POST:

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

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

February 14, 2019

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

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

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

 

Modern Partnership Struggles

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

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

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

 

Blast From The Past

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

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

 

Modern-Day Dads and Mental Load

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

They use technology to their advantage. 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 They take a giant step back.

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

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

 

Guess what?

My child had food to eat for school today.

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

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

 

Want More Parenting Help?

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

new mom, breastfeeding, parenting hacks, new mom hacks

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

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

POST:

Motherhood Lessons From Netflix: How To Get Your House More Organized and Your Life Less Complicated

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

January 15, 2019

I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix lately. Scratch that. I’m kind of always watching Netflix. This month, though, is January—a time for New Year’s resolutions and mommyhood goals. So, as I sat watching my nightly dose of Netflix last week, I came across a new series: Tidying Up. If you haven’t heard about it yet, you probably will soon. The main star, Marie Kondo, is like the guru of keeping all things organized.

I started watching the show because, well, hey, I could use some tidying tips just like all the other moms I know. It definitely delivered. I learned a whole new way of folding (basically fold all your clothes into little rectangles, organize vertically when possible, and put like shapes or sizes together), but by episode 8, the key to Marie Kondo’s success with struggling families was clear: you need less stuff than you think you do and you’ll be able to enjoy your life more if you only have to take care of the things you really cherish.

Marie’s secret to success, which she says so often you start to get a little nauseated after you hear it enough, is to choose items in your life that “spark joy.”  

Like I said, it’s a little cheesy, or at least it seems that way on the surface. Somehow though, as you watch these families part ways with their unnecessary clutter and start to truly enjoy their belongings and their spaces it’s almost, dare I say, tear-jerking. Episode after episode (don’t hate on me—I didn’t have work the next day when I started watching and I love a good TV binge session from time to time), you watch people get back to what they intended for their families, for their homes, for their lives. It gets real deep real fast, people. 

Of course, that next weekend, I started doing a modified version of the KonMari cleaning method. I went through my house category by category, parting with the excess, neatly folding and arranging. Marie actually recommends that you thank each item—I tried my best, but failed after a few hours. My house WAS definitely cleaner and calmer. It wasn’t perfect—with two kids under the age of six trailing behind me pulling freshly-sorted crayons and toys onto the carpet behind me, it’s never going to be—but it was better. 

Probably more important than that, though, was the mental process I went through.  I learned so much by analyzing, piece by piece, item by item, what I really needed and what was weighing me down—what things I didn’t even really care about but just kept picking up and putting back on a shelf over and over again out of routine.

Marie was right. The more I practiced some mindfulness about what sparked joy for me, the more easily I was able to make really good decisions about what I actually wanted my home to be like and to look like (ie. very decluttered). 

Plus, (you knew I was going to go here so let’s just go for it) the more I looked at my house that way, the more I started to look at my life that way. The more I pondered, the more I started to think about what I go around doing week after week, day after day, that I feel like I have to do—either to keep up with the Joneses or to keep myself overly busy because that’s just what “we moms” do or JUST BECAUSE I’VE NEVER TAKEN THE TIME TO THINK ABOUT IT. I started thinking about how sparking joy is usually pretty far down on my priority list (It’s high on my list for my kids, but it’s relatively low on my list for myself). I started realizing that, not only was it time to clean things out and get more joy in my house, it was also time to declutter my schedule and get more joy in my HOME and with my FAMILY. 

One of the psychologists in my pediatrics clinic taught me a powerful trick to that end because organizing your life according to joy levels is a lot more complicated than donating a five-year-old shirt you’re done wearing to Goodwill. She asks families she sees in our office to get a monthly calendar and write down all of their obligations—meetings, appointments, big school projects, after-school or weekend activities. Unless it’s something they really look forward to all week long, she has them write it all down in red. Then she has them take a blue pen and write down all the activities they do that are for relaxation, for recreation or for fun. 

The results are often shocking to patients as they realize just how much time they spend throughout the week spinning plates.

It turns out, the more plates you have to spin, the more work it takes to just keep them all in motion. It’s one thing to get my two daughters to dance class or to music lessons. It’s quite another thing to set three alarms a few months ahead so I don’t miss the opportunity to sign them up in the first place. No wonder I’m (we’re) all stressed to the max. In some ways, we’re choosing to be. 

I’m probably never going to perfectly declutter my home while my kids are young. The constant influx of artwork, clothing, and toys almost guarantees that. I can though, along with all the other families I meet, work on a less is more mentality. When our physical spaces, our schedules, and our minds are simpler, they allow us to focus more on what really matters, instead of focusing on trying to maintain a bunch of junk. 

This month, here’s what I’m working on in the declutter department:

1. I’m following a kind of modified KonMari organizing method:

I’m going through clothes, toys, books, kitchenware, bathroom, and sentimental items one at a time. I’m choosing which items I want to keep based on what brings me joy (minus kitchen utensils and toothbrushes). So far, I’ve done clothes and toys. I probably got rid of 30% of the items I had in each category—many of which I was just holding onto for the sake of nostalgia or guilt. In the beginning, I did try to thank each discarded item like Marie suggests. Still, I’m going to be totally honest: at some point, I stopped feeling so guilty as I started seeing empty shelf space and I felt free to just keep on trekking with some pretty split-second decisions that required hardly any pondering. 

2. I’m looking at my own calendar. I’m rying to decide what takes up the most of my time outside of work and where I can cut back or streamline.

I canceled my daughter’s dance class across town because I found a, maybe less than perfect but still totally great, option that required less time on the road. I’m figuring out ways to run at lunch a few days a week when possible. It allows me to clear up my evening time to be with my kids. 

3. I’m doing more weekend meal planning and grocery shopping.

For a long time, I subscribed to meal kit programs like Sun Basket and Hello Fresh. They were especially useful to me when my youngest daughter was just a baby and I had no brain space left to even think about creating wholesome meals for my family. Now, though, my oldest has become quite the kitchen helper. These days, we look through cookbooks or think up meals together on Sundays, take a jog up to the grocery store, and then Uber home with everything we need for the week. I have a meal planner outline from Rifle Paper Company attached to my fridge with a detachable shopping list I use to keep us on track. 

4. We bought two mini whiteboards —one for parents and one for kids—that we keep visible by our family calendar in the kitchen.

Each whiteboard has room to note upcoming special events, lessons, meetings, and trips we have planned for the coming week. Some weeks I look at the whiteboards and they look crazy with activities. That’s okay. If they are, it’s a visual reminder that we need to scale back the next week.

Tidy House = Happy Home

I’m probably never going to be the most organized mom out there. Since perfection is overrated, though, I’m not too worried about getting a Housekeeper of the Year Award. To me, getting decluttered isn’t just about cleaning up my house (though that is an amazing byproduct). The way I declutter or organize might very well change next month—or the next time I watch a Netflix series—anyway. It’s about figuring out what’s really important, what really brings joy—in our homes, our schedules, in our lives. And, well, who doesn’t want a little more of that?

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 Lessons From Netflix: How to Get Your House More Organized and Your Life Less Complicated

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Parenting Lessons From the Tooth Fairy: Leaning Into The Joy of Our Kids’ Milestones

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

December 13, 2018

This week the Tooth Fairy made her first appearance in my home…and it was glorious. My daughter can tell you exactly how she looks: blonde, curly hair, a sparkly wand…and a Moana dress. She can also tell you how she sounds; apparently. When she dropped the cash under my five-year-old’s pillow, I’m told she whispered in a tinkly, bell-like voice, “Congratulations.”

“Mom, I saw her and she was SOOOO nice,” I heard all through breakfast the next morning.

Now, I have nothing against pink and sparkles, but I try my hardest to not get too caught up in making every single celebration or life event for my kids a Pinterest-worthy moment. My daughter’s last full-blown birthday party two years ago took so much planning and was such a disaster, we skipped the cake and candles all together this time around (just imagine a very precocious preschooler sobbing, “Why’d you invite all these people?” after she worked for a month painstakingly decorating each handwritten party announcement in glitter paint).

Nope, these days I keep it simple when it comes to holidays, birthdays, and the like. I’ve been working especially hard this season on not getting too caught up in commercialism traps, instead focusing on family time and family experiences. Sometimes, though, I forget in the process just how cool it can be for young kids, newly aware, to think about the Easter Bunny or Santa paying them a special visit. This Tooth Fairy thing reminded me. Yes, ma’am, that ethereal, incisor-snatching night owl got to me.

I found myself suddenly caught up in the specific milestone of losing a first tooth. I think it’s because my daughter was so excited about this transition in her body—unafraid, proud, joyful—that her excitement rubbed off on me, too. For weeks, she went around wiggling her tooth and asking everyone else in the family to do the same. She told her grandparents she planned on snapping a picture of the Tooth Fairy when she entered her bedroom (or trapping her in a box so she could get a really good look. I told her that sounded a little aggressive and maybe we could stick with a sneaky photo op). 

That joy, it was infectious, and it reminded me of three things: 

1. As a parent, it’s not my job to bring my child joy, but, when I can, we both win.

We can’t and we shouldn’t endeavor to make our kids happy all the time.  Happiness is fleeting and conditional. We can, though, look for opportunities to be fully present with our kids, not just with our physical presence or our attention, but also with our emotional presence. Think about the best moments you’ve had with your kids, about the moments that you go back to in your mind when you’re having a hard day or feeling discouraged. For me, those moments always have pure joy as a major element (and usually music, too): singing at the top of our lungs to the entire album of The Greatest Showman on a road trip, snuggling up in our bed on a Saturday morning, racing through the park playing tag with breathless energy. Sometimes our kids need us to be just as invested in their excitement and their enthusiasm as they are. 

2. You have to find joy yourself to give it to your kids.

It’s hard to pull a fast one on our children. They can tell when we pretty much hate our lives and they can see right through it when we try to fake contentment. Instead, focus on taking care of yourself, embracing your own life choices (especially when it comes to work), and getting mindful so you can turn right back around and infuse joy into your kids’ lives. Is any mom out there in the whole world who’s going to do that perfectly all the time? No, but it’s worth it to move in that direction. 

3. Milestones really do matter.

Losing your first tooth is a major milestone. So is taking your first step, scoring your first soccer goal, and getting your driver’s license. Our kids don’t need us to be all rah-rah about every single little thing they do (telling our kids “good job” and “you’re so smart” over and over is detrimental). Instead, we should be encouraging our children to have a growth mindset by telling them how proud we are of their efforts and celebrating when they reach their hard-earned goals. In the end, milestones (and holidays and celebrations) all provide an opportunity to build family traditions and to make memories with our kids. As we recognize the effort or bravery it takes our kids to move through a specific stage, we ultimately instill confidence and encourage resilience. 

I don’t know about you but, sometimes, I forget just how totally RAD the little stepping stones of childhood can be for our kids as they experience them.

Especially this season, I’m working on embracing the make-believe and the magical with my little ones. Setting out cookies for Santa, finding a note and a dollar from the Tooth Fairy, wishing on a star—these aren’t only the magical moments of childhood, they’re also an invitation to love the things our kids love, to be 100 percent “in it” for the moments that really matter, to be a little more childlike ourselves as we approach our parenting. There is absolutely nothing like watching your toothless five-year-old grin from ear to ear for the first time, just like there’s nothing like seeing your baby smile or hearing her say her first word. Yep, this first tooth moment is going in the baby book—not because it’s momentous to the rest of the world, but because it’s momentous to my daughter and to me—a place we both found a second of pure joy. Thank you, Tooth Fairy. 

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

 

Parenting Hacks For Moms of Toddlers and Babies For Celebrating Milestones, Birthdays, Special Occasions

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Self-Care For Moms | Taking Care of Yourself Means Saying No…Especially During the Holidays

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

November 27, 2018

Let me guess. Someone, somewhere in the last week or so has talked about how hectic the holiday season is. They talked about how much they had to get done, how many gifts they had to buy, and how much they had to accomplish. The whole, “Oh, the holidays are so stressful” mantra is just as much a part of our winter tradition in the United States as Santa and Frosty the Snowman, especially for moms. 

I thought a lot about our collective holiday mindset a lot this week, as my family and I made a 60-hour, 780-mile trip down to California and back with a two- and a five-year-old in tow.

We were up early on Thanksgiving day to catch a two-hour flight, take a three-and-a-half hour car ride to my in-law’s house and eat a lovely meal. Then, we turned around a day and a half later to do it all again. It’s one of many November or December trips we’ve taken with our young kids in the name of tradition and family. And, while I love, love, love my husband’s family and I want my children to be a part of the holiday hubbub, the trip planning (and the beaucoup bucks it cost to make it happen) made us take a second to look at our choices.

It also made us take a second look at the trade-offs and benefits of taking a whirlwind attitude toward these holiday months. It wasn’t long before we came to the conclusion that planning get-togethers for longer periods of time when we can really sink in and relax into vacations with our extended family, like during the summer months, would be way more feasible in the future. 

Last year, I posted about my plan to divide and conquer during the holidays, putting my husband in charge of most of the gift buying and putting myself in charge of most of the planning for special events. It made a huge difference in our holiday experience, but this revelation about what we do with our time and what control we have over the parts of this season that makes things feel hectic? That type of mind shift is on a whole other level because it applies to everything else we do in our lives, too. 

See, here’s the deal: when we say we’re feeling hectic around the holidays we’re saying that we’ve made the choice to make it that way. We’re deciding that we agree with living our lives that way. 

And here’s the bigger deal: when we’re moms and we say we’re hectic—at the holidays and throughout the rest of the year—we’re saying the same thing. We’re saying we choose a hectic, stress-filled life. Now, of course, some things are stressful just because they are. Sometimes a loved one is hurt or ill, sometimes we come across financial difficulties, or a challenging relationship makes life hard. I’m not talking about that kind of stress. I’m talking about hustle and bustle, too many things on my list, too many commitments and plans in way too short of time stress. Self-induced stress. 

Nah, mamas. I think we’re better than those tired mantras and stories. I think our holidays should be better and our lives should be better.

You with me? If you are, here are some ways to take back control of your life and of the next few months, in particular. 

Say No

Sometimes we have to just flat out say no. When it comes to our kids, our jobs, ourselves, we have to actively set boundaries. Believe me, if you keep on giving, others will keep on receiving. Sheryl Sanders was revolutionary when she talked about leaning in, but if we lean in too far to anything, we’re going to fall in, the victim of our own lack of perspective and mindfulness. That means, at some point, we have to decide what’s most important to us. We have to make decisions based on our priorities, not our obligations, or else other people (often times very unintentionally) are going to determine how our minutes and our days will be filled. 

Spend Your Time Creating Memories With Your Family, Not Spending Money on Them

When my kids look back on their early childhoods, I hope with all my heart they remember the special moments we created decorating gingerbread men on our kitchen table and blaring Michael Bublé’s Christmas album in the car. I know they won’t remember the toys we put under the tree this year. I’m still going to buy them some, I’m just not going to go overboard in the purchasing department. I am going to go overboard in the “spend a bunch of cozy time together” department. 

Delegate to The Other People in Your Village 

You can’t and shouldn’t do this holiday season alone. If you have a partner, no need to make it even stevens, but do divide and conquer your way through. No matter what your status, get other people involved so the responsibility doesn’t lie solely with you. 

Don’t Fain Martyrdom

Sometimes I catch myself telling other people how busy I am this time of year because it seems like a breathless dash to the holiday finish line is the only way to look like I’m doing a good job. It turns out, though, that’s all for show. I really like going to my company party and picking out special ways to commemorate the year for the people I love. I enjoy getting Christmas cards out to friends and family. If you do, too, own it without acting like it’s a pain. 

Pack It In

Instead of spending all week thinking about what you need to get done to make the holidays happen, take a chunk of time to make a plan. A half an hour should work just fine to jot down all the gifts you need to buy, the food you need to prep, and the activities you need to plan. Then, set aside another hour or two to, in one sitting, try to move through as much as possible on your list. (Hint: whenever possible, shop online and think about gifting experiences, like a gift card to a restaurant or toward a spa day, instead of stuff that has to ship). If you’re still not done once the timer goes off, plan another two-hour chunk in a few days. Compartmentalizing our to-dos reduces our mental load, allowing us to get more mindful throughout the day.

Yeah, sure, the holidays are hectic for most people but they do not have to be for you (or for me). Our kids learn the most about peace and joy during this season when we model it ourselves—when they see us complaining less about how the holidays are happening to us and enjoying more what the season has in store for us if we set some limits and choose a celebration mindset. 

Want More Parenting Help?

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

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

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How to care for babies and toddlers, including hacks for the holidays and help with holiday planning

POST:

Self-Care For Moms | Taking Care of Yourself Means Taking Care of Your Conscience

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

November 7, 2018

I volunteered in my daughter’s kindergarten classroom last week. I sat squeezed onto one of those little teeny chairs for an hour and a half, cutting out paper strips in orange and yellow for the fall classroom paper chain garlands, feeling less like I was doing a great deed for my daughter (or the children of humanity) and more like a factory worker without a bathroom break (for more on taking a break if you’re a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, click here for our free guide). My daughter, however, remembers it differently, and shared boastfully with her sister around the dinner table that “Mommy spent special time with me today,” even adding, “It was the best.” 

To be honest, I signed up because I felt like I should. The temptation to give into mommy guilt has been stronger than ever since my eldest started elementary school this August. I’m not really sure how that’s possible. Heading back to work after maternity leave was a trial, missing out on zoo dates and library times in the preschool years sometimes got me teary, but elementary school? Things should be easier, it seemed to me as I mentally prepared for the year. 

Nope. I was wrong. Now, with the schedule and structure of school life, things seemed somehow more complicated, with way more opportunities to miss something important or to just feel like I was missing out. At first I thought it was the constant influx of papers to sign or the fundraising kick-offs that made it so overwhelming, but then this happened: A little, innocent message popped onto my mobile screen at 9 o’clock on a Wednesday from the app my kid’s kindergarten teacher uses to communicate with all the class parents. 

“We are going on a farm field trip to pick a pumpkin and have a picnic in the hayloft! This is a special time for you and your kindergartner so please, please try your very best to be there.” 

My heart sank. The event, the message said, was a week away. There was absolutely no way I could make it. I had a full panel of patients already lined up and a staff of people depending on me to show up in my office. I imagined my daughter sitting alone, crying, eating her boring lunch on some scratchy hay bale. 

Yep, that message made me think pretty hard about just how good a mom I am and what it actually means to be a good mom. It got in my head, making me question, even though I’ve been on the “it takes a village to raise a child and I’m not the only person in that village” train for as long as I can remember, if I was messing up my kids by not being available to them 24-7.

Here’s what I realized after soul-searching for a day and a half (listen carefully because this might change your whole worldview like it did for me): 

I’m the best mom for my kids not in spite of the fact that I work and have ambitious dreams but because I do. 

My kids are watching me all the time. They see me hustling hard to reach my goals, and being 100 percent committed to my vision for myself and for them. No, I’m never going to crochet them intricate Halloween costumes or greet them with homemade cookies in the afternoon, but I am going to give them a shining example of how to contribute to their communities and how to make a difference in other peoples’ lives. I’m going to show them that the best version of any girl, or of any mom, or of any person, for that matter, is the version that is unapologetically true to herself. Above, all, I’m going to be completely invested in my children in the ways that really matter, giving them support, attention, and love. 

Now, before you write me an email, this is not a battle cry for working women. 

Maybe you love being a stay-at-home-mom, or you work part-time. That’s great! Own it. Mommy guilt doesn’t start and stop with work choices—we all know that. We all have to resist comparing ourselves to other moms or trying to be something that we’re not, no matter how we spend our days. Just like we have to prioritize our priorities when it comes to self-care, we also have to prioritize where and how we spend our time when it comes to mothering. 

It doesn’t matter that Julie’s mommy packs only organic, handmade zucchini muffins each day (that I’m sure she spends all day preparing) in her kids’ lunches or that Jake’s mother volunteers twice a week in the classroom but you don’t. Maybe your contribution to your kids’ lives looks different. You might be a music lover who can teach your kids to embrace life by throwing impromptu dance parties on a Tuesday night. You might be an expert business exec, who can teach her kids how to negotiate well for themselves, avoiding risky behaviors based on peer pressure down the line. We’re all wired differently and that’s okay.

Now, are there moms (working and non-working, by the way) who truly damage their kids by over-prioritizing themselves and by neglecting their children’s emotional needs? Yes, of course. I’m not giving a green light here on complete DIY mothering without guidance and accountability. I bet, though, that’s not you. The vast majority of mothers I meet are on the other end of the spectrum—they’re trying so hard to not let their kids or some imaginary vision of perfect motherhood down that they miss out on actually enjoying mom life. 

Great moms don’t try to be someone else, they try to be themselves. They:

Provide Consistency

Tons of families come to my clinic asking about family dinners. They’ve heard a lot about their importance on social media and in books they’ve read. The truth is, family dinners are just one example of providing times throughout the day and week that our kids can count on. Kids thrive on routine. There are always times we have to make adjustments, but if you build in planned times to connect that your kids can count on, that is more important than you being physically present with your children 24 hours a day.

Stay Focused When They’re With Their Kids

It’s so much worse to spend all day on your smartphone while your child tries to get your attention than to take care of what you need to do in a chunk of concentrated time and then give our kids the undivided attention they deserve. Make the time you spend with your children purposeful instead of distracted and you’ll enjoy it more and not wish you were somewhere else the whole time. If you’ve taken your own time to take care of yourself, this won’t be such a challenge.

Allow Other Caretakers to Take an Equal Share in Caring For Their Kids

Allow other caretakers to be team members who provide the same level of consistency you do to your children (if you caught our blog last week, we talked all about this). Nine out of ten weekends in our house, my husband makes waffles and takes the kids to the park while I do something solo. The next morning we switch and I do something special with them. Both of us get our time to re-boot and we’re less resentful of each other’s free time. Plus we get some individual moments with our kids to make memories.

Make Sure They’re Taking Just As Good a Care of Themselves As The Rest Of Their  Obligations. 

Pro Tip: You’ll do a better job avoiding the mommy guilt, actually taking care of your kids well, and not getting bogged down in have-tos and need-tos if you figure out what YOU really need first. That takes a lot of filtering, I know (read here about how to do more of that). It takes a lot of seemingly selfish moves to get to where you need to be. It takes forging a new path for modern moms, one based less on a “do it all” and “be it all” mentality and much more on an “I have time for my top priorities” kind of life. 

Taking Care of Your Conscience

My daughter attended the pumpkin patch field trip without a parent. My mom went in my place. Guess what? It wasn’t some huge catastrophe. She didn’t cry, she wasn’t sad. She had a great time and told all her friends, “My mommy couldn’t come because she’s making sure people don’t get Polio today (since I’m a pediatrician)” and “My daddy couldn’t come because he’s helping people walk today (since he’s a physical therapist).” When I got home from work, we got out our pumpkin carving kit, listened to Hamilton on repeat, and talked about how she planned to be an artist-mathematician-coffee shop owner who sells my book with each latte. We’ll see how it all plays out but I couldn’t be prouder of her or of us—unapologetically content with our dreams and our household.

Most of the time, we’ve got to listen to our conscience—it keeps us out of trouble and rights us when we veer off track. But sometimes, our conscience is just a front for guilt, for expectations, for things that don’t serve us or our kids. The bad news? Those things aren’t going away any time soon—paradigms change slowly. The good news? Your kids don’t need you to be perfect and polished, conformed to someone else’s expectations. They need you to be confident just being you…and that, mama, you can do right away.

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

 

working mom tips and tricks for parenting toddlers and elementary school kids

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