Unapologetic Parenting

img_1145I take it for granted that when my kids grow up and ask me questions about their childhood, I’m going to end up apologizing for something. I’ll tell the oldest I’m sorry I didn’t hold her enough. The middle child will get apologies because I didn’t enjoy her enough while she was the baby because I was too freaked out about getting pregnant again so soon. The youngest, for not getting to go to preschool, story time, playgroups, or dance class like her oldest sister did at her age, because I was too busy carting around the older ones.

This approach has come to guide my daily decision making. I think about it frequently, like when I’m tired, when I’m tempted to say no automatically instead of thinking about each situation specifically, or when I’m out in public. I try and really think about my decisions because I don’t want to make decisions I’m going to have to apologize to my kids for someday if I don’t have to.

But now, in an age of frequent parent-shaming, I’ve come to think of parenting decisions in public also as public-relations problems. How will I defend myself if someone videotapes me or turns me in to authorities for something I think is perfectly reasonable or low-risk but they think is not? (I honestly had examples here but was too worried someone would shame for doing those things, so I took them out.)

I feel like any small parenting decision can have very public consequences. Once when my husband was out of town, I had just put both kids to bed and decided to have a glass of wine now that I was alone. But then I thought: What if the house catches fire? What if someone breaks in or I have to take a child to the emergency room? All it takes is for someone to smell alcohol on my breath and that becomes a story. I dumped out my wine and spent the night tossing and turning in the dark, waiting for one of the kids to cry.

I’ve seen friends get called CPS on them because someone thought their house was too messy in a Facebook photo–Hoarder! Or because they joked in a post about running away from it all–Call the police! There was the mom in Houston who was going for help because she locked her kids in her car and got accused of getting her hair done while her children baked in a hot car. (She’s now suing the TV station for $200,000 and fears for her family because people were so vile over it.) There’s the couple in Sandusky, Ohio, who walked a few feet away from their baby, who was in a car seat, to grab food at a buffet, and had a complete stranger shame them on social media and call them terrible parents. (He didn’t call 911 or do anything about it at the time because the baby was in no danger.) A recent study showed that individuals in a focus group judged parents on the perceived moral rightness of their actions when stepping away from their child even for a moment.

Read that again.

The article says that “moral attitudes toward parenting have changed, such that leaving children unsupervised is now judged morally wrong. And because it’s judged morally wrong, people overestimate the risk.” It’s much more exciting for some Facebook acquaintance or stranger to call the local news station than give you a call and ask if you’re OK or if you need help. What a hero.

So what started as a pledge to not have to apologize to my kids one day in the future has become of a way of living in public. I have to make the best possible decisions I can not only for my family, but now also to the defense of my integrity in the public eye, even when my kids are unaffected. You’d think raising tiny humans to be decent adults is enough pressure. It’s an exhausting proposition. It puts me on edge in public, and sometimes I have the feeling that everyone I see is judging me. But that’s an advantage, I guess. Because someone always is. At least now I am prepared to confront them.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three. She lives and writes in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 

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Being Confident in Yourself as a Mother

img_2476As a woman, I struggle with being confident. Many of us do. It’s hard to be confident in ourselves when we are bombarded with images of beauty, perfection, and let’s face it–unrealistic expectations. When I became a mom, a whole new pressure was placed on me. I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to be the mom who knew what she was doing with my newborn. With my toddler, I wanted to be the mom who never had a child out of control in a store. Now, here I am with almost three little ones, and I find myself wanting to be the mom of three who has it together. I don’t want to be a hermit and hide from the world. I want to nurse confidently in public while taking care of two toddlers. I want to be able to go to stores and Starbucks with my little ones and get a latte without causing a scene. But most importantly, I want to be confident in myself as a mother.

I’ve heard before that you are the perfect mother for your children. There is a reason why you have the children you have with the personalities they have. Johanna, who is 4, has been a strong-willed little thing during her toddler years. However, as she is 4 now, I am starting to see a sweet, sensitive, and independent little girl. It makes my heart swell to know she is growing up. Could I have had something to do with that good stuff?

Moms are constantly judging moms. When your baby is born, you are judged for where they sleep, whether they are breast or bottle fed, and even how much weight you lose. It never ends. Did your little one meet milestones on time? What about any challenges? For us, we had some speech issues with Johanna and Levi had to wear a helmet for several months as an older baby. Did any of this make me a bad mom? No. Did any of this cause me to be insecure and feel unconfident as a mother? I have to say yes even though that’s hard to admit.

What about you mom, who do you want to be? I know I have found myself apologizing to my children on days where I fall short. I want them to see me as a confident person, not as someone who can’t keep it together. Now, don’t get me wrong, there will be days where you cry and say the wrong thing or teach your little one something you wish you could reverse.

When we are confident and calm, things just seem to go smoother with our kids. Take a grocery store trip. When I am calm and collected, I am less worried about how the trip will go. When I feel insecure I am pretty sure the lady at the checkout pities me. I definitely prefer the first feeling.

I think it’s important as moms to focus on the positive in our lives. Don’t dwell on bad advice or buy into the mommy comparison game.  Do what’s best for your family and focus on that. Pat yourself on the back occasionally.

Take the time for yourself, too. We are still women. Take a bubble bath or drink some tea. Go to dinner or a movie with a friend. Go get out in nature with your baby and get away from the distractions. Surround yourself with people who make you feel valued and loved.

I firmly believe being a mom is a gift. It’s not something to take lightly. So will I fail? Yes.  Does that mean I’m a horrible mother? No.

Karyn Meyerhoff lives and writes in Northeast Arkansas where she needs to be playing with her daughter and not working. 

Friday, September 23, 2016
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I Wanted to Change the World, But Now I Just Change Diapers

i wanted to change the world but now i just change diapersAt 20 years young I had big plans. I was going to impact the world in an important way. I was deeply immersed in the academic world, fascinated by journal articles containing current research in my field. I was on the brink of finishing up my undergraduate degree and looking into graduate programs. I had dreams of contributing to my profession in a dynamic way. I was going to change the world! (Or at least a teeny tiny speck of it).

Fast forward to 17 years later (Holy cannoli, how is that even possible!?!) and most days it feels like the only thing I change is diapers. And let’s be honest, there is no real sense of accomplishment in that daily task. Sigh. I could easily be swallowed up by this loss.

Hear me out. I’m not (at ALL) referring to the antiquated discussion of “working parent” versus “stay at home parent”. That’s a complex, multi-faceted, highly personal, and individualized situation. And it’s rarely as black and white as society makes it out to be.

What I’ve (slowly) realized is there is a multitude of ways to feel esteemed and empowered. At a young and naïve but super passion and enthusiastic 20-year-old, I held a narrow view of what “changing the world” meant. I primarily attached that definition to external recognition; approval and/or appreciation from others (including monetary reward). I now realize that is a bit of a fallacy.

Sure it feels good to be acknowledged. So please continue to acknowledge and express appreciation to those around you that enhance your life!  What I am referring to is that I no longer “rely” on those things to feel valued/important/special/worthy. That’s where the shift has occurred. I found that when I look inward to discover a sense of satisfaction, it’s felt on a more profound level. Living with love and vibrancy is really all it takes to exude an energy force that is absorbed into the world, and returned back. It really is THAT simple!

I also better understand the cumulative effect of the little things we do every day that impact our world in a positive way. Chaos theory tells us that we live in a world so dynamic and complex, that “small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences.” THIS is what I am talking about. I CAN and DO change the world. Every day. We all do. Because we exist in this shared space together. Our actions and behaviors effect the world around us. It’s actually kind of an awesome sense of responsibility to hold; knowing that every step of the way we have the power to influence the world around us. Wow!

So embrace the magic of being you and all you have to offer in this world! You do amazing things every day, including changing diapers.

 

 

Thursday, September 22, 2016
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Graduating from the Swaddle

img_1699My oldest loved to be swaddled. He didn’t sleep a wink if just one limb was free. My middle son liked being swaddled for a while, but was able to sleep without it not particularly long after he was born. My youngest was adopted at three months old, so I don’t know what he preferred as a newborn, but as a three-month old he was perfectly fine sleeping muscle man/starfish style.

How do you know when you don’t need to swaddle your baby anymore? Well, it depends on the kid. You can get some clues though from your child by observing how she responds to coming out of a swaddle during a sleep period. If she startles and wakes up when an arm or leg gets free more often than not, chances are she’s not ready for life outside of the swaddle blanket.

Likewise, if he busts out and doesn’t bat an eyelash, it may be time to try putting your baby down without a swaddle. You can try and ease him in by just swaddling his arms first and leaving his legs free, or you can go cold turkey, whichever suits your situation.

So what do you do when your child seems like she is never going to grow out of the need for swaddling? With my oldest son, we were in this boat for a while. He was at the top of his growth curve and quickly grew out of every swaddling blanket we had, and then regular blankets too. With him, we finally had to cut the cord and force the issue, cold turkey. His personality is quite stubborn on most things, and swaddling was no exception. We had a rough couple naps, but he quickly got used to sleeping sans swaddle. I think between being extra tired from not sleeping well for those naps and getting a crash course in self-soothing, he became a free-sleeping champ in no time.

How old was your child when he was done with swaddling?

Meaghan Howard is a stay-at-home mom to three boys (and desperately hoping that they don’t burn the house down someday). She and her family are enjoying living an ex-pat life overseas.

 

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016
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Moving When You Have a Baby

img_1851When you have a baby, moving is a whole new ball game. Without kids you pack as you can, listen to your music, take coffee breaks, and then enlist strong helpers to help you get the job done. You can then unpack everything and do things on your schedule and your terms.

When you have a baby, you find yourself packing frantically during naptimes, listening to lullabies, chugging coffee hoping to stay awake, and then waiting for someone to offer to help. Unpacking is a slow process that could take days or even weeks.

For my family, moving has been a part of our lives. My husband was in the Navy and we packed up and moved with a 1-month-old. We drove 12 hours away and moved to a strange place where we knew no one and he started his civilian career while I started my motherhood journey. My daughter Johanna just turned 4, and in her short life, she has lived in 6 houses and 3 states. Fortunately, my husband’s work has always helped with packing. Unpacking on the other hand has always been a struggle. Throw her 2-year-old brother in and we have chaos. Add my current third trimester pregnant self, and well, let’s just say we have a lot of disorganization currently.

However, mommas, there is hope. You can move with a baby successfully and live to tell the story. Here are some tips I have learned over the years.

Babywear

This seems like an easy suggestion, but I promise this will save you. When Levi was a few months old, we moved to a new house. Here I had a cranky little guy who just wanted to sleep and nurse. I wore him in my Tula and was able to pack boxes, do plenty of squats, and unpack when needed. He got his naps and nursed. I also used my Boba wrap when I wanted to be hands-free without the infant insert. I used this wrap to help me get any cleaning done in our new location and Levi was a happy camper.

Take the Help

I have been fortunate to have a super helpful support system each time we have moved. I have one good friend, Christina, who came over and entertained my then 2-year-old as we prepared to move. Buy your friend some coffee or chocolate. Don’t be afraid to get the help. If you can’t seem to focus, enlist a babysitter or trusted family member to take the little one for the day. Your baby won’t mind and you will be productive. Use professional movers if you have the funds and can. Do what’s best for your family.

Slow Down

This is hard for me, but just remember it will get all done. It’s okay if things don’t get in place right away. You are a mom. You have a little one to meet the needs of and that’s okay. For me, I had to set goals. Maybe focus on one room every couple days or maybe just focus on one box a day. It will get done and eventually you will be settled. Deep breaths. Don’t forget for self-care, too. Take breaks. Go get a treat. Sleep when you can. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

So mom, if you find yourself moving with a little one, just remember you can do it! I currently have a disorganized house and boxes to unpack. But, I think chocolate and Netflix with my little ones will win today.

Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of 2 in Northeast Arkansas where she just moved.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016
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