POST:

Parenting Advice | How I (Don’t) Do it All… and Why You Shouldn’t Either

CATEGORY:

Babies, Parents, Toddlers

Date:

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 for parenting advice 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.

New mom just starting out on your mom journey? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint.

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POST:

Parenting Tips | 4 Ways to Make Your Parenting More Peaceful

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

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 (if you have young kids and could use some guidance, you can find our toddler tantrum guide here, by the way). Sound familiar?

Here are some parenting tips on how to make your life more peaceful.

Last night, my husband looked at me with weary eyes as we attempted to wrangle our girls at dinner. Our littlest was 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. At 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 explaining to my big girl for about 20 minutes that she needed to pay attention to her sister’s signals and emotions, I almost lost it. (“Honey, when you hug her tightly and she screams in terror, she is trying to tell you she needs space.”)

But, I’ve learned a few parenting tips and tricks to stay peaceful and present when things get hectic (read: most days). Tricks that 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. 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 purchase our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint. 

To learn more about our free toddler tantrum guides, new mom guides, and self-care guides, click here.

 

4 Ways to Make Your Parenting More Peaceful

POST:

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

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

March 28, 2018

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

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

It’s so normal to wish away the painful parts of parenting.

Despite the admonishments of those further along the parenting path to “treasure the time you have,” those people must have memory loss. There are plenty of infant and toddler precious moments but there are also plenty more moments of pure stress and strife.

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

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

No one tells them this crucial parenting pearl:

yes, we can prevent and address a lot of health issues that come up for newborns and young kids but some things (like cluster feeding, sleep regressions and colic) are more about muddling through with the right perspective than they are about finding quick-fix solutions. Some things just take time to get better. (Major caveat here: if you have a serious health concern about your child and are worried about their safety or about potential illness, contact your doctor right away.)

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

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

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

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

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

So what can we do?

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

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

Know a new mom or mom-to-be who could use information, inspiration, and guidance as she starts out on her parenting journey? Learn more about our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint 

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POST:

Mommy Guilt | Yep, Mama. You Are the Problem…and the Solution

CATEGORY:

Parents, Toddlers

Date:

February 22, 2018

“Well, she’s your daughter.”

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

He’s right (and he doesn’t mean it disparagingly. He’s just calling it like it is).

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

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

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

I’m all about trying to see the issues that challenge her as strengths (she’ll be the head of some world-saving, peace-making nonprofit when she grows up, no doubt) and psychological research strongly supports that approach.

But, when she’s having her most difficult, high-emotion times, it’s harder to focus on the positives. Instead, like a lot of moms I know, I go searching for reasons why my kids are the way they are. Often, that search leads me right back to myself and to a whole new level of mommy guilt.

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

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

If you are feeling guilty that, by just being you, you are messing up your kid, take heart.

Yep, you are part of the problem…but you’re also part of the solution. And you’re just the mama your kid needs.

For more on toddler tantrum help, check out our free guide here.

Know a new mom or mom-to-be who could use a precious gift and some solid info? Click here to learn more about our Newborn Gift Boxes: in Boy, Girl, and Gender Neutral.

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POST:

Why It’s Perfectly Fine If You Forget to Make Your Second Child a Baby Book

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

December 22, 2017

I’m not sure how many teeth my youngest daughter has. Is it eight or ten? It’s the type of thing that, with my firstborn, I would’ve paid attention to. I would’ve written it down in her baby book. I would’ve sent a million pictures of each shiny white chiclet to her grandmas as they broke through her tender gums. But, with my second child, I’m just not keeping track. Obviously, I could count them but, when it comes down to it, I don’t care.
You don’t CARE? Yep, that’s right. I love that little girl like nobody’s business but I couldn’t care less how many teeth or how much hair or exactly how many words she has.

I actually couldn’t care less about a lot of the small details.

Now, before you write me a strongly-worded email about not playing favorites with my kids or loving one of them less, the memories I’ve overlooked aren’t big things. They’re just tiny little details that don’t seem to matter as much this time around. I care that she is safe and happy and thriving. Plus she does have a relatively skimpy baby book that I plan on filling out sometime before she enters college. More importantly, I would argue that my minor forgetfulness proves my improved parenting prowess, my hard-earned second-time parent nonchalance (for help on how to kill it when you’re a NEW mom, click here to get our free guide).
I’m confident the same is true for all you second- (or third- or fourth-) timers out there. Sure, we’re too preoccupied to notice a lot of things, but that level of reduced obsession also helps us let it go when it comes to the more annoying parts of parenthood that are only “solved” through patience- things like sleepless nights and spit-up-stained clothes. We don’t get so caught up in mini milestones or challenges and we care more about the big picture. We also know that loving all our kids well doesn’t mean loving them with calculated equality.

My love for my two girls is different, not more or less, just different.

They have their own temperaments and their own love languages. One of them needs tickles and laughter and loud most of the time. The other needs quiet and secure and cozy. They have their own preferences. One loves everything ballet and pink. The other loves soccer balls and dirt. Most importantly, they have their own parenting needs. One is rowdy and bull-headed. The other is opinionated but anxious.
A lot of parents I meet worry about how they’ll love or parent their kids equally when their second baby arrives. They worry about how they’ll extend the same level of energy they gave their first child to another boy or girl. They wonder if they have it in them –  if they could ever love another human being so intensely.
I completely understand. Sure, my firstborn was a colicky disaster the first three months of her life and she made it impossible for me to get a good night’s sleep for her first year. But, before her sister arrived, she was my whole world (of course, along with my partner -he’s pretty cool, too).

I asked my friend, a seasoned mom herself, how she made room in her heart when she had her second child.

“I remember the day I brought Lilly home from the hospital. Her big brother Jack was looking over at her and he made some gesture toward her. It was a sudden move with his arm and, in my sleepless state, I thought that he might injure her, that for whatever reason he might hit her or that he was being aggressive towards her. It was a split-moment feeling that I had, probably due to high levels of postpartum hormones and low levels of emotional reserves, and definitely not based in reality.
“I felt myself instinctively protecting my baby, jerking her away from my son, crouching over her so that he couldn’t get to her. And, I also got, for one split moment, really angry at him. The mama bear in me came out that day. I’d had that protective feeling billions of times for him throughout his short life- when another child said something unkind at school, when he injured himself playing at the park – but I hadn’t thought it was possible until that incident to protect another person like that. That was the moment that I realized I could love two people with the same level of raw intensity at once.“
I learned exactly what she meant with my own kids when that protective feeling kicked in for my second child postpartum in some maternal instinct moment. I’ve been over the moon for her ever since.

Still, as she grows up and becomes more and more human, it’s tempting to see second-time parenting as an exercise in missed documentation and attention.

It’s the same for all multi-kid families. We’re busy once we have two and we feel worried that our second (or third or fourth) child will, eventually, feel slighted by us.  It’s hard to not constantly compare what we’re doing for one child versus the other. We could try to give exactly the same level of attention and time, to assure that everything is fair. But, if we are constantly aiming to make everything we do with or for our kids perfectly equal, we miss out on the things that make them feel sincerely valued and cared for. We also end up pretty tired from all that math.
Thank goodness there is an upside to divided attention, complicated sibling relationships and a little bit of forgetfulness: you have that secret sauce of experience, building your confidence as you move through each stage of parenting, as you problem-solve around each issue that comes up.

You may feel, like I do sometimes, like loving your kids well means loving in perfect measure, but I challenge that notion.

Obviously, don’t play favorites, don’t neglect anyone, but do focus less on loving equally, more on loving specifically, fully, with presence. Stop worrying about the baby book so much. Celebrate how you’re stronger, wiser and, yeah, a bit less micro-focused. Your kids don’t need your equality as much as they need your individualized, real, uncalculated love.
Want more self-care and toddler or baby care tips? Click here for our free guides.
Know a friend who just had a new baby? Give her the gift of information, inspiration, and a little love. Buy her our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care For Your Infant and Yourself, or a Newborn Gift Box!
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