sort of coping that they will have to do throughout their adolescence when they want to fill their empty places with 1,000 poor or risky choices. We let our kids be upset occasionally, we let them work through disappointments, we allow them to experience things not going their way early on so that, years down the road, they can handle life’s curve balls with more grace and perspective. 

“Anger can build intimacy. Stress can build grit. Belonging and love are built on being forgiven (which requires failing and making it right afterward),” says Dr. Valerius.

Of course, letting our kids be bored—given that we could instantly take it away—means that their whining and pestering also fills that space. Constantly. And any good modern mommy has times that they cave just to have a moment of peace. So that’s were Dr. Valerius’ next recommendation comes in…

4. Limit Tech Use:

  • Under age 2- almost nothing
  • Over 2 years – less than 2 hours a day (preferably under an hour for elementary school kids) but some days with no screen at all. 
  • No screens in routine car ride trips or at mealtimes
  • No screens in bedrooms (except book readers or music without other apps)
  • No personal devices until middle school
  • Equally important – screen-free times for parents 

It’s a New World, Baby

Feeling defeated already as you read this? Don’t be. 

First, realize that the way modern moms are often tempted to deal with their kids’ incessant begging to have whatever they need is not some type of character flaw—it’s a product of our kids’ environments: a world where personalization, convenience, and entitlement surrounds them. 

“I truly believe it is harder to withstand than our mothers because they couldn’t say yes and we can,” says Dr. Valerius. “Standing firm seems to be an impossible task sometimes for the parents of patients I see—and for myself at times. If we don’t get connected with the task and the emotions it stirs up in us it doesn’t matter what tech limits we know we SHOULD have…we will take a path of lesser resistance.”

My family’s screentime dilemmas are not going away anytime soon. Devices are here to stay—for me and for my kids—but I don’t have to let them break into our home every other second, invading our lives. With my eye on the future, I’m making a commitment to using screens (as much as possible) as tools instead of trespassers. 


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!).

screen time, toddlers, working mom tipss
toddlers, screen time, devices and kids, modern motherhood, working mom

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!).

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

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 hacks for parents of anxious kids and toddler tantrums

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