I Am Not a Part-Time Parent

I cannot believe we still have to have this conversation, but here we are. Someone recently made a comment to me that it must be nice to be a “part-time parent” because I, like my husband, work outside of the home in an office during the week.

I was pretty surprised at the comment. “Part-time parent?” I asked. “Yeah,” she said, “You basically only have a few hours a day with your kids and on the weekends. That sounds pretty part-time to me.”

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Once I was able to convince myself not to hurl myself at this person, I decided to put pen to paper on a few thoughts, juuuuuust in case anyone reading this has had the same misconceptions about what it can mean to be a working mother.

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1. When I work during the day to help earn income for my home – to help pay the mortgage, lights, car payment, insurance, etc, I am being a parent.

2. When I stay late to try to close that deal or finish that project, so I can try to earn some extra income to save more for college for my kids, for example, I am being a parent.person holding pink piggy coin bank

3. When I show my kids that a woman can be equal to men with regard to financially supporting a family, I am being a parent.

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4. When I rearrange my day and client meetings to care for a sick child, take them to an appointment, or join for a field trip, I am being a parent.

5. When I do an entire presentation to a group of potential investors with baby spit-up down my shirt, covered by a suit jacket, without missing a beat, I am being a parent.  (BTW, this did happen, and I always felt like Michelle in One Fine Day with the dinosaur shirt on…)

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6. When I stay up late to study so I can propel my career forward with the dream of creating an even better life for my kids, I am being a parent.

7. When I get home in the evening, exhausted from a particularly trying day, and I help my kids with homework, clean up the dinner my husband kindly made, give the kids a bath and tuck them into bed with a kiss, I am being a parent.

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8. When on the weekends, I attempt to catch up on some piles of laundry and cleaning I couldn’t tackle during the week, I am being a parent. Yes, my house might not be perfect, but that’s not my priority right now. We all prioritize things differently, it’s what makes us uniquely ….you guess it…..parents.

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9. When I work on my laptop for a few hours on a Sunday to catch up because I had to pick up my kid from school because he was sick earlier in the week, I am being a parent.

10. When I take some time to go to the gym so I can set an example for my kids to prioritize their physical health, taking them with me to show them safe and effective examples of doing so, I am being a parent.

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Dear mamas, none of you are less of a parent if you work inside the home, work outside of the home, have a nanny, don’t have a nanny, or sit in a bubble bath in your spare time.

I am a parent 100% of the time, regardless of whether I am physically present with my children or not. No one can convince me anything about my parenting is “part-time” so don’t let anyone make you believe it either!

Also, let’s take this opportunity to remind each other to stop spending time with people who don’t feed your positivity. You know who they are. They are the women who smile to your face but are threatened by your happiness or success. They are the ones who will talk snidely about the fact that your house isn’t as clean as theirs or that you gained a couple more pounds than last year. These “Frenemies” have no place in my life and I hope you make a conscious decision to remove them from yours!! (See Discovering and Coping with Energy Vampires). In the words of Sophia A. Nelson:

Be a  woman other women can trust. Have the courage to tell another woman directly when she has offended, hurt, or disappointed you. Successful women have a tribe of loyal and honest women behind them. Not haters. Not backstabbers or women who whisper behind their back. Be a woman who lifts other women.

People who truly love you will understand that your shining light never dims their own. They won’t call attention to your faults or your struggles. They won’t be jealous of your happiness and try to ruin it. They will highlight your strengths and your triumphs. Those are your people. And those people know there is nothing part-time about love.

Love,

Margo

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Margo is the silly lady in the blue dress, a full time mom of two, supporter of other parents and financial advisor.

 

Pregnant MD: Third Trimester Woes

As always, this post is meant as information and a personal account only and does not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. This post contains affiliate links to help you find the products I personally recommend which may provide small compensation for me.

Rounding out this pregnancy-blogging adventure, I have had a rodeo of all the discomforts of third trimester to remind me what to warn other mamas is coming for them. I had forgotten a few of them, so it’s lucky for you all I decided to go for #3 to be truly up to date on all of this (jk). Every woman’s experience of pregnancy is different – you may get none of these, all of them, and then some more – but I’ve tried to hit the most common highlights here for reference.

Braxton-Hicks

These fun semi-contractions may have started earlier for you than 28 weeks, the official kick-off of third trimester. However, if they didn’t, most women will start to get them more noticeably now. You might start to wonder if these are “the real deal” and whether you should worry. In general, the main difference is BH contractions are a tightening not a pushing down sensation. Think a fist squeezing closed around something rather than trying to push down. It’s hard to know the difference until you’ve had the real thing sometimes, but trust me when I say – you’ll know the real ones when they come.

They can range from barely noticeable to quite strong, stopping you in your tracks. Talk with your provider about when to go get checked, but in general if you’re having more than 4 per hour despite resting and being hydrated with an empty bladder (I do realize those last 2 are hard to balance….), you should check in with your person.

Snissing

I learned this fun term in my first pregnancy and have been giggling about it ever since. Snissing is pissing when you sneeze. As that baby pushes more on your bladder and your pelvic floor loosens up more, you may start to lose control with episodes of pressure – aka sneezing, coughing, laughing, having a toddler jump on you…. Doing Kegels regularly through the pregnancy can help avoid this, but for some it’s your anatomy and you’ll just have to make do with wearing pads and prioritizing emptying your bladder very regularly. Hooray!

Hemorrhoids & Constipation

Everyone’s least favorite body part to talk about – your butthole. These are 2 separate issues but very related, so I’ll address together. Some lucky people (ahem, me included) struggle with constipation at baseline and pregnancy hormones make that so much worse. The worse the constipation, the more you might be straining to get that BM out. I mean this 100% literally: I have had multiple poops that were harder to push out than my actual babies. The more you strain the more pressure you put on the veins around your anus and at some point, they can start to bulge out – this, my friends is a hemorrhoid.

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What’s a preggo girl to do?? Stay aggressive about constipation management. Aim for 1-2 easy bowel movements per day. Talk to your provider about a regimen you can use, for me it’s been high-fiber diet, hydration with at least 2 liters water a day, Smooth Move tea most days and high-quality pre/probiotics. The best I’ve found are these Prolistic ones by Nerium, not just saying that because I work with the company, they are superior (link is not even for my own business to keep this separate).

Heartburn and Reflux and Vurping, Oh My!

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Downward pressure has it’s problems as above, but at some point the upward pressure gets to most people as well. Fun fact – the old wives’ tale that babies with more hair cause worse heartburn is for completely unknown reasons statistically true. The safest methods for managing this are natural:

  • Avoid large meals, don’t eat anything more than a few bites of a snack for 2 hours before bed.
  • Avoid acidic foods: coffee, tomato, citrus…
  • Manage constipation (backing up the whole system)
  • Avoid carbonation

Some people also do well with Papaya Enzyme after meals. And up to 6 Tums regular strength tablets a day are safe – but beware!! These can worsen constipation turning into a self-perpetuating issue. If it’s bad beyond that, talk to your provider about other antacids.

Aches and Pains

You can get upper back pain from the weight of belly and breasts, round ligament pain from your growing uterus, and low back pain from basically doing dead-lifts all day long with a 20lb plyo-ball. I read in residency that 80% of women experience back pain in pregnancy. That seems unreasonably low. I have never, ever talked to a woman who didn’t have some degree of back pain by the end of pregnancy. If you’re out there… what’s that like? What are you made of? Are you descended from Amazons? For the rest of us, a few things can help…

  1. Prenatal yoga. Exercise in general is helpful, but prenatal yoga in particular is INCREDIBLY important for the health and comfort of your back.
  2. Prenatal massage. Make sure you’re seeing someone trained in this specifically and with a table set up to accommodate a growing belly.
  3. Topical creams. Distracting the nerves with something tingly can help temporarily. My go-to is BioFreeze because it’s the tingliest (is that a word?).
  4. Belly and hip supports. See if you can get one through your insurance first, if not, the most popular ones are in This NY Magazine Review
  5. Warm showers or baths or heating pad. I say warm, I mean VERY warm. There is no exact temperature cut-off – just stop as soon as you feel “Hey, I’m hot”.
  6. Tylenol. Yep. That’s all you get. Plain tylenol. Always good to double check with your own provider if this is ok for you, but most pregnant women can take this for bad pain.

If your pain goes beyond what can be managed with the above, talk to your health care provider. Some will have you see a specially trained chiropractor who knows Webster technique, work with a physical therapist or use other medication to manage it.

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Labor Scares

We will do a whole post on ‘How to Tell When to Go To The Hospital”, but in short, many women experience bouts of ‘Prodromal labor’ or ‘False labor’ prior to the real deal.

  • Contractions: The Braxton Hicks can get pretty strong and somewhat regular towards the end and as prenatal providers, we get a lot of “When are they labor?”. The general rule is 5-1-1: if you have contractions that stop you from doing what you’re doing every 5 minutes, lasting 1 minute for 1 hour and getting stronger despite resting and hydrating, you should check in with your person.
  • Breaking Water: This seems like it would be straight forward, however, as explained above with Snissing, plus how much vaginal discharge you might have, it can be tricky. It is often not the Hollywood gush of a gallon of fluid that is obvious, but a slower trickle when your water breaks. If you’re not sure, go empty your bladder, put on a clean, dry pad and walk around a bit. If your water is broken, you’ll keep leaking. Still not sure – go get checked.

Cankles and Varicose Veins

It’s a cruel joke of the universe that just when it becomes super awkward to try to put on any socks, much less super tight compression hose, you start getting ankle swelling that is treated by exactly those socks. Do your best to wear them if you know you’ll be on your feet a lot and certainly if you’re traveling where you’ll be stationary in a car or plane for more than an hour at a time. There are lots of options with better breathability and cuter designs these days, these are affordable and the appropriate 20-30mm pressure rating.

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If you are able, also take 20-30 minutes a few times a day to put your feet up at heart level and let gravity help you out here. If you get the ankle, or in particular hand or face swelling that comes on suddenly, go see your provider right away as this can be a sign of pre-eclampsia.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also warn you that you can get swelling and varicose veins everywhere south of your uterus – including your lady parts. Some women have the special experience of these throbbing, painful veins or swelling in the vagina and labia at the end of pregnancy. While there are also some interesting medieval-looking support contraptions that can help with this, the main thing that will make it less-bad is resting on your side or in puppy-dog pose type position for 10-15 minutes throughout the day.

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Lightning Crotch and Sciatica

Ever get a reallllly good zinger plugging something in that the wires were a bit stripped or your finger was on the plug? Imaging that in your labia. Welcome to lightning crotch, the fun pregnancy-version of good ol sciatica. Both of these can happen as baby moves lower in your pelvis toward the end of pregnancy. The same things that help with back pain described above can help with these particular issues as well. Some people also find acupuncture very helpful – but again – check with your provider about if and with whom that would be safe to do.

Pregnancy Brain

Yes, you’ve probably had this all along. Scientists have actually figured out that part of this is due to the hormones circulating around. However, with third trimester, your sleep starts to be very disrupted – most people wake 3-6 times a night to change positions and go pee. This makes the fog worse, of course. My own theory though, is that it’s also due to the now much stronger little being inside your squirming around. I told my husband to try to imagine concentrating with a little elf riding around poking you, elbowing you, going, “Hey! Hi! It’s me! Hey-yo!! Yoohoo!! Hi!” allllllll day long. Now… What was I writing about here…? Oh yeah. Help yourself and write things down! Consider a tracking device for keys, make sure “Find My iPhone” is on and maybe slap some GPS watches on your other kids while you’re at it.

When To Get Help

There are 6 main things we never want you sitting at home with:

  1. Bleeding that is any more than spotting
  2. Concern your water has broken (see above)
  3. Persistent contractions (see above)
  4. Feeling less baby movement – there’s no perfect rule for this, if you’re worried, we are worried.
  5. Signs of pre-eclampsia: Persistent pain in the belly or back, headache, blurred vision, sudden increase in swelling of feet/hands/face, or difficulty breathing.
  6. Depressed mood or bad anxiety, or any threatening or abusive behavior from your partner. These all, sadly, go up in pregnancy – don’t stay silent! We can help!

The bottom line on this one is any time something is beyond a minor discomfort, we want to hear about it. Have a low threshold for asking for advice from your healthcare provider – we VERY much would rather you come in for something small than miss something big.

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Now, then… Who’s ready to have a baby??

 Dr. Annie is a family physician and 3 time mama in California.

 

Green Smoothie Wednesday

Yep, you read that correctly. GREEN Smoothies! Cue all kids (and arguably a large percentage of adults) tuning OUT. But stick with me. We all know that eating our greens is important for health and fitness reasons, and today we are blending up the original green superfood, spinach.

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Packed with calcium, iron, and vitamins, spinach has boasted major staying power through diet fads and gleaned nutritional street cred from modern nutritionists to legends like Popeye himself.

The calcium in spinach can help strengthen your bones to fight against injury, and vitamins A and C, fiber, folic acid, and other nutrients fight against colon and breast cancers. Spinach also helps to lower damaging protein levels in the blood and can protect against high blood pressure and heart disease.*

Basically, spinach has nutritional benefits for all ages and all stages of life. The good news is there are much more fun ways to get your daily spinach in than a bowl full of salad every day of the week. (And whose children would ever do this BTW?!) Enter – the green smoothie. Delicious smoothies sneakily stocked with spinach.

In our opinion, there’s no better way to keep healthy eating rolling through the new year than incorporating smoothies into your regular routine.  The great thing about using spinach in smoothies is that it actually has a very mild taste so it blends well with other ingredients. So, whether you are new to the pursuit of your daily greens, or a regular green-juice goddess, we’ve compiled a list of our Real as a M*ther all-time favorite green smoothies that are packed with nutrient-rich spinach and actually taste really good.

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Nut-Butter Banana (and Spinach! Just don’t say that out loud) Smoothie

  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup organic no sugar added nut butter of your choice (almond, peanut, and cashew butter all taste great)
  • 2 bananas
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (optional – omit to keep dairy free)
  • 1 cup milk of your choice (we typically use whole milk for our kids, but also love almond and coconut milk dairy-free options)
  • Our favorite optional add-ins: vanilla protein powder, chia seeds

Makes 2 large or 4 small smoothies.

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Green & Glowing At-Home Smoothie

Whenever we take our kids to Whole Foods, (which as you may know if you have ever taken 3 or more children to Whole Foods, is a frantic 2-hour endeavor with a $500 minimum) we all end up at the smoothie bar to fill up on one of their delicious Green and Glowing smoothies. When we are not at the store (hallelujah), we make this knock-off version at home.

  • 1 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1 cup frozen mango
  • 1/2 cup frozen peach
  • 1/4 cup dried unsweetened coconut
  • 1 -2 cups milk of choice (adjust for preferred thickness)
  • 1/4 cup flax seed
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach
  • Our favorite optional add-ins: vanilla protein powder, collagen peptides (for the grown-ups “glowing” skin)

 

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Greens-on-the-Go Smoothie

We love this smoothie for the flexibility of its ingredients (basically whatever we have in the freezer actually works), the ease with which we can throw it together on-the-go (which is pretty much constantly – we have ten kids between us, remember?), and for the fact that it tastes vaguely like the most nutritious PB&J you’ve ever had.

  • 1.5-2 cups spinach
  • 1 tbsp nut butter of choice
  • 2/3 – 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1 handful of oats
  • 1.5-2 cups berries of choice
  • 1 shot of maple syrup
  • Our favorite optional add-ins: A shot of maple syrup to sweeten it up for the kids, a 1/4 cup or more of yogurt for a creamier smoothie, and coconut oil for extra good fats and coconutty flavor.

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Chocolate Crush Smoothie

Ok, so this recipe doesn’t involve eating any candy. Womp, womp. Sorry folks, this is a green smoothie post, after all. But, the nutrition-packed ingredients of this creamy smoothie give it a chocolatey, nutty, flavor that is almost as good as having candy for breakfast (or lunch for that matter – this is Kristy’s fave weekday lunch) and always keeps us coming back for more.

  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 cups spinach (or 1 cup kale)
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1 avocado
  • Optional add-ins: Anti-oxidant boost (Kristy uses Nerium’s Youth Factor Superfood Powder), coconut oil or flakes

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So Fresh and So Green Smoothie

This smoothie is a super-refreshing pick-me-up any time of the day. We love it particularly while dreaming of warm tropical days, or while recovering from an afternoon of chasing our kids around the house. The superpowers of spinach and mint combine to make this almost, just almost a better green alternative to coffee. TBD.

  • 1.5-2 cups spinach
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup frozen mango
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 2 tbsp – 1/4 cup mint
  • Our favorite optional add-ins: vanilla protein powder, coconut flakes, chia seeds

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That’s a wrap on green smoothie Wednesday! Don’t forget any of these smoothies can be made into delicious smoothie bowls by decreasing the amount of liquid, and topping with nuts, fruit, and/or granola. Now, let’s see if Popeye was right about all this spinach. Watch out, 2019!

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Cheers, and Happy (green) New Year from all of us at Real As A M*ther! Moms to 10 kids, doctor, lawyer, doula/massage therapist, financial planner, and green smoothie makers.

 

 

 

Sources: * 4 Incredible Health Benefits of Eating Spinach by Melanie Rolland, @ guidedoc.superfooods

Bringing Home Siblings

This post contains affiliate links to help you find the products we have found helpful. We may get a tiny reward if you use our links but the recommendations are our own. Pretty Photo above credited to Jordan Marie Photography

All of us Real Mothers have gone through the fun adventure of bringing home a second or third baby to the family and I think we’ve collectively had just about everything go wrong that the rest of you could expect. The inspiration for this post was a friend’s recent experience of her 2-year-old trying to help “calm” a fussy 1-week old brother by very silently and sneakily feeding him an almond <cue full mom panic by proxy>. Luckily she was watching and everyone is ok.

We thought we’d put together a rundown on what will help avert disaster in sibling-land and make the transition as smooth as possible. Most of this is directed toward families bringing home a new baby with a first child (or multiple children) between the ages of 1-5 years old. Older kids are generally a bit easier to explain about baby safety, mom’s recovery, etc… hopefully.

Talk early and often

IMG_3444Being pregnant while managing a tiny terrorist is hectic in and of itself. If this is baby #3 or more for you on the way, that craziness is compounding. It’s easy to forget to talk to your kids about what to expect with a new baby ahead of time because frankly, you’re just in survival mode 90% of the time as it is. However, it makes a HUGE difference and it is much easier to manage baby’s arrival at home if you have had a few convos ahead of time and set realistic expectations for big brother(s) and/or sister(s). Some strategies include using books (see suggestions below), children’s shows (also below), incorporating a little Q&A or “talking to baby” session into bedtime, or talking about it for a bit when you see other people with small babies.

Don’t Miss Topics:

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Photo credit: Fiona Margo Photography
  • Where Babies Come From: This is bound to come up in one form or another. Rather than just avoiding the conversation, do yourself a favor and have these books: What Makes A Baby and Hello in There!, for a low-level detail, kid-targeted, but medically accurate way to explain how the baby got in there and how it gets back out. Some other great books are in This Fatherly Blog Post.

 

  • Shows: This is a parent and sibling win-win situation. Your kid feels like they are being treated to TV time, and you get help explaining the sibling transition from familiar children’s characters. Some of our favorites include “We Can’t Wait to meet the Baby” and “The Baby is Here!” (also books!) from Daniel Tiger. You can also view some great short videos about welcoming baby on  PBSKids.org.

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  • Baby Safety: As reviewed above, kids love to “help” mom with baby and are often distressed by the baby’s distress. Go over specifically:
    • Never put anything in baby’s mouth (including pacifiers because you don’t know where that thing’s been when the toddler finds it). If your kid is older the rule could be “without asking a parent”, but err on the side of never. Since younger kids understand positive “DO” commands better than negative “DON’T” commands – you can frame this as always bring things to a parent BEFORE giving to baby.” This also is important because younger kids may want to share small (CHOKING HAZARD) toys that they may not understand are dangerous to baby even if they are not put near the baby’s mouth. More than one sibling in our crew has tried to share a lego or two to cheer up their new baby, and they need to understand that sharing with a baby is ONLY okay when a parent approves the toy.
    • Never put anything over the baby’s face. Kids also love to “play peekaboo” or give stuffed animals to the baby which can smother tiny nostrils easily. Again, the positive spin on this is that blankets/toys/etc always go on the legs, NOT the face. Include not putting things in the crib/basinet with baby – little kids are remarkably good at “sharing” when you least want them to.adorable baby beanie bonnet
    • Never pick up the baby without a parent’s help. If your kiddo is much older, you can adjust this to their ability. But again, err on the side of caution when baby is tiny and needs head support. A positive way to frame this is “always ask for a parent to help you pick up or hold baby.”
    • We also find it helpful to have a “no-touching-on-the-face or hands” rule to manage germ transition. Point out they can kiss the toes or top of the baby’s head. And keep antibacterial spray such as this kid-safe one from CleanWell ALLLLL over the house.close up of baby feet
  • Mom’s Body: As a second (or third or fourth)-time moms’ belly grows larger, it somehow becomes an irresistible target for kids’ boisterous jumping, bouncing and otherwise projectile launching. You can be reassured, the baby is very well protected in there – but of course if a direct hit results in ongoing pain or bleeding, go get checked! Talk a lot about ways to be gentle with mom’s belly each time this happens.

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    Photo Credit: Kimberlin Gray Photography
  • Birth and Recovery: Also take the opportunity to talk about what the plan will be while mom is at the hospital or birth center. Go over how mom will be very tired and have some “ouchies” after the baby comes out and talk about ways the kids can help out – getting ice packs for you, rubbing feet, making faces or telling stories to the baby, helping to fetch diapers, etc…. Most kids love being able to help. Emphasizing their “big kid-ness” helps them feel special. If your kid is reward-motivated, you can even set up a points-chart that they earn a sticker for each helpful act to earn a new toy or privilege.

Gift From Baby

Picking up a special time-occupying gift for big kid “from the baby” goes a long way to establishing the baby-is-your-friend status we all want. Some good ideas can be found in this post: Plane Travel with Littles: Carry-On Packing List. Do yourself a favor and DO NOT buy toys that make noise. Boys and girls alike usually like to have their own babydoll of some kind to “mirror” what the parents are doing with the real baby, here are a few other options by age.

1-2 year old: Buckle Toys, Latch Board or Latch Barn

 

 

2-5 Years Old: Magnatiles, Dollhouse and Green Toys Cars + Track

Also consider a tablet loaded with educational games, see Fave Fridays: Smart Screen Time for ideas!

 

Of course, you know your kid best, get them something you know they’ll be excited about and will play with relatively independently for a while. Avoid toys with choking-sized parts even for bigger kids until you know they’re on board with the “nothing-in-baby’s-mouth” rule.

Lower Your Expectations

Most kids go through some form of regression when a new baby comes home. That can take a lot of forms. Potty-trained kids might have accidents again. Kids who have no trouble sleeping alone at night might suddenly be getting up. They will want to play in the baby’s bouncer, ride in the stroller, suck the pacifier. It’s a normal phase and will pass if you don’t overreact. Acknowledge it, talk about it briefly and move on.

Also lower your expectations for getting stuff done. Enlist more help. You will not get those luxurious “nap when the baby naps” moments as easily as when there was just one little being taking your time. (Did those really ever happen anyway?!) Set yourself up for success with a decluttered house, easy food in the freezer and loved ones on board to help as much as possible. If you have trouble asking for help, make a list ahead of time of things that would be helpful or set up a MealTrain or other chore-registry to delegate.

love sweet face portraitThis post is about preparing the kiddos, but part of that also involves preparing your coparent and other family/friends who will be helping. Make sure they know the priority is helping with the housework and the big kid(s). Your job is the new baby. They’re NOT there to hold the new baby while you ‘get stuff done’. I repeat: THEY ARE THERE TO GET STUFF DONE and only as much of the new baby stuff as you want to delegate. Liberally use the phrase, “My doctor/midwife said I need to be holding the baby as much as possible for bonding, immunity and milk production, so can you please <do the dishes, fold the laundry, go to the store, make dinner, take Jimmy to the park, etc…> while we go take a nap together?”

IF and only if you desire a moment away from new baby to shower, snuggle your big kid or whatever else, then others get to hold new baby. No one has a “right” to new baby time except YOU.

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Photo credit: Stacey Petersen Photography

If you don’t have family or a community to help, look at neighborhood list serves like NextDoor to hire a middle or high school aged “mommy’s helper” – cheaper than a nanny or babysitter, literally they just come over and do chores or play with your big kid while you’re home taking care of baby.

Enjoy the Before

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Photo credit: Jordan Marie Photography

The one guarantee with bringing another little life into the family is that things will be different. Better in many ways, harder in many ways, and just altered in many, many ways.

Watching siblings grow together and love one another is one of the greatest joys of parenthood.

Try not to worry too much about how you’ll manage it, because you just will. Do your best to try to soak in the remaining time while the newest addition is still easily portable, fed and clean on the inside of your body. Plan special outings that will be harder with a new baby like going to a movie or kids’ museum. Take a moment every day to pay attention to the little life on the inside as you did with the first baby without even realizing you were doing it.

Good luck multiples parents-to-be, enjoy the ride!

Anne is a mom to three (including one beautiful brand new baby) and family physician in California. Christiana is a mom to three, military spouse, attorney, and currently a stay-at-home mom in New England.

Discovering and Coping With the Energy Vampires In Your Life

Do you ever find yourself wondering, watching through exhausted eyes as the kids get back on the bus after winter break, why the holidays left you so unimaginably drained? The more I think about it, stories of heightened stress around the end of the year holiday festivities have my thoughts pointed in a singular direction. Overwhelming. Amounts. Of. People.

Photo Credit The Carson J Spencer Foundation blog

Whether it is travel, being around family, or the financial pressures we place on ourselves, it seems after that shiny disco ball rings in the New Year, a collective sigh of relief audibly guides us back to our sense of normalcy. Does anyone else ever find themselves asking… “why?”

After all, we can mostly push the proverbial pause button on school, morning routines, and after school/work activities for a bit. We’ve spent time at home, in our pajamas, sipping coffee and smiling at each other while the kids relished in the magic of the season, right?

Oh wait…I forgot.

 

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There were school parties; work parties; friend parties; shopping in crowds; returning gifts; family to see, cook for and entertain; traffic; neighbors; gaggles of children…must I go on?

The point is, during this time of year we are almost forced to be around people that we may not see throughout the year. Sometimes this is a great thing and we are filled up with warm fuzzies, but other times we leave a situation feeling drained, overwhelmed, angry, depressed, anxious, threatened, and just down right OVER IT.

If this is you, my friend, then you have yourself what I have become accustomed to calling, an “Energy Vampire.” 

Photo Credit headinablender.com

The easiest way I can describe this is in terms of positive and negative. A positive person is in tune, energetic, with a light that flows outward. A negative person’s energy is blocked from the source, so their energy is dense, almost like a black hole, within themselves. The blockage does not allow the energy to replenish, so in order for them to be filled, they have to seek the energy of others.

These individuals may creep up on you, engaging you in a conversation that leaves you feeling empty.  They may not even realize that this is what they are doing to you! They just know that they can dump their emotional “stuff” into your bucket and feel better, regardless of how it leaves you feeling.

No matter what you do, how you try to steer conversation or the direction of the friendship, this one person always finds a way to latch onto you and send you energy revolving in an orbit of negativity around them.

woman and man sitting on brown wooden bench

Most of these individuals are emotionally and energetically immature, so they lack any sort of empathy to recognize the social cues one might give them that they are being too draining.  They also may not care even if you socially cued them right upside their head, because they derive energy from other individuals, and they don’t know how to stop themselves from doing it.

I can’t stop them for you; however, I’m gonna give you some garlic-laced energy ammunition to protect yourself.  Just in case your cat-like reflexes kick in and make you situationally aware when people are waiting for an opportunity to jump into your bubble, I am going to give you some positive tools to use when your emotional capacity is plentiful and you want to be of help.

Photo Cred Joyful31.com

1. Know Your Personal Boundaries

In order to ward off an “energy vampire attack”, we have to be aware of our own personal struggles, mood, and headspace.  “Energy vampires” tend to feed on the weak. The higher your energetic capacity is, the less likely your energy will be drained. Daily, self-centering practices such as meditation, and self reflection are helpful keys to prepare yourself when you have to interact with these types of people. If you know your cups are low, avoid them at all costs.

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2. Roll Deep When You Can

If you can avoid one-on-one time with an energy-draining individual, then do. Interacting with negative people is almost always easier in group situations.  Dealing with them in groups not only sways the attention from being directly on you, but often makes the individual less likely to engage in immature behavior. Supportive friends and family are always great allies in these situations.

3. Make a Clean Break

Sometimes, the best way to deal with “Energy Vampires” is to recognize them for what they are and simply keep your distance. Maybe for a short term, maybe for a long term, or maybe until they, or you, are in a better place to communicate with each other. But sometimes you just need to make a clean break. It is important to ask ourselves

“what value is this person/these people actually adding to my life?”

If you are spending way more time solving their problems, listening without reciprocation, coming to their rescue, or worst yet, taking the fall for them when sh*t hits the fanthen it behooves you have to take serious inventory as to what this person is adding to your life. This is not to say that we don’t stand by old friends when sh*t hits the fan. On the contrary.

This is where the old pros and cons lists comes in handy. It sounds silly, but, I absolve you of any guilt-ridden feelings in performing this task.   You need your energy for the things you love, giving it away to those who won’t hold it dear is not something vital to your happiness. End. Of. Story.

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4. Be Direct

If your kindness kicks in and you want to lend a hand, try and keep your conversations direct. Instead of saying things like “tell me about it,” ask them directly “what can I do to help you?” This can ring very deeply in their empty well, and help them feel listened to and appreciate you on a different level.

For example, as a sleep deprived young mother my energetic cups were often very low and easily sucked into others’ negative inner turmoil. Hindsight is certainly 20/20 as I look back and see that if I could have found the energy at that time to simply ask directly what I could do to help with these individuals’ problems, we may have been able to work together to forge a constructive way to work out our differences, and we would have all been better off. And I could have saved myself a lot of energy-draining days.

5. Have a Self-Care Plan

If interaction with your “vampire(s)” is inevitable (for example with a coworker one cubicle over, or family member that seems to always “drop in“), have a routine for self-care in place for after you are around them (to remember your awesomeness, of course).  Maybe it’s a hot shower to rid yourself of their energy, or doing something nice for yourself or someone your care for – it all comes back to doing things that make you smile and re-fill your energetic “cups.” Whatever it is, tell your partner that you will need to have that time to fill back up immediately after the interaction is over. Your relationship with yourself and with all parties concerned will be better for it.

Photo Credit The Country Workshop

Setting boundaries, remembering who you are, listening to your own needs, engaging in direct conversation, practicing self care, and making a clean break when necessary, are the key components I have found successful in protecting oneself from those who feed off of your energy. I hope these tools help you to recognize who the “Energy Vampires” are in your life (OR if you are one to someone else!) and  go more confidently into situations with your own potential “Energy Vampires” and allow you to more deftly navigate them so that you aren’t left with an empty tank.

Now, go forth and be awesome!

004-1-of-1Kristy is a mother of two, Massage Therapist, and proponent of total body healing in Virginia.

Finance Friday: Financial Resolutions

When I ask my clients, “So, what’s your 2019 resolution?” I get a lot of very similar responses, particularly with the uncertainty of the stock market as of late.  A lot of people are saying:

“I want to go on a financial diet.”

person holding piggy bank

BLLLEEECH.  “Diet.”  That dreaded word.  It makes it sound so… boring, and restrictive.  Yes?  Ok, so let’s rebrand it.  Let’s call it a “Financial Reawakening!!!”  No?  Too much?  Ok, well, whatever you want to call it, here’s what I suggest you consider doing right here, right now, in 2019, to improve your finances without feeling like you are sacrificing things and experiences that make you happy.

1.  Take a Good Look at Your Budget

I highly suggest you either use something like Mint.com (free!) or a good old-fashioned spreadsheet.  Whatever you use, the important thing is that you look honestly at what you are spending and why.

pexels-photo-870902.jpegStart asking yourself, “do I really need the gym membership/pet insurance/lawn service I’m paying $100 per month for?”  Or, “Am I really watching my cable or do I only watch Netflix/Hulu?”  See if you can cut out things that are monthly (re-occurring) expenses that aren’t really adding anything to your life, that you can afford to live without, or are costly services that you can manage to take on yourself.

2. Take Control

Speaking of re-occurring expenses, get a good handle on those.  I love Madison Reed hair color, but I haven’t ordered it.  Want to know why?  They want permission to bill me monthly and send me more on a regular basis.  As a financial advisor, I hate these auto-billings and reoccurring orders, unless it’s truly something I use every day and run out of on a regular basis if more doesn’t arrive at my doorstep.  Take back control.Cancel these auto-payments and take some time to understand what you really need, when, and order it yourself.  You’ll save yourself some money right there.

3. Start Small

Make some MINOR adjustments to start.  If you usually spend $500 per month on eating out at restaurants, cut it back to $450, then back to $400, and until you get to a point where you feel like you are still able to socialize and have a good time, but can still save money.  Do not say, “No, I can’t hang out.  I’m trying to spend less money.”  That’s a Debbie-Downer attitude that will spell out short-term budget success but long-term burn-out.  (And probably like zero friends.)

Don’t do it!

Have fun.  Go out.  Just be more budget-conscious when you do.  Maybe don’t order the surf and turf at dinner (every time) unless someone new you met on Bumble is treating you. 😉

4. Stop Boredom Shopping

No judgment, of course, but I see you – Yes YOU, the one reading this.  At the top of your web browser, there is that tab open to Amazon.  I challenge you to stay away from shopping online when you should be doing other things, like working, sleeping, or hey, catching up with your spouse about his or her day over a glass of wine (a budget-conscious varietal of course).

woman holding card while operating silver laptop
Stahhhhhp it!

It used to be that when exhausted, burned-out parents zoned out at the end of a long day, they’d just watch TV.  (I’m not saying that I personally did, of course, I’ve just heard from certain trustworthy parents that they binge-watched a few shows after the kids went to bed…) Ok, ok, Netflix is still in the rotation. But now, with the enormous growth in online shops, we also have retail therapy constantly at our fingertips, and with our “virtual wallet” we can easily order just about anything (did you know you can buy a hot tub on Amazon?!?!) at anytime without even looking at our debit card, let alone our account balances.  That can be a very dangerous habit.  Make a commitment to yourself that you won’t shop when you are bored or sleepless.

5. Understand Needs vs. Wants

Before making any purchase ask yourself:  “Is this a NEED to have, WANT to have or NICE to have item?”  If it’s a NEED to have, like new tires to safely drive your family vehicle, then by all means, go ahead and make that purchase. (These are almost always the least fun to spend our money on, FYI.  Chock it up to #adulting. Womp, womp.)

silhouette of man and child near white hyundai tucson suv during golden hour

If it’s a WANT to have, don’t deprive yourself, but don’t go crazy.  An example of this is a fancy latte.  You may arguably need a cup o’caffeine to perform your best at work after your kids wake you up at 3am, but you don’t need a Starbucks “double-shot, extra whip, no-fat, extra whatever” you could make a pot of coffee at home.  However, sometimes it just feels good enough to be a little #extra that you can justify spending a few more bucks. Make a commitment to treat yourself to these WANT-to-have items a few times a week, but not every day.  Finally, if it’s a NICE to have (like a boat, a motorcycle, or a Prada purse), don’t purchase it until you have no credit card debt and at least three months of expenses in a savings account. Sorry to break it to you, sailor. 

When in doubt, skip the boat. (Keep the flippy-floppies.)

6. Treat yo’self.

Did you just save $100/month for three months because you were doing these things?  If so, go get a $100 massage.  Yes, I realize that means you’re saving $100 less for the year, but this is about long-term success.  Did you save more than that this year?  $5k?  Go on a trip to Italy with a friend for $3k.

man riding on the motorcycle beside woman standing on the road

Treating yourself because you are making more sound financial decisions will reinforce this behavior and ensure it sticks.  And the longer you do this, the higher the chance is you will see REAL results.  Yes… just like a regular diet.  The rules are the same. Cheating never works and it takes longer than you’ll want. But it feels damn good when you succeed.

HAPPY NEW YEAR and sending my best for your Financial Reawakening!!!!

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Margo Cook is a Certified Financial Planner and mother of two on Maryland’s eastern shore.

Mental Health Home School

Mental health is a lifelong journey for every human. It’s something that comes up a lot this time of year in particular as the holidays bring with them stresses, memories and not-so-welcome comments from family members you are generally able to avoid in the rest of life. As a family doctor, the number of visits on my schedule for anxiety, depression, grief, panic attacks and all manner of stresses dramatically increases leading up to Thanksgiving and doesn’t let up until well after New Year’s Day.

I have had a personal journey with mental health in adulthood that I appreciate in particular because I can truly empathize with others struggling. I’ve been in low, low places and I’ve been peacefully, truly, deeply happy. I’ve been on medication for depression, anxiety and post-partum mood changes. I’ve seen therapists. But, some of the most important work I’ve done to grow has been reading and self-reflection and I wanted to share the 5 key resources that have been the most helpful.

1. The Science of Happiness, by Stefan Klein

The first book that introduced me to the concept that you have some control over your own mental health was The Science of Happiness. I read this book at the end of undergrad as I was heading into medical school and it. changed. everything.

The Science of Happiness: How Our Brains Make Us Happy-and What We Can Do to Get Happier by [Klein, Stefan]At that point, I had started to recognize that not only did my mood influence my behavior, but my behaviors influenced my mood and experience of life (hello, frontal lobe, welcome to the rest of the mature brain!). This book gave me powerful insight into the why of that and got me working on “Happiness Habits”. As a lifelong cynic who questions everything, I would never have believed any book telling me to do something without understanding why that would make a difference. 

2) The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin

This book was my second mental health growth spurt and came much later. I had finished medical school and residency. Those 7 years were tough. We are confronted with very regular, literal life-and-death situations, sleep deprivation, lack of time for exercise or healthy hobbies, isolation from your loved ones and regularly feeling like you might be the dumbest person in the room – especially hard for those of us who used to be frequently the smartest person in a room (am I selling you on becoming a doctor yet??). I had been on and off medication and was ready to heal myself. I stumbled into this one at just the right moment.

The Happiness Project, Tenth Anniversary Edition: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by [Rubin, Gretchen]

Gretchen was in a similar place to me. We both were married to great people, had the family we planned, a nice home, a good job, but were still pretty miserable. I set out to do my own Happiness Project, setting out tasks, turning them into habits, and lo and behold!! I got happier! I was able to wean off medication in anticipation of getting pregnant again and wow, it really worked! I think I told everyone I know to go buy the book. You’re welcome, Gretchen!

3) The Universe Has Your Back, by Gabrielle Bernstein

Just when things had settled down a bit, life threw us another curve ball. My husband decided to go back to fellowship (extra medical training to specialize into a ‘niche’). Twice. This involved a 75% paycut, moving 4 times in 4 years, and, oh, we now had 2 babies and a puppy and I was also trying to be a good primary care doctor to brand new patients then having to ‘abandon’ them to move again over and over. It was rough. My rudimentary mental health skills weren’t really up to the task. The Universe quite literally barged in with The Universe Has Your Back and turned the tide.

I started it just as the girls were both sick at home, my husband was working 100 hours a week with a 3 hour commute, and I hated my own job at the time. We were massively in debt from the fellowships and had moved away from essentially all of our close support people. This book forced me to examine and change my own inner dialogue on a MUCH deeper level than I ever had before. The Universe began to quite literally speak to me, sparking several dramatic life changes that have turned into a happiness snowball effect. Can. Not. Recommend. Enough.

4) Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis

I probably don’t need to say a whole lot about this book since it’s blowing up the bestseller lists across the US and internationally. I might have fallen off the self-improvement wagon again as I had every other time had The Universe not led me to start working a side-gig that encouraged continuous personal development. We are expected to read 10 pages every. single. day. to improve your function in some way. They don’t specify what you read, just that you make it habit to work on yourself, a little bit, consistently. Even on the longest, most exhausted day, you can read 10 pages of something. Trust me. I picked this one next and found it inspiring, clarifying and full of real-life applicable advice.

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by [Hollis, Rachel]

I would add, however, that the part of it that most changed me and how I was doing with mental health was following Rachel’s podcast and posts on social media and going to the Made For More documentary – can’t WAIT for the next book which delves more into the action side of improving your life!

5) You Are A Badass, Jen Sincero

At the end of Rachel’s book, I couldn’t help but feel that I needed more direction. Rachel made me believe I was “Made For More”, but I didn’t quite know how to find what my ‘more’ should be or how to get there. You see, I had accomplished a lot by many measures – getting into a top medical school, becoming a Family Physician, making a healthy marriage and raising two (so far) thriving kids. From the outside, it looks like I am fairly good at setting goals and accomplishing them. The problem was, those goals were all externally defined – someone else said what the end result was and all the basics of how to get there.  I felt gratitude for being ‘successful’ without ever stopping to think about where I might dream of being beyond that.

You Are a Badass®: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by [Sincero, Jen]

Enter, You are a Badass. Jen Sincero’s book blasted open my eyes to the concept that you can simultaneously be grateful for what you have and where you are in life ANNNND have huge dreams about where you are going ANNNNNND ANNND AND make that life happen, whatever it is. I can’t begin to explain how big of a revelation this was for me.

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Jen breaks it down into how to get there in real terms, in cursy and hilarious fashion. With the help of this book, I have reached next-level happy. I discovered how to dream and made the first one of those dreams come true. I dreamed that even though we are on an incredibly strict budget, my husband and I could still go on a tropical vacation. I’ve never won or earned the “bonus” on any challenge in my life, but one came up in my side business with Nerium. Through goal setting, planning and consistent action, I earned a free, all-inclusive vacation to the Bahamas for us at a 5 star resort this June. BOOMSHAKALAKA!

Where are you now?

This journey has been my own. I readily acknowledge that everyone is starting or continuing on their own journey in different places. You may be light-years ahead of me, or struggling at the very beginning. I hope that one or more of these books might help some of you on the way. As always, this is my personal experience and not your own personal medical advice – talk your medical person if you need help.

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Dr. Annie is a family physician and mom of 3 in California.