Overcoming Mommy Guilt with the Second Child

mommy guiltLast August, I was so excited to spend just over a month enjoying every last minute that my older daughter (L) was an only child.  We were going to go downtown and ride the free shuttle bus. Zoo and museum trips were planned.  These last few weeks were going to be awesome, even if she wouldn’t remember them.  I needed these weeks to make peace with the fact that her little world would never be the same, and she no longer would have my undivided attention.

All my plans went out the window when my water broke at 35 weeks and 5 days.  Despite my best efforts to convince myself I was just accidently peeing, my younger daughter (J) was born early the following morning.  While I was overjoyed to meet J and that she was healthy, I had an enormous amount of guilt hanging over my head.

During the following couple of months, I struggled and worked through my guilt while adjusting to being mommy to two.  Here are a few things that helped me to get through this difficult time.

  1. Carving out time solely devoted to my older child: Bedtime routine was the part of each day that I can devote exclusively to L.  On more than one occasion, when she requested five more minutes of cuddles, I gladly gave in, because I needed the extra time just as much as she did.  The more time I could arrange to spend with just L, the less guilt I felt.
  2. Taking time to myself:  While this sounds counterproductive, because there is only so much time during the day, taking a half an hour to walk or run by myself, helped me to reset and improve the quality of time I spent with both my daughters and husband.
  3. Returning to our normal routine as soon as possible: When J was 2 months old, I enrolled L in her weekly mommy-and-me swim lessons and gym class again.  I managed to find times that corresponded with the baby’s naps.  Returning to our routines helped L burn off some of her toddler energy, and, again, carved out some time during the day for one on one time with her.
  4. Prioritizing tasks:  Taking care of my toddler’s emotional needs, establishing breast feeding, taking care of my newborn’s other needs, and keeping us all fed were my priorities early on.  I let everything else slide for a bit.  Doing a few things well (including spending time with L), gave me assurance that I was doing the best I could for my family.

 

 

At eight months out, much of my mommy guilt has dissipated with time (and lots of coffee).  My daughters now spend time playing together, and L seems to genuinely enjoy being a big sister.  I look back at the newborn months, and see that while it was tough and adjustment for all of us, L was not harmed or neglected and is still a happy, spirited toddler, and I am incredibly content with our expanded family.

Becky Nagel is a stay at home mom to an energetic, spirited toddler and a happy, easy going baby from Denver, Colorado.  She enjoys running, hiking, and cooking with her two girls.

Monday, June 27, 2016
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My Pregnancy: Postpartum Week 6

postpartumIt’s the end of the blogging journey for us, six weeks after baby’s birth. We’ve covered those first hesitant weeks of hoping this pregnancy would go all the way to feelings around gender and managing work while symptomatic. I spent time talking about the rough and happy parts of pregnancy and the great anticipation of waiting until baby finally arrives. I spoke to the exhausting challenges of having several children and my journey as a C-section mama, anticipating another cesarean birth. I spoke to the healing of it all, the challenges of breastfeeding, and now here we are.

What would I, as a mom of three, want to impart on a new family? If asked advice, what would I want them to know?

  • Life changes, and with that comes grief. It could be you wanted the natural birth and had an epidural or C-section. Or maybe baby came earlier, much earlier, than expected. Maybe you experience loss in those late nights when you just want sleep. When your friends want to catch dinner and drinks but you can’t stand the thought of leaving your young one or have to find the money for a sitter, this great bundle of joy is also a source of great change and sometimes it hurts. Life abounds around you but give a little space for your losses and don’t feel guilty. Process that pain.
  • Get out! It’s worth the trouble. If you can’t afford a sitter, simply accept when someone offers their time. You can also trade—you watch my kid an hour and I’ll watch yours an hour. Grab coffee with a friend, dinner with your hubby, run a few errands, take a longer shower, or just go for a quiet walk. Make it 20 minutes or 4 hours, whatever you can manage. If you don’t have someone, start investing in a person, a friend, someone else’s babysitter, a church member, or someone else with whom you can build trust. I’m not saying you need to go on three-day vacations, but I truly believe sanity can be found in short bursts of autonomy.
  • You have the opportunity to be more vulnerable than ever before. Sure, you can try to tidy up before someone brings you dinner or you can just let your life be as it is. Accepting help is a form of vulnerability. Or maybe you want to cover your tears when you cry for “no reason.” Don’t try to play strong when in reality you are super hero strength! Who else could manage staying up through the night, changing diapers endlessly, rationed showering, balancing one or more children, feeding non-stop, and all the other ceaseless needs of children while hyped up on a large dose of hormones and, for some, pain meds? Batman move aside!
  • You look great, mama. In all your swollen feet-dirty hair- comfy clothes glory, you are a rock star. How you “look” doesn’t matter, but I know deep down it probably does. So I say embrace the belly, the leaky breasts, and the stain-covered shirts. It’s the season of life you’re living. Live it. When you’re ready, take some walks and pull out something besides yoga gear—I find it lifts my spirits to carve out just a little space to care for myself.
  • Grace, grace, grace. Offer your mother grace when she says not quite the right thing. She’s learning to be a grandma just like you’re learning to be a mom. Same with hubby. Offer yourself grace when you mess up or think you did. It happens. Your worth is not dependent upon doing everything “right,” whatever that even means.
  • Break the rules you set for yourself. Maybe that means having a few disposables on hand when you committed to cloth. Use the co-sleeper, swing, or whatever else you have in your arsenal to let the baby sit while you take your shower or fix a lunch, even if it means baby cries for a minute and you swore you’d never make let your baby cry. A couple of minutes are ok when it brings you some respite to meet the day with renewed strength and patience.  Sit with the feelings of wanting to run away instead of covering them up because you said you really would “enjoy every minute.” It’s hard. Pretending it is not doesn’t help.
  • You got this mama.

Annie is a mom of two boys, ages two and four, and now a newborn gal. She is taking in every moment of every day because, let’s be honest, she’s not getting much sleep. 

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Gently Weaning Your Toddler from the Pacifier

pacifierA quick search brings multiple techniques on weaning: everything from using bitter polish, hot sauce, mutilating the pacifier to decrease the pleasure, to making a child give it up cold turkey. While the pacifer has lots of benefits for a young baby, when it’s time to wean it can bring up many issues. For a gentle parent, finding a way to respectfully and calmly ease the use is a must.

Gentle ways to wean from pacifier use include starting gently, using positive reinforcement, moving slowly and letting them make the decisions of when. Peaceful Parenting had a lovely post on a creative way to gently wean your child from a pacifier:

When young Ben was old enough to understand via conversation with his mother what was happening, she tied his pacifier to a stuffed animal that he could carry with him during the day. This allowed him to use it for comfort as needed, but made it slightly less convenient to walk around with for hours on end at home.

Next, Ben’s mom introduced the idea that the pacifier and animal needed to stay in bed. She and Ben made a ritual of tucking the animal (with pacifier) into bed each morning. If Ben wished to use the pacifier during the day, it would be in bed – where his animal needed to stay for animal’s comfort and snooze time.

Once Ben became accustomed to returning to bed to use the pacifier as needed, his mom untied the pacifier during the day time hours and put it up on a high shelf in the bedroom, retying to his animal at night. If the pacifier was needed during the day, he would ask for it, and they would snuggle into bed during its use. Day time use became less and less frequent, and eventually faded away altogether.

Each evening Ben’s mom continued to tuck him into bed with the animal and asked him, “Do you want your pacifier tonight or would you like to try sleeping without it?” One night the time came when he asked for it, looked at it for a while, and then handed it back to his mom. He then presented her with a question, “If I change my mind, will you get it down for me?” “Yes, of course I will,” his mom replied. But he never asked for it again…It lived on his shelf for many months to come – there just in case he needed it, for the security of knowing it was there should the time come. And Ben’s weaning from this comfort item was complete–without tears, fears, or the introduction of anxiety.

 

When my son was ready to start having a conversation about his binky use, we calmly spoke about how big kids don’t use a binky through out the day, how it is hard to understand him with it, and asked his feeling about it. We compromised on an only in bed routine. He was only allowed to use the binky in his bed. When that became comfortable, we started removing his binky from him bed with his permission and he only had it at bedtime. During the day he only had his lovey to comfort him, and slowly it became habit to only use that. With lots of encouragement, positive affirmation and allowing him to set the pace we were able to remove the binky from his days with minimal tears and anxiety.

The last thing I wanted to do with my son was create an anxiety ridden power struggle over his pacifier. By giving him time and space to gently give up his binky habit and ease into the next phase of comforting with a lovey, he was able to give it up with no tears and no anxiety. It took my son until a while to give it up, yet he was comfortable with his decision and choices. And that is the most important part to me.

PIa Watzig is a stay at home mom living in Portland, Oregon with three crazy boys. 

Friday, June 24, 2016
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Sorry, Not Sorry: My Facebook Feed is Only Kid Pics

facebookI’ve seen the lists. You know the Facebook etiquette lists. I’ve heard the people talk. You know the people who complain that their newsfeed is filled with other people’s kids because we’re at that age where a lot of people are popping those kids out or still have them at the cute, baby-cheeks, toddler-walk, and preschool-art phase of life. Well I fear that’s me.

I didn’t mean to become the mom that posts photos of her kids. Really. I recall lightly promising a few friends years ago that my profile picture would remain MY picture and I would not “lose my identity” by switching it to a photo of only my children. As if my Facebook profile has any real bearing on my identity. At the very least I’ve kept that promise to myself. Of course, had Facebook not added the cover photo option I may have not.

I even thought I was doing a good job. About once a month I add 10 or 15 photos into a photo album, and they all happen to be of my children. I share them for my small following of family and friends. I’m not a daily, or even weekly, poster of anything. I really thought I was doing a good job into But then I went to my profile. Profile picture aside, if you didn’t know me you’d think my first, middle, and last name must be the names of my three children because there is no other evidence I even exist unless you scroll back and take a hard look.

Please don’t hate. I’m a stay-at-home mama to three young children. Turns out, that means my children are my whole day and night. Move along unless you want photos of me paying bills, scrambling together a meal, endlessly clicking and unclicking three car seats while trying to run errands efficiently, or trying again to get a consistent workout routine. I could take those photos. I think you would want to see them even less than my children.

And let me be honest. I have other interests. I’ve got all other parts of me that have nothing to do with my kids, all those passions and pursuits I invested my life in up until I had children. On the rare occasion that I have time for them, I’m not updating Facebook! This mama ain’t got time for that!

I’ll lay it out for you. This is the season of life I’m in right now. Just scroll on by or, even better, like or comment every once in a while. After all, online is one of the few ways I interact with people over four feet tall. Likewise, I’ll take part occasionally in your food pictures, photos of you clanking your glass of wine with someone else at a bar, posed vacay pics at beautiful locals, and fundraisers or political and religious opinions. We’ve all got our baggage… err, interests… we air out on Facebook. Lucky for my children, my interests always include them.

Lynette is a mom of three children from newborn to age four. She appreciates the idea of staying connected but also that some seasons of life, like this one, leave her sleep-deprived and some days without shower. 

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The Toddler Birthday Gift Registry–Do or Don’t?

DSCN2602Recently, some of my extended family has started to use gift registries for their kids for major holidays. I’ll be honest, the first time I got an email asking to purchase from the list at a specific retailer, I cringed. The traditional part of me just could not get on board with offering formal gift suggestions. I mean, wasn’t that being a bit presumptuous?

But by the number of people who use them now, my guess is there not a lot of stigma around using them.  Gift registries of the past were primarily used for weddings and baby showers, but in the last few years that has grown to include kids’ birthdays, Christmas, and special occasions. Thanks to retailers like Target, Toys R Us, and Amazon it is easy to create kid wish lists for a multitude of special occasions. The next time your child brings home a birthday invite, don’t be surprised to find a link to the gift registry site or information on how to access the registry at the store.

Here is a list of pros and cons of gift giving registries for your kids.

Pros:

  • You won’t receive multiples of any one gift. Having a registry can alleviate the chance that your child receives the same item and this will save you from the hassle of returning the duplicate items. Once the item on your registry is purchased, it falls into the fulfilled category and is no longer listed as available.
  • Friends and family who live far away may not know the child very well. With the help of a gift registry, they can choose a gift that they know will be well received. This is especially helpful for aunts and uncles or other extended family who wish to send a gift in lieu of money.
  • Older family who may not be in touch with the “hip” items for kids can use the registry as a guide. This is a bonus for grandparents and can help alleviate unnecessary time looking for a gift.
  • There are perks for parents who set up the registry accounts. Most retailers offer a percentage off of the items that are left on the registry after the closing period. This can save you money on items you were thinking of purchasing, maybe even for gifts to give at a later date.

Cons:

  • It can seem presumptuous. There is no way to tell if everyone who you extend the gift registry information to, wants to give your child a gift.
  • It can make people feel like they are “forced” to give a gift that is out of their price range or not what they would have chosen. It can also put added pressure on the gift giver, making them feel awkward if they didn’t chose to purchase something from the list.
  • Having children pick out gifts themselves takes away from the surprise and can give children a sense of entitlement.

Even after all of the evidence towards the convenience of registries, I haven’t been converted yet; I still tell family that my kid would like “anything”. But, I do have a better understanding of why people use them. At the end of the day, the method of gift giving is a personal decision, just like the gift itself. Children are typically just elated to receive something that was chosen with them in mind.

Tessa Wesnitzer is a stay at home mom extraordinaire, an organizer, and lifestyle coach who lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and two boys. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016
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