Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Sorry, Not Sorry: My Facebook Feed is Only Kid Pics

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

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. 

Managing Holiday Expectations

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

Managing Holiday Expectations 1

There was that one Thanksgiving we stayed home, just the two of us. I was 9 months pregnant, so I had a great excuse for not traveling the solid six-hour round-trip drive that year. Several things make that such a warm holiday memory for me. First, it was our last Thanksgiving just the two of us. Second, it was quiet and relaxing and without expectation. Don’t get me wrong. We are those people who are friends with our families. We get along, vacation together, and look forward to seeing each other again in no more than a few weeks. Still, I will not lie about the sweet joy of bucking the system that one holiday.

Great expectations often boil up most clearly (and painfully) at the holidays. There are so many strong feelings, traditions, and schedules to balance. Somehow all those things seem tied to family dynamics growing up twenty years ago. You know, mom always understood younger brother’s unique living style; Dad always defaults to what big sister suggests. The holidays are a great reminder of all the ways we could use a little therapy. The way we’ve found to work through all this muddle is wrapped up in one word: expectations.

Managing Holiday Expectations 2The Negotiables

For us, when we really thought about it, most things turned out to be negotiable. Family and friends who married into the wonderful love of step-families negotiate a little differently than us. As a nuclear family we generally have all days available while some of our siblings have to balance sharing their children on certain days. As a SAHM I don’t have an office holiday party while some family and friends have two to attend. When we are invited to events, we take time to consider how participating will contribute to (and detract from) our holiday season. We don’t expect to have Christmas on a certain numerical day in the month. We also don’t expect to participate in everything to which we receive invitation.

Another example of negotiation involves the age of our children. This is our fourth December with children but our first time having Christmas morning on Christmas morning. We previously opted to celebrate it that Saturday morning of my family’s get-together the week before Christmas. As they get older this expectation may change, but we’ve spent some Christmas days traveling across the country because being with family ranks higher than celebrating Christmas on a particular day of December.

Gift-giving is another point of stress in the holiday season. With some family members we openly discuss this and set a dollar amount we are comfortable spending on each other’s families. We don’t buy for every single family member; one side of the family we always buy for parents while the other side of the family does a single-name-draw exchange that includes the parents. On the chance that we receive gifts unexpectedly from family or friends, we don’t stress about it because giving and receiving gifts are aspects of the holiday season. We see them as an opportunity to accept gifts with grace and without guilt.

The Non-negotiables

Typically we spend part of the holiday season (Thanksgiving to New Year’s) with each family, 1,600 miles apart. For ten years we’ve managed to balance this, though every year looks a little different. It means we don’t take family vacations to fancy locales other times of the year, but saving up to see both families during the holidays is typically non-negotiable. This year, this is not part of our expectations because I am too pregnant to travel cross-country. My doctor (and baby) turned this non-negotiable into a negotiable.

As our children grow, spending Christmas morning at home may turn to into a non-negotiable. Not traveling on Christmas day may become more important to remove stress from the season. For others there may be Christmas Eve pajamas, stockings, a church/synagogue service, or going to a particular family member’s home that is important.

I can’t gloss over the way this relaxed approach to the holidays relies on other people to balance their expectations of us. Sometimes family may or may not entirely understand. Some older family members may want to continue the old traditions even after the younger generations give birth to more. Some family may see every invitation as important, more important than balancing with family gatherings. Even the meaning of family and friend may blur as not every “family” is created with the same make-up. In all of these things, if you know what you are willing to negotiate or not then you can only handle the situation with grace and hope others will understand.

Lynette shares her life with her husband and two sons, ages 2 and 3 years. She has cloth diapered both since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

You Can Wean at Any Age

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

YOu can wean at any age. One of the things no one tells you as a new mom is that you don’t have to tell anyone anything about how you choose to parent. Ever. Even if they ask you politely.

This is important, because as a first-time mom, everyone has questions for you, and you’re expected to answer them. You’re excited, they’re excited. It’s all very innocent, until the advice comes rolling in. There’s nothing wrong with advice. Many people feel they are being helpful, and sometimes they are.

But some people are not well intentioned. They care about control. They want you to do what they think is right by their opinion because it makes them feel smart and important. These people need to be weaned, and if you don’t know how or that you have the right to enforce informational and emotional boundaries, they can make you miserable.

For me, it was hard to start drawing boundaries. I had always been an over-sharer, and aside from making things socially awkward now and then, it was never really a problem. But once I had a baby, I felt like I couldn’t even make my own decisions anymore. Advice came at me from all directions, and the expectations that came with that advice weighed on me. I felt like I was letting people down, and I was floundering to find my footing as a mother.

So if you don’t learn to find your mother instinct or can’t hear it because other people are drowning it out, you end up bitter towards the people whose advice fails you and desperate for someone whose advice works. In the end, the only person who can raise your child is you.

What Does Enforcing Boundaries Look Like?

If you’ve never learned to keep boundaries, it can be difficult when you first start. When you feel the urge to talk about something off-limits, you have to stop yourself. You have to think ahead in the conversation, and have responses ready to go for some people. You simply can’t bring up some topics any more. The relationship with that person changes. But if they’re hurting you because you have been open with them, then it needs to change.

Sometimes, it might feel like lying. When I was at the pediatrician’s office and he asked if my daughter was sleeping through the night, I knew that he was looking for problem areas. The fact that she was not sleeping through the night at 8 months was not a problem area for me. So I said yes, she sleeps fine.

Sometimes it means keeping quiet when you would normally share something. I do this a lot when I see hot topics posted on Facebook, or when I’m in a group of people who all have the same view on politics or religion. If I think I can share something that would lead to meaningful discussion, I do. If someone asks me a pointed question about my thoughts, I share only if I think my opinion will be respected. Different people will set different boundaries. Mine even change depending on my level of patience or resilience that day.

How to Tell if You Need to Enforce Boundaries with Someone

There are a few ways I learned that certain people in my life needed boundaries:

  • They punish you for decisions or opinions that you believe in. This could be in the form of pouting, the silent treatment, embarrassing you in front of other people or online, or passive-aggressive behavior.
  • They don’t trust you. If someone constantly thinks you’re lying, is asking other family members about you, is stalking you on Facebook, or looking at your phone or email when you aren’t there, you need to enforce boundaries until there is open trust, if not longer. Mutual trust should be a cornerstone of any relationship.
  • They are constantly following up with you. When someone is following up on advice they gave you, they aren’t treating you as an adult. Knowing you’re going to be followed-up on creates pressure and stress, and when you have a new baby, you don’t need any extra stress.
  • Your relationship with them affects other relationships. It’s not your job to make anyone happy. We can’t even do that for our kids sometimes. So if someone is trying to make you fix other situations, other relationships, or change something in your life to make them happy, they need boundaries. Your baby and your family is your top priority. You shouldn’t ever be made to feel guilty for putting them first.
  • Your relationship with them affects your mood. No one should have the power to make you feel upset, stressed, or like you aren’t good enough just because of what they say. If there is a real problem that needs to be addressed, then that’s different. But if you feel stressed out by or depressed because of someone else all the time, then you need to re-examine that relationship.

When my oldest daughter was little, we were struggling with getting her to sleep in her own bed. She went to sleep fine, but woke up every night and wanted to get in bed with us. This lead to hours-long struggles that left me feeling exhausted in the morning. I lost my patience with her during the day and I felt like a terrible mom. Why couldn’t she just sleep in her own bed? What did we do wrong?

I was researching toddler sleep issues on KellyMom.com, and one suggestion was that you should ask yourself, “If no one else knew about our sleeping arrangements would I still want to change anything?” The answer was no. She was 3. I was fine with her sleeping in our bed at night if she felt scared. I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to hurt anyone, and that one day she would probably sleep through the night in her own bed just fine. That question made it clear exactly what the answer to our problem was. It wasn’t my daughter’s night waking. It was  listening to other people’s advice.

It was such a great reminder that my decisions on how to raise my children don’t affect people outside our family. I should be free to make these decisions about what is best for my family on my own, with my own research, without feeling pressure from outside parties. That is my right as a parent, and yours too.

If someone is trying to take that right from you, then it’s time to wean. Don’t talk about parenting with them. Enforce your boundaries and live a happier, less stressful life, confident in your choices and your abilities as a mother.

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

Start a Date Night In: Part II

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

date niteThe first post for Date Night In covered some of the benefits of incorporating a consistent at-home date night into your relationship and schedule.  From personal experience, I can tell you that it is such a great way to build your marriage. I don’t know that our rules are necessarily the way to do it, but after a few years of a Date Night In routine, this is what works best for us.

  1. Be Regular. This is a cornerstone of Date Night In for my husband and I. We really look forward to date night, especially when work and life with toddlers is particularly challenging. Knowing that a specific day of the week is planned and dedicated as date night gives us something to look forward to for balancing out our week. We stick to once a week because that’s what works best for us– if we only have at-home dates twice a month, we notice that we feel less connected and are more likely to have communication issues. If you are great at sticking to a schedule, pick one day a week to always be “date night.” It’ll be easier to plan for and schedule around if you use the same day each week. If you can’t commit to the same day each week, pick a day on Saturday or Sunday when you plan our your family’s weekly schedule. Put the date on the calendar, write little count-down notes to your spouse – look forward to it! It’ll become a favorite part of your week.
  2. Plan Ahead. Date Night In is about setting aside time for connection and growth in your marriage–don’t wing it five minutes beforehand. Take the time to brainstorm a few ideas for you would love to do with that time together: Is there a movie that you know your spouse really wants to watch? Is there an idea you haven’t tried that you’d know would be a blast? When you take the time to think your ideas through, it will be more fun, and your spouse will see that you’ve put thought and effort into it. Speaking from experience, the well-planned, thoughtful dates filled with small details are the best. When we’ve been burnt out and thrown a date together last minute, it feels more like any other night rather than our special Date Night In. With just a day or two of advance planning, you’ll have time to write a date invite note, pick up the Redbox movie, borrow a game from a friend, or pick up that special treat that matches your theme. Planning ahead will also help you stick to your budget. If you know you have $10 to spend for a particular date, brainstorming thrifty ideas a few days out will help.
  3. Alternate Planning Duty. Everyone has different preferences for how they like to spend their downtime. Taking turns planning Date Night In will allow each spouse to pick their preferred date style often enough to keep the dates balanced. For our at-home dates, my husband prefers movies and indulgent treats. He’ll often pick a movie for us to watch and come up with a meal or snack idea that matches the theme of the movie. I have a lot of fun with him on those dates, but my “go to” date is a variation of game night. We have a number of two-player games that we both enjoy, and I have fun chatting and being silly during those dates. Alternating planning duty is also a great “act of service” gesture–the spouse not planning that week gets to see the other spouse put some thought and time into the date, simply because they want to show their love.  It is very meaningful for me to hear my husband’s date night pitch; I love his creativity and appreciate that he spent time away from his growing to-do list to put our date together.
  4. Pick a Theme. Having Date Night In themes is really a blast. It can take a little while to get used to the idea–at first it might feel a little awkward. At first, I would hesitantly hand my husband a “date card” with the plan for our date, hoping he wouldn’t think I was silly and would be willing to go with it. Of course he loved it, and silliness in a marriage is a good thing! There is so much you can do for planning date nights based on a theme. We’ve done so many fun, creative dates for each other. Movies and TV shows are great for themes–you can decorate your date space to match a theme, print out an image from the show or movie for your date invite, pick out a meal or a snack that fits with the concept. Other ideas include game night, dancing, massage swap, cookie-baking, sports watching, bathtub soak–anything you like to do together. Get creative and think of things that would surprise your spouse.
  5. No Distractions. This is one of the most important components of Date Night In. No technology–no cell phones, no tablet, no computer. Log off of your social media sites, turn your phone to “do not disturb,” leave email for later.  Last-minute work, kitchen duty, and craft projects do not belong on Date Night. When both spouses shut out these external distractions for a few hours, it speaks volumes. It says that you are committed to Date Night In and that you are giving your spouse your full attention. Babies might wake up and disrupt at-home dates–they certainly do in our home! But for the most part, it is easy to turn off the distractions and give each other complete focus. What a gift to be able to focus on just one another for a few hours each week. As you start incorporating at-home dates with no distractions into your week, I’m sure you’ll feel the difference between time spent together with access to those little distractions and a true Date Night In.

Ready to start planning Date Night In for you and your spouse? I’m excited to share some of our favorite date nights with you–stay tuned for more Date Night In posts. Happy Dating!

Claire Dodge is a wife and mother of two toddlers living in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. She is a Birth Boot Camp natural childbirth instructor and helps her husband part-time in his prenatal and pediatric chiropractic office. She loves all things natural living and attachment parenting, and loves to get lost in books, yarn, and a good run.

 

 

Start a Date Night In–Part I

Friday, February 14th, 2014

 

FIve Reasons to Start a Date Night In

When we started this tradition, my husband was in the middle of opening his business and also working a second job. There were only two nights a week that we had more than an hour to spend together, and we brainstormed ideas for how we could really make the most of the time we did have together: Our weekly “Date Night In” was born. It has been so awesome for us as individuals and for our marriage that I am thrilled to get to share it with you.

In Part One, you’ll find five reasons to commit to a weekly Date Night In, and the follow-up Part Two post you’ll find the rules my husband and I follow for our at-home dates. Why should you and your spouse start a Date Night In routine?

  1. Sanity - Adding a new baby to the family is challenging, whether it is your first child or your fifth. Babies are so very dependent on their parents, especially in the first year. When parents add a child to the mix, it can be hard to maintain a sense of individuality within parenthood. Becoming “Mommy and Daddy” can easily take over, causing spouses to feel disconnected from the individual they were before the baby came. Don’t feel guilty about needing some “me” time, despite how much you love being a parent! It’s okay, even necessary, to protect your sanity by accessing who you are as an individual. Who better to remind you that you are both Mom, Mama, or Mommy as well as a beautiful, brilliant woman who is fun to spend time with than your spouse? Making Date Night In a weekly tradition will help you both carve out time to focus on yourselves and your marriage. Bonus? Boosting your sense of self and security in your marriage will help you as a parent as well.
  2. Prioritization - A Date Night In routine sends a clear signal to both spouses: You are my priority. When your husband sets aside that work assignment and wakes up early to finish it the next morning, the message is clear. Work matters, but there is time for you. It matters to me that we connect enough that I can set these things aside. When a wife turns her ‘guilty pleasure’ show off and logs off her social media accounts, it tells her husband the same things–it matters to me that we spend this time together, and I will gladly put you first. When children are added to a marriage, it can be a challenge to feel like your relationship comes first. Couples may agree that the marriage comes first and is top priority, but the day to day of changing diapers, feeding babies, and playing blocks can make it harder to see specifically how the marriage comes first. A weekly Date Night In is an intentional commitment to prioritizing your relationship with your spouse.
  3. Flirtation - Parents need to flirt with each other! Married parents become a team, each spouse contributing time and energy to meet the needs of the family. It’s a necessary component of marriage, right? Spouses need to work together to get through the day, pay the bills, work toward goals. Dating prior to marriage, however, doesn’t really look the same. There is a lot more time together just build around recreation – dinner out, parties, movies. Spending time together recreationally allows spouses to get back to that part of their relationship. Parents can and should still do these things out of the house, but typically the frequency drops of when children enter the picture. Having a weekly date night at the house when the children are asleep carves out time for recreation. Game night, a special take out meal, recreation of a favorite activity from the dating years–these types of at-home dates encourage spouses to flirt and be playful with one another.
  4. Intimacy - A weekly Date Night In routine provides a consistent opportunity for emotional and physical intimacy. Raising children is hard work, and those early years of parenting includes a lot of time committed to nighttime parenting as well. The reality of the time commitment to parenting means that finding time for intimacy is harder to do once children come along. To maintain a healthy level of connection with your spouse, intimacy in its different forms is essential. Date Night In is a weekly opportunity to do what my husband and I call “emotional check-ins.” We have a chance to ask big questions–How do you feel about work? What are your goals for this year, and how are they going? What has been challenging for you lately? And because we’ve set time aside to focus on each other without distractions, we are capable of being good listeners and having higher quality conversations. Setting aside time for Date Night also allows for more time for physical intimacy, another component of marriage that often requires intentional prioritization and open communication once children are added to the family.
  5. Growth – Being in a lifelong committed relationship is an opportunity for both personal growth and marital growth. A consistent weekly Date Night In is a way to make steady improvements in communication and unity. Giving each spouse a chance to refocus and regain a little sanity, keeping the relationship a top priority, and setting aside opportunities for healthy flirtation and intimacy are all benefits of Date Night In that will allow for growth in marriage.

Do I have you convinced? Look for a follow up post for the “rules” of Date Night In, as well as future posts with Date Night In ideas for you and your spouse! If you can’t wait for my follow up posts and want to get started immediately, check out The Dating Divas for ideas.

Claire Dodge is a wife and mother of two toddlers living in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. She is a Birth Boot Camp natural childbirth instructor and helps her husband part-time in his prenatal and pediatric chiropractic office. She loves all things natural living and attachment parenting, and loves to get lost in books, yarn, and a good run.