He still looks the same when he sleeps. I love that. Although it’s so difficult for me to look at him now and see the once tiny baby I held in my arms. I look at him now and see … Continue reading
I was originally going to write about my love/hate relationship with attachment parenting but decided that if I was going to do that, I should probably know what parenting style I actually use. Turns out, there are apparently 5 “parenting styles” that are floating around out there right now.
**DISCLAIMER: This is my sarcasm font.**
Parents “go with their gut” or are influenced by their own upbringing. More likely to teach what they know and parent the way they were raised. (In other words, they are copy cats. They mimic the behavior of their own parents and decided to give it a name. Not original.)
Strive to promptly respond to their child’s needs and be sensitive and emotionally available for their child at all times. They often believe in natural childbirth, a family bed, avoidance of corporal punishment, homeschooling, and may be part of the anti-vaccination movement. (In other words, hippies. May smell like incense, patchouli, and borax from homemade laundry detergent. Also known as the “crunchy” parent.)
They hover. They smother. They cover. (In other words, they like their children like they like their Waffle House hash browns: smothered, covered, and… well… okay. Maybe not scattered. You can usually pick this parent out by the brown discoloration on the end of their nose…)
Typically establish rules and guidelines and expect their children to follow them. However, not quite to the point of “what I say goes” or “because I said so.” They are still nurturing, forgiving, and responsive. They are assertive but not restrictive and aim to support rather than punish. (In other words, they are not liberals. They aren’t conservative either. They can vote either side at any point in the game. It just depends on which party is presenting the best hand.)
Indulgent. They have very few demands of their children because they have low expectations of maturity and self-control. Lenient. They try to be more of a friend than a parent and don’t like confrontation. (In other words, they are the ones who let their children run around like wild animals and sit back and shrug their shoulders while saying “Kids, eh?” Or flat out ignore the behavior while they tap away at Angry Birds on their phones. *I don’t actually have a clue how you play that game…*)
Clueless Parenting (I came up with this one… last second)
The expectant parent. I mean the “I-just-found-out-I’m-having-a-baby-and-I-have-no-clue-where-to-start-so-I-guess-I’ll-Google-everything-and-ask-everyone-I-know” parent. Like baby ain’t here yet and they don’t know WTF a “birth plan” or “mucous plug” is. They are brand.spanking.new. (Note: no sarcasm there!)
So after reading about each one of these, I have decided that I don’t fit a specific one. I have tried out 4 out of the 5 (Or 5 out of 6… I can’t bring myself to be the parent who is more of a friend than a parent) and not a single one worked for me.
I started off as a clueless parent. I knew what a baby was, how they were made, and that breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for a baby. So, I did what a lot of expecting moms do: I went online. I hit up Google and the message boards over at The Bump. I asked my friends on Facebook. I learned all I could. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and I wanted to give natural birth a shot.
And so began my love/hate relationship with attachment parenting. I LOVED it… for the first 6ish months. I breastfed, co-slept, did baby wearing, baby led weaning, tried making my own cloth diapers, used all natural lotions, soaps, and creams… and then I started to feel like Waffle House hash browns. Smothered, covered, and definitely scattered. My son slept through the night from the time he was a month and a half right up until 4ish months. Then I hit the “4 month wakeful period.” That lasted until he was about 7 months.
But at 6 months, I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t get him to sleep until 11 and I had to nurse him to sleep and try verrrrryyyyy carefully to get up without waking him so I could attempt to clean because, you know, I spent my entire day with him ATTACHED to me and couldn’t get much done. Then I’d crawl into bed. He’d wake up at 1:30, nurse back to sleep, up again at 4:30, nurse back to sleep, up again at 6:30-7, nurse again, and sleep (restlessly) until about 9.
I decided to move him to his crib because I wasn’t sleeping well AT ALL. Every time he moved, I woke. Every time he woke, I woke and HAD to nurse him to get him back to sleep. Plus, he had a tough time staying asleep because every time I moved, it would wake him up. So into his own bed he went. The first night was tough, but I stayed by his side until he fell asleep. The next time he woke, he barely cried and fell asleep easily. I slept in his room that night and stayed right next to his crib until he was sound asleep each time he woke. The second night was SO much easier. Eventually, we got to the point where he was back to sleeping through the night (from about 7:30 until 7:30 or 8!) and he no longer WANTED to be in my bed. He loved having his own space!
When he began walking, I became a helicopter parent. That was short lived. I’ve never been a fan of hovering, so I taught him to “brush it off” and move on. He’s excellent at it now and barely even bats an eye when he takes a tumble, unless he’s seeking attention. Speaking of that, let’s talk about the “terrible twos” for a moment.
He hit that phase and I went into authoritative overdrive. I set rules. I set boundaries. I used timeout. I was firm, but loving. I wanted him to recognize that there are rules for a reason and that they should be followed. I wanted him to learn to respect his elders and use his manners but I also wanted him to know that I would always be there for him and support him and love him.
This also led to my encounter with instinctive parenting. However, there is a difference in how I approached that one. Most parents that use this method do the same things their own parents did. In my case, I took a lot of the things my parents did and used them as guidelines for what I don’t want to do. Now don’t get me wrong – I am NOT saying that I think my parents did a terrible job or I that I didn’t learn any positive parenting techniques from them. I love both of my parents to the moon and back, but that doesn’t mean I agree 100% with their parenting styles.
Anyway, all of this led me to where I am right now with parenting.
I’m going to call it I-don’t-give-a-shit Parenting. And no, that’s not because I don’t give a shit about my kids. It’s because I don’t give a shit about what kind of “parenting style” I fall under. I use a little bit of all the above. Some days I’m more of an attachment parenting person than authoritative. Sometimes I still play helicopter mom. Sometimes I find myself doing things the same way or the polar opposite of how my parents did it.
Our society today has seriously screwed up views of parenting. Actually, PARENTS today have a seriously screwed up view of parenting! I see many parents who think they have to fall under only one of those categories and then they feel as though they have to follow it to a “T” when in reality, they don’t have to. No one out there has said, “If you’re going to do attachment parenting, you have to be all in or else you FAIL or you’re not REALLY doing it!”
The other thing I see is parents using their parenting style as a way to compete with other parents. This REALLY irks my nerves. Grinds my gears. It pisses me off.
“You started solids at __ months old?! Oh no, we’re waiting until the exact second baby turns 6 months old because that’s the recommendation.”
“So you’re kid just hit mine and all you’re going to do is hold them while they cry about how they hurt their hand? You can’t be serious right now…”
“Oh my gosh! Your son just tried to jump off the top of the slide! Thank goodness I just happened to be right there, watching my child’s every move, and was able to catch him for you!”
“I would NEVER let my child say/do something like that!”
“I can’t believe you are just letting her cry! How cruel! I could never do that to my baby.”
You get the point and I’m sure y’all can come up with more on your own.
The thing is, not a single one of these people ever stops and takes into consideration WHY those parents are doing things the way they are.
The parent that started their baby on solids at 4.5 months? Their doctor told them to. Why? Who cares. It’s not your child and none of your business. You want to wait until your baby is 6 months? Fine. It doesn’t make you a better parent, by ANY means.
Maybe the kid that hit your kid isn’t a bully. Maybe the reason they hit your child and are now crying is because they have autism and are having a melt down moment. You going over there and getting in mom’s face isn’t going to help. Try explaining to your kid that sometimes people don’t apologize for hurting people and that it’s best to just forgive anyway and move on (might help in the long run with relationships).
That woman who’s son tried to jump off the slide? She wasn’t being inattentive. She has learned that he’s a daredevil and can totally hold his own when it comes to doing something daring. And your child, who you are smothering with your hovering, has been watching her kid and LONGING to show off their jumping skills too.
The person who’s kid said/did something you would never allow? Maybe they are going through a divorce or some other hardship. I’m not defending rudeness or disrespect, but what I am doing is pointing out that there are situations that can have a major impact on children and cause them to act out more than normal. And if mom/dad is stressed about something, they may not have a whole lot of energy for dealing with poor behavior. A pat on the back could make their day.
The mother who is “just letting her cry” has already tried everything she can think of to calm her baby/toddler and is removing herself from the situation before she ends up ripping her hair out. Again, another situation where a pat on the back could make all the difference to her.
I guess the point of this whole post is this:
Figure out what works for you. Maybe you like some of the ideas behind “attachment parenting” but want to be more authoritative in your approach to discipline. Maybe you’re a chronic helicopter mom and want to be more laid back. Maybe you have been too permissive and want to transition into being more attached. Try it all out and stick with what works.
Don’t feel like a failure if you don’t follow one style completely. I have a friend who I’m pretty sure is convinced that attachment parenting is the ONLY way to go. If it works for her, more power to her. However, I have watched her feel like a failure from time to time simply because she didn’t do something exactly like most other attachment parenting moms have done.
Take other people’s reasons into consideration. You will encounter other parents with different parenting styles for the rest of your life. Just because they handle a situation in a different manner from you does not mean they are doing it the wrong way.
Don’t act as though your parenting style is superior. It may be to you, but that does NOT mean it will work for everyone else! This is the second part to taking other people into consideration.
Be kind to one another. You may not agree with their methods or views, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be kind to them. Besides, it sets a good example for your children, right?
Stop giving a shit about what other people think. Seriously. Just stop. What good is it doing anyway? Are you going to let them be the one to decide how to raise your child or are you going to do that yourself?
…That’s what I thought.
So I was approached a few days ago by my friend Taylor over at Not Just Another Teen Mom about writing another feature piece for her blog. The series is called “Balancing Marriage & Motherhood.” I have to admit, I was a little bit skeptical about writing for it at first.
For those of you who don’t know, this ain’t my first rodeo with marriage. I was married to my son’s father and made plenty of mistakes. I am now married to the wonderful man in the picture above and I couldn’t possibly be any happier (as if that isn’t obvious from the stupid grin on my face). It hasn’t always been easy and God only knows how many obstacles we’ve had to overcome, but it has most certainly been worth it.
I have made plenty of mistakes in the area of marriage and motherhood and still do. What kind of advice could I possibly have to offer?!
Then I thought, “Oh, but I have plenty I could talk about! There are a lot of things I’ve done to ensure my hubby doesn’t feel left out…”
I was totally going to write some of the things a lot of the other women have told you about: date nights, spending quality time together, doing things as a family, etc. Those are all wonderful things to do, but then I thought, “Nahhh…”
So I’m here to shake things up a bit. I’m going to be flat out blunt.
1. Stop being selfish.
It’s not all about you. Yeah, maybe you do stay up with the kids at night more frequently than he does and I’m sure you’d love a foot or back rub every now and then. Maybe you spent your day cleaning up puke and washing crayons off the walls. Maybe you are stressed because of something that happened at your job and then that stress was compounded by the fact that your son’s principal called you because Little Johnny skipped third period.
But tell me, do you ever take into consideration how hard your husband busts his ass or the stresses he may have encountered that day? Does he work long hours or night shift? Does he have a job that requires a lot of physical exertion? Does he work in an office setting where he maybe deals with an incompetent boss? Is he on his feet all day?
Stop thinking about yourself. Every person has their own struggles and you can’t possibly know what the other person’s struggles are if you are too busy being caught up in your own. Your needs are no more important than his and that is something that should be recognized and demonstrated on a daily basis – especially because he is your spouse.
I do my best to do this every day, but I’m human and sometimes I fail. Sometimes I’ve had a day where it feels like absolutely nothing has gone right and I’m tired and stressed and I don’t want to cook and the kids are being evil… and my husband sees all of that and he then puts my needs ahead of his own. He will suggest ordering a pizza or going to pick up dinner. He helps with getting the kids into bed. He pours me a glass of wine, pulls up Neflix, and puts his arm around me while I rest my head on his shoulder.
So I always keep that in mind when it comes to him. I will cook his favorite meal. I pick up a new beer for him from a local microbrewery when I’m at the grocery store. I leave him alone (for the most part) when he retreats to his “mancave” for a few hours. I rub his back and stroke his hair at night before he falls asleep and wake up early with him in the morning so we can sit in bed and drink coffee together.
2. Ditch the social media.
Yes, I know that Facebook is an absolutely wonderful way to stay in touch with your family and friends who are both near and far, but posting a photo of the kids doesn’t require you checking your apps 9,856,783,467 times a day. Especially if it’s a day when you and your spouse are home at the same time!!!
We have a “no phones at the table” policy in our house. It really only applies to my husband and I, considering our kids are only 3 and 1 and a half. But it helps us connect as a family. We also apply that rule to our date nights. Obviously we bring our phones in case of emergency, but we don’t take them out unless we need to.
Social media is so convenient. You can catch up with the latest on friends and family, chat with people, update family on new life changes, upload photos of the kids, worry yourself sick reading parenting articles, spend too much time analyzing a comment or “Like” from someone, or post passive aggressive status updates regarding “someone” not taking out the trash, “again.”
If you know more about the life of someone who went to kindergarten with your sister’s boyfriend’s mom than you do about what’s new with your spouse, you have a problem.
3. Remember that you and your spouse came before the kids.
While I know this may not always be the case, you should still act as if it is true (in my opinion). Your children will always be your children. They didn’t have a choice in who their parents are. They will always love you. However, your spouse DID choose you and they can also make the decision to leave. Make spending time with them a priority.
I’m going to add in an excerpt from a post I wrote a few months ago (you can read it here):
“Want to know the secret to having a happy marriage?
The trick is making a conscious effort. Marriage takes a lot of work – it doesn’t maintain itself. You have to get up every day and think “I’m going to do everything I can to put a smile on their face,” and then DO IT. Treat your spouse the EXACT way you want to be treated. It’s as simple as that. Being kind, courteous, considerate, and respectful can go a long way. This is true of any relationship.”
“As his wife, I want nothing more than to see my husband happy. If I have to do a little bit of work to make that happen, then you’re damn right I’m going to do it – even if he doesn’t ask me to.
After all, marriage is about one thing: love.
‘LOVE: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.'”
And I’m out.
Now before I have parents jumping all over my ass for the title of my post, let me just say that I AM NOT knocking formula feeding moms!
I’m here to debunk this bullshit.
So all you formula feeding moms out there, calm your jets and unwad your panties. And all you lactivists out there, unwad yours as well and open your mind.
Before I get started, I’d like to tell you folks a little story and give you some of my own history.
I am a breastfeeding mom. I consider myself to be a lactivist. I breastfed my son for one year and my daughter is still going strong at 16 months.
So you may be wondering now, “If she breastfeeds, why in the hell is she supporting formula?”
Well, because I am also a formula feeding mom.
That’s right. You heard me. I used formula.
When my son hit 8 months, I brought him in to the docs because I felt like he hadn’t been gaining very well and because I felt like my supply was lower than normal. According to WHO standards, breastfed babies (6-12 months of age) should gain about 1.75-2.75 ounces per week and grow 1/2 inch per month. At that visit, I found that he had gained 2 ounces and grown 1/4 inch… over the course of a month. He had gained a quarter of what he should have over the course of a month.
Considering he was eating solids 2-3 times per day and nursing about 6 times a day at this point, he should have gained more than just 2 ounces.
For those of you lactivists out there who are probably rattling of the numerous methods I could have used to boost my supply, you can stop now. I know about the majority of those methods and gave several a try when I began seeing signs of my supply dropping. Pumping. Skin to skin. Herbs. Cookies. Teas. Beer…
At this point in MY life, I was dealing with a lot of stress in my relationship with his father and battling postpartum depression (PPD) as well. My stress and anxiety levels were through the roof and now I had to add my son’s weight gain and my supply to that list. If you didn’t already know this, stress can have a negative effect on your supply.
So I made the choice to supplement with formula. I continued breastfeeding – we just added in a few bottles of formula each day. Man! What a difference it made! My son gained a pound over the course of a month and continued with his healthy weight gain up until a year. But it didn’t only make a difference for him – it changed things for me as well.
I no longer had to dread feeding time and worry about whether or not I was making enough milk and I no longer had to wonder “is he getting enough?” My stress level decreased significantly and I felt better equipped to take on the monster called PPD. By the time he was 10 months old, I was able to stop taking my antidepressants, I felt the happiest I had in months, and I was enjoying my little boy more than ever and FINALLY enjoying nursing him!
Formula changed our lives and saved my sanity.
So now that you know my history with formula, let me continue on with the rest of this post.
When my son was about 20 months or so, I got pregnant again. I knew right off the bat that I wanted to breastfeed again. I was armed with more knowledge than I had with my son and in a much healthier and happier relationship. By this point, I had helped many other women battle their breastfeeding struggles and learned from there experiences as well. I had also researched the benefits of breast milk versus formula and, thanks to the pro-breastfeeding pages I have “Liked” on Facebook, been bombarded with information on how BAD formula was for baby.
Let’s just get this straight: formula is not “bad” for your baby. Pretty much everyone knows breast milk is the best thing for your baby. It contains all kinds of things that cannot be replicated in formula, the composition changes as your baby’s needs change and throughout the day, it lowers the risks of many illnesses and diseases, and it raises IQ levels. There is no denying that “breast is best.”
But formula is not bad.
Formula has come a hell of a long way since it first started being used. Hell, I know people who fed their babies Karo and condensed milk for crying out loud (their babies were born in the 1950s). You can now buy organic, soy based, made for sensitive tummies, cow’s milk based, goat’s milk based, hydrolysed protein formula, etc. They now add essential vitamins, minerals, and things like DHA, ARA, and even Lutein (which IS found is breast milk).
If you ask me, that doesn’t sound like it’s bad at all. Is it ideal? Maybe not. But it most certainly is not BAD.
With that being said, many breastfeeding mothers encounter issues at some point in their breastfeeding relationship. Sometimes these are minor issues that can be corrected with a simple adjustment and other times these issues require a lot of time and effort. I recommend speaking with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) any time you feel you are hitting a brick wall. They can encourage you and give you plenty of helpful tips.
If any of you are like me and run into an issue and someone says the word “formula,” it’s like someone walked up and deflated all of the air out of your balloon.
For whatever reason, formula is seen as “failure” or “defeat” within the breastfeeding community. There have been times that I’ve told people I supplemented formula with my son and instantly got a look that said, “Oooohhh… You’re one of those people. You’re not a true breastfeeder!” Nose in the air included.
Each time I see that look, I want to grab them by their stupid shoulders, smack them across the face, and shake them as hard as I can while I scream, “I AM A BREASTFEEDER!!! I made it one whole year. I did everything I could think of to regain my supply! I spent all night pumping, hours doing skin to skin, I stuffed my face full of cookies, dammit! I sacrificed MY happiness, sanity, and health. How DARE you look at me that way, as if I am less of a mother than you because I supplemented with formula!”
I want to pause there because I realize NOW that there is a very important statement made in that.
“I sacrificed MY happiness, sanity, and health.”
Each and every single one of us parents understand sacrifice. We sacrifice our time, sleep, schedules, hobbies, money, etc. All so our children will be happy. And if you’re a parent, you understand that those sacrifices are worth it in the end.
However, some things should not be considered “sacrifices” when it comes to our kids: happiness, sanity, and health.
I’m sure some of you read this one and thought something like, “Oh how selfish of her!” and you know what? You are absolutely right. It is selfish, but it’s also necessary. If you aren’t happy, how on earth do you expect to be able to make someone else happy?! I don’t know about y’all, but in my house, if Momma ain’t happy, no one’s happy! Okay… not really. But if I’m in a crabby mood or feeling overworked, under appreciated, sad, angry, or anything other than happy, I’m much more likely to lose my temper when it comes to my kids. I’m also more likely to yell. I also have less patience for playing games like peek-a-boo, teaching them how to do something new, or answering a thousand questions in a row.
When my supply dropped, my happiness went with it. I became so stressed that it was all I could think about. I spent all my time worrying about how much I was producing. I spent hours online reading articles about low supply, how to boost it, how much weight gain was normal, how often he should be nursing, how often he should be eating solids… you get the point. I didn’t want to leave my house because he was easily distracted when nursing in public. And this all leads to my next point…
As I mentioned before, I was diagnosed with PPD after having my son. I struggled with it for months at first and finally came to terms with it when he was around 5 months old. I went to my doctor and spoke with her about how I had been feeling and we decided I would begin taking Prozac. It was like someone turned on a light, after the initial adjustment period. I wasn’t exactly happier, per se, I just felt… better. It was easier for me to recognize the things that were minor and somewhat easier for me to handle the things that were major. At least I felt much calmer than I had before.
Encountering low supply was really difficult for me. I was just starting to feel as though I had a good handle on the whole parenting thing and then my supply dropped and it was like someone came and tore down the walls holding in all of my anxiety. Everything crashed down and I was more stressed than I had been before. I spent a lot of time focusing on the issue of my supply. I didn’t want to talk to my friends, didn’t want to go out, didn’t want to do anything except hide somewhere until my supply went back to normal. I had trouble sleeping, trouble waking up, I ate too much, and just felt flat out bad.
So I’m sure by now you are getting a pretty good idea of just how much these three things go hand in hand. Because I was unhappy and stressed, my health began to suffer. I began gaining weight, felt sleepy all the time, and started getting sick more frequently. If you aren’t already aware, let me tell you right now: your health is important!!! As a parent, it’s your responsibility to set a good example when it comes to health and wellness. How can you do that if you’re over eating/skipping meals or constantly wearing yourself so thin that you get sick often? Besides that, how do you expect to keep up with your kid(s) when you are like that?
It’s just a downward spiral – or at least it was for me.
I am a firm believer of making sure you take good care of yourself. Yes it is our responsibility to take care of our children and do whatever it takes to ensure they are happy and healthy, but it’s also our responsibility to take care of ourselves.
One of the many things I have seen over and over again from parents is that we are all too hard on ourselves. We live busy lives, place unreasonable expectations on each other, hold ourselves to extreme standards, and because of all this, we have a tendency to get wrapped up in the little things. So much so that we miss the big picture.
Many of us lose sight of the big picture right off the bat. We come up with “birthing plans,” decide to breastfeed or use formula, organic foods or not, homegrown veggies or store bought, green, clean, perfect, pristine… we plan everything down to the moment they become adults with their own lives.
When something comes along and throws a kink in our plan, we freak. We don’t know how to handle it because it isn’t what we had “planned.” So when things don’t follow these “plans,” some of us feel like we have failed.
We compare ourselves to other parents who’s plans are still on track. We wonder, “How do they do it? They make it look so easy.” Or, “What did I do wrong? Why am I having such a hard time with my supply? I don’t want to stop breastfeeding!” I have seen moms struggle with these thoughts time and time again. Only thing is, they are so busy being concerned about their “failure” that they lose sight of the REAL issue at hand: feeding baby.
At some point, you have to stop focusing on those “goals” and “plans” you have made.
Just take them, ball them up, and throw them out the damn window.
Life is unpredictable. You can’t foresee every event. This is especially true when it comes to parenting!
We become so focused on OUR “goals” and “plans” (natural child birth, pain med free birth, home birth, being induced, not being induced, breastfeeding, pumping, blah, blah, blah) that we forget what our goal was back when we first got pregnant!
Unsure of what I’m talking about?
I’ll give you a hint:
“I just want him/her to be happy and healthy.“
THAT is the big picture!!!
So if you have ever been in a situation where you have had to supplement with formula or stop breastfeeding all together, don’t you ever feel as though you have “failed” as a parent. Kudos to you for keeping your focus on your child and their health and for taking care of yourself as well.
Breastfeeding CAN be difficult. It can present you with many challenges, but it can also be a lot easier than you expect. It is also one of the most rewarding things you can do for your child. But if you ever run into a situation where you have to supplement (short or long term) or even switch over all together, don’t beat yourself up over it. You are still doing the best you can for your baby.
And that makes you a wonderful parent.
To the lactivists out there: I understand how important it is to educate people on the benefits of breastfeeding. I do it all the time. But if you ever encounter a mom who is struggling with breastfeeding, don’t press the issue. Offer words of encouragement and if she asks for your help or advice, then help her. Give her the facts and allow her to do with them as she pleases. IF she chooses to use formula, for whatever reason, do not belittle her, shove statistics down her throat, or continue flood her with tips and information. Recognize that it is ultimately HER decision because it is HER baby. And also recognize that formula is NOT bad.
And formula does NOT equal failure.
Since there was such a great response to my first post on marriage (you can read it here), I have decided to do a second part. However, I want to touch on the topic of how children can affect a marriage.
Many of my readers are parents as well. I’m an admin for a Facebook page called Mommies With Boys and I post links to my blog on there sometimes. I hope that many of you will be able to relate to this topic and hopefully it will shed some light or offer some insight to situations you may or may not be going through in your marriage. I know there are some of you who probably won’t agree with me, and that’s okay. Hopefully, many of you will.
Some of the things I want to discuss will go back to things I said in my last post. Others will be based off my personal experiences during childhood and now as a parent.
One of these topics is respect.
Respect should be a two way street, like most things in marriage. Not everyone feels this way though. I know a lot of people who feel that before they can give respect, it has to be earned. While this is true, people sometimes fail to remember that their spouse has already earned their respect. You obviously respected them enough to promise to love them “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health,” so why would that ever change? (If you are in an abusive situation, I personally feel this does not apply to you and I STRONGLY suggest seeking help!)
I actually have a pretty good example of this type of general respect. A couple of months ago, the kids and I went to watch my husband do a jump (military jump, usually from an airplane or helicopter) and, naturally, we were there with a lot of the men he works with. While we were out there, an ice cream truck came out to the drop zone. I wanted to get some for the kids and myself and asked my husband if he was okay with me using his card to make the purchase. He said it was fine and I offered to get him something as well.
Had my card been with me and not in my truck, I wouldn’t have thought twice about the purchase. But I was holding his wallet for him and because I was using HIS card, I respected his property and asked him first. One of his buddies overheard the exchange and, according to my husband, proceeded to say, “You mean your wife actually asks you before she buys stuff?! Can you give me lessons?” My husband responded by telling him that it isn’t because he has some kind of “rule” dictating that I ask him, but rather because we have a mutual respect for one another.
It’s really as simple as following the “golden rule.” You know, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31 NIV) That’s all it is.
I touched on that some in my first post; I discussed how I always do my best to take my husband into consideration. In my most recent post (which you can read here) I talked about how once we become parents, we really learn how to be selfless and that we should take that selflessness and direct it towards those around us as well as our children. But learning how to be selfless shouldn’t start with our children – it should start with our spouse. I think that we know what unconditional love is when we get married, but I believe that we don’t fully understand it until we have children.
Now, I’m not saying you should be selfless to the point that your own health or mental well being is suffering. It’s extremely difficult to take care of others and make them happy if you aren’t taken care of and happy yourself. Everyone needs time for themselves too. What I am saying is that if you’re craving Italian and your spouse wants a burger and you got to pick the last time you went out to eat, set your own desires aside and let them pick. Chances are, they will be more likely to do the same for you another time.
You have to pick your battles.
While we’re on the topic of “picking battles,” I have a bone to pick with some of you moms (and dads) out there. Mostly new moms. Now let me go ahead and get this disclaimer out there: I know that what I’m about to say does not apply to y’all as a collective group. But if you find yourself thinking, “Oh crap. I do that sometimes,” then it
probably applies to you.
To the new/first time moms (and some of you who have been moms for awhile now)
I know firsthand how exhausting it is to care for an infant. I’ve been through it with two of my own and am now caring for my friend’s son during the day while she’s at work. Earlier this week, I realized that it had been two (maybe three?) days since I had showered because I had been THAT busy and too tired to give a shit. Yes. I know the struggle is real.
I know how tiring it is to wake in the middle of the night (sometimes multiple times) to have to feed your tiny human (those of you who bottle feed, I give y’all MAD props! I have NO clue how you do it). I know how much it sucks to change a diaper and get peed on or better yet, have them dirty the fresh diaper before you can even get it secured. I know how repetitive it can all get and how you’d love nothing more than 10 minutes alone to shower or shave your legs or whatever (see paragraph above).
However, cut the new dad some slack! If you’re a stay at home mom, chances are he spends even less time with baby than you do because he is out working to provide for y’all so that you are able to stay at home. Respect and appreciate that. Don’t attack him when he walks through the door. It’s like hitting him with a brick that says, “I’m pissed because I’m the only one who cares for this kid and you have no clue how hard it is for me!” Real nice, right?
Aside from that, because he spends less time with baby he is NOT going to know how you usually handle things. Don’t expect him to know exactly how to handle something or know how frequently you feed baby, how to tell if they have a dirty diaper, or when nap time is. I don’t know anyone who can read minds, especially out of the guys I know. They don’t have that motherly instinct that is ingrained in us. You have to tell them and teach them.
On top of that, they may not be comfortable with how you handle some situations or maybe they just don’t agree with you on something. Listen to their opinions and take them into consideration. After all, they are the other parent. I have found that it’s usually just best to take a step back and let dad and baby figure out what methods work best for them. It also encourages their bond.
I’m sure I pissed off some of y’all by saying those things, but it’s the truth.
And guess what?
I don’t care.
Want to know why?
Because I have been guilty of those things and I have witnessed firsthand how much of a negative impact they can have on your marriage.
What you can do instead of those things:
TALK with your spouse and explain to them how tired you are and how motherhood carries a much higher workload than you imagined and it requires a lot of you emotionally. Let them know that there will possibly be days where you need to vent to them about stuff that seems meaningless to them, but that it will make you feel better if they offer a listening ear (and maybe a box of tissues). Maybe set up an agreement with them where they get 30 minutes to unwind from their day when they come home and then you get to take 30 minutes to yourself while they watch baby. Or vice versa. Whatever works for both of you.
ENCOURAGE them to spend time with baby alone. Don’t jump down their throats when they do something the wrong way or differently from you. It took you some time to learn the ins and outs and it’s going to take them some time too. Be patient and helpful without being patronizing.
COMMUNICATE your feelings to your spouse. Don’t get mad at them for something and then storm off and say something like, “Well I guess I’ll just do (insert whatever)… like I always do.” Tell them how their actions make you feel. “You know, when you say/do/act like (insert action/words/whatever), it makes me feel (insert feelings).”
LISTEN when your spouse brings something up. Hear them out on whatever it is they have to say. If they are offering their opinion on something, take it to heart, and try your best to find a solution that works for both of you. When they come to you to express their feelings, don’t turn it into a competition by saying things like “Oh yeah? Well you (insert whatever it is that pisses you off)!” Again, hear them out.
BE APPRECIATIVE of all they do to provide for your family. They work to provide (or to help provide, if you both work) for your family. It’s not exactly fun to work hard for pay you know isn’t going to be spent on the things you’d like to go and do or buy (working moms, I know you know the feeling).
To the new/first time dads (and some who have been dads for awhile now)
On behalf of all moms, I would just like to say, “Sorry!” We’re all kind of crazy and hormonal from time to time. It’s nothing against you guys.
I have no clue what it’s like to be a dad (I don’t have the right parts for that!) but I do know that the responsibilities y’all have are different from those of us moms and equally important. I am a stay at home mom and I know that if it weren’t for my husband working his butt off, I wouldn’t be able to stay home with our kids.
I know that it took longer for my husband to get the hang of the whole parenting thing. He still doesn’t like diaper duty and toddler tantrums or crying in the truck are probably two of his least favorite sounds. He sometimes takes a “suck it up” attitude in times where I’m more likely to comfort. But he can throw them in the air higher than I can and wrestles with them and takes them on adventures and so much more.
But I also know that after working all day, he really wants to come home and have a little quiet time before he has to put on his Super Dad cape and rescue his wife in distress. Sometimes, he takes what I think is a little too long for quiet time and I’m left feeling like I’m alone on handling kids. Sometimes he’s had a rough day at work and it’s still so fresh in his mind that he doesn’t realize I’m on my fourth cup of coffee and struggling to focus on cooking while the baby is playing with tupperware and the toddler is throwing cars across the house. It’s in those moments that us wives are most likely to rip you a new one. Not because you actually deserve it, but because we’re so tired and we just want SOMEONE to pay attention to us and help.
With that being said, help her out! She is only one person and can only do so much before she reaches her limit. And when she reaches that limit, well… bless your heart! Be attentive to her needs. Don’t bring work issues home with you – your family needs you. Take time for yourself, but don’t forget that she needs alone time and the kids need time with you.
If you need help figuring out how to do something for baby (diaper changes, feedings, dressing, etc.), don’t let your pride stand in your way. There is no shame in asking for help or asking to be shown how to do something. You and your wife are a team. Teammates work together towards the same goal. Don’t forget that.
Don’t assume because she’s with the kids more frequently that it means it’s okay for you to make plans to do things that would involve her having to stay home alone with the kids. She is NOT your personal baby sitter! Yes, she is their mother, but YOU are their father and that means you share an equal amount of responsibility.
So, dads, here’s what you can do:
CONSIDER her feelings. When you come home from work, ask her how her day has been. Tell her you’d like to change out of your work clothes first and then you will spend some time with the kids while she grabs a shower or gets dinner ready or whatever it is she needs from you. Offering to do that for her will help her more than you can imagine. It reassures her that you have her back and support her.
TELL her how much you appreciate everything she does for your family. Taking care of tiny people all day (or even after she gets home from work) isn’t always the most fun job in the world. It’s taxing – emotionally, mentally, and physically. Not to mention cooking and cleaning. Show your appreciation for the things she does for you too. Folding your laundry, fixing your lunch, helping you get ready for work, etc.
OFFER to take the kids out for a few hours so she can get housework done or relax for a bit. Or offer to stay home with them while she goes out with the girls. If she’s a stay at home mom, chances are she is DYING for some adult conversation and a good glass of wine!
TAKE the initiative to help her. If you see that the trash can is full, take it out. If the dishwasher is full of clean dishes, empty it. Don’t wait to be asked. You are an adult and just as much a part of the household as your wife is – don’t let ALL of the chores fall to her, especially if it’s obvious she is having a rough day or could use a helping hand. Your wife is not your mother. It is not her job to constantly pick up after you and put your things away.
Now that I’ve laid it all out there, I have something I want to add on that is directed at both parties:
Always try to one up yourself.
I have read a lot of posts that say you should never stop courting your spouse, and I completely agree with that. However, I feel I’m taking it a step further here by saying that you should always act as if you are your biggest competition.
If you are usually the type to do a random act of kindness for your spouse once in a blue moon, then start doing them more frequently. Tell your spouse how much you appreciate something they have done for you and compliment them. Do it every day. Tell them how much they mean to you and how thankful you are to have them in your life.
Those are all examples of things my husband and I do for each other. We don’t do them once a week, every 4 days, or every other day. Those examples happen every single day, multiple times a day, in our household. I am constantly telling him that I love and appreciate him and that I am blessed beyond measure to have him in my life. I do the same for my children.
Doing those things creates a spiral. Not a downward one towards destruction, but rather an upward one – constantly rising higher and higher.
Marriage is not a game. It’s not a battle of “he said, she said.” It’s not a power struggle. It’s two people accepting the person they married exactly as they are and helping them learn how to grow in their strengths, conquer their weaknesses, and succeed in their dreams. It’s lifting each other up, with love.
I recently started watching my friend’s little boy during the day. He’s just over 11 weeks old and as sweet as could be. Her maternity leave was up and she was returning back to work. Like MANY first time moms in that situation, she worried. Will I have enough milk? Will it be too much trouble for her to watch him? How will I handle my first day back at work? What will his day be like? Will I cry? Will he cry? Will he be okay? Will I be okay?
Before he started coming here, she and I had several conversations; many of which included the topic of sleep, or lack thereof. He is a VERY smart, alert, and active little boy and because of that, he fights off sleep – much like my son did around that age. He wants to take it ALL in – no breaks!
However, sleep is extremely important for babies and little children. Their bodies need the rest – especially if they are highly active. Plus, us moms need some quiet time too! (I don’t know about you, but after about 30 minutes of “peek-a-boo” and another hour or so of rattling toys and clapping and quietly saying, “Look at you,” “Great job,” or “Yay,” I’m beyond ready for nap time. I have to regain my sanity.)
When I had my son, I knew that sleep was important and did everything I could to make sure he got plenty of it. And I’m serious when I say I did everything I could. From spending and hour and a half pacing my living room while gently bouncing and swaying my screaming/fussy/tearful infant son to rocking for 45 minutes in the chair while I said “Shhh…” over and over or putting him in his swing or bouncy chair and sitting right next to it for 30 minutes while I stared at him and tried to will him to fall asleep… Those are things that would drive ANYONE crazy.
But when you’re a sleep deprived, determined, frustrated first time mom… I can’t even accurately describe what it’s like.
You become frantic and willing to do anything you can think of. The longer you listen to them cry, the more difficult it becomes to maintain your cool, calm demeanor. Then you start to cry because, dammit, you just want to sleep (or eat, or pee, or shower, or put the dishes away… etc)! But you can’t until this tiny person closes their eyes and drifts off into dreamland. Even when that happens, you still hold your breath for another 30 minutes because you’re afraid you’ll have to start all over if you accidentally wake them up.
I experienced all this and more with my son. It wasn’t until he hit 6 months that I finally realized that my sleep was important too. Little guy’s mom and I were talking about sleep again today and she said, “I don’t know how people do it with no support system.” I replied, “With medication.”
Okay, so that isn’t true for EVERYONE. Some of you out there just might be Miss Perfect Mommy and you totally had the hang of it all the second they handed you your tiny bundle of joy. If so, you’re not normal.
No. Seriously. You’re not.
The normal thing to do is question yourself. Wonder if you’re doing everything right. Question how one tiny choice now could possibly affect their lives later on down the road. Compare yourself to all the other moms you know…
Motherhood is one big mind game.
Honestly, I think motherhood has changed a LOT over the years but I’m not completely convinced it’s all for the better. Social media has a lot to do with that, in my opinion. So does television. It’s like society has placed some unreal expectations on mothers these days.
I see so many moms who try to do it all and they end up focusing on the mom they think is ideal. In reality, they spend so much time trying to meet the standard set by society and they lose sight of the mom they really are.
- Instagram – Thank you for showing us that all moms can be “photographers” and document every second of our lives and ensure perfection with just the right filter. Oh, and to the moms who have time in the morning to dress themselves well, do their make up, take a picture, and then upload it to Instagram, pleaseeeee stop! You’re making the rest of us wonder if you have a maid, a nanny, or if you place your children under some kind of magical spell while you get ready for the day. Maybe it’s all three.
- Facebook – Susan’s daughter can play Pachelbel’s Canon in D on piano at the age of 5? So what! Let me upload this video of my 3 year old solving algebraic equations while reciting the alphabet backwards. Let’s see her one up THAT! Oh! Looks like Catherine has been hard at work today! They’ve made pancakes from scratch, had a snack, built an intricate train track, chased butterflies outside, and created those… whoa! What IS that? Those must have taken forever! Wait… you mean to tell me it’s only 10 AM? But HOW did she get all of that DONE?!
- Pinterest – Ah, yes. Thank you a million times for shoving in my face how creative every other mom is, except me. Please. That’s an excessive amount of glitter and there’s no way I can get my kid interested enough in that.
- Mom Forums – You know… The Bump, Cafe Mom, etc. Those horrible places where moms go to post questions, in need of legitimate help, and then are shot down, judged, and belittled by their peers. There are even pages similar to this on Facebook. Usually they are run by a set of admins who post your question anonymously, but there’s almost always someone who walks into that post with a baseball bat – ready to send heads rolling, just because they think they are number one and screw your opinion (I’m very familiar with this. I am an admin on a Facebook page and we see a lot of this).
Whatever happened to it taking a “village” to raise a child? Seeing a struggling new mom and offering words of comfort? Putting the offer to help on the table every chance you get? Sharing the stories of your own struggles? Encouraging her or playing peek-a-boo with her baby in the grocery line while she unloads her cart? Us moms need those things too!
Call up one of your mom friends and offer to watch her kids for a few hours so she can get her grocery shopping done in peace. Talk with her about a time when you felt like you had failed as a parent. Offer encouraging and kind words. Give her a knowing smile and then offer to help unload her cart if you see she’s dealing with a fussy baby too.
When we become mothers, we are expected to become selfless and place the needs of someone else before us. It may not always come easy, but it’s a learning process and something that can be mastered. But who says that selflessness has to only extend to our children? Why can’t we extend it to those around us as well?
Say you see a mom at your child’s preschool trying to juggle a four year old, a two year old, an infant in a car seat, backpack, diaper bag, and find her keys in her purse. Do you sit back and watch her struggle with everything she has and think to yourself, “Well, I have my own issues to deal with. She will be fine,” or could you take 5 minutes of your day and offer to stand next to her van and watch the two little ones while she runs the older one inside to school? Personally, I would pick the second option. I can usually spare 5 minutes and if I know it’s going to make someone else’s life just a little bit easier, then it’s totally worth 5 minutes of my time.
I always try to think, “If I were in their situation, would I be glad someone had offered me a helping hand?” If that answer is, “Yes,” then I do it. Even if it means maybe my life gets a little more complicated.
I have applied that thought to countless situations. I’ve helped multiple women with their breastfeeding journeys. I could have easily given them a virtual pat on the back and sent them on their merry way, but instead I chose to keep in contact with them, check up on them periodically, send them articles I found that related to their issues, etc.
Why did I do that?
Because I was once a first time breastfeeding mom and had someone done the same for me, I would have been on my knees thankful.
So now I’m helping my friend out with her son. I watch him for her while she’s at work. Yes it provides us with some additional income, but that isn’t the main motivation behind it for me. I know how worrisome it can be to return to work and know that you are trusting your child into the care of someone else. I’m not a baby expert, but I have had two of my own and they seem to be thriving so far! She also breast feeds and uses cloth diapers. I am extremely familiar with both. I have also been giving her advice regarding her son’s latch and tips she can use for encouraging a strong latch and bond between them.
And then there’s the topic of sleep. She’s brand new to this and still learning the ins and outs. However, sleep “schedules” are something I mastered with both of my kids. I offered to work with little man on his and he’s been napping a grand total of about 5 hours a day every day he has been here.
I’m pretty sure she’s now convinced I use some kind of black magic.
I can assure you, it’s not black magic. And I don’t have him on a rigid schedule. But I already know what common sleep and hunger cues look like for babies his age and therefore, it’s much easier for me to recognize at what point he needs to be laying down. Because I know that, I have pretty much figured out about how often he naps and when we hit that “sleep window,” I know to keep my eyes open for his sleep cues.
Is it time consuming? Somewhat. But it’s far less time consuming for me than it is for her and if me taking some of my time now saves her time later on down the road, eases her life, and allows her to better plan her days, then it’s totally worth it.
That’s the kind of attitude I’d like to see more mom’s take.
“If I take minutes to help with , will it make them happy? Will it make their life easier in the long run?”
If the answers to those questions are, “Yes,” then just do it!
I’d be willing to bet not only do you put a smile of their face, but you will put one on yours too.
Pay it forward.
Okay… so this is a topic that is very close to my heart. Some of you reading my blog don’t know me at all and some of you know me very well. For those of you who don’t know me at all, I have a tiny back story to go with this (it’s really NOT tiny… I’m just going to give the very short, VERY edited version).
I have been married before. Actually, I have been married two times before. This is not something I really like to talk about and I’m not exactly proud of it. I always thought of marriage as being something that you should only do once and when you ABSOLUTELY KNOW it’s the right person. I STILL feel that way. However, I learned that sometimes people get married for the WRONG reasons or to the wrong person.
BUT, I also learned a lot about how a marriage SHOULD work and what I wanted when it came to marriage.
My first marriage was most definitely for the wrong reasons. He was a nice person and had some great qualities that I admired and loved, but it was rushed and for the all the wrong reasons.
My second marriage was a combination of being for the wrong reason and to the wrong person. I was pregnant at the time and I believe that played a big roll in it. I think we both thought it was the right thing to do. Long story short, we started off with a lot of resentment and anger between us and that led to a lot of isolation and detachment… which led to more resentment and anger on both sides. A vicious cycle. Arguing became the norm in our house. I reached a point where I decided enough was enough and didn’t see a way for it to be fixed – not without both of us trying equally, and I didn’t think that would happen. I felt that divorce was the best solution. I didn’t want to be in a relationship like that and I didn’t want my son growing up in an environment that was emotionally unhealthy.
I don’t regret making that choice. Going through something like that forced me to take a very critical look at myself and what I could have done differently from the start. I decided that if I were to ever find myself in another serious relationship, I was going to do things very differently. I took a lot of time to learn about myself and what my ideal relationship is. I thought about the things I value in a person and what would be a definite deal breaker for me. I also rediscovered my faith and began growing in it and discovering what an impact it really has on my life.
Then I met the man I now call my husband.
When we started dating, I didn’t immediately think “This is the man I’m going to spend the rest of my life with.” In fact, neither one of us wanted anything serious. Then again, love isn’t one of those things you can schedule or plan out.
“So, you want to realize you’re in love with me on the 5th? Let me check… Yeah, sooo that’s not gonna work with my schedule. Can it wait until March?”
I honestly can’t pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with him. It was like a candle being lit. The spark happens and it catches the wick, you see a glow, feel a little warmth and before you know it, there is a flame there. And that flame starts off small at first, but then it gradually begins to glow brighter and grow in size.
I can tell you this: his smile is what caused that initial spark.
Before I knew it, I realized I was in love with him. The thing is, just when I think I can’t possibly love him any more than I already do, he goes and adds to the fire. The love I felt for him in the beginning is NOTHING compared to the love I have for him now. That love grows daily. I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up dying at 30 because my heart is going to explode from all the love it will be holding. That or my heart is just going to grow and grow and grow. All I know is I’m looking forward to it. I’ll die a happy woman, either way.
Loving my husband is not hard. I don’t consider it a chore. I don’t feel like it’s a competition where we are trying to one up each other and I do my best to not ask too much of him. I make an effort to treat him with respect, at all times. I take him into consideration with every decision I make. I’m open with him. I tell him I love him every chance I get. I make spending time with him, alone, a priority.
Best part of it all is that I do these things and it’s all reciprocated. There are times where he returns my love and then some. He does this with no expectations of reward. He’s not the type of person to think “Well if I help with the dishes, maybe she’ll let me go to the range.” (He knows I won’t tell him “No,” unless we have something planned) Instead, he does things because he thinks it’s something I will like or because he recognizes it’s something I would appreciate. He is considerate and I appreciate that by itself.
It’s absolutely amazing how wonderful marriage can be.
To be honest, I was surprised the first time I ever had that thought. My other marriages were total flops, I grew up with divorced parents, and divorce is now a pretty common thing in our society. People crack jokes about life being over once you get married, how your sex life is going to take a dive into the dumps after a few months and never recover, how there’s always going to be that “one thing” about your spouse that drives you nuts… We have a habit of making marriage sound like this awful commitment.
Aside from those things, I see a lot of people getting really defensive when it comes to marriage. Far too often I have seen my friends complaining online about how their husband didn’t bother to help them with the dishes after dinner or how their wife is always complaining that they don’t pay enough attention to them. Unfortunately, social media only adds to this problem.
People vent to everyone BUT their spouse. I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of this in the past, but I realized how destructive it can be and learned from it. I don’t do this with my husband. Ever. If I ever have a problem with something he has done or if I’m having an issue of my own, he is the first person I go to. We talk about whatever the issue is and then that’s it. I feel a million times better and in the long run, so does he because I’m not posting crap about it all over Facebook and sharing our problems with the world.
Our marriage is between US. I made vows to my HUSBAND – not my husband, Aunt Martha, Uncle Ryan, Grandma, Grandpa, my girl friends, old friends from high school, my best friend’s brother, or anyone else. So if I only made vows to ONE person, why share every single problem with all those other people? It’s just not right. It’s disrespectful to your marriage and places your spouse in an awkward position because now they have all these people looking at them and thinking, “Why did you do that?!”
Are those people going to work with you on fixing the issue? No. They aren’t. They are going to pat you on the back and say things like “Oh, honey! I’m so sorry!” or trash talk your spouse – worst part is, you’re probably not giving them the full story and now your spouse looks like the bad guy. That’s not fair to them.
Want to know the secret to having a happy marriage?
The trick is making a conscious effort. Marriage takes a lot of work – it doesn’t maintain itself. You have to get up every day and think “I’m going to do everything I can to put a smile on their face,” and then DO IT. Treat your spouse the EXACT way you want to be treated. It’s as simple as that. Being kind, courteous, considerate, and respectful can go a long way. This is true of any relationship.
I don’t do anything because my husband “tells” me to do it. This isn’t because I’m stubborn (I am) or because I’m being defiant. It’s because my husband never “tells” me to do anything. Not once has my husband ever said something like, “You need to go do the dishes,” or “You have to go vacuum the house.” But he has said things like, “It’s really nice to come home to a clean house,” or “Could you make sure this gets taken care of?” I hear things like that and my first thought is “I like coming home to a clean house too,” or “I really should have taken care of that when I said I would earlier,” and then I make sure I do what it takes to make those things happen. Not because he “told” me to do it, but because I know it will make him happy and he will appreciate it.
As his wife, I want nothing more than to see my husband happy. If I have to do a little bit of work to make that happen, then you’re damn right I’m going to do it – even if he doesn’t ask me to.
After all, marriage is about one thing: love.
“LOVE: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.”