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I heard it again the other day, “Oh, you have your hands full!” I was pushing two kids in my shopping cart, while my oldest daughter walked beside us as we navigated the aisles of Walmart. None of my kids were acting up. Nobody was yelling, pushing or annoying each other. There was nothing to warrant the comment from this stranger except the number of children with me.

I’m not sure when it was that three children was officially declared the tipping point that pushes you from mom to mental case. How could I possibly handle three with only two hands? I’ve seen better mothers than me handle far more than three kids. I have a good friend who has six. I bet she hears the phrase far more frequently than I do.

I suppressed an eye roll and kept on shopping, because with three kids the goal is always to get in, get what you need and get the heck outta there as quickly as possible. It bugs me sometimes. The implication that I must be burdened by having more than the “ideal” two kids.

Here is what I want to tell everyone who’s ever made the comment to a Mom that has three or more kids that she has her hands full.

Yes, my hands are full. About a hundred times a day my hands are picking up small toys off the floor. At least twice a day I’m picking up someone’s discarded clothing and throwing it in the hamper or folding little tee-shirts or balling up socks.

My hands are holding little hands tight as we cross roads. My hands are brushing hair and weaving braids. They’re probing for imaginary boo boos on arms and legs, scouring for ticks in the summer, and giving reassuring pats on backs as my arms encircle my little ones. They’re feeling foreheads for signs of fever, pulling up covers, administering medicine and providing comfort in a million little ways.

These hands are often wet with sudsy dish water or being washed because I’ve touched all manner of disgusting bodily fluids. They are changing diapers, zipping coats, pulling on snow pants, and searching coat sleeves for wayward shirt sleeves.

These hands of mine are cooking endless meals, baking cookies, making hot cocoa, and filling sippy cups and water glasses. They are searching for lost toys and games, replacing batteries in toys I wish made no noise and decorating Christmas trees.

They’re pulling sleds up the hill for children too tired to do it themselves. They’re shuffling decks of cards to games I don’t always feel like playing or building Lego towers, assembling puzzles and turning the pages of countless books. They are in the air as I dance crazily around the living room with three little squealing kids who are getting down right along with me.

My hands are also typing, always typing because I’m a writer and there’s nothing I love to write about more than my kids. It’s because I want them to know that even though mommy doesn’t always have it all together, they are the best of me.

Yes, my hands are busy. They are always full. There is almost no point during each day where they are empty.

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And you know what? I’m so incredibly grateful for full hands. Children aren’t a burden. They are a blessing; one not everyone gets.

I read an article the other day about a writer who regretted having children and urged other people to reconsider having kids. My first thought was, “I hope her kids don’t read her article one day.” Not everyone wants to have kids and that’s fine. But they deserve to be treasured once they’re here.

The argument was that you would have far more money, could advance your career, travel and have more “me-time” if you didn’t have kids. While all of that is true, children give so much joy to your life.

If it weren’t for my three, I would never have learned how to love someone more than myself. Sure, you can love a spouse, but there are still strings attached. If they hurt you badly enough, you walk away. Not with kids; that love surpasses all limitations.

Hannah is a result of my stubborn will to become a mother after my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. I desperately wanted my son Jayden after falling in love with motherhood and my daughter Sydney was the happy ending to a year-long heartache for the child I knew would complete our family.

When you tell me, “Your hands are full!” I want to tell you, “If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart!”

And I would tell you except I don’t have time to stop. As you can see, I have three little ones to hold tight. My hands are never empty.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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I see you sneaking toward the door, tippy toeing so I don’t hear you. I see you getting farther and farther away, and I don’t like it. I forbid you to go. Sure, it starts with just one day off, but I know how quickly it escalates and you’re going to want more and more time off, until this vacation is permanent and I’ve completely lost my mind.

So, what do you need? Tell me, and I’ll make sure I do it. I’ll appreciate you more. I won’t take you for granted. I’ll remember to say thank you every time you give me long enough to get a post or two written, along with some laundry and maybe just maybe long enough to empty the dishwasher. You and I were the best of friends, that’s why this hurts so badly – you wanting to leave.

Sydney is only two. She still needs you. Remember that tantrum she kicked off in the middle of the grocery store the other day. That was fun. Remember how fast we hustled to get the hell out of there before one more person gave us the look? You know the “Someone needs a nap, don’t they!” look.

Little did I know that you weren’t at home waiting for our return. I couldn’t have been more disappointed. I thought we had a deal. I get the tantrums until we make it home and then you take Sydney for a few hours so I can get some work done. But you thought, let’s just play hide and seek for a while. Let’s tell Sydney about all the way cool toys she could be playing with right now instead of you. That’s a mean little game you’re playing.

You’re getting closer and closer to Dinnertime and now Bedtime thinks it can get away with stuff too. Like playing the “more kisses” game. I’ll admit that I do kind of like it when I’m the recipient of more kisses. But after Sydney needs “just one more kiss” every two seconds and it goes on and on without an end in sight, at some point I have to put my foot down and tell Bedtime who the boss is.

So, you see it’s not just you. I need both of you to work together. You make sure Sydney makes it to bedtime with crashing in a cranky heap on the floor (preferably not the grocery store floor again), and Bedtime will take over for the long shift until morning. Don’t think I didn’t notice Bedtime shirking its job. We’re going to have words if she keeps taking off an hour from the beginning of her shift and an hour from the end. She knows how much I need her too. Otherwise, I’m the cranky heap on the floor and trust me when I say, ain’t nobody got time for that. It’s more than Sydney who needs me.

I have two other kids and a husband who need me awake to handle homework, baths and showers and the nightly routine of ushering kids up the stairs on the endless march toward pajamas and teeth brushing and picking out clothes for the morning. Sometimes, I think Bedtime likes to mess with me big time. She’s a real prankster. She likes to whisper in my kids ears, “Hey, remember that spot on your leg you bumped two weeks ago, tell your mom it hurts” or “Let’s play a game of ‘guess what body part suddenly itches’” or my least favorite game of all “sleep or no sleep” in which she picks one or both of my older children and convinces them she’s not coming tonight. That is the FREAKING WORST!

No matter how many times I tell Hannah or Jay that Bedtime is coming, they just don’t seem to get it. Then sometimes they worry that they won’t be able to sleep like it’ll just stop coming around and they’ll be up all night. Even though I tell them that Sleep comes for us all, the tricky part about sleep is to trust she’s coming without ever actually expecting her visit. The longer we watch and wait for her arrival, the longer it takes for her to get here. She’s a drop by type of friend. She doesn’t ever want you to go to the trouble of waiting on her. I think it makes her feel guilty or something.

But I’ve gotten off track, this is about you Naptime. I know I can’t make you stay forever. I’m so grateful you stayed with Hannah as long as you did. Quitting a mere two weeks before the start of Kindergarten. I must say I was impressed with your work ethic with that one. With Jayden I had to ask you to leave when he was three because Bedtime was so fickle on the days you were working and since she’s under permanent contract I couldn’t fire her, so you know it wasn’t personal me letting you go.

But Sydney is just two and she still needs you so much. Truthfully, I might need you a little more than she does. I can’t get all the work done that I need to if you leave. I need you to stick around one more year at least, more would be great, but I know not to book you that far in advance. I know so many other families need you too.

But Naptime, not so fast. No, sneaking out the back door. Promise me that when you’re ready to go, you’ll meet with me face to face. You’ll give me a chance to plead my case. Because you see Naptime, it’s just so hard to make it through the day without you! You need to give me time to adjust. I know nobody ever told me just how hard this parenting thing would be, but I also know nobody ever said it would be easy either. In case you do decide to silently slip away without a goodbye, “thank you!” You have made my job infinitely easier and I won’t ever forget you.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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When I began this parenting journey I was a completely different mother than I am today. Nine years and two more kids later I’ve learned what things to just let go and what things to cling too like your life depends on it. Yesterday we changed my youngest daughter’s convertible crib to a toddler bed and it didn’t hit me at first, but then I realized it’s the end of the baby years for good. It also made me reflect on the mother I was when I lay my first child in it, to now my third and last child and how different I am now.

Here are five ways your parenting is different with your last child.

1. No More Nervous Nelly – I was terrified to bring my first daughter home from the hospital. I had only changed a handful of diapers prior to becoming a mom and I was completely clueless about swaddling. My first daughter got the majority of my parental trial and errors. She did and always will set the bar for my other kids. All my expectations of milestones, capabilities and behavior are established with her as the baseline. It’s not fair, but she has all the burdens and privileges that come with being born first.

By the time you have your last baby you already know “what to expect when you’re expecting.” You’ve logged countless sleepless nights and can change dirty diapers with one eye open. You’ve survived potty training nightmares too gross to retell and struggled through teaching a child to read. Your last baby usually goes with the flow and learns so much from his or her siblings. My youngest reaps the benefits of all my experience.

2. Birthdays and Milestones Are Sad – You’re happy to celebrate the birth of your last baby, but every time you sing the birthday song you know it’s the last time you’ll have a one-year-old, two-year-old, etc. I’m definitely a more nostalgic mom with my last child than I was with my first.

Moving my first child into a big girl bed wasn’t as big of a deal because I was pregnant with my second child and the crib wasn’t going away, just being handed down. Now when the crib is turned into the toddler bed, I know we’re one step closer to saying goodbye forever.

3. Five Second Rule Rules– When Hannah was a baby I was cleaning the carpet, left the bottle of cleaner for one second and the next thing I knew she had the nozzle in her mouth. She didn’t actually spray it thank God! But within seconds I was on the phone with poison control who assured me she’d be fine.

When my son was two he bit into a slug, yup you read that right. My first thought no joke was, “at least it’s organic. I don’t need to call poison control.”

A few weeks ago I gave Sydney a package of fruit snacks in the store to keep her happy and before I knew it she dropped one, picked it up and ate it. I didn’t even have time to worry about it. The mentality with your last is like, “Well, all the other kids survived the five second rule.”

You know it’s gross, but you don’t freak out. At least for me, I knew there were far worse things they could put in their mouths than a fruit snack dropped on the floor for five seconds.

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4. Beginning To Completion – When I had my first daughter everything felt like a new beginning. I had the whole of my parenting years stretched out in front of me. Hannah made me fall in love with motherhood. I had no idea just how large my capacity for love was until she showed me.

I credit Jayden with showing me that a mother’s love is multiplied, not divided with each child you have. Sydney brings an entirely different feeling to my parenting – one of completion.

For years I said that Jayden was my last child, but yet I didn’t have the feeling of completion like I have now. When Jayden was three I caught baby fever. After a year-and-a-half it became clear that another baby was the only cure and I’m still astounded by the complete 180 my husband did after over a year of shutting down the idea. One day, he said, “Okay let’s go for a third” and a month later Sydney was on the way.

She brings a balance to our family which is weird because she actually made us an odd number. But she’s the great equalizer between my two older kids. They are only two years apart, but Sydney is seven years younger than my oldest child Hannah and five years younger than Jayden. She gets all of the attention of being the baby and even though my oldest fight with each other…a…LOT, she’s the one thing they agree on. They both love to love that little girl. She creates a much needed buffer between Hannah and Jayden.

She came bounding into my bed this morning, escaping easily from her new toddler bed, and wedged her little body along with her three favorite baby dolls between me and my husband. I was tired and I thought, “Why was I so eager to transition her to the toddler bed? She slept a lot longer in the crib.” Then I thought:

“For you Sydney, I’ll let go of my warm and comfy bed and get up because yours are the last little fingers that will interlock in mine in the morning and pull me excitedly to start the day. Yours is the last little baby voice that will both sweetly and urgently bid me to come with you. And this moment is worth holding onto more than five more minutes of sleep, because your my last child and I’ve learned just what to hold onto and what to let go of by now.”

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

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The first time I read “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch to my children I burst into tears. For those of you that don’t know the story, it starts with a new mother who rocks her baby to sleep singing, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” She continues to sneak into her son’s room every night, even after he’s an adult living in his own house. For some it seems a little creepy, but for me it knocked the wind out of me.

The Story Behind The Story

That was even before I heard the sad story behind that famous line which repeats throughout the book. Maybe before I knew, my heart just connected to the profound gratitude and love you feel as a mother. When I found out that the author wrote the line, which started in his head as lyrics to a sad kind of lullaby to his two stillborn children, it hit my heart even harder.

When my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, I knew I’d never stumble carefree into Motherhood. I knew it was going to be more like forcing myself to jump a gorge. I wanted desperately to be on the other side, in parenthood, but I knew it was going to require blind faith to overcome my fear.

Forever Babies

I was reminded of the story when I ran into an elderly man at my doctor’s office the other day. He asked me how old my baby was. I answered, “She’s two.” Then he smiled and said, “My babies are grown and retired now.” Then he told me a little about their lives. He was in his 90s and he still referred to his children as his babies. Then I flashed on that famous line and it stirred that familiar pull in my heart.

I was also reminded of my father-in-law who passed away right after my oldest daughter turned one. To his very last day, he carried my husband’s tiny hospital bracelet in his wallet. I also flashed to my grandmother crying at my father’s wake. As much pain as I felt at that moment, I knew her pain was greater. I lost a father, but she lost a son.

It wasn’t till years later, that I would understand that losing a child is probably the worst pain you can go through. “I Love You Forever,” was born from that same pain.

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The Anniversary of 9-11

I’m not sure what stirred all of this in me lately, but all of these feelings came to a head on the fifteenth anniversary of September 11th. Every person lost in the attacks was someone’s baby.

I’ll always remember 9-11 as the day we, as a nation, lost our innocence. We could no longer take our safety and our lives for guaranteed. We all lost a piece of ourselves that day.

I was talking to friends the other day and it’s amazing how we all remember exactly where we were when we heard the terrible news. To all those who lost loved ones on that terrible day we grieve with you. Each and every one of the nearly 3,000 men and women whose lives were cut short were someone’s babies.

For all the moms and dads who lost their children in the attacks on September 11, 2001, we’ll remember them with you and we’ll hold our own children a little bit tighter. As long as we’re living, our babies they’ll be.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

 

 

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Before you have kids, you might not even be aware of the concept of having work-life balance. You probably work your typical 40 hours a week and save your sleeping in, errands, housework and fun for the weekend. This is all you know. After you have kids you are introduced to this concept of work-life balance.

Whenever I think of this concept I picture a scale where the object on one side weighs the same as the object on the other side and the scales are even. Balance after all is what you’re after, but balancing work and life (including all the things required to take care of those little people that depend on you) never looks like that. I think that’s why so many parents find themselves frazzled and stressed out.

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I’m sure, like me, you know the feeling of there never being enough time in the day and the feeling doesn’t go away no matter your work status. I’ve worked full-time with my kids running a daycare, part-time, been strictly a SAHM, and a WAHM. Every single situation requires lots of juggling.

When I worked part-time there were days I sat proofing copy on the computer while my baby nursed. Luckily I had a very understanding company at the time. There were days I ran a daycare that I still felt that my own children didn’t get the best I had to offer them. I felt like the kids whose parents paid me to watch them got more of my time and attention. It didn’t help that we had three infants in our care and my kids were four and two and didn’t require non-stop feedings and diaper changes.

As is typical for most SAHMs, forgoing paid employment doesn’t mean you don’t work. I did a lot of volunteering through my church in addition to carrying the primary responsibility for the household chores and childcare.

Right now working from home means praying for a long uninterrupted nap from my toddler and is dependent upon my other kids being at camp or school. It means fitting my work into whatever time squeezes around and through the daily webbing of my life. It also means folding laundry, running the dishwasher or vacuuming the house are also fighting for that same uninterrupted time, which is never long enough.

There are no perfect situations, only the situation that suits you best in each season of your life. There is no equal balance between work and family time. The scale is always tipping to one side or the other and the most important thing to remember is that you can’t look at any single day to see how your life really measures up on the scale. You have to look at much larger chunks of time – months or years to see the scale average out.

Maybe you’re going through a season where you’re trying to start a business, work towards a promotion, or seeking a new job and the scale seems to be perpetually tipped in that direction. Maybe you’re a SAHM, but you want to return to the workforce in the future and your scale is always tipped toward family to the point where you wonder if they could survive without your full attention.

When you look at your life one day at a time, the scale will never show a balance. Someone or something will demand more of your attention and that’s okay. Because the truth is that work-life balance (as in both work and family get equal attention at all times) doesn’t exist.

So instead of looking for balance, ask yourself the most powerful question that I ever asked myself – “What’s it going to take to make me happy right now?” I’ve asked myself this question right after my first child was born, after I found out my company was going through a merger, when my daycare business was failing and when I was a full-time SAHM in search of some way to earn additional income. The answer was different each time.

The answer may not always be easy or feasible right away. Maybe that looks like part-time work, full-time work from home, or staying home. Finding “balance” is just a way of saying you feel happy with the priorities in your life at this moment in time.

The scale is always tipping, sometimes multiple times a day and it can leave you feeling frustrated, angry or sad. But the scale is not how we should measure our lives. We may not always have the time to do everything we want to do. But as long as you’re actively doing your best to provide for your kids in whatever capacity that looks like for you, then it doesn’t matter what the scale says.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

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Toddlerhood is both a wonderful and somewhat frustrating phase as a parent. I look at my sweet little two-year-old and see the sweet curls and baby face and I’m sad this is the last of the littles. Soon enough all my children will be in school and I’ll miss these little hands in mine. But toddlerhood is also crazy challenging at times, partly because toddlers can’t always express their needs and emotions.

I often find myself saying, “What do you want Syd?” Sydney still resorts to pulling me places and pointing, sometimes ordering me with one word commands to “Sit,” or “Come.” I feel like a dog being trained at times. Sometimes there’s also a big difference between what a toddler says and what they mean. I’m not going to pretend I know what all toddlers want. But if I had a toddler translator, here’s how it would work for Sydney.

“Couch” – To the untrained listener, perhaps you’d think it means she simply wants to sit on the couch. What Sydney actually means is, “I really want to try out that great trampoline over there,” and “You better watch me or I’m going to jump off and land on my head.”

“Carry Baby” – This might sound like a simple request to be carried. What Sydney really means is, “Please carry me for the next sixty seconds at which point I will wiggle like crazy till you put me down.”

“Walk” – This one should be easy. This is what she says when she wants me to stop carrying her and let her walk. Again this only means, “put me down so I can walk for sixty seconds,” then I’m going to insist you “carry baby” again.

Whenever we go anywhere I alternate between carrying her and letting her walk every minute so even a trip out to the car in the driveway takes twice as long as if she picked one or the other.

“Snack” – This means “thanks for this tasty treat which I’m going to spill or spit out of my mouth onto the floor in a minute.” I forgot how much food gets spilled and dropped in the toddler phase.

“Thank You” – Sometimes it’s as sweet as it sounds and sometimes it means “Oh that’s mine, thanks!” as she snatches the treat out of your hand so that you can’t be mad at her.

“Fire” – No, nothing is on fire when she says this. While most kids use the beginning part of pacifier “Paci,” to indicate they want their soother, Syd likes use the ending of the word. When she can’t find it, she sometimes runs around in a slight state of panic saying, “Fire! Fire!” That should be interesting, if someone should hear her in public (hopefully, not in a crowded place).

“Come” – This is what she says while pulling me off my chair at the dinner table or off the couch. It actually means, “You must dance and play with me right now!”

One day soon she’s going to be speaking in full sentences and there will be no question what she wants. I think a part of me will miss these days of toddler speak. This phase isn’t always easy.

I love the commercials for sour patch kids. That’s how I think of toddlers. First they’re sour, then they’re sweet. When you lean in for a kiss from your little one, there’s an equal chance you might get a kiss or a bite. I’ve come to the conclusion that my floor is just going to be covered in crumbs and spills till she’s at least four. This is why my vacuum stays out all the time.

There’s always a toy or spill to clean up, but there are so many moments of pure joy. Even though this age can be difficult to navigate, what “toddler” really means is, “I’m not a baby anymore.” And that, fellow moms, is the hardest translation to grasp.

What are your favorite translations from your toddler?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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I still remember the man who approached me at the mall while I was changing my seven-month-old son. He was holding his sweet little newborn daughter with a look in his eyes that was a mixture of exhaustion, nervousness, and desperation. “How long did it take for him to sleep through the night?” he asked expectantly.

I knew what he wanted me to say. I could see he was desperate for some reassurance that he would get to sleep again one day soon. “He just started sleeping through the night now at seven months,” I said as I watched his face deflate. “Is she six weeks old?” I asked. “She’s only five-weeks,” he replied sounding sad that he had a very long road ahead of him.

I remember how nervous I was as a new mom. I was terrified to take my daughter home from the hospital. I was also exhausted and worried I wouldn’t be able to survive the seemingly endless sleep deprivation. By the time I had my second and third babies, there were certain things that were less surprising and scary.

Here are the top 10 worries you can kiss goodbye the second-time around.

1. Labor – I can still hear myself saying, “I can’t do it.” There were several moments I just didn’t think I could deliver my first child. I was in the worst pain of my life and exhausted after eleven hours of labor and an additional hour of pushing.

While my second and third labors weren’t exactly a walk in the park, I no longer worried if I could do it. Having my first baby proved just how strong I could be. And all the gross and surprising things that come with labor didn’t freak me out the second and third time around.

2. Basic Baby Care – I was terrified to take my first child home from the hospital. I had no clue what I was doing beyond the brief nursing, diapering and swaddling tutorials I got from the nurses. I almost didn’t want to leave the hospital. The second and third time I couldn’t wait to go home. I had all the basics down, though I never did fully master the swaddle.

3. Common Colds and Minor Injuries – My first born had Respiratory syncytial virus  (RSV) at three-months-old and I was horrified watching her breathing in the vapor from her nebulizer. She looked so tiny and helpless and it felt like she would be sick forever. After that, minor colds and injuries didn’t faze me as much. I learned to save my worry for the bigger illnesses.

4. Poop – If there’s one aspect of parenting you find yourself talking or thinking about the most, it’s poop. Color, frequency, texture, you think/worry about it all. Newborn poop changes color and frequency quite often which is really unsettling for new parents. With the exception of prolonged periods of constipation I never really worried about poop with my other babies.

5. Nursing In Public – I used a cover up with all my babies, but I was really timid about nursing my first baby in public. Even when you aren’t physically exposed you still feel vulnerable. By the time my second baby was a few months old I really didn’t care if people knew what was going on beneath my cover up. I think you gain confidence in feeding your baby and you become less concerned with how someone else might react.

6. Sleep Deprivation – Don’t get me wrong, sleep deprivation is a given when you have a baby. With my first child, there was one night in particular I thought I felt my brain break from lack of sleep. I wondered whether or not I was actually going crazy. The second time around I was like, “Okay, crazy is the new normal.” I also had the experience to know that it wouldn’t last forever.

7. Sleep Training – Sleep training (if you choose to do it) feels like an exercise in torture the first time around. It’s hard to hear your baby cry while trying not to immediately rush in to comfort them. It’s still hard with subsequent children, but you realize that it’s worth a few really sucky days to have them sleep through the night for the rest of their lives. The first time, I kept my eyes glued to the video monitor, making sure my baby was physically alright.

By the second child, I knew he was physically fine even though he was unhappy about not sleeping next to me anymore. I know sleep training is not for everyone, but it gets easier once you have seen great results and know you’re the only one who will remember how tough it was.

8. Being On Time – Before you have kids you take for granted how easy it is just to grab your keys and get out of the house. Once you have kids you have to pack diapers, clothes, food, toys, a change of clothes and possibly medicine just to go on short trips. It can take far longer just to get in the car with kids let alone attempt to get to your destination on time.

Now that I have three kids, I don’t sweat being on time. I’ve figured out the trick to getting somewhere on time or early is just to assume you’re going to be late. It’s strange, but when I start the process of getting ready to go somewhere I already have it in my mind that we’re running late and it gets me out the door ahead of schedule to compensate.

9.Trying To Solve All Their Problems – With your first child, you think it’s your job to prevent every boo-boo, solve all conflicts with friends and make sure they don’t feel bad in any way. With subsequent kids, you learn to relinquish some control and discover that you need to let them find their own solutions.

Now, I simply point my kids in the right direction and let them work things out on their own. The biggest gift we can give our kids is the ability to cope with and solve their own problems.

10.The “I Hate You,” “You’re So Mean,” or “You Don’t Love Me” Rants – You never forget the first time your kid says one of the statements above. It stops your heart, you can’t breath and your blood runs cold. By the third kid, I don’t feel like I’m doing my job if I don’t hear it occasionally.

I’ve learned not to take it personally. As parents we have to make decisions our kids won’t always like, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid making them just so our kids will be happy with us. After the first kid, you recognize that they don’t mean it and it’s our job to be their parent, not their friend.

Many people say that it’s hardest going from one kid to two. I personally found it to be harder going from none to one. While the juggling and multitasking increases with multiple kids, so does your ability to go with the flow and trust your instincts.

What things got easier with your second, third or fourth child?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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A strange phenomenon occurs wherever women gather with their children. There is a bonding that forms immediately over the exchange of labor stories. We can’t seem to get enough details about other women’s labors and we excitedly share our stories. It’s like we all fought in the same war in slightly different locations and we all have our battle scars, along with stories of fear, pain, and triumph.

I was at the pool with my children the other day. Sydney was splashing in the kiddie pool, while two women sitting with their toddlers were already engaged in their war stories. It was sort of amazing. Women who might otherwise have nothing in common were bonding over stories of epidurals, contractions, and pushing. I found myself ready and willing to find an easy place in the conversation to join in with my own stories.

It’s amazing to me that it doesn’t matter if you gave birth two weeks ago, two years ago, or two decades ago you still have your stories cued up at the ready whenever you see a fellow mom. I was volunteering at church in the toddler room with a woman with adult sons and my toddler was playing at my feet. We easily talked about our labors like they happened yesterday.

I think part of it is what I call Post Traumatic Labor Disorder and the other part is simply recognizing that we lived through some of the most difficult, painful, and miraculous moments of our lives. Each child is a stripe on our mom-iform, usually in the form of stretch marks or C-section scars. The stories of their lives are etched on our bodies.

Most of us, no matter how old our children are, look back at this point in our lives with wonder and admiration. How did we do it? How did we survive? How did we find strength we had no idea we possessed? How did this little miracle become mine?

The stories of how our children got here are all different, yet we are bonded together by the collective experiences of motherhood. Our children are different, we are different, but we all carry the same rank of “Mom.”

Beyond the stories of how we became mothers, there are some universal truths of motherhood most of us can agree on.

  1. You have no idea that you can love a person you just met. I never believed in romantic love at first sight so it took my breath away when the doctor placed my child on me for the first time. Love at first sight is real, but I think that’s because motherly love starts before your child is born and when you see them for the first time that’s when all that love bubbles up to the surface.
  2. You know with certainty that you are screwing up at least some of the time. I’ve found that knowing you are messing up with your kids isn’t nearly as hard as forgiving yourself for it. There are a million things we’re doing right every single day, but instead of seeing those things, we remind ourselves of our poor decisions and we agonize over the hypothetical consequences.
  3. You know that you would lay down your life for your child’s.When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter I told my husband that if a complication were to arise during her birth and he was forced to make a choice between her life or mine, he was to choose hers. It’s not that I had a complicated pregnancy, but I just wanted my wishes to be clear – that even though she wasn’t here yet, her life was to come before my own without question.
  4. You are exhausted by just how much you care about EVERYTHING.Details you never thought about in your life have this new weight because everything you say or decide will shape another person into who they will become.
  5. The feeling of helplessness at not being able to control what will happen to your child(ren) is paralyzing.You have to put it out of your minds long enough to feed them breakfast, get them ready for the day, and carry on with your everyday lives.

The world seems so full of horrible stories these days; stories of murder, conflict, and injustice both here and across the globe. It’s so depressing and terrifying. In order to cope, I have come to seek out these miracle moments of strangers forming instant connections, sharing stories, advice, and encouragement to remind myself that the world can be beautiful too.

We can’t control much of what happens in the world, but we are the band of mothers and we can shape the future a little every day. We can teach our children better ways. We can show them how to love and respect themselves and others. We change the world in small and quiet ways when we raise our children to seek out the light amidst the darkness.

I like to think that when women come together to share our war stories of labor and the battlefield of parenting, we are saying, “I stand by you. Even if your journey looks different than mine, we ultimately want the same thing – to create amazing people that make the world a better place.”

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

What do you do all day? When are you going back to work? How do you survive on one-income? Do you like being home all day? These are just some of the questions people might have about being a Stay-At-Home Mom.

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Maybe you’re a working mom who wishes you could stay at home with your kids or maybe you’re a SAHM who wrestles with her decision sometimes. There are always pros and cons whether you choose to stay at home and work or leave the house and work.

So let me just clear up a few things. Here’s what it’s really like to be a SAHM.

1. We didn’t sign up to be perfect housekeepers. At least I didn’t. Every day I fight a losing battle against toys, wayward socks and mysterious sticky spills. I see this as one part of my day, not my entire purpose for being home.

I don’t have an affinity for cleaning. It’s more like a deep desire to keep us from living like hoarders. The things I do very well are keep us in clean dishes, clean clothes and hot meals.

When I first became a SAHM, I thought my house needed to be exceptionally clean because I had the time to do it. But I quickly got over it. Instead I found my standards of acceptable cleanliness for all areas of the house and whenever I feel the limits being pushed, a magical wave of cleaning OCD sweeps over me and I clean for five hours straight. But thank goodness it doesn’t happen too often, because I’d rather be outside playing with the kids.

2. Sometimes it’s REALLY freaking lonely without adults to talk to all day. I do find myself prattling on and on when I do get to talk to someone my own age. It’s so important to get involved with activities in the community and spending time on something you really enjoy outside of taking care of your kids.

I am involved in a number of activities through my church, try to get to the gym a few days a week, and spend time on my writing. If you don’t spend at least a little time taking care of yourself, you could very well go stir crazy at home all day with small children.

3. It’s not a “luxury” to stay home; it’s a blessing. It’s a blessing to be home with my kids and I know a lot of people just can’t swing it financially, but my life isn’t an episode of “The Real Housewives of The Hudson Valley.” The blessing of being home with my kids comes with more sacrifices than most people can or want to make.

First, we sacrifice our paychecks and consequently go through a period where we struggle to redefine our worth without them. Then we sacrifice many of our needs and wants so that we’re primarily the ones on the budgeting chopping block and not our kids. If you want you can come inspect my closet full of aging second-hand clothes that I’ve been meaning to replace for about four years now.

The blessing comes from being able to spend time with my kids while they’re still little enough to want me around all the time. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to be home with my third child from the moment she was born. I’m also glad that it’s never a problem to keep them home when they’re sick or attend spelling bees, science fairs or parent/teacher conferences at school during the day.

4. Your work goes largely unnoticed. I give it up to moms that balance full-time employment and parenting. I struggled with finding the balance when I worked outside the home. The hard part of working as a SAHM is that your work will go unnoticed to the outside world and sometimes even to your family.

Imagine for a minute that your company required you to work permanently on-call without sick-time, vacation or holidays and you never got paid and rarely even got thanked. That’s the work of the SAHM.

We are also the silent labor that allows our spouses to fulfill their hectic work schedules. Their success comes, in large part, thanks to the silent work we do taking care of our children and households. We won’t get the accolades our spouses do even though they couldn’t do it without us, at least not without hiring several people to do our jobs. So it’s pretty thankless, but we hope our family appreciates us, even if they forget to say so.

5. You may constantly reevaluate your SAHM status. The truth is that sometimes we don’t know the answer to the question of if or when we’re going back to work for a paycheck. For some SAHMs it’s an easy decision to stay at home permanently. Others reevaluate year by year or as our children go off to school.

Sometimes it’s a struggle to redefine your worth without a paycheck. You have to find the value in your time and work without a dollar amount to quantify it.

I’ve done so many variations of work since becoming a mom. I’ve worked part-time, full-time, been a SAHM with zero income and been a WAHM with some income.

I’ve loved aspects of all of them and disliked others. No one situation is completely perfect. There’s also a brand of mom guilt for every work/family combination. Maybe it has more to do with the nature of being a mom than the actual decisions you make.

The trick is to focus on your blessings in whichever situation you’re in at the time. They say the grass is always greener on the other side. I say, “it’s greener wherever you water it.”

What SAHM realities would you add to the list?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

Some days you just walk into a place and know with all certainty that you are a hot mess. That was me yesterday, as I rolled up into Aldi with my trio of sugared up wild things. I was rocking my crocs with socks. My baby girl was sporting nothing but a onesie and a chocolate Hitler stash and I just wanted to do a “hot mess mom” mic drop, like whatever.

Messy Child

I’m all for having well behaved children, hence the chocolate used for bribery. But there are some days, where you just have to think, “Hey, this is my circus and we just rolled into town so you’re just going to have to just sit back and enjoy the show.” My kids weren’t being misbehaved, but I was stressed having all three of them with me.

I like to go with just the baby, but unfortunately we had to have a new hot water heater installed and I missed my magic shopping window between her getting up from her nap and before the older kids get off the bus. You know you’re a mom of three or more when having just one child at the store with you feels like a vacation.

Of course my toddler didn’t want to ride in the cart so we all took turns chasing her around the store. My older kids were pretty good about rounding her up, but I did feel some eyes on me. I did feel the need to speed up my shopping, but at the same time I kept hearing the song “Wild Things” by Alessia Cara   in my head playing the soundtrack to my beautiful messy mob.

Sydney Shopping

I tried to remember what it was like to be a kid shopping with my mom. It was so boring so I found little games to play like using the few colored tiles on the floor in ShopRite as safe stepping stones to keep from burning up in the lava of white tiles. This is the beauty of childhood; turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Sometimes you just have to stop worrying about what other people think. We can’t control everything our kids do, and sometimes we should just kick back and enjoy the show ourselves. I’m not talking about letting them pull things off of shelves or scream bloody murder in a store, but we need to cut them some slack too. They aren’t tiny adults; they’re kids.

If we wanted nice tidy lives filled with spotless furniture and careless trips to anywhere by ourselves, we wouldn’t have had kids at all. They are the beautiful mess we signed up for, even if we didn’t fully realize it at the time.

I think I forgot the messy chaos of the toddler years. I spend so much time cleaning up food and toys off of EVERY surface of my house or trying to keep her from climbing up on the table to take food off of our plates or leave us the present of her food taken directly out of her mouth and dropped onto our plates. The other day she climbed up on the table and started dancing and my frustration dissolved into laughter.

This is life with little wild things; watching them squeal with delight as they race around a store, watching them dance on the table top to music only they can hear, and watching them find joy in things we can’t see anymore. In this process of growing up, we’ve packed away our own wild side. We’ve turned down the anthem in our heads that plays when we roll up in a place.

I don’t know about you, but I want to hold onto these wild things of mine. There are times when I just can’t expect them to be perfectly behaved. There are times when I have to appreciate their laughter and have that matter more than a few heads turned in our direction.

So many times, I just stop whatever I’m doing and dance around the room with my wild things. These moments are the gifts they give me with their sticky little fingers. They lend me their beautiful, crazy, “don’t give a damn about anything, but finding the joy in life” spirits.

So yes, this is my circus and these are my little monkeys and I love them. Sometimes you have to take off the grown up expectations and just meet them where they are. Who cares if you look like a hot mess?

I don’t know about you, but I want to be where the wild things are because it sure is free and fun and full of joy!

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

 

 

 

 

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