Archive for the ‘Erin Burt’ Category

The No-Nag Chore Chart

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

The no-nag chore chartFull disclosure: I am a mom of three girls, and my oldest is 6. I am fully aware that I am only mutton-bustin’ when it comes to this parenting thing. I haven’t had to get on the big one and ride for eight seconds yet.

That said, three is enough to gang up on you entirely. They can be a huge help and also a whirlwind of disaster that spins through the house, leaving devastation in its wake. There are days when I feel like there simply isn’t enough of me to meet all the needs and stay sane, even with all the patience I have had to learn over the years.

Because my kids are small, any help I get is a bonus. Even if they had legitimate chores, they wouldn’t be done to my expectations, and there would be a lot of clean up still to do. The help I do get isn’t worth arguing, fighting or nagging over—that is more exhausting than the actual cleaning. So I came up with this. It won’t work for everyone, but it’s an idea I hadn’t seen before, and it’s actually working at our house.

It’s pretty simple. There’s no printable, no calendars, no boxes to check, no lists to make. Just draw a grid and slap your child’s name on it. Then decide on a reward that’s mutually agreeable, and let them earn it. You can reward physical work, kindness, patience, self-restraint, or any value you feel needs to be emphasized or rewarded right now.

Right now, my six-year old has to do 21 chores to earn a trip to pick out a toy under $20.  The three year old has to complete 14. The rules are that they must think of the chore and do it themselves. There is no time frame. If I have to ask them to do something, like clean a room, make a bed, pick up after themselves, clear the table, then it doesn’t count. If I help the oldest, it doesn’t count. The younger two simply have to pitch in and help someone else. I don’t expect them to do chores totally on their own yet, but they have surprised me at times.

It takes time for them to catch on. I can’t tell you how many times I suggested my oldest think of a chore to do to earn a sticker and I was met with a passive, “Maybe later.” But then she realized how close she was and did seven chores in one day. I have already noticed the frequency of help increasing with my oldest, and that momentum can be contagious.

As my kids grow, the idea can grow with them. They may need to do two chores a day consistently; maybe I will pick a chore they must complete weekly for a month to get a reward. Maybe they will have to volunteer a certain number of times a month. The tasks should shift to helping others outside our home instead of just me.

My goals with the chore chart were to get help without fighting for it, because that was taking more out of me than the chores were. I wanted them to be proactive. I want my kids to shift their focus outward, and we all need help to do that. Building kindness and empathy in your child takes time and persistence. But when I see them help each other, care for each other, and love each other in a way my sibling and I never did, I begin to think that this may have effects that reach far beyond the state of my house.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York. 

Places to Nurse in Fort Worth

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Best Places to Nurse in Fort WorthI had two babies in Fort Worth, and I feel like there’s nowhere in this city that I have not bared my boobs. It’s not a bad place to have a baby, either!

  1. Museum of Science and History – Fort Worthians still call The Museum of Science and History the “Children’s Museum,” because that’s what it is. It’s got great exhibits for older kids, but also a fun, contained, interactive play area for littles that has a specified nursing room that’s quiet and private. But don’t let that stop you from nursing anywhere. The room is great if your baby is the only kid you have with you, but if you have older kids, it’s much easier to do your thing while you let them play and explore. The contained outdoor area features a water play area and construction area, while you can sit on a bench and nurse away in the warm sun. Or, check out the dino dig.
  2. Central MarketCentral Market is a fabulous grocery store. It has an amazing bistro with any kind of food you could possibly need or want, including homemade all-butter chocolate chip pecan cookies, plus it’s got shaded outdoor seating and a fenced-in playground for older kids. It’s a great place to sit back and relax or meet up with other moms.
  3. Forest Park Miniature Railroad – The Zoo Train, as everyone calls it, located just outside the entrance to the Fort Worth Zoo, is $2 cash for one ride, but it lasts about 30 minutes. Everyone’s facing forward, so it’s a great option if you’re nervous about looky-loos, and on hot days, you get a nice motion-generated breeze while keeping out of the sun. It’s also been known to soothe cranky toddlers, which makes it an outstanding deal in my book.
  4. The Playscape at Hills Church – This was one of my go-to spots since it was indoors—it’s like a mall playland but with no consumerism. The playscape is open to the public weekly and features a two-story play structure that will blow your older kids’ minds. Other exhausted moms are always there to chat with you, or you can just hang out and enjoy the air conditioning. Check the website for hours and special event closings before you go.
  5. Fort Worth Botanic Garden – The garden is free to enter and park, huge, and fairly private. There are benches all over, fountains, shade, open spaces for older kids to run around, and restrooms. I highly recommend the nominal fee to enter the Japanese gardens as well.
  6. Fort Worth Water Gardens – I haven’t nursed here personally, but the gardens are beautiful, peaceful and I have yet to meet a baby who wasn’t soothed by the sound of water. It’s a huge, outdoor feature downtown, so when you’ve had enough shopping in Sundance Square, take a load off and enjoy the view.

Places to avoid:

  1. Amon Carter Stadium – The stadium has a policy of making all patrons empty ANY container containing liquid before entering, even if it’s bottled water and it’s sealed. I was personally made to pour out a sippy cup of milk for my toddler before entering, and emails I sent enquiring about their policies for nursing moms and babies offered no solution. There are no nursing areas besides family restrooms, and limited shade unless you want to stand.
  2. West 7th – This part of downtown thinks it’s quite hip and fancy. Prepare for stares.
  3. Breweries – I mention breweries not because they are particularly breastfeeding or family unfriendly here, you just won’t encounter the same kind of laid-back attitude I’ve seen in other parts of the country. There are breweries, like Rahr Brewing, where families are the norm and welcome, but others are more hipster. Check online reviews or stop by before you go to make sure you’ll feel comfortable.

Fort Worth is a pretty breastfeeding friendly town in general. I‘ve nursed just about anywhere I could legally be, and the only time I ever encountered attitude was one time when I got a flat tire and ended up at National Tire and Battery unexpectedly with a preschooler, toddler and infant in tow. The staff was super nice and didn’t bat an eye, but a woman in the waiting area was horrified when she realized I was nursing my baby, and yanked her preteen boy outside to safer grounds—the parking lot of the Hooter’s next door. Oh, the irony.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York. 

Going Back to Work

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

Going back to workWith my first child, I didn’t feel guilty at all about going back to work. I didn’t even cry when I dropped her off that first morning like I had read that I would on pretty much every mommy blog. I  felt like maybe something was wrong with me. Was I a sociopath? Didn’t I have feelings? I figured I must be the worst mom ever.

In hindsight, I know exactly why I felt fine going back to work—I had no idea what I was doing as a mom. My daughter was colicky and wanted to be held 24/7. She didn’t sleep well. I had no idea that was normal (or that baby carriers were a thing), so I felt like a failure. I was tired and overwhelmed by motherhood. Leaving her with a professional felt like the best thing I could possibly do at this point, and walking into work where I knew what to do and people listened, well, that was heaven.

The other thing that helped was that while I was still pregnant, I negotiated a more gentle plan for coming back to work than I would have had if I had not asked for one. I took my 6 weeks of paid short-term disability, and then asked to work half days from home each morning for six more weeks. My boss agreed, and so the first time I went back to work full time was when my daughter was 4 months old.

Strangely, when I went back to work after my second daughter —only part time this time, and when she was 10 months old, not 4—it was so much harder. I feel like it had a lot to do with my greater confidence as a mother this time. I really felt like I was the best person to meet her needs, so I was understandably nervous about being away, even though I had a very close friend watching her and now big sister to protect her, too.

Going back to work is such an individual decision. For some families, money just really doesn’t matter as long as they are together. For others, money stress is the worst possible kind and puts an unbearable strain on things. This can be true no matter what your socioeconomic status.

For other moms, the push to return to work may not be about money at all, but about reaching a goal you had before kids, or continuing the successful path you were on. We can be good parents in all different ways. I think when we get into trouble is when we try to be something we are not. When you are unhappy or stressed, your kids know. They see it in your eyes and hear it in your voice.

If there’s nothing else parenting has taught me, it’s that someone is always going to think you are making the wrong choice. You can’t please everyone, especially not every stranger you run into, every friend on the Internet or every family member who thinks they know best. So why try? Make the best decisions for you and your family, even if it looks a little different than what your parents did or what your generation are doing.

What I have learned is that being a mom gives me the drive to do what I need to do for my family. Whether that’s making the budget work so I can stay at home, working full time so I can focus only on my kids when I am with them, or writing blogs while they wiggle in my lap.

What we do at any one time may not be for everyone, but it works for us; that’s what’s important.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls who lives and works in Queensbury, New York. 

Talking to Your Baby

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Talk to your babyAs a first-time mom, I had no idea what to do with my baby. The second time around was easier, but I still needed a ton of help. With that pregnancy, I had an amazing doula who passed on a ton of wisdom. Some of the things she told me sounded quirky, but I did them anyway because it seemed like a good idea. The more time that passes since then, the more I am realizing the truths of what she told me.

One of the things she emphasized was talking to my baby. Like, really talking to her. Telling her what I was going to do before I did it. Asking permission to do things like lay her down or change a diaper. Narrating the things we were doing to together.

Today, there are studies that suggest asking permission can help develop a sense of body autonomy, or the idea that you have ultimate control over your own body. This is a huge concept lately because of the highly publicized sexual crimes against women and children, and the idea that teaching kids to give over control to adults can erode this sense that they have control over the most intimate parts of themselves. Teaching body autonomy means that kids know from day one what parts are private and that no one has the right to touch them in a way—any way—that they aren’t comfortable with. Part of this means you don’t make children physically interact with people if they don’t want to and that you stop when they say “no” or “stop” even if you are tickling or roughhousing for fun.

You can begin teaching body autonomy from day one by asking your baby if you can change his or her diaper, and announcing what you are doing during the process. When babies are nonverbal, you don’t need to get a response before acting, but it’s important that you ask. I remember being so surprised when each of my children responded to my rhetorical questions each time by laying down for a change or saying, “OK!”

Besides teaching body autonomy, talking to your baby has other benefits. Babies whose parents talk to them have larger vocabularies, and this can help boost their ability to learn at age 3. And the more words, the better. Remember that you don’t have to read baby books to babies. You can read the New Yorker, Us Magazine, your favorite blog, or whatever you are reading. What’s important is not the content but the word variety.

Either out of an ingrained sense of this or the loneliness that sometimes is part of being a stay-at-home mom, I got used to narrating my grocery store trips. Now my kids know the names of every fruit and vegetable, but be warned that it’s a hard habit to break. You’ll often find me wandering the aisles childless, muttering, “Oh! We forgot the tomato sauce! Have to go back!” to no one in particular.

Finally, talking to your baby can help build a secure attachment bond with your baby. In addition to things like learning your baby’s cues and responding to your baby’s needs, talking to baby helps build a bond in a way that doesn’t over stimulate or wear them out. In fact, you may just look down into your carrier and realize our baby has fallen asleep listing to your voice. I found it helpful to voice my feelings to baby when I was frustrated with my baby. It’s almost like therapy.

The best thing about talking to your baby is there’s nothing special you need to do. Just talk. Talk about your fears and hopes for them. Tell them your secrets. Talk about your grocery list. Tell them a story or tell them how they were born. Just talk to them.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls, ages 6, 3.5 and 2 years old, who lives in Queensbury, New York. She talks to her baby when she can get a word in, which isn’t too often anymore.


No Wash Hairstyles

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

I ran across this video of hairstyles to wear when you didn’t have access to a shower for three days, like when you are camping out at a music festival like Burning Man or Coachella. Well, moms, you know none of us are going to be paying good money to go to an event where you’re pretty much guaranteed to not get any sleep for three days, but the no-wash hair thing interested me. I mean, new moms are the target audience for no-wash hair! Especially if you resisted the urge to cut off all your hair around 9 months pregnant.

So anyway, I tried to watch this video, I really did. But it was 15 minutes long and the girl was picking out accessories like faux cowboy boots and cat-ear headbands, and this is exactly how my three year old dresses every day, so at that point I could no longer take her seriously.

But I did find another great link to 15 hairstyles that are great for hair that’s a day old or more. Most of them are updos, and keeping your hair up is kind of essential if you back wear, since anyone who back wears can tell you just how bad it hurts when your baby grabs that hair at the center back of your neck. It’s enough to make you want to go home and shave your head.

These are all really cute, there are some for long, medium or short hair, and you don’t need to use heat to do them, which is better for your hair anyway. You also don’t need super thick hair for many of these, and they all look pretty quick to do, which as you know is key.

You can always justify your lack of showering with the fact that it’s actually bad to wash your hair and take a bath every day. Cutting back to every other day keeps your hair and skin healthier, and it may even boost your immune system by leaving some microbes sticking around that your body can busy itself fighting. So there.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls who sometimes has time for a shower but lacks the energy to do so. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.