POST:

Self-Care For Moms | How to Make Your Parenting More Balanced and Less Frustrating

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

October 29, 2018

My youngest daughter is mad and she’s not going to take it anymore. She knows she’s in hand-me-down clothes, she can tell that her sister’s school day takes priority over any type of schedule she may have. She has been dragged around in way too many cars on way too many errands for way too long. She’s starting to question our parenting.

Enter a major temptation: Even-Steven Parenting—an attempt to be, not just more fair, but exactly fair. You know the concept: let’s make everything exactly the same for everyone. It’s a way for moms and dads to level the playing field for all of their kids. I heard my daughters start to use it last week whenever they felt jealous or frustrated. It became code for “Things are not exactly equal and that is not okay with me.”

Even-Steven Parenting and Our Kids

I’m not sure where my kids learned about even-steven fairness. Maybe my nanny (she’s amazing BTW- check out my guide for finding an awesome caretaker here)? Maybe a grandparent? 

Before I could say, “antiquated parenting!” the girls were throwing the even-steven term in my face on the regular. One had a toy? The other needed the same one. One got to go paint pottery? The other needed an art playdate as well. One sat on my lap at dinner? The other stomped over and shouted “EVEN-STEVEN!!!!” at the top of her lungs.

On the surface, Even-Steven Parenting seemed like an easy fix to a lot of squabbles and, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for having equity within my house. It doesn’t make sense to make one child feel like they’re getting the short end of the stick all the time. We definitely don’t want kids overcompensating by acting out, breaking down or withdrawing because they feel like they don’t have the love and support of the people who are supposed to care about them most. 

There’s a problem with an even-steven approach, though. It, inevitably, leads to a ton of scorekeeping. It insinuates that things should and can always be fair. The problem? We all know that life is not fair. Sometimes we don’t all get a trophy just for showing up (or at least we shouldn’t). 

Even-Steven Parenting and Our Partners

For all you mamas with a co-parent, the same goes for our parenting partner relationships. If I asked you to keep a tally of who does more —you or your partner —to make your family run, I know you would be like PLEASE BRING IT ON. I’M GOING TO WIN EVERY TIME. I mean, that’s incredibly true in my own home—one where my husband and I both work full-time, where I’m the breadwinner, where I consider myself a very liberated, modern mom. I realize there are all types of family structures and I know some advanced, enlightened families where this is not the case but, for 99.999999% of women out there, this is the reality. Think about the laundry detergent ordering, the sleep training, the lunch making, the playdate arranging that you do. If you kept score, it would be a total shutout.

But here’s the nasty secret we all forget sometimes. The scorekeeping doesn’t help us, it hurts us because scorekeeping doesn’t change the score, it just adds another task to our long lists of to-dos and builds heaps and heaps of resentment along the way. 

Another Approach

Instead of keeping score, what if we set up expectations along strength lines for division of labor with our partners? What if we decided on the tasks we would each be responsible for and then we each just let go of the things that weren’t on our individual to-do lists? How about if, when one person got overwhelmed, we stepped in like any teammate on any team would do?

Here’s where I wanted to shine it on when I wrote this blog—to act like I do this perfectly in my own home all the time. But, as I sat there writing and re-writing some fake version of how I have it all figured out and you should, too, I finally just erased my whole first draft. I’m assuming you came here for some honesty, so that’s what I’m going to give you:

My partner and I, we’re a work in progress in this area. Sometimes I feel like my husband thinks he’s “babysitting” or “helping me out,” instead of co-parenting. Sometimes he says he feels like I can’t let go of being the family boss. If he had more freedom and less criticism when it came to his parenting decisions, he would feel more ownership and would be more motivated to step up in his co-team leader role.

Despite centruries—no milleniums—of societal norms, we continue to strive toward the idea that gender should make no difference when it comes to caring for our kids (kinda like how it didn’t make a difference when I promoted him to soother-in-chief during the newborn period).

The Principles We (Try Our Best to) Parent By:

  • Letting each other parent as much as possible without co-parent oversight (as long as the other person is not doing something obviously detrimental or potentially abusive — there is a time and a place for stepping in),
  • Setting expectations that we’ll each get some time to ourselves throughout the week while the other person takes on a caretaker-in-chief role,
  • Paying attention to how we’re both doing in terms of rest and stress, and
  • Stepping in when we can tell the other person is overwhelmed or overworked.

An Even-Steven Approach to Self-Care

So much of successful parenting (and especially successful mothering) is about filtering out all the junk the world tells us we need to accomplish in the course of a day, a week, a year. If you caught our blog last week, we talked all about how to filter). Even when it comes to self-care, sometimes we self-sabotage by thinking we need to be balanced in every area of our life at all times. Instead, consider doing less but being more—with our kids and with ourselves. Consider only focusing on a few top priorities when it comes to self-care (I let exercise, my passion projects, and travel top my list, while a perfectly-kept home, a hopping social calendar, and a completely perfect appearance aren’t always on my mind). 

Reality Check:

We are the first generation of moms who are trying to and are expected to “do it all.” We’re forging a new path as we parent and as we partner. It’s a path where gender roles don’t necessarily define tasks and responsibilities, STRENGTHS do—one where things aren’t always even or completely balanced—for our kids or for ourselves. Are you playing even-steven games all stinkin’ day long as you work alongside your partner to take care of your kids and your life? Maybe “Tag You’re It” or “Let’s Sit Down and Talk About Ways We Can Run a House Together Since We’re Both Modern Parents” would work better in the long term. Those games sure sound like more fun to me.

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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Guide to co-parenting toddlers and babies for new moms with top tips for self-care, co-parenting

POST:

Self-Care for Moms | Figuring Out Self-Care is About Learning How to Filter

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

October 19, 2018

I’m sitting on my mat, eyes closed, trying to breathe. The lights are dim, the music is just right, the instructor’s voice is calm and melodic as she guides the class in getting centered and getting comfortable, but I just can’t seem to focus. It’s a shame, really, given that I’ve spent all week arranging for this one hour of “self-indulgence”—paying extra for my sitter to stay with my youngest at home, timing a business meeting to start directly after I’m done, even putting off more “important” errands like the grocery store and a Target run in the name of self-care.

Yet, somehow, my mind keeps flitting in and out of focus despite multiple attempts to bring myself back to the present moment. I’m already onto the rest of the day in my head, and somehow also back to yesterday, where I’m analyzing an in-office interaction and questioning my clinical decision-making process on a patient’s particularly tough condition. Yep, my filter system is broken today. 

So, this morning’s exercise session was a loss. So what? As I walked to my car after the class and out to the rest of my life, I thought about the bigger picture—about what the class represented, about how many of my self-care attempts are affected by my ability to properly filter. I thought about how much time we all waste, especially as mothers, unable to get past the noise, the false messages, and the endless, meaningless to-dos that face us every day. About how, if self-care really is about trying to achieve some type of balance, it’s our filter system that—nine times out of ten—keeps us from actually getting anywhere with our attempts. 

Filtering Out the Noise

How much time do you spend on your phone? I’m not judging, I’m just asking, because I often have to spend A LOT of time on my phone (mostly due to the nature of running a blog and a business and promoting both on social media) and I notice that, when I’m on it without a specific task in mind (just to surf) and without a plan to GET OFF OF IT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, my whole life ends up filled with noise.

I follow a link to a story and it leads me to some other worthless distraction, scroll through Facebook and I get sucked into watching some viral video, hang out on Pinterest and I get bogged down in pictures of professionally-decorated homes that I can’t afford. It’s all noise, and it eats away at the precious moments I do have to actually do what feeds me, what restores me, and what builds me up. 

So, what can we do to get rid of some of the static that clogs our thinking and takes all our time away? I’m guessing you’re probably not all going to throw your phones into a pool anytime soon, but how about this? What if you worked on consciously setting aside times throughout the week without any devices, even if it’s 20 minutes at a time. Especially when my kids are around, I’m just turning my phone completely off, leaving it, allowing myself to see it as a tool I can use when I need it versus a letting it kind of use me.

Filtering Out the False Messages as We Work on Self-Care

Why is it so hard for us to take good care of ourselves when we become moms? In part, because it feels selfish and indulgent. Because it feels like there are a million other things that we could be doing with our time that would be more productive or would be more helpful for our families. Because, when we become mothers, we are seen primarily as caretakers and secondarily as human beings with basic needs. Or, maybe, because we try to do it all and be it all and soon realize IT NEVER WORKS so we just give up (and end up resentful) or we keep running ourselves into the ground (and end up exhausted and unhappy).

There are a million lies that float into our heads day after day, that make us confused about what’s important, that—okay, this is going to sound extreme but I’m going to go here anyway—suck the joy out of everything. 

Each time we have a choice to take care of ourselves we also have an opportunity to choose what messages we’ll believe about ourselves and about our place in this world. We have a chance to choose what defines us. We get to take responsibility for how we live our lives. 

Filtering Out the To-Dos

I’m used to angst over decisions I make in my pediatrics clinic (in fact, I think it’s part of what keeps me honest and thinking as I doctor), but those to-dos that keep piling up in my head? Yeah, I could do without those. Moms who focus solely on getting things done miss out on LIFE, plain and simple. Instead, think about how to lessen your load. If you have a partner, figure out a plan for dividing responsibilities along strength lines. No matter what your family construct, stop doing everything for everyone else. Get other people on your team. Let go of the tasks that don’t matter and give away the tasks that drag you down. You only have the time and the bandwidth to do so much—use the time you do have to narrow in on your priorities.

If the whole point of focusing on self-care is to figure out some way to a more balanced life and family, then we’re all going to have to hone our filtering skills to get to our end-goals. Of course, we’ll inevitably have our off days no matter how hard we try. Don’t beat yourself up when that happens. I mean, my yoga mat mishaps, although annoying, weren’t catastrophic, they simply were a reminder. The more mindful we are of the distractions and the storylines that keep us from taking care of ourselves—as moms and just as members of the human race—the more we’ll be able to find the balance we all want…and need.

Wanting 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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Top tips for moms on how to filter so they can practice self-care and find balance

POST:

Self-Care For Moms | Do You Need a Mommyhood Vacation?

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

October 9, 2018

This summer, I took a mommyhood vacation. Well, actually, I worked all week while my kids and husband went on vacation. Even so, without two littles on my heels and in my arms for five days, it felt like a holiday getaway. 

I’d taken way too much time off earlier in the year, leaving me short on summer vacay opportunities, so we decided to divide and conquer this time around. While my husband played on the beach with his side of the family and our children, I stayed behind and kept my job. 

Of course I knew I would miss my girls the second they boarded the airplane but I also knew I had a rare opportunity to do a lot of the things I never do, things that never happen because it’s hard to coordinate everyone’s needs on a weekly basis and because, when my kids are around, I really like to hang out with them (if you want more help with wrangling young kids, click here for our free guide).

My Mommyhood Vacay

I went to a movie (it had been three years since my last in-theater experience), I met my girlfriends for drinks on Saturday night, I planned a fancy brunch on Sunday morning. The mid-morning yoga class I loved pre-babies was finally an option. No one called and asked when I would be home. I WAS FREE. 

You’re probably going to guess my next line, right? 

“And then you realized you didn’t really want to be free.”

INCORRECT. I loved it. The guilt was gone. My time was mine. I could choose. 

My revelation on my mommyhood vacation was more nuanced than that. Here’s what I realized:

It would not be that hard to replicate any of this in my normal life. Shocker: my life pre-kids was not THAT interesting. I like to romanticize it in my mind. I like to pine away for it but I don’t really have to because none of the things I wanted to do without the pull of responsibility were that extravagant. No, I can’t do them all in a 48-hour continuous stretch every weekend, but I CAN sprinkle them into a weekly and monthly routine, achieving that same college-era “I just finished finals for the summer and I am free as a bird” feeling— that feeling of no pressure, no obligation, no me-shaped hole in my heart.

It’s not that I don’t already make self-care a priority.

Those who know me know I’m constantly preaching that moms can’t take good care of their littles until they start taking good care of themselves. It’s that my attitude, while I’m taking care of myself, is often with a sense that I’m on borrowed time or that my kids are wistfully wishing for me each time I go away for short periods of time. What if I could shift that? Is it possible be mindful about my parenting responses, about my perspective on the stage of motherhood I’m in, but also about my self-care moments? What if I could truly enjoy my opportunities for enjoyment, sans mom guilt and martyrdom?

I realized I don’t have to torture myself. I can just enjoy. 

In my pediatrics office, the moms I see who learn that mindset trick are happier and better-adjusted to their new mommy role. They care deeply about their children but they know that having healthy priorities means not always putting their kids first—sometimes it means consciously, mindfully, putting themselves first for discrete periods of time. On the other hand, the moms I see who never acknowledge their own needs or who live in a “less than” mentality, struggle more than they need to. Those moms never get to fully enjoy motherhood OR their own personhood. 

When I reunited with my babies at the end of our journeys, I felt complete again —back with the people I loved the most. But, I didn’t regret the decision we made to let me have some moments by myself. My mommyhood vacation taught me a lot —mostly about how I didn’t need more TIME to get all the self-care I think I need, I just need more perspective. 

Wanting 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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POST:

Parenting Hacks for New Moms | How to Fight Back Against Mommy Failure Feelings

CATEGORY:

Babies, Parents

Date:

August 16, 2018

It didn’t take much for me to feel like a mommy failure when I was just starting out on my parenthood journey and I know I’m not alone. The feeling creeps in when we struggle with breastfeeding, when we don’t have all the “right” gear, when we don’t have all the “right” information or when we don’t handle every situation perfectly.

One mom in my office put it so well:

“I handle multi-million dollar sales transactions on a daily basis. I sit in a conference room with other business leaders and can influence their decision-making at the drop of a hat. But getting my toddler to put on her shirt? Somehow, I fail every day at doing that without getting flustered and losing my cool. It’s so demoralizing. I’m scared of what I’ll mess up when she gets older and it really counts.”

Our friends, our parents, social media, our significant others – pressure and guilt can come from all sides, piling on a sense that it’s all or nothing. That good enough is never enough. That only the best will do. That we are mommy failures.

The Real Secret to Successful Parenting

But the real secret to successful parenting is understanding and dealing with our own personal struggles and pain points, not pretending they don’t exist or acting like, if we just smile a little brighter, others won’t notice our humanity. Going to therapy, or to lactation or to our pediatrician for help. Understanding we are not as in control as we think we are most of the time. That sometimes we do our best and take all the classes and read all the books and IT STILL DOESN’T WORK. Taking a look at our own “weaknesses” and fears – these are the things that really make a difference.

What To Do When You Feel Like a Mommy Failure

Stop beating yourself up if you don’t always feel like you are the parent that you hoped that you would be. None of us are. Try your best. Deal with your own issues head-on, get the help you need to support yourself and give you the parenting tools that will allow you to rise above your most challenging days. Your children will thank you for it when they’re navigating their own parenting insecurities years down the road.

Want more solid parenting and mommy advice? Check out our free parenting resources here.

Need a great gift for a friend’s baby shower (or for your own baby registry)? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care For Yourself and our Newborn Gift Boxes (in Boy, Girl, and Gender Neutral).

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POST:

Parenting Hacks for New Moms | Keeping Perspective

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

July 10, 2018

This weekend, I learned a powerful lesson in motherhood perspective. My family woke up stressed. Both my kids and my husband were going for a week to the coast with their grandparents while I stayed behind to work. The flight was scheduled for 11:45 a.m., so at 10:15 we were in high-gear trying to get everyone out the door and ready for the big adventure. Like it always goes, my husband and I were a bit curt with each other as one we tried to make last-minute additions to our suitcases and keep the kids occupied at the same time. My toddler kept pulling everything out of the luggage and throwing it up in the air with glee. 

“Rain, mama!” she squealed. 

“Feeling a little on edge?” my husband smirked as I sighed heavily in her direction and tried to pry her fingers off her make-believe tropical storm props. 

I felt myself trying to get back to mindfulness as we raced the clock. (By the way, if you’re looking for toddler behavior and tantrum help, check out our free guide here). 

Finally, we made it out the door but, closing our fence behind us, I saw something was missing.  Something big. In fact, two things. 

“Where are our cars?” My big girl asked. 

 

A Lesson in Perspective

 

I looked around, sure we had just forgotten where we parked them the night before but slowly it set in. Our cars were gone. Vanished without a trace. Kaplouf!

Yep, someone stole both of my cars right from in front of my house. Had we dropped the keys on our way in the night before? Our minds raced to retrace our steps. 

As we scrambled to the airport in a taxi and started making calls to the police and our insurance company, my daughter burst out into tears. 

“Someone took our cars? They took our things? Why would someone do that to me? I love our cars!” 

(By the way, our cars are not fancy in the least, she just gets strongly attached to her stuff.)

 

Losing Perspective

 

I may not have been in tears, but I was feeling the same exact way: completely violated and totally helpless. 

As we zipped along the highway, though, I realized I had a unique opportunity to reframe our situation, not only for my children but for myself. 

 

Gaining Perspective Back

 

Worrying Less About the Small Things

 

First of all, I saw how petty and small-minded I had been when we were preparing for the trip earlier that morning. Yes, we’d had a plane to catch and yes, my baby was cramping my style and my schedule, but my level of annoyance was in no way commiserate with the level of inconvenience I was facing. It reminded me of how often I handle all the other situations I referee with my kids (squabbles, tantrums, and power-plays) in the same over-the-top, reactive way—and that I can choose to treat my kids’ infringements like life-threatening emergencies, reacting abruptly without perspective, or I can choose to treat them like the minor hiccups that they (usually are). 

 

Using Bad Experiences to Teach My Kids Resilience

 

Second, I realized this was an amazing opportunity to teach my kids about prioritizing people over possessions. While my daughter worried about the loss of our vehicle, I worried about the loss of our financial security. My immediate thought was, “Do I have comprehensive coverage? How much will this cost me?” And, though those things are important, my child’s question about why someone would choose to take something that belongs to someone else helped me get to a place of deeper appreciation about what was NOT taken (my children), about what had NOT happened (a house break-in, a major car accident). Because she got so, understandably, focused on our things, it helped me pan out to the wider picture and end up….thankful. 

 

Making it a Teaching Moment

 

Lastly, I was able to give my children some insight into why things get taken, opening the door to an in-the-moment conversation about how we prepare for emergencies, accidents, and mayhem. About why we save some money and set it aside just “in case.” About how there are people out there designated to help us when things go wrong. About how sometimes isn’t all about enjoying the roses, it’s also about overcoming the thorns, building resilience along the way.

 

Back When I Had No Perspective

 

It made me think back to when I was a new mom, working out the details of breastfeeding, trying to make sense of sleep cycles and colic. I remembered how easy it was in the small, stressful moments, to think small. About how much better motherhood got once I started looking at the big picture, focusing on coping with versus changing my new mom day-to-day reality. About how all of us, when we’re mothering, can’t control everything, but can control our perspectives. 

Life’s not fair. It’s never going to be. And, while I’m not quite sure that “everything happens for a reason” applies to a robbery taking place literally in my front yard, the events of this past weekend, did, in the end, help me gain an even clearer vision of what’s important and what’s really not—and of how to teach my kids to understand why things ultimately don’t matter: the people we love do. 

If you are a new mom or an expectant mom, getting perspective and having the right expectations is one of the most important things you can do.

Want more? 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? Check out our Newborn Baby Gift Boxes – in Boy, Girl, and Gender Neutral.

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new moms, breastfeeding, parenting hacks, top tips for keeping perspective when you're a new mom

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