May 18, 2018
This month, I’ve been doing a lot. More than I usually do. And I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how I do it. On the surface it looks like I’m up to my ears promoting my book, staying active on social media and writing blog posts. I’ve also had a ton of questions about how I balance a side-business with my full-time physician job and my two young kids.
My secret weapon? The key to my sanity? I don’t do it all. I know that, if I did, I would be unhappy, stressed and, ultimately, not very successful at anything. Instead, I live by five guiding life and task management principles. You can, too, no matter if you’re a stay-at-home mom, a working woman or a mix of both. Here they are:
Prioritize Your Priorities
This may come as a shock but, it turns out, I am not Beyoncé. I do not have a full staff of assistants working for me, an unlimited budget, or a private jet. Nope, I have a real life with pressures and demands. Some demands and pressures loom a little larger than others, taking up more mental energy and time than they should. Instead of letting those demands run me, I try my best to keep them in check.
The best way to do that? (1) Have a super clear sense of my priorities. (2) Get clear in my own head about, not just what I have to do, but what I want to do. (3) Limit my 100% level efforts to my top three priorities and let the other items on the priority list act as icing on the cake. (4) Be honest comfortable enough in my own skin to care less about meeting others’ expectations of my priorities than about being true to my needs and goals. You can get more information here about our self-care survival guide and other free parenting resources.
Find a Passion
My daughter came leaping downstairs this morning, full to the brim with excitement. “Do you think I could strum my ukulele a few times before school?” she asked hopefully. I had to laugh. Usually, my girl is like a slumbering bear in the early hours (turns out she takes after me in more ways than one)—hard to wake, easily aggravated, and difficult to motivate. But something was different today. We signed her up for ukulele lessons last night and even bought her a used instrument, complete with a small wooden dolphin decoration and sparkles embedded in the paint. She found a passion. And passion changes everything.
Passion makes a difference for adults, too—particularly for moms and dads. Stuck in the day-to-day grind of parenting, the early months and years can feel like a never-evening cycle of drudgery—a song on repeat that keeps playing and playing. Our minds can get stuck in mental overload mode, even though they’re full only of the mundane. We can only take so many diaper changes, feeding sessions or nap attempts.
For me, working on my passion project (running a blog and writing a book) doesn’t really feel like work—it’s self-directed, I can do as much or as little as I want to do and it’s something I care about deeply. The same is true for most people who find a project to get excited about. Maybe your passion project is a cause you want to learn more about or be involved with, even if only virtually. Maybe your passion project is not a project at all—it’s exploring music lessons for yourself or nurturing your love of gardening. It doesn’t matter what it is or how big or small it is—it matters that you have something.
Focus on Your Strengths, Delegate the Rest
I’ll never receive an award for best housecleaner (or even a sixth-place consolation prize). Actually, my housecleaning skills are completely lacking. I’ve come to grips with this not so sad reality. Same goes for keeping close track of late start school days for my kid’s preschool, remembering to walk the dog or making lunches for myself to bring to work. You probably have some “weaknesses,” too. So what? Instead of spinning your wheels on to-do list items you’ll never get to or will never remember, delegate to the others in your house or in your proverbial village. When it’s financially feasible, hire a housecleaner. Put a partner in charge (it will be one of the best moves you ever make). Delegate, delegate, delegate and stop feeling so guilty that you’re not superwoman—no one is.
Take Full Advantage of Technology
Thank goodness we live in a modern world where, for a small fee, we can automate almost everything we do. I would wither on the vine if it were not for autopay and Amazon Prime. I also take advantage of healthy meal kit delivery systems like Sun Basket and One Potato, use my calendar reminders to keep me organized, and “read” almost everything in audiobook form.
Can technology be a negative force in your family, keeping you from spending focused, quality time with the ones you love? Sure it can. You have to treat your smartphone and your computer like the tools they are, not like the distraction they can often become.
Make Time for Self-Care
Ever notice how, when you take a weekend to unplug or even an hour to relax, you’re actually able to accomplish more in the hours or days to follow? Self-care (dedicated time spent caring for yourself—either alone or with others) is never a waste. Quite the opposite. When we re-group, relax or re-focus, we’re able to offer those who depend on us or who partner with us the very best of ourselves. We can be more present and more peaceful.
Trying to do it all or be it all? Please, please don’t. It’s such a waste of energy and it never works out how you hope it will. Something’s gotta give eventually. Instead, identify and live by your priorities, use the resources around you, and work first from your strengths. Your excellent example of imperfect balance will lead the way for your kids to eventually do the same.
May 7, 2018
My house is anything but peaceful these days. The toys seem to multiply on the floor, despite my valiant attempts to keep them organized. The trash and recycling bins fill up with diapers and food scraps the moment I empty them. My kids are at high volume and high intensity most of the time. In fact, I would call it chaotic. With a preschooler and a toddler running around, we have our hands full.
Last night, my husband looked at me with weary eyes as we attempted to wrangle our girls at dinner, the littlest trying with all her might to stand on the table, the eldest whining bitterly about her vegetable options. “Why is it always like this with them?” he asked.
There are moments when I’m brought to tears by a question like that—times I feel just as discouraged and tired of the constant mayhem our young girls bring to our lives as everyone else. I am by no means perfect at being peaceful. Take last week, when, after about 20 minutes of continually redirecting my big girl, explaining she needed to pay attention to her sister’s signals and emotions (“Honey, when you hug her tightly and she screams in terror, she is trying to tell you she needs space.”), I almost lost it. But, I’ve learned a few tricks to stay peaceful and present when things get hectic (read: most days)—tricks I wish someone had told me before I ever became a mommy in the first place.
Peaceful Parenting Doesn’t Happen By Accident—It Takes Intention
Sure, there are zen master mamas out there who can’t imagine being bothered by the sounds of multiple screaming children (or worst, multiple screaming children screaming in unison) in their homes, but those ladies are few and far between. That’s definitely not me—if their tendency is toward calm, mine is toward mental overload. So, for all of us who weren’t born relaxed, getting more responsive to our babies or children (versus reactive) takes a whole lotta effort and practice. Why? It’s EASIER to get all riled up. It’s what our bodies do naturally, as part of a fight or flight response to perceived danger. The only problem is, when our infants wail or our toddlers flop themselves on the ground in protest, even though it’s not usually an emergency or dangerous, our bodies can’t tell we have a false alarm on our hands. Instead, our bodies do what they normally do when we sense danger—our heart rates go up, our blood pressures rise, we get hyper-focused and intense. Teaching ourselves to relax, to calm down and to make conscious decisions about how we’ll parent takes, sometimes, overriding our natural systems’ tendencies.
It can take awhile to learn how to do that. So, if you’re a new parent (or even a parent-to-be already worked up about the whole kid thing), don’t throw in the towel right away if it takes you weeks, even months or years to get the hang of it. Read about how to get mindful. Practice, practice, practice. And forgive yourself when you mess up (‘cause you’re, inevitably, going to).
Peaceful Parenting Takes Self-Care
There is absolutely no way for a parent—new or experienced—to parent peacefully without taking care of themselves on a regular basis. Our kids notice when we’re stressed—they feel it, their little neurons pick up on it. They also notice when we’re content, balanced, and relaxed.
Yep, there is no faking it when it comes to setting a good example for our children: self-care takes time, commitment, and a realization that, in the end, we’ll have a lot more family joy if we find joy first ourselves.
Peaceful Parenting Takes Partnership
Motherhood was never meant to be attempted in a box, by ourselves, without the help of, literally, a village. But, we try too often to muscle through it alone, ignoring the input or the assistance of others. Or, we rely on superficial social media connections. The truth is if you’re going to be a peaceful parent, it’s going to take community—friends, family, or a partner (or all three!)—sharing the hardships and the celebrations of raising small children in real, face-to-face interactions.
Peaceful Parenting Takes Perspective and Education
So many moms and dads I see in clinic seem shocked as each developmental stage comes along. They are surprised by cluster feeding and colic, worried by stranger danger, and perplexed by toddler tantrums. My best advice? Read ahead! Get a baseline understanding of what’s to come for your child developmentally from reputable sources. If you’re still pregnant, invest in information. Your baby or toddler may not have all the same challenges as her peers, but she’s bound to have at least some of them! The more you know, the more you will feel empowered and ready to face those “Why are they like this all the time?” moments with confidence.
The chaos in my house is not changing any time soon. When someone asks me how my girls are, I tend to say, “Well, it was touch and go there last week but today we’re all hanging in there” because it’s true. And real. And, it’s also true that, in the middle of the hot mess I awake to so often, there’s peace—not around me, but inside. Or at least I’m moving in that direction.
For more on preparing to care for your infant and yourself as a new parent, click here.
To learn more about our free toddler tantrum guides, new mom guides, and self-care guides, click here.
May 2, 2018
If you’re a new parent, or a parent-to-be, you know having your first baby takes a lot of preparation. There are so many things to plan and products to buy. When it comes down to it, though, the one thing you really need… is solid, useful information.
If you’ve been parenting for awhile, the value of credible information is clear, and you probably wish you had more of it early on!
At Modern Mommy Doc, we’re excited to present our new book, full of practical, reliable, down-to-earth information about preparing to care for your first baby. Whether you’re an expectant mom looking for newborn care and self-care guidance or a seasoned grandma (or grandpa!) looking for a baby shower gift, this is the resource for you:
The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care for Your Infant and Yourself
Being a new parent is awesome and amazing…and terrifying. There is so much to learn, so much to prepare for. And, sometimes, it can be hard to think beyond the birth to caring for the actual baby. This is not a time you want to completely wing it. The good news? You don’t have to. You can’t know it all before you have a little one, but you can learn the critical information that will help you feel confident, educated, and ready for this new adventure. Dr. Casares walks parents-to-be through what they really need to know once their baby arrives. With a relatable mix of humor and practical advice, Dr. Casares delves deep into her own personal experience as a new mom and a pediatrics expert to guide expectant parents through this life-changing transition.
– How to care for a newborn
– How to keep your newborn safe
– How to set yourself up for breastfeeding success
– What to expect in the first days and weeks
– How to find childcare providers and a pediatrician
– How to prepare your brain, your partner, and your home for having a baby!
It’s available on Amazon. Buy it for yourself or for your favorite new mom-to-be!
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.
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