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More Confessions of a Disorganized Mom

(This post originally ran 2 years ago, but it is visited so frequently that I updated and added to it today. Enjoy!)

When my oldest daughter (now age 9) was a baby, my friend asked me what time she normally took a nap. I was clueless. “Whenever she falls asleep,” was my likely answer.

Clients and associates often assume I am the queen of organization. As the creator of such a detailed time-management system like the Baby Love Carebook, how could I be anything but a type-A, Martha Stewart-like mother with all her ducks in a very straight row?

The truth is, I’ve always hated routines.

I’ve always been very laid back and flexible. I like to do things when I feel like it. I’ve never had a designated “laundry day” or “grocery day.” My professional life has always revolved around deadlines and details. I’ve developed my own method of paying attention to the smallest detail in an organized fashion, but waiting until the last minute to get anything accomplished.

Imagine my anxiety as a new mom when I realized that babies don’t enjoy such a leisurely approach to living. In fact, babies can be downright crabby when they are expected to eat at 10 a.m. one day, and 10:30 a.m. the next. Try to put them down for a nap at 1 p.m. some days, 2 p.m. on others and they cry … a lot!

Now that I’m raising three children, I know better. I firmly believe that children are happier with a consistent routine. However, I also know that all children are unique. My oldest daughter loves a big breakfast, my middle girl prefers to wait a few hours in the morning before she will eat anything. It’s up to you as parents to discover and nurture the best routines for your children. If you’re interested in a little research on the subject, read Mom, Could You Pencil Me in for a Nap?

Routines did not come naturally to me, that’s why the Baby Love Carebook was invented. I found it was the only way to keep myself on track. Writing down my baby’s ideal routine gave me more incentive to stick to it. I’m also a visual learner and need to see something in order to remember it. Telling me that the baby ate two hours ago will go in one ear and out the other. Writing down the time will ensure that I retain the information.

And keeping all our information in one place made me more likely to reach out to others for help when I needed a break. You may not think taking a break is all that important, especially if you left your day job to take care of your little ones. Here’s a quick link about the importance of sharing the love of others with your children:Another Attachment: Let Others Bond with Your Children.

Finally, if you’re reading this today on October 2, 2011 (my birthday!) you will be interested to know that Babysteals.com is offering the Baby Love Carebook organizer and Doctor Diary pages for only $19.99. The sale lasts only until 11pm eastern time so steal one quickly!

Grace and Peace.

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2011 in From Toddlers to Teens

 

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If Mama’s Not Happy, Nobody’s Happy: Proven

photo by Michal Marcol

What I’ve learned in 9 years of mothering is that you can’t learn how to take care of your children until you’ve learned to take care of yourself. I’m often categorized as a baby blogger, baby merchant or other kind of “baby person.” In reality, my blog and the Baby Love Carebook are mother-focused products.

A recent study confirms the correlation between depressed mothers and depressed children. The results are startling, considering that nearly 400,000 babies are born to depressed mothers each year in the United States.

Nearly half of the children with depressed mothers will develop depression.

And did you know that the average age of the onset of depression is 34; peak childbearing years? All these facts and study references were published recently in the Wall Street Journal. I encourage you to read the full article by Martha Beck.

And an interesting side note: the most severe consequence of depression happens during the first year of a child’s life because they will not form the necessary attachment to Mom.

The bottom line is that children fare better when Mom gets help as early as possible. So the good news is that this is not a hereditary condition as most people assume; it is environmental. It can be corrected and prevented by teaching your children how to regulate their own emotions.

My retail slogan is Journal. Organizer. Encouragement for Moms. My goal from the very conception of my business was to help new mothers navigate the more difficult day-to-day struggles of caring for a fussy baby. In fact, my About page spells out my mission:

As the mother of three small children, my goal is to help other new parents feel empowered and to instill in them the confidence to care for their babies in a loving, positive way that respects the uniqueness of all children.

If you or a new mom in your life is struggling or seems depressed, the first step is to recognize the problem and to realize it’s not at all uncommon. In fact, lack of sleep is the leading cause of post-partum depression and can be corrected easily and without drugs.

The second step during the baby years is to establish a consistent routine and really pay attention to baby’s cues. When a new mom feels more in control and not at the mercy of her baby, she is better able to experience joy and fight off the feelings of seclusion and depression.

The most common keywords that lead to this blog are “sample routine for xx month baby”. New moms are searching for the magic formula to get through their days and nights. Here’s the real secret: it’s different for everyone.

And from May 25-29, 2011, discovering this magic formula will be even easier. Sign up for Totsy today or tomorrow to view our half price sale of the Baby Love Carebook. This offer is limited to these five days and we have a limited supply of books so I encourage you to make your purchase early. You can opt out of the Totsy emails at any time.

Grace and peace.

 

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Another Attachment: Let Others Bond with Your Children

As we spend time with various family and friends over spring break, I thought I would share an old post about loosening up your strings a little. As I watch my three little ones run to greet their father, grandparents and friends, it’s a nice reminder that these relationships started when they were babies. Enjoy.

Giving Dad some room to make mistakes and take on the mundane chores of childcare really strengthened their bond.

During my first few months caring for our very fussy first-born daughter, my exhaustion had reached its peak. My husband urged me to use the breast pump that sat unopened on the counter. He was able to take the first late night feeding on weekends, allowing me to get four to five hours of uninterrupted sleep — something I desperately needed. Just as important, my husband was able to bond with our daughter in a new way. After a long week at work, he savored these late night feedings alone with his baby girl.

What is Attachment Parenting?

I’m a contributing blogger for Attachment Parenting International’s blog; API Speaks: The Voice for Gentle Parents Everywhere. They advocate eight principles of parenting that promote healthy connections with your children, helping them to become confident, compassionate adults. Read the summary of the eight principles to get the general idea.

The principle I choose to write about most often is “Strive for Balance.” One of the easiest ways to achieve balance as a mother is to let others lighten your burden so you can take a break. If you are constantly worried that no one else is capable of caring for your child (even your spouse), or you are afraid to ask for help, your child has no opportunity to form an attachment to anyone else.

Are you allowing others to bond with your child?

Mothers and fathers (and grandparents) have very different ways of holding, playing and interacting with their babies. Research shows that babies recognize and thrive on these differences. Do you constantly correct others on the proper way to hold, feed or comfort your baby or do you let them develop their own technique? It’s great to let others know what your child prefers, but hovering and immediately taking over once a baby cries is not really the best answer.

If you’re caring for an infant or young toddler, this is the week to work on loosening your strings a little. You won’t be giving up the connection that you have with your child, but allowing someone you love to form a stronger bond. Whether it’s your spouse, a grandparent or a trusted friend; let them spend time with your child without you swooping in for the rescue.

Give yourself some time off and let your child understand that there is a whole village of loved ones to whom they can turn. You will see over time how relaxed and joyful a child can be when they form loving connections with the people around you. (And trust me, you will feel the same relaxation and joy knowing that your community of support is loved by your child.)

Grace and Peace.

 

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Fussy Babies Lead to Marital Dissatisfaction

While most first-time parents are prepared to some extent for the sleepless nights with a new baby, I’m guessing that the ensuing relationship discord comes as a huge surprise. Research published last year by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reveals that marital dissatisfaction in first-time parents is directly related to daily sleep duration. In other words, less sleep equals less marital satisfaction.

Having survived our two very fussy babies and one easy one, I can certainly attest to the relationship strain that occurred during those years. My girls all had digestive problems and two had a severe dairy protein intolerance. I could not consume any dairy food while nursing them and they were also sensitive to soy proteins. One of the unfortunate side effects of an upset stomach was the inability to sleep for long stretches.

My husband and I had been married for five years before embarking upon our parenting journey. Yet, that first year left our tensions raw and exposed. Three children and nine years later, we can laugh about our first years and the drastic changes in our married life.

But not all marriages make it through the transition to parenthood. In another study of marital satisfaction, 45 percent of men and 58 percent of women reported a decline in marital satisfaction during the first year of parenting.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine offers these tips to help new parents get a good night’s sleep:
  • Breastfeed your infant. This will help prevent sleep-disrupting problems such as ear infections and diarrhea.
  • Reserve the bed for your own sleep.  Put your baby to sleep in a nearby bassinet, cradle or crib.
  • Try your best to keep your baby on a consistent schedule. Both you and your baby will be able to sleep better.
  • Take naps when your baby is asleep.
  • Make caring for the baby a team effort. Create an “on-duty” and “off-duty” schedule to share tasks with your spouse or other caregiver. This will give both of you opportunities to rest.
  • Recruit family members or friends to help care for the baby when he or she is awake. Use these breaks to get some sleep.
  • Ask family and friends to help with meals and household chores. This will give you more opportunities to nap.

In addition to these tips, I would add a few of my own from our years in the trenches:

  • Make a new date night ritual with your spouse. Carry out a favorite meal, eat in your home wearing your pajamas and snuggle up in bed for the sole purpose of sleeping. Allow each other to take long naps on the weekends, without judgment or resentment.
  • Become friends with your breast pump. I hated to pump, but after enduring our first baby who would not take a bottle, I quickly changed my ways for the next two. Because of our dairy and soy problems, formula was not an option. But pumping in the morning allowed me to express enough milk for a full bottle. This allowed my husband to give a full feeding at night so I could go to bed earlier.
  • Talk about how you are feeling. For moms who give up a career outside the home or cut back on freelance hours, you are dealing with the loss of your old identity. Your spouse may be dealing with new challenges, but mostly his life is still about getting up and going to work. New moms often lose friends and business associates (I was promptly released from a long-term client immediately after giving birth.) It’s important to work through these changes together to avoid feelings of resentment. If you’re not sure about how to discuss these feelings without arguing, seek out a trained pro-marriage counselor.

Most importantly, keep your experience in perspective. The baby year is literally just one year in what should be a long and supportive partnership. But during that one year, make sleep your top priority. Lack of sleep not only kills a marriage; it can also kill a job, a friendship and cause a multitude of health problems. So, seriously, shut off the computer and get your sleep!

Grace and peace.

 

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Five Ways to Ask For (and Receive) Help

This week has brought to the forefront my need for assistance. I rely heavily upon my husband for so many things that when he is absent my world gets turned upside down. I’ve been in a partnership (a wonderfully enriching and fulfilling partnership) for so long that I feel lost when faced with a crisis alone.

I’ve also noticed in the past 16 years how my independence has declined drastically. I used to be fearless and completely self-sufficient. So, while I’ve struggled to get back some of my fearless nature, I also relish being secure enough to ask for help. Hopefully, you will learn the value of dependence now that you are a parent.

I wrote a little about the importance of giving and receiving recently in the post about 29 Gifts. It brought up the bigger issue for me of being truly receptive to the gifts of others. Learning to ask for help is a difficult lesson for many people, myself included. If you’re in the first few months or years of motherhood, asking and receiving will become essential.

During your first few weeks as a new mom, you may get offers of help from many different sources. It’s tempting to politely say no simply because it’s easier than coming up with a task for them. Get into the habit of saying “YES” to offers of help, because the offers may stop just when you need them most. (And let me tell you, they stop all together once you’re the mother of three or more children!)

Five specific things you can ask for:

  1. Invite someone to visit for an hour or two. During this time you can shower, take a long nap or just spend a little time in the sunshine by yourself. Or, you can relish the company of another adult.
  2. Request help with some household chores. Maybe you would like for someone to vacuum your house or do a load of laundry. Just ask. I promise that someone loves you enough to do this small act of kindness for you. When I was enormously pregnant with our third child, I sheepishly asked my mother-in-law to mop our filthy floors in the house we had just purchased. She was happy to do it. All she wanted to know was what I needed help with.
  3. Ask for a meal. Don’t beat around the bush, either. Vague statements like “I wish someone would cook for me” may come off the wrong way. But if someone close to you asks what they can do for you, ask for a meal. Some of our friends have brought over gourmet dinners they made themselves, while others picked up our favorite carryout foods.
  4. Ask for advice. Oh, I know. Becoming a mother makes you a target for unsolicited advice. But, when you have a moment alone or on the phone with a more experienced mom, ask her about something you’re struggling with. You just may be surprised to learn a new technique or be comforted in knowing that they struggled, too. When my firstborn was a few weeks old and refused to nap in her bed or anywhere else but my shoulder, my mom commented that it was easier when we were babies because my brother, sister and I all slept on our stomachs. That idea is so taboo now that it never occurred to me. I ended up propping my daughter on her side and she suddenly started napping on her own.
  5. Ask for prayers. A few years ago, I would have rolled my eyes at this. Now, I have a deeper understanding of the power of prayer. Whatever your world view may be, there is strength in numbers, and the more prayers offered up for you, the better. I am Christian, and my good friend is Jewish. We often exchange prayers for each other or celebrate the Sabbath together. For us, we find peace and comfort in honoring our similarities.

As I write this, my two-year-old has spiked another fever and is complaining of her first earache. She is sleeping on my lap while I balance the keyboard precariously on one knee. My husband is stuck in an airport for the third straight day and the roads are an icy mess, making the possibility of school a long shot again tomorrow.

But, my neighbors graciously offered to bring us lunch and the older girls are doing a pretty good job of cleaning up the toys. So, while I’m always open to advice and comments from my readers, I would probably benefit more from a few prayers today. Please?

Grace and peace.

 
 

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Drowning in Motherhood: Three Survival Skills

A family member used this phrase last week to describe her life with a newborn and a toddler. I remember so many days just a few years ago of my own fierce determination mixed with immeasurable joy and overwhelming exhaustion that left me drowning in motherhood.

As a former lifeguard and 8-1/2 year veteran of motherhood, I compiled my top three survival skills to share with new moms who may find themselves in over their heads.

Survival Skill #1: Relax and Submit to Your New Reality

I recently researched an indoor swimming facility for my three young girls to escape this long, dreary winter. I learned that the swim instructors teach a “rollover” technique to children as young as four months. When a submerged child rolls onto her back instead of kicking and fighting for the surface, the air in her lungs creates enough buoyancy to bring her head above water.

Motherhood is like that, too. When we learn to relax and give in a little, the stress and struggle of mothering eases up. Maybe the house is a mess or you’ve served canned soup and grilled cheese for the third time this week. It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of mothering. Sit back, put your feet up and catch your breath.

Survival Skill #2: Find Your Life Preserver

Getting your head above water is only the first step, now you need some help staying afloat. When you first become a mom, it’s common and so easy to become isolated from your former world. Your past relationships and lifestyle may not fit any longer; and that’s okay. But motherhood is a lot more difficult if you put yourself in solitary confinement.

You’ve got to reach out to find new connections that will help you through this part of your journey. Consider joining a play group, striking up a conversation with other moms at the park, or enrolling your little ones in a cooperative preschool or Mother’s Time Out program. You will learn so much about parenting and child development, and hopefully, you will start lasting friendships based on the commonality of motherhood.

If you are parenting with a spouse or partner, tether yourself together during this time. Losing your connection to the person you love most is not only possible, it’s common during the first year of parenting. It’s true that your relationship will never be the same, but with a lot of work and communication, you will build yourselves an unsinkable lifeboat.

Survival Secret #3: Count Your Blessings

How many times have you exclaimed, “Thank God!” after pulling through a harrowing experience? It may sound cliché, but learning to appreciate what you have each day will give you the strength to endure whatever comes your way. I give this advice frequently, but only because I’m given so many reminders of why it is important.

Last week, I received the staggering news that a friend’s 12-year-old daughter had died suddenly after a mild illness. It is a tragedy like this that causes you to shift your priorities. In my case, it reminded me of the first few weeks after my second baby was born. I was struggling to care for a 2-year-old and a newborn. And then came a phone call that changed my life forever. A teenage family member was hospitalized in the intensive care unit because of kidney failure.

From that moment on, I cherished the dark, quiet hours at night when I fed and rocked my baby girl. I was still tired, but no longer frustrated or overwhelmed. I understood then, and now, that I am blessed and make sure my children know every day how much they are loved. After many surgeries and weeks in the hospital, my family member survived. The lessons I learned from her struggle remains.

My second daughter is now six years old. Last weekend, she crawled into my bed in the wee hours of the night. She was feverish and wanted to sleep with me. My desire to make her feel better overcame any worry over catching her illness, so I snuggled close to her and listened while she drifted off to sleep. I took a deep breath and whispered a prayer of gratitude. And when – two hours later – my two-year-old daughter padded in wordlessly and climbed into bed on the other side of me, I repeated the ritual.

Grace and Peace.

 

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Finding Your Reason to Celebrate

At long last, the Baby Love Carebook – my elegant and useful organizer for new moms – will debut today before a huge audience. The online private-sale retailer, zulily, will run a special sales event from Wednesday, Dec. 1 through Sunday, Dec. 6. (And I might add, it’s the lowest price EVER offered, but you’ll have to sign in to view the deal.)

Waiting for this to happen was stressful to say the least. I am blessed to have family and friends surrounding me through all of life’s trials and triumphs, and wish to thank those of you who lifted me up in prayer over the last few weeks. I felt your strength and your love.

My goal now is to look forward and really celebrate each step towards success instead of dwelling on how hard it was just getting to this point.

Parenting is like that, too. Children will misbehave and go through really difficult stages, but they still manage to shine at the most amazing moments. My eight-year old daughter has been acting out for weeks and the over-stimulation of Thanksgiving gatherings made for some really horrific behavior. She was reprimanded several times and caused some rather embarrassing parenting moments.

A few days ago, she sat down at the piano and asked me to listen to something. She proceeded to play (perfectly) the theme music to the animated movie “Up.” We’ve seen the movie twice and she has taken only three piano lessons. Her talent amazes me even when I’m struggling to get through some days with her.

We should all remember to celebrate the good moments more passionately than we regret the bad ones.

Mom Dare: Celebrate your triumphs, however small they may seem. Don’t look back at failures or problems; they simply do not exist today. Anything good, positive or downright adorable is worthy of a smile, a laugh and an expression of gratitude.

(And while you’re at it, please give zulily a visit and enter your e-mail address to view the amazing deals for moms, babies and kids.)

Grace and Peace. And many, many thanks.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2010 in Weekly Bits of Baby Love

 

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