Unfiltered Mommy

An honest view of parenting in today's world

The reason I haven’t been blogging

It’s true that being a stay-at-home mom is a full-time job. I work from from 6am until 10pm and I rarely get unsupervised bathroom breaks or a chance to collect my thoughts. Things that I used to take for granted, like showering or shaving my legs, have become special treats, which often occur late at night. But in general, I’m ok with that. Yes, I am tired all the time. And yes, having two strong-willed girls ages 4 years and 2 years (25 months apart), is very challenging. But after reading so many negative blog articles about parenting, I started to worry that my blog was turning into a public bitch session, which I don’t want. I don’t feel the need to constantly bitch about every little thing but after reading other articles I started to feel negative about my our parenting journey. Of course there are times that I call my best friend, my sister or my mom and vent, but all-in-all, I am pretty happy with my life and my decision to stay home.

After reading so many things I wondered why so many parents feel like victims of the parenting process. Did they ever babysit or care for small children before they decided to have children? Did they think it was going to be all rainbows, ponies and Pinterest-inspired parties? Surely they had some idea that raising another human being was not going to be a cakewalk right?

We all get it. Parenting is hard. We all do it everyday. Fostering the cognitive and emotional development of a child takes work. No one ever said that parenting was easy but they probably never told you exactly how hard it is either. There are just some things that you have to experience to know. There are days when I count down the hours until bedtime and days that by noon, I have had it! When I hear things like “Our parents had it easier raising us because they didn’t have to use carseats” or other similar comments I want to smack these people with the reality stick. Really, just because your mom was able to let you “roll around in the back of the station wagon” doesn’t mean her parenting experience was any less challenging than yours. Each generation of parents has their own struggles to cope with. Get over yourself, put your big girl panties on and deal with it.

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy reading other blogs. Some of them make me feel like I’m not alone in whatever challenge I am  currently facing. I get a sense of peace knowing that someone else out there feels the same way I do, but if you feel the need to publicly vent over and over again, maybe you need a more supportive and healing type of outlet. There are professionals out there who can assist with stress relief, anger management and help those who are constantly struggling to raise their children. It is not easy, but it doesn’t have to be so hard either. There is no shame in needing help to get through the tough times or to learn new ways of coping.

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Reflections on the first year

Well it has officially been one year since we embarked on this journey. I would like to tell you that it has been a wonderful decision. I want to say that it has been everything I hoped for, but honestly it has been hard. Emotionally I feel like I have been extremely stressed and depressed. The first six months were probably the hardest six months of my life. Even the experience of being a new mother with Post-Partum Depression did not prepare me for the feelings of isolation and frustration I felt adjusting to the new life here.

I remember being in the temporary housing and crying every day. I tried not to tell my husband how bad it was because he was working and had struggles and adjustments of his own. I didn’t want to burden him with my issues which only made me feel more lonely. We had the dream life. We lived less than 2 miles from the Pacific Ocean and watched vacationers and surfers from all over the world come to our town to get a taste of the good life. I walked on the boardwalk everyday with the sun on my face and the ocean breeze in my hair. Why oh why would I voluntarily give that up?

It was not an easy decision. We went back and forth for a very long time, weighing all the Pros and Cons. As I laid in bed crying myself to sleep overnight for the first month, mourning the loss of my dream life, it was hard to remember the reasons why we actually pulled the trigger on the plan. Living without our household furniture and other items for almost 4 months was another snag in the plan that seemed to be a never ending cause of stress. The weather sucked. It was cold and rainy and I could not communicate the way I wanted to. It felt like everyone I saw was perfect and was judging me and my parenting skills.

When our container finally arrived, I felt a sense of normalcy for the first time. We had clothing and shoes other than the few items we packed into our suitcases. We were reunited with our kitchen tools and cookware! Yay! Our oldest stated Kindergarten and things were looking up. I felt a bit better. Summer came and we enjoyed long warm days. We met some neighbors and spent our summer vacation in Bavaria and Italy. I was starting to feel more comfortable speaking German again. After 6 months, we were finally settled in our home and I was finished building the Ikea catalogue!

The holidays away from home were hard. I missed our regular family traditions and trying to get the ingredients needed to put on a Thanksgiving Feast was nearly impossible. I started to get home sick. I thought of all the things I miss about America. I miss customer service, people smiling when they see you on the street, common courtesy, stores being open past 7pm, the variety, the endless options of mundane items like kitchen handtowels. I miss ethnic food. I miss black beans and Adobo.

But what I don’t miss is hearing about mass shootings. Or parents being reported to CPS every time they allow their children to roam more than 10 feet from them. I don’t miss all the vigilantly justice, people breaking out car windows because someone left their dog in the car for 5 minutes or calling the police because they saw a kid sitting in a parked car.  I don’t miss the hypocrisy of the USA at all.

After feeling the way I did for too long, I realized that I needed to do something to improve my state of mind. I enrolled in a sewing class with a friend and spent Tuesday evenings being ME. I enrolled our youngest in child care a few times a week, so she could play with other kids and I could have some time to do things for myself. It has been wonderful. My husband even remarked about how he has noticed a difference. I think it is important to remember that we are the creators of our own happiness. It is not always easy to recognize the signs when we are faltering and it is not easy to pull ourselves out of the hole of depression. But we must. We must take control of our lives and create the light when all we see is darkness.

I am feeling more positive about our decision as we move into “Year 2” of this adventure. I know there will be bumps in the road but I am ready.

 

 

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Adjusting to Germany

Well, we have been here for about 4 months now. It has been much been an emotional roller coaster and a jammed packed adventure all rolled into one. We moved into our house in early April, approximately 6 weeks ago, and we are FINALLY getting settled. Finally, we save some sense of normalcy.

For the past three months we have been in transition. Living with rental furniture and sorting through the seemingly endless boxes of boxes containing the piece of our past lives. We have all been trying to find ourselves in our new roles in a new culture. For me it has been very emotional. I miss my family and friends back home, but I am also a stranger in a foreign land. Luckily for me, this is not my first experience with culture shock so I was aware of where I was headed. But although this is my third experience living abroad, it is my longest, and this time it involves helping two young children adjust.

For Hubby it is stressful in other ways. Germany is his home; moving here and raising our family is his dream. We are both thrilled that we are teaching our children German and that they are experiencing both of their cultures. But entering a workforce, in a country where you have never lived as an adult has it’s own challenges.

So now that I have built half of the IKEA catalogue and gotten a handle of our new digs; I am ready to write again. It has been a long time since I got any quiet time to think. I am hopeful that now that things have settled down, I can find more time to share more of what has been going here.

Stay tuned.

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Soaking up that new baby smell

Every day I spend with my 7 month old is filled with joy. I get to see all the “firsts” I missed when I had to go back to work after my oldest was born. I love watching her discover her body and learn new things about the world around her. I love all the sweet, slobbery baby kisses and hearing her screech and squeal with delight.

Since we are not sure whether or not we will add any more children to our family, I am trying to capture every moment and remember that these are the the best days of my life. I already mourn the idea of never being pregnant again. Never again feeling a baby kick inside me and watching my uterus expand each week. It is a truly amazing thing to carry a child in your womb. Pregnancy was not always easy, but I guess I was on the “lucky” end of the spectrum as far as that goes. I didn’t have any major issues and all in all I feel like my body handled it very well.

The other day when I was giving my baby a little squeeze, I couldn’t help but notice how good she smelled. You hear people say it all the time but babies really do smell sweet. Especially breastfed babies. I put my nose in the crook of her neck and as I inhaled I thought about how this experience will soon be over.  I spent the first month of her life cuddling her in my bed and doing skin-to-skin because I knew that this might be the last time I got to cuddle a newborn, my newborn. As I watch her grow from the nourishment she gets from my body, I am humbled and thrilled to have a front row seat to this amazing experience. There is nothing in life that compares to being a mother. But I have to admit, it is bittersweet. As the days pass by, a part of me laments the passing of time. I do not want her to grow up. I do not want to never have another baby and not experience this all over again. I cannot  imagine not loving on an infant like this ever again. Some people bide their time and wait for the baby stage to end. But for me, I wish I could stop time and keep her small forever. Even as I write this and she pulls my hands off the keyboard to discover my wedding ring or to push random keyboard buttons for the first time I’m tearing up.

There are many things that I will miss about the infant stage but one I will surely miss is soaking up that new baby smell as she nuzzles near. She smells like a sweet little slice of heaven.

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For the love of God, please stop telling me what is wrong with the food I eat!

Recently our society has become obsessed with what companies like Monsato are putting into our food supply. While I do like to be informed about things that effect my and my family’s health, I really have to say “ENOUGH ALREADY!!!” Every time I see another post on Facebook about GMOs, GEIs, High Fructose Corn Syrup, or how feeding my kid Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is going to give them ADD, I seriously want to throw my phone through the window. You can’t turn on the TV or look at the internet without someone trying to tell you what is wrong with the food you are eating. Seriously, if I listened to all this nonsense, what would I eat? I’ve already stopped going to Subway because of the yoga mat/tennis shoe rubber in the bread. Can’t eat Taco Bell because of the fact that the meat isn’t really beef. McDonald’s is out of the question for multiple reasons. So I wonder, just what am I supposed to eat on a road trip through Yuma, Arizona?

As if meal planning isn’t difficult enough, I find myself running out of options for food that is socially acceptable to consume. If I have a birthday party for my daughter, I have to cater to all of these neurotic parents who don’t want their kids eating hotdogs, sugar, or processed foods. Now, I’m not talking about people with legitimate allergies or those with religious beliefs. I always have vegetarian options and ask about allergies or other food restrictions when planning a menu. I understand wanting to feed your child healthy food and I agree that teaching them good habits is very important but I this has gotten way out of control. What the outcome of teaching Generation Z to have this type of relationship with food be? Children who are raised with such restrictive diets are more prone to having eating disorders later in life, and I myself will not feed into it. The truth of the matter is this: once kids get old enough to make their own choices, everything you have done up until that point will magically be undone. So why stress so much?

I am not going to stop eating candy or buying Mrs Butterworth’s. I am not going to become a raw vegan, grow all of my own food to avoid pesticides or boycott ConAgra. I find this type of lifestyle to be very paranoid and restrictive. And more than anything else, a huge pain in the ass! I refuse to succumb to the pressure of buying all organic all the time and most importantly, I will not allow my daughters to grow up in a world where they are afraid to eat something because it may not be good for them.

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5 reasons why going to work is easier than staying home

We’ve all heard it. The comment that being a stay-at-home-mom is not a job. And when I  heard it come out of the mouth of a very good, long time friend of mine, I was livid.  It was right around the time that a mutual friend of ours had announced that she was going to quit her j-o-b to be a full-time mom. After knowing her for more than 10 years I had a pretty good idea what kind of mother she was going to be and I was very happy for her. I knew that she would fill her children’s lives with love and invaluable experiences. Her children will grow up polite and cultured, and I am sure that they too will become caring, thoughtful adults just as their parents are.

Our friend, who has chosen not to have children, had a different reaction. His comment really struck a chord with me and rather than argue about it and ruin our friendship, I bit my tongue and artfully changed the topic to a more neutral one.

How could he say that motherhood is not a job? Did he not know how much work goes into raising children and managing a household? Clearly he did not.

I must admit that I have replayed this conversation in my head more than I would like to admit. If you consider a job as being something that you do to earn an income, then I suppose there is some truth to this statement. However there is no doubt that mother’s do an insurmountable amount of work. So I started thinking, what makes my job of being a stay-at-home-mom different from my paid profession as a social worker. What I am doing now is not earning an income, but in all honesty, since resigning from my position, our lives really haven’t changed that much financially speaking. I came up with the following list of reasons why being at home full-time is harder than going to work:

 

1. Set hours. Working a regular 8-5 is predictable. When the shift is done it’s done. You can leave work at work. When you stay home, you are on 24/7. A typical day for me starts at 6:30am and does not end until 8:00pm when the kids are in bed and I am on-call all night.

2. You get breaks. By law here in California we get two 15 minute breaks and a 30 minute (albeit unpaid)  lunch. At home there is no break, you are “on” all the time and I rarely get to use the bathroom without one of two kids watching me.

3. Someone else cooks your lunch and cleans it up. I worked in  a hospital so we had a cafeteria which had surprisingly good food and a very well stocked salad bar. I loved that! Even if you don’t work at a place with a cafeteria, you go out to lunch so there is no planning or clean up. Now I have to dream up delicious, nutritious lunches for myself and my kids each day and clean it up at some point. While this doesn’t seem like it would be difficult, trust me, it can be pretty daunting day after day.

4. You can take a sick day. When you are a stay at home parent, no one cares if you don’t feel good. There is no back up person to call, you just have to suck it up and get through the day.

5. If you get overwhelmed you can ask a coworker for help. At home, you’re alone. There is no one to assist with your workload, you just do the best you can.

Despite all of these things, I still feel that being home with my girls is the best “job” in the world and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Of course, I would love to be able to squeeze in some “me time” every now and again but right now I am trying to drink in every last moment of their innocence and enjoy each stage as I know that it will all be over way too soon.

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Conscious Unscheduling

The other night, when my husband was headed to bed, he asked if I was heading up too. I looked around and saw four loads of laundry that needed to be folded, and despite being overly tired, I just could not let it go one more day. It had already been sitting there for far too long. “Nah.” I said smiling. “This is when the magic happens.” The words flowed out of my mouth so naturally. It was one of the “A-ha moments” for me.  I realized that I was actually excited to watch the latest episode of Mad Men and fold laundry.

The fact is that I get more done in one hour after every one is in bed than I do at any other time of day. One glorious hour of uninterrupted time to buckle down and get shit done.

So thinking about this phenomenon of The Golden Hour got me thinking. Why is it that I always feel like I’m playing catch up? Is there really that much to do, that even being home full-time and having my toddler in preschool two days a week, that I still cannot get everything done? Life in the USA is so busy. There are infinite possibilities of things to do, see and experience. It is truly the place where if you can dream it up, you can find it. While I think this is wonderful, I also think that it complicates things so much that we lose sight of what is really important. We spend our days running errands, researching the coolest new attractions or events to whisk our kids off to rather than staying home, soaking in each precious moment of our children’s formative years.

I grew up in the Mid-West in the 80’s. My mom stayed home and we had one car which my dad took to work everyday. My mom wasn’t constantly running to Kmart or the grocery store. We stayed home and played and explored our environment. We ate every meal at home and we didn’t do things like go to dance class or swimming. We didn’t have weekly playdates or outings to the zoo, the museum or library. Life was simple and beautiful.

Over the past week, I have tried to stay home as much as possible with my girls. It started Wednesday morning when I made a conscious decision to stop stressing about getting my oldest to gymnastics. It was one of those moorings when she just was not cooperating and I found myself getting so stressed just to go have fun. I “leaned out” and decided that it wasn’t worth it. We stayed at the house and played out in her kiddie pool all day and had a wonderful time.  Over the next few days we ventured out only for the essentials like groceries and gas. I pulled things out of the freezer sand got creative with dinner rather than running back out to the store. It felt good. Real good. I have definitely noticed that I am less stressed and my days have been very productive. I plan to keep up this conscious unscheduling so I can be more present and accomplish more things here at home.

What have you done to simplify your schedule/life?

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Sexy Sweatpants

Since becoming a mother of two I have caught myself thinking or saying things that I never would have said 10 years ago. In fact, no self-respecting fashionista would ever dare to think such things!

Yes, being pregnant is a wonderful. There is no other time in life when we get to watch a miracle happen right before our eyes. The maternity clothing industry has made great strides over the past few years as well. Cute tunics, maternity leggings and snarky t-shirts are all the rage. But what about that postpartum wardrobe? Some women find themselves wearing their ill-fitting maternity garb well after baby’s arrival as they anxiously await the return of their pre-baby bods. For me, the period between about two and six months postpartum is the most difficult.

About a month after my youngest was born I was looking through my assortment of mismatched postpartum wear and heard myself say “I need to go get some sexy sweatpants.” What??? Immediately I stopped myself and thought “Since when are sweatpants sexy?” The answer… NEVER!

OMG! Have I become one of “those” women that thinks wearing sweatpants from Victoria Secret or my comfy pajama bottoms in public is socially acceptable? Hell no I haven’t! I am nowhere near that point yet. But I have to admit, I have run out to the grocery store to grab a few times in my not so flattering lounge pants. But the thought of going out on a mission to buy “sexy sweatpants” was a harsh wake up call. Ok ok, I must cut myself some slack. I DID just have a baby a few months ago and I am very proud of how well I am managing things this time around. I am showering regularly and brush my teeth every morning. I am definitely getting better at this but if I am thinking that I should buy some new sweatpants to replace my uncool sweatpants, then clearly I still have quite a way to go.

The fact of the matter is that right now comfort is king. I typically wear yoga pants and a nursing tank every day but put on jeans when I need to leave the house. I only have 3 pairs of jeans that fit right now. My “fat pants”(ya know, the ones you buy 2 sizes bigger so you can have something to wear until you can lose some of that baby weight?). A pair of skinny jeans that is one size bigger (aka my going out jeans) and a pair of my favorite casual jeans that must run a wee bit bigger than all my other jeans. Other than this I live in sweatpants and yoga pants.

Here in So Cal, wearing yoga pants, especially high-end brands like Lululemon is a trend all its own. I myself, have not embraced this trend as I am not ok with wearing my sweats or workout gear out and about on a daily basis. If I am going to or coming from the gym or yoga, that is a different story. So what is a girl to do at this stage? What can we wear to not look frumpy dumpy yet not look like we squeezed ourselves into jeans that are two sizes too small? I hardly want to go shell out a bunch of money on pants that I will only wear for the next couple of months. Luckily summer is around the corner so I guess maxi dresses and skirts are the way to go.

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There’s a new boss in town

Tomorrow was supposed to be the day that I returned to work after my lovely five month maternity leave. About a month ago, after several discussions with my husband, l resigned from my full-time position. We decided that this is what is best for our family at this time. When we were both working our lives were very stressful. We both spent two hours a day commuting and it felt like we were always playing catch up. My husband’s job required him to travel quite a bit and when he wasn’t traveling, he was working until the wee hours of the night. After picking up our oldest from daycare, where she spent 10 hours a day on average, I found it almost impossible to cook a delicious, nutritious meal every night. We wound up eating out or getting carry out several times a week. Weekends were filled with household tasks and errands that seemed to be never-ending.  I remember how stressful it was the first year back at work after our oldest was born. Trying to juggle all the things above and the responsibilities of being a new mom was more than a little bit overwhelming. I was pumping 4 times a day at work in the beginning and became obsessed with my milk supply. The guilt I felt every night when I saw my daughter after being away from her for 10 or more hours a day was crippling. When she stopped nursing, it became a little easier, and by easier I mean more tolerable, to be away from her. She was growing and learning and although I was missing it, I knew that she was being well cared for by the daycare provider. I cannot, however,  imagine trying to do all of this now with two little ones. Just the thought of trying to get myself and the two girls ready and out the door by 7am seems completely impossible to me.

That being said, I am still getting used to the idea of being a full-time mom and not earning a paycheck. It is starting to sink in a little more each week but still remains somewhat surreal. I can’t believe that I am lucky enough to be able to stay at home with our girls.

Sure, it will be really difficult not having my “own” money. This is one of the hardest things to accept. I have always been fiercely independent and I got my first job when I was 15 years old. I have worked consistently since then with only three brief periods of not working when I was living abroad and when I was a freshman in college. Today I am being paid in smiles and love from my two girls which is worth more than any amount of monetary compensation. The day our oldest asked me not to go back to work, and I was able to say “yes” was one of the best feelings a mother can have. I am so happy to be able to make her wish come true. Being present and spending quality time with my girls is gift that only I am able to give. Witnessing my youngest meet all of her developmental milestones is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The working world will always be there, but these precious memories are only attainable for a very short period of time. I don’t want to have any regrets about choosing work over my kids so whatever corners we need to cut or sacrifices we have to make to make this work, we’ll gladly do it. I am very lucky to have a husband who supports and actually encourages this decision. We are all looking forward to a less hectic and more healthy and happy family life this time around.

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Moratorium on Multi-tasking

As each day passes and my youngest grows before my eyes, I desperately try to grasp on to every last bit of baby time. I find myself constantly begging her not to get any older, yet despite my pleas, she continues to grow. While each new stage brings new joys, it also brings the realization that this may be the last time that I will experience all of these wonderful moments.

My husband and I are not sure whether or not we will have any more children. Part of me REALLY wants more, but part of me kind of thinks that two is enough. My husband is still undecided, but I can tell that he is swaying more in the favor of stopping at two. We’ve decided not to make any decisions about this until our youngest is a little bit older and we are through the infant stage since this is such a difficult and emotional time.

Each day, I do my best to soak up all that new baby smell and cuddles, and enjoy every moment of her infancy while entertaining and interacting with a very busy and curious toddler. The days are so busy running here and there and trying to squeeze in all the mundane life tasks such as laundry and grocery shopping, that I often have to stop and remind myself to be “in the moment”. Practicing yoga for the past 9 years has taught me how to be present and how to slow down my thoughts. Sadly, I still have to make a conscious decision to focus on my baby and give her my undivided attention. I didn’t have this problem with my oldest. I would sit and watch her all day as she slept. I enjoyed every coo and every diaper change. But now it seems like life revolves around my toddler’s schedule and my youngest has to go with the flow.

I decided to do something to try to slow time down about two weeks when I found myself trying to do too many things at once. I decided that if I don’t want her childhood to pass me by, I needed to make a conscious effort to stop trying to be Supermom. I want to give her the time and attention that my oldest got from me. I have decided to put a moratorium on multi-tasking. The idea came to me last week as I sat down to nurse her and automatically grabbed my phone. Instead of rocking her and singing lullabies, I was watching Lost or looking up things to buy on Etsy. Technology has done a wonderful job at making us all feel like underachievers if we aren’t doing three or four things at once. We cram so much into a day that we all become insomniacs because our brains have not had a chance to process the days events by the time our heads hit the pillow.  We stay up all night, tossing and turning, thinking about how we are going to fill the next day with tasks to distract us from our lives.

It’s true, I have learned to do so many things one-handed since I have become a mother. I can cook, clean and even reorganize my garage, but why? Why am I always trying to get so much done at once? Maybe it comes from our society’s ideal of being a Supermom or maybe it is an internal drive to accomplish more than I should but whatever the reason, I am fighting back. Last night as I thought about this problem of multi-tasking I was pumping while unloading the dishwasher, cooking dinner and supervising my oldest. It is ridiculous! From now on, I am going to sit down and nurse my daughter without having my phone nearby and I am making a concerted effort to not multi-task so I can share in the precious moments that are quietly slipping by. I have also made a schedule for activities so I can spend quality time with both of my daughters instead of getting lost in the day-to-day.

What have you done to simplify your life/schedule?

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