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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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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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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.

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Why would I want to talk about something that happened ten years ago? Having a miscarriage haunts you. Out of the blue you sometimes get the urge to cry when you look at your children. Even though I’m in the business of writing about my experiences, I also write about things I know people have a hard time talking about.

Ten years ago, I wish more people had been talking about miscarriage. Maybe then I wouldn’t have felt so utterly alone. The subject of miscarriage was one tiny section in the back of my pregnancy books. It seemed like any woman who had experienced a miscarriage, kept her heartbreak to herself. It felt like there was some mysterious superstition like if you talked about it, you might jinx someone else’s pregnancy.

Never having heard anyone talk about miscarriage ten years ago made me think it could never happen to me. And then when it did, it made it nearly impossible to say the words out loud for a very long time. So here’s what I wish someone had told me about miscarriage.

1. It’s NOT Your Fault – I was a newlywed and I stumbled into pregnancy carefree. I was so happy to be pregnant. When I saw those first tiny drops of blood, I thought it was weird, but panic didn’t set in right away.Then I cried my way through an entire night while I begged my body to stop.

By the time my doctor called me with my test results, I already knew what he was going to tell me. The best thing he said was that there was nothing I did to cause it. Sometimes it just happens. It was pretty awful to have no control over my body. If you’ve experienced a miscarriage, know first and foremost – It’s NOT your fault.

2. You Are Still A Mother – The worst part of having an early miscarriage was the minimizing way some people talked about my loss. Some even said I was lucky it happened early on. NEVER ever say this to a woman who has suffered a miscarriage at any stage in her pregnancy. I didn’t feel lucky that I didn’t have more time to bond with my baby. I felt utterly broken by it.

I hadn’t told many people, but the few who knew didn’t have any personal experience and couldn’t help me navigate my feelings. To the world, nothing had changed and I wasn’t a mother because my belly wouldn’t be getting bigger and I’d never hold my child, but from the moment I saw those two lines on the test, I became a mother. Sometimes a child isn’t born into the world, but they are born in our hearts.

3. You Lost A Baby – If it’s just a pregnancy you lost, it sounds like you lost your car keys. No big deal, right? You’ll find them eventually. That’s how some people talk about miscarriage. But when you experience a miscarriage, you know that what you lost was a baby. You lost the possibility, the hope, and the joy of seeing your child.

4. It Can Cast A Shadow On Future Pregnancies – From the moment the doctor gave us the go-ahead to try again I was full steam ahead. But the foreboding never left. The first time I heard my child’s heartbeat during each of my subsequent pregnancies I cried. The ultrasound tech gave me a quizzical look when I teared up, seeing my little peanut on the screen for the first time and said, “This is your third?”

Perhaps by the third child, some women would feel confident, expecting to see this little life in there right where it belongs. But that first miscarriage cast a shadow of doubt over each pregnancy that came after. I took NOTHING for granted. I NEVER forgot that the very first time I went for an ultrasound, the tech wouldn’t even show me the screen.

5. You Realize How Miraculous Life Is – Maybe you had one miscarriage like me, or perhaps you’ve had many, but if you’re lucky enough to get to hold your living child one day, you know what a miracle it is that any of us are even here. We’re trained to expect pregnancy to end in a healthy baby, but that’s just not always the case. While it was heartbreaking at the time, losing my first baby gave me a profound gratitude for the three living children I’ve been blessed with.

6. Grief Isn’t Quantifiable – When I told my aunt about my miscarriage, she told me that at least it wasn’t as bad as my grandmother’s loss who lost two children in infancy. I get it- the need to quantify pain. Maybe it’s meant to help someone by putting it in perspective, but perspective is subjective.

I felt sorrow that I didn’t even know if my child was a boy or girl and never got to hold him/her or see their sweet little face. Let’s not get into loss quantifying conversations with each other. The only thing universal about grief is that we all feel it and nobody knows the depths of pain in our hearts except us.

7. You CAN Say It Out Loud – I avoided calling a good friend because I couldn’t say the words out loud. Just weeks before, I had happy news and the thought of saying, “I lost my baby” was too much to bear. The problem is that when you don’t talk about your loss, you isolate yourself from the people that could help you cope.

I’m not saying you need to announce your loss right away. I’m saying that in time, open yourself up to the idea that you are not alone in this and you can share your story. So many women have come before you. So many women can share their stories with you and provide comfort.

When we tell women not to announce their pregnancy until they are in their second trimester we are denying some women the only chance they will get to share their joy with their close friends and family. It also further isolates them while they are grieving a loss nobody knew about. Sometimes a loss comes in the second or third trimester.

What we need to do instead is shed light on the mysterious shroud of pregnancy. We need to know that sometimes miscarriage happens and we need to be supportive of each other if it does. We need to share our stories because having a baby is never guaranteed. It’s a blessing!

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.

Summer-camp season is upon us which means lots of kids putting their heads together in hot-weather activities. Time to step up measures to prevent the transmission of head lice. This spray has been working very well for us for the past few years, I’m happy to say. It’s easy to make and use, and the essential oils have many benefits for your child’s overall health.

“Here we go again,” I thought as the headline popped up in my Facebook news-feed. “Country Star Fires Back at Mom Shamers With Viral Instagram Post.” I sucked in my breath as I opened the article and prepared to see some horrific insults hurled at this country star that warranted she take to social media in an attempt to put the offenders back in their place.

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Instead, here’s what I saw. A celebrity mom posted a picture of a grocery store conveyor belt laden with jars of baby food on Instagram and comments that included:

  1. “Make your own!!! Don’t buy jars. Yes they’re convenient, but not as nutritious as mummy’s homemade.”
  2. “Make your own. It’s cheaper and way healthier ;)”
  3. “Why not make them instead?!”

While I admit that the three exclamation marks on the first comment would get my dander up, even I can appreciate that anything made from scratch without preservatives is healthier. Plus, the softness of the word “mummy” makes it really hard for me to see it as an angry comment. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom if you give your kids jars of food instead of making their food yourself. If that’s the case, then I’m guilty as charged.

The second comment is clearly a suggestion with two supporting reasons to give baby food making a try. Without the question mark, sure maybe it can look more like a command, but I’m guessing the winky face isn’t meant to illicit ill-will. Number three is clearly a question. Have we lost all ability to ask questions of other parents because they might think it comes as a judgement?

The one really powerful thing about the internet is its ability to connect people from all over the world who would never meet in real life. It allows us to share information in real time. Perhaps there’s a problem with not really taking a second to think about what we’re typing.

The REALLY tricky part of the internet is not having the ability to see the people who are interacting with us on social media. That means we can’t get visual cues that we would use in a face to face conversation to determine if they were talking sternly, cheerfully, or just normally. We can’t hear the inflection or tone of voice of the people we’re interacting with either and that’s problematic as we use this tool to determine the perceived “intention” behind someone’s words.

Even in real life we sometimes get it wrong, so is it any wonder we’re probably interpreting a million interactions incorrectly on the internet? I’m very lucky to have gone about parenting my three kids free of “shaming.”

Here are the experiences I’ve had in real life of “mom shaming.” I was in the café in my medical office after my pre-natal checkup when I was near the end of my pregnancy with my oldest daughter. I asked my husband as I held up a small cup, “Should I get decaf or regular?” A woman behind me piped up with, “You shouldn’t have coffee. It’s bad for the baby.”

Did I fire back with a “mind your own business?” No. Did I respond with a “thanks for your concern, but my doctor assured me that one small cup of coffee a day would pose no threat to my baby?” No. Either were perfectly legitimate options, but here’s what I thought instead.

I was asking my husband’s opinion because the baby I was carrying is his just as much as mine and so it mattered to me what his opinion was. I didn’t know this stranger and while I didn’t ask for her opinion, she probably was actually concerned for my baby’s health, which is kind of nice. I guess if I was holding up a bottle of malt liquor instead of a small coffee cup, I would want that kind of person to speak up on behalf of my baby’s health when they don’t have a voice yet.  Lastly, I thought I don’t NEED to let her comment make me feel bad. That would be MY choice. So I brushed it off, moved on with my life and had a beautiful, healthy baby girl.

I’ve also dealt with less than stellar comments online, but I always try to respond with grace and remember that someone took time out of their day to read my work. I had a fellow blogger share a post I’d written calling me out on something she didn’t agree with. So, I politely explained my position and thanked her for sharing my post. She was shocked I wasn’t angry and was thanking her. You can turn a spark into a fire or you can put it out. It’s your choice. The world is full of people who don’t agree with you. We can simply agree to disagree.

I have vowed from the beginning. I will NEVER use my platform to propagate hate. I always try to offer advice, which I pray is received with the love and grace that is intended. I’m sure I have or will say something that offends someone, but the truth is we can’t always help that. Perhaps we’ve accidentally touched on someone else’s insecurity or fear. Perhaps we didn’t phrase it in the best way that would indicate our good intentions.

Bottom line: We will all say something to offend others and we will all be offended by something someone says to us whether it’s in real life or online. BUT it’s our choice whether we pick up that offense or walk over it. If it’s someone whose opinion you truly value, then I would suggest you ask the person about their motive. If you don’t know the person in any way, you can choose not to respond or to respond with grace. “Thanks for your concern, but I’ve got this.” will usually suffice.

The saddest part for me about all this “mom shaming” is that a lot of it might be misunderstanding. It’s also that when someone “fires back” and does a public online rant about the offenders, instead of dealing with an individual directly what happens is that “fire” ignites more and more people. Hate and outrage spread like wildfire. I read a post this week clearly meant to devalue SAHMs and I was sickened, but the worst part was that it garnered over 1,500 responses many of which were straight up mean.

I’m suggesting a very radical thing here when I say, we are not helpless victims forced to come to our own rescue. We can choose to be confident in our parenting choices. We can also be open to other people’s suggestions. We can take advice or leave it. I will never support someone intentionally “shaming” someone. But we have a choice, even when someone’s advice or comment sounds negative. Shame is what happens when you allow those words to change the way you feel about yourself as a person and a mother. If you know your worth ladies, then no one can ever make you question it.

Always remember, parenting is a lifelong string of decisions and they aren’t going to be black and white. There’s simply what you do and what you don’t do and nobody has it all figured out.

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.

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.

This pose is good for both of you and will inevitably lead to giggles.

Contrary to one popular commercial, not every kiss begins with Kay. For some of us, every kiss begins with KFC or literally ANY meal we didn’t have to cook ourselves. If you’re lucky enough to be married to a low maintenance woman, then this post is for you so that you don’t waste your time at the jewelry store this Mother’s Day. You can skip the open hearts collection and give the low maintenance mom in your life something she ACTUALLY wants.

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1. Sleep – All a tired mom wants is to sleep in. That means not waking up to the sound of children fighting, a little finger poking her or the bright closet light jarring her awake like a search light looking for an escaped convict.

If she wants to take a nap, then give the lady what she wants. Heck, if she decides she doesn’t want to leave the comfort of her bed all day, move Heaven and Earth to make that happen. The last time she REALLY slept well was probably the night her first child was conceived and that’s too freaking long ago.

2. A Meal She Didn’t Cook – Unless you absolutely suck in the kitchen, cook her a meal. It doesn’t matter if it’s breakfast or a four course meal. All us low maintenance moms care about is that we didn’t have to slave away making a meal for once and if the kids hate it, someone else can take the fall. If you can’t/don’t want to cook, you can pick up her favorite take out or take her to the low maintenance dinning establishment of her choice.

But seriously, think again if you want to surprise her with breakfast in bed, because #1 (see above) we’d rather you just let us sleep and #2 we really don’t want to clean the sheets of crumbs later. If you really want to melt our hearts, have a full pot of coffee brewed for whenever we do decide to drag ourselves out of bed.

3. Give Her A Day Off – That means no childcare responsibilities whatsoever. But it’s Mother’s Day you say? EXACTLY. She works her tail off EVERY OTHER DAY of the year.

This should be the one day that it’s all on you; from making sure they brush their teeth in the morning all the way to tucking them in at night, no exceptions just because you think she does something better. Take them to the park, the zoo, the movies whatever you gotta do. Just give her one day all to herself.

4. Tell Her You Appreciate Her – You don’t need to buy a Hallmark card, though you can if you want, but all she really wants is to hear that you get that it sucks to have her job sometimes. It’s freaking exhausting, thankless work that NEVER ends.

Sometimes the only thing that gets her through the day is the thought that maybe, just maybe, her family appreciates all the work she does even though she might not hear it said out loud for days, weeks, or even months.

5. Tell Her She’s Beautiful – Yeah I know she only rocks three different hairstyles – the ponytail, down or the messy bun and has a collection of well-worn yoga pants and T-Shirts, but she still needs to hear how beautiful she is.

In her pre-children years, she might have put on makeup and perhaps a dress every now and again, but these days her priorities are different. Who really needs to wear eyeliner or worry about manicured nails when there’s a good chance you’re going to be scrubbing your hands surgeon-style of human feces or vomit at some point during the day?

6. Make Her Buy Something For Herself – There’s a good chance her bra drawer still contains nursing bras from her first baby or she hasn’t had a good haircut in more months than she can recall. Whenever a need comes up, she’s quick to fill it EXCEPT if it’s hers.

She needs some prodding. Even if she hates shopping like I do, throw some cash in her hands and tell her not to leave the mall without something she needs or wants. This saves you from buying her something she really doesn’t need and no she doesn’t need lingerie. That’s a gift for you and that’s probably how she got these kids to begin with.

So there you have it husbands and baby daddies of the world. Forget the expensive gifts or fancy dinners (though we sure could go for some Olive Garden) and give the low-maintenance mom in your life the things she really wants from you. We got your back on Father’s Day.

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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