Unfiltered Mommy

An honest view of parenting in today's world

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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Cold Coffee

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Remember when you used to be able to sit down and sip on a nice cup of piping hot coffee and read a book? Well neither do I! I suppose at one point in my life I must have had this experience but right now it seems like a fantasy. Yes, the hot coffee and the having time to read books. Ah books, I vaguely remember reading novels for pleasure. I think it was sometime between 2008, when I finished my MSW, and 2011 when I started reading every book on pregnancy known to man. That’s probably about the last time I got to sit down and drink a cup of joe too. Coffee has always been part of my morning routine. When I was a freshman in high school I convinced my mom to buy General Foods International Coffee tins. I think I discovered them at a friend’s house one night when I slept over. You know, that powered sugar they called coffee? I loved them! Especially the French Vanilla. By senior year, I had convinced her to buy a coffee pot so I could make coffee from coffee grounds. You see, when I was a kid my mom drank instant coffee. Taster’s Choice instant to be exact. My first taste of coffee was when my sister started Kindergarten. I must have been about 2 years old. My mother and I would walk her to the bus stop everyday down our 1/4 mile long driveway. By the time the bus came, my mother’s coffee was stone cold. One day on the trek back up the driveway, I noticed that she wasn’t drinking it so I asked for a sip.  She was probably as surprised as I was, but I actually liked it.

Here I am, some 30 odd years later and I am somewhat of a coffee aficionado. I love my java! But unfortunately I am now back to drinking cold coffee. My husband, bless his soul, makes my coffee when he hears me stirring in the morning and delivers it to my bedside. I get about two sips if I’m lucky before the day begins. From there it ends up in the microwave about 3 times. Sometimes it stays in there the entire day because things start happening and I just plumb forget about it. I know it sounds trivial, but to me, this is one of life’s simple pleasures and while I adore my two daughters, I need my coffee for all to be right in the world.

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I’m no stay at home mom…

Recently on a friend’s fb page she made a statement that she was not a housewife, but rather a stay at home mom (SAHM). At first I was a little offended by the statement. I didn’t understand why she would not want to be referred to as a housewife. I asked her to clarify her statement. She had a great response. She said that her job was to enrich the lives of her three children, not to do all the cooking, cleaning and household chores. She spends the 8 hours a day that other people spend at work, entertaining and teaching her three young boys. Just as families with dual wage earners, the family shares the household chores on the weekends. Her husband helps out with meal preparation and they all pitch in to do the cleaning.. After hearing this, it made perfect sense to me and after being home with two children all day for three months I definitely see where she is coming from.

Having a background in child development and psychology, I try to spend my days teaching my oldest daughter all of the wonderful things I know so she can be a well-rounded and conscientious human being. I limit TV time and engage her in all sorts of activities to challenge her and help further her development in all areas including: sensory, fine and gross motor, social/emotional and cognitive. It is exhausting! There really isn’t any time for cleaning and laundry except on the days when she takes a good nap. Therefore, twice a month we have a cleaning lady and my husband and I share the burden of the laundry. My husband is more of a neat freak than I am so he cleans on the weeks when the cleaning lady doesn’t come and he also picks up after all of us every night. That is his choice. If it were up to me, I would just let it get messy until the next visit from the cleaning fairy. We both agree that this is money well spent each month.

But after thinking more and more about my friend’s statement and seeing SAHM listed as the occupation on people’s fb pages, I started thinking that maybe I am offended by the term “Stay At Home Mom”. Honestly, there are very few days where we “stay at home”. Our weeks are filled with outings to the park, walks on the ocean, trips to the library, zoo, aquarium, Legoland, and running errands.  I prefer the term “Full-time Mom”.

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She didn’t “let herself go”

We’ve all heard it. The disappointed statement of a young male, usually childless and more often than not, unwed, who feels let down that a woman who has children or has gotten married has “let herself go”. Because we all want to be depressed, frumpy and overweight by the time we hit middle age right? This statement is one of my biggest pet peeves. When I hear it I cringe! But it wasn’t until having my youngest child 3 months ago that I realized why.

When I was on maternity leave with my oldest, I was a mess. I was lucky if I got to brush my teeth before 2pm. I showered every 3 days or so and barely had time to use the bathroom. Having freshly shaved my legs was a distant memory. These things seem much easier now, but having multiple young children has a whole new set of challenges. This week my husband is out-of-town on business so I asked my parents to come and help out for a few days. I scheduled a day of beauty for myself. I got a mani/pedi, eyebrow wax and a haircut. It was a little slice of heaven, and I am truly grateful. Yes, I said grateful. Grateful that I could get 3 hours away from home to get some much-needed TLC. You see, I haven’t had my haircut in over 3 months, and the last time I got my eyebrows done on the fly at some random salon, I felt like I flushed $20 down the toilet because you couldn’t even tell that had been done afterward. This little slice of heaven will have to hold me over until I get the next opportunity to be childless, which will likely be in another 3 months or so. I sat down and thought about this the other day and figured that I get a day of beauty once a season. This was my Spring Makeover. I am guessing that I will have to wait until June for the next one.

So, one could look at me at the end of May and say that I’ve “let myself go”. Sure, my eyebrows will look like caterpillars, my hair will be stringy and I will have tons of split ends. My toenails will be jagged and my hangnails will be out of control, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t long for a day away from my regularly scheduled program to focus on myself and improve my mental health and outer appearance. It’s just that without the proper support, doing something without one or two children in tow is quite difficult. You see, we don’t have any local family or a regular childcare provider. Paying for drop-in care at child care or paying for a babysitter nearly doubles the cost of these services.

Next time I hear this phrase come out of someone’s mouth, I may try to help them understand how ignorant they sound. Or, maybe I’ll ask them to come and watch the kids so I can go to the salon so they won’t have to look at an unkempt version of who I used to be.  I wonder how well that would go over…

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Keeping Up in North County

I live in what is considered North County San Diego. It is a beautiful collection of quintessential beach towns stretching up the Pacific Coast from La Jolla to Oceanside. It is a wonderful place to live and raise children. The weather is perfect and the scenery is gorgeous. For the most part, people here are pretty laid back. There is a strong surf culture, and the area is also a big vacation destination. I actually credit the move here with helping us conceive our oldest since we struggled with infertility for four years prior to moving here. Despite all the wonderful things about this area, we still have our fair share of judgmental assholes. I encountered one just the other day at a local Rubio’s. I was there with the two girls when my youngest was about six weeks old. Ms. Judgey Eyes, as I like to call her, was there with her husband, daughter and son. I was looking at her son’s hat because it was from one of the schools that I was researching for my oldest. After ordering and settling down at a table, I noticed that Ms. Judgey Eyes was staring at me from across the restaurant. I took a quick inventory: nope, everything seemed to be in order. My oldest was safely strapped into her high chair. My youngest was sleeping peacefully in her car seat/Snap-n-go contraption and all my clothing was zipped, tucked and covering all the right places. I wondered to myself, “What in the world is she staring at?” Being a social worker, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. It’s a little something we learn in school called Strengths Based Perspective. We look for a strength to focus on rather than looking for a weakness or some kind of pathology.

Judging by the clothing that the Judgey Eyes children were wearing, and the fact that they attend this very elite school, I am guessing they are pretty well off. Now I like to think that my husband and I earn a pretty good living but I am also quite frugal. Especially when it comes to buying baby items or clothing that our children will use for a short time. I don’t buy $50 shoes for my toddler and I am always looking for ways to save a few bucks by shopping sales and using coupons. I want my kids to look good but cannot justify the overinflated cost of designer clothes that my kiddos will outgrow by the time the credit card bill comes. If Ms. Judgey Eyes wants to buy overpriced items for her children, that’s her prerogative. Maybe she has more disposable income, owns a children’s clothing boutique or has a passion for fashion. Whatever the reason, I was uncomfortable with the way she was looking down at me.

This experience got me thinking about the pressure to “keep up appearances” in today’s parenting world.  Whether it is having the hippest clothes, fancy stroller or attending the newest trendy preschool, there are a lot of things that can make a new mother feel like she is not doing enough for her kids even though none of this really matters. Let’s face it, children don’t know if you bought their clothes at Juicy or Goodwill. They don’t care if the stroller you bought was $75 on Craigslist or the new Bob with the $600 price tag. What they will remember is the love and time you spent playing with them. Why is it that moms feel the need to judge one another? Can’t we just support one another? It always seems strange to me since we all belong to the same “club” and we all know how hard it is to be a mother. I really wanted to go up to Ms. Judgey Eyes and call her out on her snooty-ness, but I didn’t. I bit my tongue and forgave her. After all, she did look pretty unhappy as her husband as his guzzled his beer at 11am

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Should I Stay or Should I Go Now

When I was pregnant with my oldest my husband told me that he wanted me to quit my job and be a stay at home mom. I wasn’t surprised since the German culture has a very different attitude about parenting and family values, but I just didn’t see how we could do it financially. The cost of living here in San Diego is pretty high as I am sure you can imagine.

We were also new to this area and I had just landed my full-time position after a year and a half of waiting. I wasn’t ready to just walk away from a job I had fought so hard to get. I also wasn’t ready to give up my career at the tender age of 32. Afterall, I have a lot of time and money invested in my education and training, and we are still paying of my student loans. I was working toward my lifetime goal of being able to do private practice child and family counseling and was about halfway done with the hour and supervision requirements needed to sit for the LCSW exam so I wanted to go back to finish the hours.

As my maternity leave drew to an end, I knew that I needed to make a decision. We looked at our budget, and I just didn’t see how we were going to be able to manage if I didn’t go back to work. I figured that I would be able to finish the hours I needed in about a year and by that time we would be ready to have a second child. I didn’t have a choice that time. I felt like being a stay-at-home-mom was a luxury we couldn’t afford.

Since that time our lives have changed so much. I have finished the LCSW hours and am awaiting approval to sit for the exam and my husband has been promoted. Now the cost of child care for two children under three is a huge expense and is a major factor in whether or not I will return to work this time around. Despite the fact that I have a Master’s degree and 12 years of experience in my field, my income is nowhere near that of other’s with MBAs, law degrees or those in computer related fields.

My maternity leave is now half over so we sat down to look at the budget again. I was planning to go back half-time but when we ran the numbers it just does not make sense. To have both girls at the childcare owned and operated by my work (see my post “Picking a Preschool”), it would actually put us in the red! How can this be? I had a hard time believing it myself but it’s because the child care costs so much. I am still trying to wrap my head around this whole “Stay-at-home-mom” thing. Can’t say that I am not ecstatic to be able to spend every day watching my girls grow and learn new things, but I’d be lying if I said I was not conflicted.

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A few things I’ve learned along the way

I got a lot of advice about parenting before my first daughter was born, but unfortunately no one tells you the shit that you really need to know about giving birth or the first few weeks of the baby’s life. I found myself saying “Well, that would’ve been nice to know!” on multiple occasions during the first few month.  I always said that one day, I would make a list of the things so I could save my friends the hassles and hardships that I unknowingly encountered. So here it is:

1. Bleeding- You will bleed after you have a vaginal delivery. It can last anywhere from a week to six weeks after delivery so stock up on Overnight Maxipads. I don’t mean a pack of 16 either. Get the jumbo pack. I found myself running to Target when my baby was 3 days old to buy some as well as Tucks pads because I was not prepared.

2. Hormone fluctuation after delivery is a bitch! Everyone always says that pregnant women are emotional due to the ever-changing hormone levels but what they don’t tell you is the emotional roller coaster you go on after birth  as your body reestablishes homeostasis.

3. Be flexible and enjoy your birth journey. Although you may have a very well thought out birth plan, things may not happen that way, and that’s ok. The end goal is to have a healthy mama and baby afterward. The rest it just details.  

4. All diapers are not created equal. Pampers did not fit my girls at all. After tons of leaks I started buying Huggies which were so much better. Also, Mom to Mom brand from Vons are the bomb and are half the price.

5. If you plan on cloth diapering, buy some newborn size disposables to use until baby has filled out enough for the cloth. Just one box will do. They will probably grow out of this size in a week or two.

6. Lactation constants are worth their weight in gold! I never would have made it to my goal of nursing my oldest for a year without the support of my lactation consultant. Luckily for me, my husband’s company has a program that provides the service for free but I would highly recommend that any mother who plans to nurse her infant find a lactation consultant or support group immediately.

7. The first few months will go too fast simply because you are so busy. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy your newborn every once in a while. They will never be as little as they are right now.

8. Baby nails are paper-thin and razor-sharp. People laughed when I registered for baby nail files but it was one of the most useful items I got. My oldest’s nails were so thin that I could not cut them with clippers for the first few months. When she got older I had to sneak in her room at night with my headlamp on clip her nails.

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Advice for first time moms

When you are a new mom, people feel like it’s their responsibility to give you advice. Whether it’s their opinion on your plan to do natural birth, cloth diapering, work vs. stay at home, or any other topic they so desire. It’s almost as if they think that you haven’t done any research on your own because obviously you have no idea what you’re talking about. Oh, and it doesn’t stop there. Once your little budge of joy arrives, people are even more forth coming with their opinions about how you should be parenting.

After the first few months, I developed a way of coping with this unsolicited advice. The majority of the time I say something like “Oh yes, thank you so much” or “We’re fine, thank you.” and politely go about my business. However, every once in a while I can’t hold it in so this is when I unleash my own very strong, well researched opinion on them, just as lovingly as they have decided to tell me that they don’t they don’t agree with what I’m doing. Guess what nosey lady at the grocery store, yes, I do realize that my baby is crying and that she is most likely hungry but no, I do not need your help nor am I going to abandon my cart full of a week’s worth of groceries to run out to my car to feed her this instant because her crying makes you uncomfortable. I am certain that my baby will not die from hunger or from crying for 10 minutes while I finish up at the deli and check out. Now, could I have said “Oh you’re right. She might be hungry.”? Of course I could have! But after the second time she sought me out to tell me that I wasn’t parenting right, I’d had it.

My advice to new mom’s is simple. Listen to what others want to tell you, thank them, and then forget 90% of what they say.

My advice to those who want to give unsolicited advice: Bite your tongue and say something complimentary instead. This new mama needs you to tell her what she’s doing right because she’s already too self-critical as it is.

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Picking a preschool

  • When I was five months pregnant with my first daughter, I started researching daycares. I knew that I needed to get an early jump on because I was looking for the perfect place. I was planning to return to my full-time, four-day a week job when my baby was just five months old. I know, I know, some of you are thinking, “Wow, five whole months?” I only got six weeks, 12 weeks…” Luckily for me, I moved to California just before starting my family so I got to take advantage of their very generous (for this country anyways) maternity leave. I work for a large organization which has a childcare center with a preschool that gives priority to employees of my company. I had always heard that the waiting list can be pretty lengthy, so when I was nine weeks pregnant, I called and placed my name on the waiting list. The gal who answered the phone when I called to schedule my tour told me to be sure and make other plans in case they didn’t have a spot available when I was ready to return to work. When I toured this center, I saw a few things that didn’t sit well with me. In fact, when I got back to my car, I called my husband and cried.  I called the Director to clarify a few things and after hearing her snarky responses, I decided that this was not the place for me or my daughter, at least not until she would no longer be an infant.

At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted a center or a home daycare provider so I researched both. I toured 3 more centers before I knew that home daycare was more my style. After calling umpteen licensed home daycares and touring four or five, I found Dora. Dora is a sixty-something Argentinian woman who told me that she has three grown children and has been providing childcare in her home for the past 30 years. She was like a grandma to my daughter and I always knew that my most treasured gem would be well taken care of.

Fast forward to today. My daughter has now outgrown the loving grandma daycare. She is a very bright and active child who needs stimulation. She soaks up every word she hears and has a thirst for knowledge so we have decided that even though I am home on maternity leave with my second daughter for the next three months, she needs to go to a preschool setting. So, the search begins once again.

I returned to one of the centers I previously toured now that I was looking for a school rather than infant care. The young man who gave me the tour, the son of the owner, explained all the different areas to me and let me ask all my questions but it still didn’t seem “right”. He told me how the children did, X, Y and Z but I couldn’t find evidence of any of the things he mentioned. The prices were also a little steep for me but I figured that you get what you pay for and I was willing to pay more if a place met my expectations. I also toured a new place near my home which just opened up. The Director seemed a little fake but I really liked the different classrooms for art and science. She also told us about the curriculum they use to teach the older children how to read and write. My husband went on this tour also and he thought it sounded good and the price was right so I scheduled a 2 hour classroom visit the week before my toddler was scheduled to enroll. I had really high hopes that this would be the place but unfortunately I was not impressed. The lead teacher did not have control of the classroom and kids were running all around doing whatever they wanted. Kids were pushing each other, climbing on things and she spent the majority of her time attempting to redirect the children by saying “No thank you”. I mean, what is that? If kids are being dangerous, saying “no thank you” isn’t going to teach them to stop being reckless. This is something a burned out teacher does. They try to get through the day. In fact, I felt the need to intervene numerous times when I saw things that were unsafe. I left this school thinking that I should call and offer to do some training on classroom behavior management for the school or some counseling for the teacher who is clearly no longer enjoys her job. Maybe she was having a hard day because the kids were hyper, maybe this isn’t a typical day. Whatever the reason, I felt like I don’t want my kid to either A. get hurt as a result of the lack of control, or B. learn these behaviors. I looked for the Director on my way out but she was not in her office.  I expected her to call me that afternoon to see how the visit went but she didn’t call. She didn’t call the next day either. On the next Monday, the day before my child was to start, I left her a message stating that we would not be attending the school. No phone call to find out why, which I find odd. You would think that the Director of a school, especially a school that has only been open 4 months would want to know what changed my mind.

Now, please know that I am not delusional. I know that no place is ever going to be perfect but I do have some expectations that are nonnegotiable, mostly revolving around safety and well-being. Today we did a visit at the preschool my neighbor’s children go to. It definitely felt like a better fit. We are planning to enroll in March so stay tuned…

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