Dear New Mom

Because even when you finally get their room clean, they have a mind of their own. Fact: you can’t get crap done with kids.

Hello friend. How are you? Tired? Overjoyed? Overwhelmed? Whatever you’re feeling, it’s ok. You’re not alone. Millions of mothers have done this before you, and there’s probably nothing you can throw at us that we haven’t heard before. And all those books you read to prepare you? They only tell about half of the story. Yes, they talk about dads taking turns “getting up with the baby during the night.” But you know what? Sometimes this doesn’t happen. Some men are just wired differently and can’t function the next day with little sleep. (Moms always can, even if we’re face-plant tired.) And some men can actually sleep through a baby screaming for more than half an hour straight. Yes, it’s annoying. The books don’t talk about this. But that doesn’t mean they’re not good dads, it just means your expectations will need to shift if you’ve been counting on them to share nighttime parenting duties 50/50. And sometimes, you’ll hit them with a pillow over the head or curse at them while they’re happily snoozing. That’s ok, too. (Just don’t use anything harder than a pillow, and if you’re tempted, seek therapy.)

And at some point, when you’re starting to get your sea legs and actually feel like putting on makeup again, you’ll start to feel a false sense of optimism. You’ll tell yourself, “This isn’t so bad, I CAN do it all! My house can be clean, my kid can always appear in public in un-stained clothes with a snot-free face, and my stomach will someday return to its former state.” Well, for some women (Hollywood celebs), this might be true, but it’s just not realistic. Or desirable, even. When your daughter has her own child someday, and is struggling with these same issues, wouldn’t you rather be able to tell her, “Oh, honey, it’s ok. I’ve been there too.” I mean, who wants to hear, “Well, you know, I did it all. There was never cheese smashed into the carpet, and I got back into my old jeans in six months.” Blech. Don’t be THAT grandma.

There’s another thing I’d like to add. You know those moms who make it look so easy? Unless your’re intimately familiar with what goes on behind her closed doors, it’s probably all a front. That’s what Instagram, selective Facebook status updates, and Spanx are for. She wants you to think she’s got it all pulled together, that her kitchen counters would always pass a white-glove inspection, her kids never smear boogers on her Coach purse, and she and her husband make wild, passionate love with the lights on every night. For some reason, she needs her image, and that’s ok. She probably needs more help than the rest of us (ok, she definitely needs more help).

If you just remember these three things, you’ll feel a little better about your new role, and not feel like such a massive failure.

1. Your hormones are whack, and will be for a long, long, long time. (Try years.) Just accept this new roller coaster ride, and maybe you’ll even throw your hands up and say, “Whee!” when the car comes crashing to the bottom. Or, just keep lots and lots of chocolate on hand. It helps, too.

2. You can’t get crap done. Just let it go. Those Christmas cards might not get sent. The kitchen floor might be perpetually sticky, and your backseat might never be completely free of Cheerios, milk splatters or an explosion of toys.

3. You’re their mom for a reason. You’re not perfect, but they don’t need you to be. Someday, they might even tell you they hate you (even at three years old during a massive meltdown). But you know what? They don’t mean it. They love you. They need you. You’re just right for them.

And remember, when you’re feeling down, we’re here for you. You can come over to our messy house, let your snot-nosed kid play with our snot-nosed kid, and help us polish off that hormone-induced pan of brownies we just baked (and burned a little).

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Tips for Taking Your Toddler to Work

Every great once in a while, it happens. You have an important client meeting, one that you’d rather not reschedule, and your childcare plans fall through. Now what? You could call and beg and plead with everyone you know to sit on your kid for awhile, but you did that last week, and you’re out of favors. Or, you don’t have any backup resources. So you’re faced with two options: reschedule or bring your offspring along for the ride. I chose the latter.

I strapped my sixteen-month-old into her car seat, and headed into town (her older sister had other arrangements). I was a little apprehensive about how my appointment would go, but I’m glad to report that there were no major glitches. I was productive, she was happy, the client was satisfied. Win-win-win! Now, I realize it doesn’t always go this way, and in fact, I have some horror stories of unsuccessful attempts to take my older daughter to work back when I had an office job. *shudder*

So, if you find yourself in this situation, there’s no need to panic (unless you’re an ER doctor or pilot or police officer or something and you can’t get away with this, then panic away).

1. Judge Your Child’s Temperament to See if They Can Manage This Scenario
I know my kids well. My youngest is your classic “easy child” and goes with the flow. My oldest creates her own flow and doesn’t easily adjust to new situations. I’m not sure I would have attempted this with my oldest, or it probably would have been a disaster (as it has been in the past).

This girl is always up for an adventure!

2. Inform the Client and Ask for Consent
The great majority of the time, your client will understand if you explain the situation. But don’t just show up and surprise them, and don’t be surprised or offended if they’d rather reschedule. It’s not personal.

Nobody seemed to mind my little helper.

3. Remain Calm. Remain Confident.
If you’re stressing out, your toddler will sense your mood. Keep your tone light, and act as if it’s just as exciting as a trip to the library or park. And once you’re in the meeting with your client, keep your chin up. Just because you have a child in tow doesn’t make you any less of a professional, and doesn’t diminish your intelligence. Work it momma!

4. Bring a “bag of tricks.”
It’s common sense, but absolutely crucial. You’ll need a goody bag stashed with books, toys, snacks, and any other diversion you can think of. Be prepared to cycle through them all.

Goldfish, dolls, books, we had it all!

5. Give them the Holy Grail. 
For some kids, this is your cell phone. For others, your keys. Whatever that object is that you rarely let them have, give it to them now (within reason. Don’t hand them your pocket knife of anything.) It’ll buy you some time. For my daughter, this was a lollipop (or two). We can’ t pass by a candy aisle in the grocery store without her yelling, “Pop, pop!” Baby wants. Baby gets.

Stain on the shelves matches the stains on her shirt. Oh well, the peace and quiet the lollipop provided was worth it!

6. As soon as possible, let them play.
After your meeting wraps up, find the nearest place your toddler can play, and let them go to town. I was lucky enough today that my client had a kid’s play area in the store. Genius. I released her from her stroller and set her free! It was only for 10 minutes or so, but long enough to satisfy her before strapping her in her car seat again.

She was happy to get out of her stroller and play with new toys.

While taking your toddler along as your mini-assistant might not always go smoothly, it’s worth trying. Will I do it again? Only if I absolutely have to. She was a doll, and while I enjoyed her companionship, momma needs her grown-up time once a week! :-)

Tu-tus and Toot-toots (Letting it All Go at Dance Class)

She can let it all go in dance class and she doesn’t give a rip.

She sashayed. She plied. She jumped. She somersaulted. She wiggled. She giggled. She ran around the room with reckless abandon.

And then…she ripped one.

My sweet-faced, curly-haired three-year-old angel let it all go in dance class, literally. And not while the music was blaring. Not while their little bodies were in motion. She waited until prayer circle. When it was quiet. Eerily quiet. Those last few seconds after the instructor asks, “Any last prayer requests?”

Bwooooop!! “Hee-hee-hee I tooted.” Yep. That was my daughter. Our tiny dancer is a big tooter.

The other girls giggled, too young to know (or care), that public flatulence isn’t socially acceptable. A few of the older girls looked at her with what seemed to be…admiration.  “Wow, that chick just totally farted and didn’t even care! OMG she laughed about it!” (Or whatever tween girls talk like nowadays.)

And while I have to admit I didn’t puff my chest and proclaim, “That’s my girl!,” I wasn’t embarrassed either. After all, gas happens. I’ll just have to teach her how to be a little more discreet and say, “Excuse me,” or better yet, “It was the dog.”

You see, I was a little hesitant to enroll her in dance class. And not just because of the cost. I worried about the teeny outfits, the sexualized moves, the over-emphasis on appearance and other negative stereotypes of the “dance culture.” But I’m comfortable with the teacher, and the only other student is my daughter’s best friend, so I decided to give it a shot. And she loves it. Absolutely loves it. We’ve only been to two classes, and I can already tell she’s really enjoying herself.

That’s what matters most to me. That she learns to enjoy moving her body and gains confidence by learning to perform. I just want her to have fun. I want her to enjoy being young before the weight of the world lands on her shoulders. For now, she’s carefree. She can let it all go in dance class and not give a rip.

Let’s Carpe the Heck out of this Diem!

Soaking in some mommy-daughter time.

For every stay-at-home-mom who’s complaining on her blog about her lack of appreciation (ahem, like me), there’s another mom sitting in a cubicle, dreaming of spending time with her little ones. She glances over at their faces in the 5×7 frame, and counts the hours and minutes until she can ooze into her front door after a long day of work to a chorus of “Mommy! Mommy! We’re so glad you’re home!” She would give anything to be in my shoes, but she can’t. She’s the sole bread winner, or the insurance carrier, or the single parent.

For every hair I pull out of my head while my children are driving me crazy, there’s another mom thousands of miles away, with sand in her hair and her combat boots. It will be months, not hours or minutes, until she holds her child again. She would give anything to be in my shoes, but she can’t. Her tour isn’t over until February, and she’s making the most of mommy time she can through Skype calls and frequent Facebook posts.

Sometimes, life really is a bowl full of cherries.

And for every time minute of solitude I long for (just an empty house and a bathroom I can use alone for pete’s sake), there’s another woman out there who longs for a full house, for a full womb. Her arms are empty. She would give anything to be in my shoes, but she can’t. Her dreams of bringing a child into this world will never come true. Empty. Alone. These are things that she dreads, not that she embraces.

So in honor of my sisters out there, I’m carpeing the heck out of this diem. I’m picnicking on the front porch, picking wildflowers, giving wagon rides, spoiling with kisses, making each hug last a little longer. I not only smelled the roses, I cut them and put them in a vase. I not embraced that life is sometimes like a bowl of cherries, I cut them up and put them in muffins. The cleaning will wait. The stressing can wait. I will enjoy my children. I will caress their faces. I will dance in these shoes, for all those who can’t.

Smell here. Smell often.

She works hard for no money, so hard for no money…

Alright. Before I made the decision to stay home with my girls full time almost five months ago, my SAHM friends tried to warn me. They told me how hard it was to live on a frayed shoestring budget, never get a sick day, be with your kids from sunup to sundown and the kicker? Nobody really appreciates you for it. While I never thought for a second that this job would be easy, I had NO idea how hard it would be. No idea. I work so hard…for no money.

They appreciate me, right? Right?! I sure appreciate them.

But it’s not just about the money. I left a career I was good at. Really good at. But I was in the right place at the wrong time in my life. And time was slipping away at home. My babies are small, and seeing them for only a few hours (if that) every day just wasn’t enough for me. I craved their company. And while I don’t regret this decision to amputate half of our income in exchange for more face time with my children, there’s something I’ve come to realize. This isn’t my calling. I just don’t feel like I’m any good at what I do. I mean, I’m not the most terrible mother to have ever sleepwalked across this earth, but I’m no June Cleaver either.

Then again, I have no way of knowing whether or not I’m cut out to be an at-home mom. The usual metrics of the working world don’t apply. Paycheck? Nope. Bonus? Nope. Quarterly evaluation? Nope. Promotion? Nope. Verbal praise? Nope. Sure, my three year old has said, “You’re my best friend mommy. I want to be just like you when I grow up and stay home with my kids.” But that’s quickly negated with, “I hate you! I want you to go to work and never come home.” That sure made me feel like a pile of poo.

I never knew before how much I need Words of Affirmation (one of my love languages), until I stopped getting any. Sure, money is nice (and we could sure use some right now), but nothing quite fluffs my ego like an “atta girl.” (And if you’re a future employer, I don’t take payment in compliments. I’ll still negotiate for that higher salary.) At this current job, I have one daughter who’s unintelligible (but adorable), another daughter whose loves me one minute and hates me the next (also adorable) and a husband who wonders why the house looks like it’s been “ransacked” when he gets home every day. (Because we were robbed by a gang of diaper-wearing bandits, that’s why.)

I am not a lazy person. I work so hard to scrimp and save and educate and pacify and cook and clean and clean and cook and bathe and play and clean some more. And at the  end of the day, it’s so hard to determine if any impact has been made. It’s just me, faced with a dirty home after the family has gone to bed. Every night.

So, why not just polish up my resume, slip back into some heels and re-enter the workforce? It’s not that easy. First and foremost, I would miss my girls. I. Love. These. Girls. When we end our day on a sour note (bedtime battles are going to be the death of me), I know I have all day–all day–tomorrow to make it better. When the weather is glorious, we head to the park because we can. When we get the itch to check out some new books from the library, we head into town because we can. That quality time I was craving? I’m swimming in it now. And it’s awesome.

But I also don’t want us to be swimming in debt before the year is through. What if I have to go back into the workforce, and nobody will have me? What if quality childcare isn’t available? These are the questions that haunt me. Those, and “What’s that smell?” Something always smells around here…

No, I’m not ready to make any major life decisions. I’m just venting. Perhaps whining a little. But I’m giving myself permission to do so. After all, not everybody has a job they’re highly qualified for. That cashier who rang you up today? She was a little slow, but she got the job done. That fast-food worker who handed you your french fries? He could have been friendlier, but you got what you ordered. I’m doing the best I can with what I have. And that’s pretty much all any employer can hope for.