Category Archives: motherhood

Postpartum Jeans Shopping – Part 1

Looking fierce in skinny jeans.

Looking fierce in skinny jeans. Photo by Edward Liu.

My everyday clothing for the past six months has been exceptionally casual due to my expanding and contracting waistline, the general business of having a newborn, and the lack of time I have to spend on my appearance.  I mean, I care about how I look but not enough to be uncomfortable in any way.  I’m really one step away from pajamas most days.  So those of you in need of style guidelines from a woman six months postpartum of her 2nd child, here they are.

1. If my jeans are roomy enough that I can’t feel my muffin top with every move and flexible enough that I can pull them over my hips without unbuttoning them, these are jeans that are a “good fit.”

2. If said jeans are on and my maternity t-shirt does not have poop, urine, spitup or breast milk stains, this is called an “outfit.”

3. If I have not only shampooed but also conditioned my hair, this is called “primped.”

4. If my nursing bra does not smell like breast milk, this is called “lingerie” and is appropriate for a date night out.

I went shopping at Macy’s recently for jeans, as my pre-pregnancy jeans are too small and no longer fit me, and my maternity jeans are too big.  The experience was sobering.  It seems there’s a difference between checking myself out in a mirror from the waist up after putting on an “outfit” as I’m running to catch a screaming toddler and actually being alone, viewing myself in a full-length mirror in a well-lit dressing room.   Even though my maternity belly is no longer there, the rest of my body still looks pregnant.

I also found that my understanding of my own body was in a time warp.  I had selected some roomy looking size 10’s and some slimmer 12’s thinking, “These are cuuuute.  These will look great.”  Not so.  My mind had been fondly remembering the pre-baby butt, the pre-stretched belly.  It became crystal clear that my brain had some catching up to do.  Reality check: those 14’s are the only ones you will be able to pull over your widened hips.

Will she buy the 14’s? Will she run screaming from the dressing room? Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow….

A Mother’s Rights

A Mother's Rights

Being in the midst of the first few years of motherhood has got me thinking about all the things I need but don’t ask for, ask for but don’t take, and take but feel guilty for taking. To help set my head straight, I came up with a Bill of Rights for mamas.  Things we need to pay attention to in order to preserve our mental, emotional and physical well-being.

A Mother’s Rights

1. You have the right to eight hours of sleep in a 24 hour time period.
2. You have the right to eat a meal start to finish while sitting down at the table at least once a day.
3. You have the right to wear clothes  that fit.
4. You have the right to revise your sex life as needed without pressure to meet a quota.
5. You have the right to shower or bathe every day.
6. You have the right to exercise every day.
7. You have the right to listen to music that you like.
8. You have the right to explore who you are now.
9. You have the right to not always be your best.
10. You have the right to make things easy on yourself when it comes to grocery shopping and meal planning.
11. You have the right to feel however you feel about whatever phase of parenting you are in.
12. You have the right to enlist help for everyday tasks.
13. You have the right to say no to invitations.
14.  You have the right to disagree with your friend’s parenting styles.
15. You have the right to change any or all of your priorities.

The Details….

1. You have the right to eight hours of sleep in a 24 hour time period.

Don’t think for one second that your partner somehow deserves more sleep than you do (stay-at-home moms, I’m looking at us.) Humans need sleep to function. In all likelihood, if you are a new mom or your toddler is a rough sleeper, you won’t be getting eight uninterrupted hours regularly for a while. But eight hours spread out over a full day and night can happen.  And I am here to remind you that it is your right to claim those hours – interrupted or not- without guilt, whenever you possibly can. Sleep is crucial. Divide nights up with a spouse, practice early bedtimes (for you, not just the kids.)  And of course, get your nap on. If you need a nap and can find a way to get one, do it. It’s your right.

2. You have the right to eat a meal start to finish while sitting down at the table at least once a day.

I say once a day because anything more than that is too lofty an ambition (for me, at least.) But like anyone else, you have a right to sit while you eat- start to finish. Usually this means planning and prepping – like cutting up baby-sized bites for little ones, setting water, napkins, and other necessities out- before your butt hits the chair.

3. You have the right to wear clothes  that fit.

After pregnancy, don’t expect your body to shrink from its expanded size and proportion back to the exact same size and shape it was before. It may not ever be the same, even if you lose all your baby weight (which you might not and that’s OK too.) Instead of trying to squeeze into your old jeans and feeling fat about it, or wearing postpartum pants a year after baby arrived and feeling un-sexy as hell, get thee to some sort of clothing store and buy some clothes that fit you now. And don’t forget the shoes. I outgrew most of my shoes after two pregnancies and thought I could just deal with it. Finally breaking down and admitting my gd shoes didn’t fit was a step toward mama-freedom. Mama needed a new pair of shoes, y’all and I had a right to fulfill that simple need. Just like you do.

4. You have the right to revise your sex life as needed without pressure to meet a quota.

Don’t even try and compare your sex life now to what it was before you had kids. If you wait six months, seven months, or a year after having a baby to have sex, it’s OK. If you used to have sex once a week before kids, and now it’s once a month or every other month or practically never, it’s OK. If you are up all night with your baby and would rather sleep than have sex, it’s OK.  Sheer lack of time and opportunity are huge variables. It doesn’t mean you aren’t sexy or your relationship with your spouse isn’t strong if you aren’t having regular sex. Becoming a parent changed your whole world, did you think it would change everything except your sex life? Nope, that changes too.

5. You have the right to shower or bathe every day.

Water is a great healer. It rejuvenates and replenishes on many levels. In ten minutes, you can wash off a stressful night or mentally prepare for a busy day. It is a safe place to just be with yourself.  Not to mention showering makes you smell good- always a bonus in a day filled with breastmilk, diapers and baby food.

6. You have the right to exercise every day.

Even a little bit- I’m talking 10 minutes of walking- either with or without a stroller or baby carrier can do wonders. Or taking a few minutes to stretch your legs up to the ceiling and do some abdominal twists before getting out of bed in the morning can really feel good.  Do not forget about this grand instrument that is your body. It is your right to work it out every day, even for a few minutes just to say hello.

7.  You have the right to listen music that you like.

Most toddler music sucks. True, there are some exceptions. But there is absolutely no reason why your little one can’t listen to the music you like starting at age 0. They’ll be better off for it. Music is so good for little ones and it’s good for mamas too.Music makes us happy.  And if mama’s happy, everybody’s happy.

8. You have the right to explore who you are now.

A few years of motherhood and your life is unrecognizable. Suddenly things got different. You’re nursing every two hours, driving a mini-van (which you swore you never would do), sharing your bed with three people (none of them is your partner and all of them are under age five) and shopping with the whole family in mind. Where are you in this picture? Your life is different, but are you?  Ten minutes of journaling or meditating can give you the chance to hear your voice again. Same goes for a night out with friends. Or even thumbing through a Pottery Barn catalog to ask yourself- “What do I like now? What’s my favorite color? What would I like to see on my walls?” You don’t have to actually buy anything, but you do have the right to carve out time to hear your voice, your interests, your breath, your rhythm.

9. You have the right to not always be your best.

Some days you dial it in and you have a right to. You do not have to be 100% every moment, every day. For one thing, your kids will learn that they can have off-days too. For another, you will suffer less by accepting your off-days as totally normal and acceptable. You don’t always have to do the full blown puppet show with five characters, costume changes and funny voices. Sometimes it’s OK to throw a read-along book into the cd player and go read a magazine while your kids listen.  Spending all your energy on your kids will get you tired, sick, resentful, depressed, and doubting yourself. So if that means your kid watches a little TV while you spend some time on Pinterest looking at things that make you smile, do that.

10.  You have the right to make things easy on yourself when it comes to grocery shopping and meal planning.

Did you know it’s ok to eat Cheerios and non-organic strawberries for dinner? Did you know that many grocery stores offer online ordering and delivery services? Did you know that many people in our generation grew up eating Spaghettio’s, Twinkies, and Kraft Mac & Cheese regularly and are now running Iron Man races and marathons? If you like meal planning and it helps your budget, great. If you don’t, eating simply (think: grilled cheese, rice and beans, noodles and sauce) is easy on the budget too and just…easy. And easy is OK.

11. You have the right to feel however you feel about whatever phase of parenting you are in.

Bored, angry, excited, lonely, nervous, anxious, impatient. Maybe your toddler is brave and reckless and it scares the crap out of you because you think he’ll be that way forever. Maybe you are bored senseless by nursing and can’t wait for the day when you wean. Maybe your one year old is learning to walk and you are dreading the changes you must make to your house to child-proof it. Don’t even try to push away the many, many emotions that come from parenting daily. Most of them come in phases just like every single aspect of a growing babe comes in phases. Try to just be with whatever you feel even if it’s not all flowers and rainbows. Denial will actually make the joys harder to come by. Let “this too shall pass” be your mantra.

12. You have the right to enlist help for everyday tasks.

Have you ever hired someone to come in and clean your house? It is like a dream come true. They scrub your toilets, wash the smashed blueberries and peas off the floor, dust the shelves you haven’t looked at in months, and scrub the microwave. (Are you fantasizing yet?) And that’s just for starters. If you have the extra cash to pay someone to do the hard cleaning once a month, do it. It is worth every single penny. Hiring a mother’s helper can also be a huge payoff for a small investment (as little as $5 an hour for responsible pre-teens) if they’re willing to straighten up toys, fold laundry, or watch the kids while you do the household stuff. You do not have to do every little thing on your own. The feeling of support from getting a little help on the side is an exponential boost.

13. You have the right to say no to invitations.

Don’t want to go the outdoor picnic in 90 degree weather and have to chase down your little ones for three hours while getting maybe half of a conversation in? Don’t go. Don’t want to try to parent your two squirmy kids through a meal at a restaurant? Don’t go. Or how about a house party at the pristine, no-kids home of a friend? Just don’t do it. If your friends are coming with you into this phase of your life- where your whole evening revolves around doing bedtime, and you don’t enter any facility or event unless there is a kid-friendly area, and sometimes the thought of rallying to get everyone out the door and in the car is just too much- they will understand.

14.  You have the right to disagree with your friend’s parenting styles.

They yell at their kids. Or maybe they are so hands-off that their home is a zoo without consequences.  All of sudden, how your friends parent their kids matters to you. And it should. You are a parent now. Here is when friends might float in and out of your life. And when you might decide you don’t want your kids hanging out with their kids. It’s your right to have your own opinions and go your own way as a family.

15. You have the right to change any or all of your priorities.

At any moment, you could change your mind….but right now, you’d rather hang out with your kids than do almost anything else. You stopped using pesticides on your lawn, started donating money to environmental groups and PBS, and quit your job to be home with the kids. You have changed your priorities. That’s your right. Maybe you’d rather go camping as a family than take that solo trip to Ireland you’d always dreamed of. This is not a problem to be fixed. It is a shift in priorities that tells you how important you are to these people you are helping grow. And how important they are to you. You deserve to let yourself change over this thing, motherhood. It’s OK to remap your life, and change your destinations or how you want to get to them. Slowly, simply and easily-maybe with a big fat smile on your face knowing no matter what your goals are, you are making a difference in those kiddos lives just by being you, mama.

CO trip 003

Bubble Boys

The other day, my 3 year old was invited to watch a video with some other little ones while the grown-ups talked. My husband and I usually let him watch TV or play ipod learning apps pretty regularly- almost every day- but his exposure to different shows has been pretty limited up to this point. He’s watched things like: Baby Einstein, Sid the Science Kid, Mary Poppins and the most PG-ish of the bunch, Cars.  We don’t watch adult shows when he is around or have the TV on as background noise. We feel like we want to protect him from the media saturation that can happen if we don’t keep a close eye on when screens are on and what he’s viewing.

On this day, he had been watching the selected movie with the other kids for about a half an hour before coming to find me to let me know he didn’t want to watch anymore.

His reason? The movie was “too scary.”

What they were watching?  “Winnie the Pooh.”

This made me so, so happy.  Some parents might worry that this was an indicator that their child is too sensitive.  For me, preserving his sensitivity is a good thing.  I want him to have a lengthy, sparkling childhood where he sees examples of kindness, cooperation, and curiosity in the characters he observes.

Consequently, I can be extremely protective of what he’s exposed to.  This will be the same for my 10 month old, too.  My bubble boys.  Like every parent, I try to protect them from concepts they don’t need to know about.

I used to have a book called The Hidden Messages in Water, that described how the crystallization of frozen water can be affected by the presence of either positive or negative words.  Words like harmony, peace, and love created symmetry, radiance, and beauty.  Words like hate and war had the opposite effect. It’s kind of a cool concept and the pictures of the water crystals from this book really stuck with me.

So when I think about what I want my boys exposed to, it’s the words that created symmetrical, radiant crystals- those that contribute to a harmonious inner life and don’t bring up questions they have no need to answer yet.

Here are some words I don’t want them to even have in their airspace until absolutely necessary.

hate, war, guns, fight, ugly, combat, war, poor, horror, battle, terror, first place, last place, loser, winner, bad, extinction,

Ok, the list goes on and on. As of right now, he lives in a world where people are kind to each other, take care of each other, are gentle, mindful, musical, and fun. I hope that we can keep the media he’s exposed to be reflective of this gentle world for as long as we can.  Hopefully he’ll learn that TV and movies aren’t just about entertainment, but also about learning and really great stories. They’re such a powerful tools…I hope we can teach him how to use them wisely.

 

 

 

It’s sooooo good.

This is dazzling yellowy-orange glorious.  I’m sitting in a coffee shop (no, it’s not Starbucks- but they’re still my boo) and writing on my laptop.  I am in a squishy green chair, drinking a latte that is not on a table behind me, or just out of reach hiding on some high surface above the reach of little groping hands. It’s here- right next to me.

Photo on 7-31-13 at 11.21 AM

It’s still hot as I’m drinking it because I have not been interrupted from drinking it. I am drinking my coffee uninterrupted and alone. When I set down my coffee next to me on a table, I have both hands free to type so I can correct typos if I choose. I can read what I’ve written over and over if I choose.  I have the time for it. My legs are crossed and my laptop is resting on my lap- it is my lap’s only occupant.

I am writing this short post as a love letter to the heavens that are available on an every day basis in this life. I’m in one of them, courtesy of my babysitter. Because were it not for her, I would not be here alone with my coffee and laptop, gazing out the window every so often as I write. Just gazing and thinking my thoughts. I don’t have to speak at all. I can be silent, unentertaining, internal.  But if I were to speak, I wouldn’t have to edit out swearing, sarcasm, adult themes, pettiness, or unwarranted anger or frustration.

It used to be my favorite thing was to go to coffeeshops or restaurants by myself and write, read or just listen to people’s conversations.  It was heaven to me.  Now I have multiple heavens, one of which is this peaceful, gazy, quiet bliss.  Another is the one that awaits me when I return home. That one is the heaven of giggling little people, scurrying around at full speeds, exploring and inventing their world.  Of my family’s blissful chaos.  I. Am. So. Blessed.

Starbucks, I love you.

But I feel sort of guilty about it.

Why should I feel guilty for loving Starbucks? It’s hard not to love them. They are consistent in service and quality. I never feel uncomfortable in their atmosphere.  They promote unknown musicians.  They have drive-thrus.  Their cups don’t leak. And they make delicious drinks.

Cup of Coffee

My need for deliciousness has amplified since I’ve become a stay-at-home mom.  To survive and thrive, I need quick and easy ways to feel like I am on a mini-vacation.  I don’t have the luxury of getting a mediocre mocha with sad whipped cream and just shrugging my shoulders saying, “maybe next time they’ll get it right.”  I don’t want to be disappointed with my vanilla latte because it isn’t strong enough or has too much syrup or is made differently depending on whether Sally with the nose ring made it on Monday or cheerful Billy made it on Tuesday.  And I really don’t want a cheap-ass lid that causes coffee to leak out the seam and all over my hand every time I take a sip.

I need to be able to count on my coffee.  Depend on it.  My love for Starbucks coffee drinks is at least 80% rooted in emotional dependency.  Drinking a perfectly made beverage is a little mini-therapy session, frankly.   Starbucks is the stability I wish I had in my twenties- it is the consistency I sometimes lack.  Their drinks are like a hug from deliciousness- an indulgent expense that exists for purely selfish reasons- like because it tastes so damn good.

My day is filled with doing things for others.  But my decaf Americano with extra cream and two sugars?  That is just for me.  That is what Starbucks does for me.  It says: “You can depend on me, Krissy.  I will always taste satisfyingly delicious. You deserve it.”  And it never, ever lets me down.  The only variations are in the amount of whipped cream in my decaf grande mocha extra whip.  I can live with that.

However, I also love supporting local businesses.  But not at the expense of an incredibly delicious beverage, which is sometimes the case when I frequent independently owned coffee shops.

I can think of two examples off the top of my head – one place near where I used to live that had pretty excellent baked goods, but where the owners were rude.  And inconsistent. I would stop there on my way to work, in a rush, and they were almost always out of decaf coffee.  “It’ll just take about 8 minutes to brew,” they would say.  Unfortunately, when you wake up late as I tended to do, I don’t have 8 minutes to wait.  What kind of coffee shop is out of coffee at 7:30 in the morning?

And the more recent example is heartbreaking- it’s a 5 minute walk away and they, too, make pretty decent baked goods.  But the owners have a sterile, cold vibe even though the words coming out of their mouth are standard, welcoming cafe talk.  I try to imagine what it is exactly that feels off about them: Were they recently released from prison for some heinous crime?  Are they spies? Is there an unwilling grandmother being held hostage in the basement?  Do they have unwashed hands?  I will probably never know, but something feels unsettling about the place.  At times they have been downright rude and then caught themselves in it and tried to shine it away with a smile.  Not so fast, suckers! I’m onto you!  Put your hands where I can see them.

In a town like Madison where there are 12 Starbucks (including the ones in Targets), an independent cafe has to make a pretty darn good coffee drink to lure me away from the ridiculous convenience of Starbucks.  Even with a welcoming, cheery atmosphere if your coffee drinks aren’t all that (yes, I said all that), then I will just head to the Starbucks down the street instead.  I love them.  And if consistent, delicious drinks are any measure of love at all, then they love me back.

I yelled at my kid today.

My 3 year old is brilliant, stubborn, strong-willed, highly active, and fiercely independent.  Every day when his “listening ears” aren’t on, he does something unsafe, or he blatantly disobeys me, I work hard internally to censor myself and calm my voice before it leaves my body.  I am usually quite good at monitoring what I say so that I appear levelheaded and peaceful.  I want a peaceful house.  But inside, after a long day of self-censorship, I am worn down.  Sometimes I wonder about the discrepancy between the impulsive frustration I feel and the calm but firm words that come out of my mouth.  Am I growing an ulcer or something with all the frustration that goes unexpressed?  The things I say out loud vs the things I say in my mind often go something like this:

Out loud: Would you like to put your shoes on or would you like me to do it?  Would you like to put your shoes on or would you like me to do it?  Would you like to put your shoes on or would you like me to do it?
In my mind: Get over here and sit the fuck down and put on your fucking shoes!!

Out loud: If you throw the toy, then the toy goes away. If you throw the toy, then the toy goes away.
In my mind: I am so sick of telling you not to throw your fucking toys!

Out loud: Eat your food, sweetie. Eat your food, sweetie. Eat your food, sweetie. Eat your food, sweetie.
In my mind: What the hell?!! Sit still and EAT!! Eat your fucking food!

Throughout the day, I make it a point to not raise my voice to him because it doesn’t do anything except frustrate me and make me feel guilty.  His behavior usually doesn’t change whether I raise my voice or not if he’s doing something naughty.  And, though it doesn’t make him cry or seem sad, I think it makes him a little more…sensitive.  And curious. He’s way tougher than I am.  If someone were yelling at me and ordering me around, I would be furious and definitely crying. When he’s having a day when his “listening ears” aren’t on, he seems unaffected by my frustration.

Today was the first day in 3 years that I lost my self control and not only raised my voice, but was really commanding him around.  He had been pushing me all day.  It’s starting to wear on me- this not wanting to do anything I suggest and not wanting to follow directions.

Me (holding 2 crayons): “Would you like the red crayon or the green?”
Him: “Black.”

Me: “I want you to pick up your toy before we leave.”
Him: “No, I don’t want to.”

Me; “Can you please help me out by handing me that napkin right next to you?”
Him: Silence.
Me: “Can you hand me that napkin, please?”
Him: Silence.
Me: “BRADEN! Can you hand me that napkin?”
Him: “No.”

It doesn’t sound so bad, except it is- when everything becomes an argument, a power struggle, or so repetitive that I want to bite something.

So today I had low patience going into the day and it wore off as the day went on.  By late afternoon I was mentally exhausted. I let him splash around in some puddles outside in the rain, even though it was 50 degrees- I was desperate.  I showed him the boundaries I wanted him to stay in so that he wasn’t running into the main area of the street.  When, after 5 minutes of splashing, he ran beyond the boundaries, I freaked.  (As I usually do when his safety is a concern.)

These were the words I said:

“Get over here NOW!”

“What are you DOING? I said get in the HOUSE!”

“I will count to 3 and if you are not in the house by 3…”  (then, what exactly?  I never actually finished this sentence)

Once I started using this awful commanding voice, I couldn’t seem to stop because it didn’t actually get him to do what I was asking him to do and it didn’t get him moving any faster.  I kept thinking, “surely he will respond to this much anger in my voice” and I got more and more serious and loud.  But it didn’t make him obey me.  He still dawdled. He still tested and pushed me.  When I put him in a time out he just got up and walked toward me. (Short of restraining him in a car seat, I’m out of ideas for time outs.) I felt horrible and weak.  Like not only could I not control my kid’s behavior, but I was too weak to control my own behavior.

We talked about it afterward and I apologized for raising my voice and being so stressed out.  We hugged.  I told him I loved him even when his listening ears aren’t on. And that I love him even when I am really stressed out.  He then continued to misbehave for the rest of the day.

Now, of course, I fell guilty.  I hope what he takes away from the day and remembers in his little spirit is that his mom fessed up when she acted less than stellar.  That people are human and they aren’t perfect.  And that when we don’t treat our loved ones in a way we feel really good about, it’s important to say sorry and forgive ourselves and each other.

Top Three Things My Three Year Old Prefers to Do Without Wearing Clothing

3. Go potty.  His preference is to remove all clothing, if possible, but most importantly shoes, socks, pants, and undies.  It doesn’t matter if we are at home or in a public bathroom at say, Target, where one typically likes to hurry things along to get out as soon as possible.  His attitude is usually, “What’s the rush, Mom?  Why not enjoy this a little?  Let’s take off our shoes and socks.”  He gives no explanation when asked why he prefers naked potty time. Perhaps he feels more able to heed the call of nature while in his natural state.   At home he also prefers to have the lights off with the green night light on and the door halfway open for some privacy.  I can only hope that such specific requirements do not stay with him beyond the toddler years.  Dorm living would be tough.

 

2. Run around.  Usually this occurs immediately after bath time.  After I dry him off, he giggles and asks, “Can I run around?”  by which he means, Can I run back and forth across the room naked over and over and yell “Wheeeeeee!  Haha!”  It is very, very difficult for me to say no to him running around naked.  I think our society might be just a little bit better if there were more running around naked time at home.  People would feel just a bit more free.  A little happier.  I watch him run around, do somersaults and downward dog without a  single self-conscious moment.  He is completely and totally in his body.  I have alot to learn from this little master.

 

1. Eat.  This is a puzzler.  He actually seems to eat more without pants on.  At one point, my husband and I had not re-dressed him yet after a naked potty time and we noticed him in his room, squatting next to a plate of snacks he had taken in there earlier.  He was using his hands to eat rather than utensils ala Quest for Fire and nibbling away ferociously, kind of like a wild chimp.  Given that we usually have a hard time getting him to sit and eat anything, we were thrilled he was eating, clothes or not.  For such an active guy and picky eater, if he wants to recreate a scene from his feral ancestors, scurrying about foraging for food, that’s fine with us.  While some parents might look at their naked little squatter with concern about social graces, my husband and I looked at each other and felt relieved.  Together we had the same thought: We can place nuts and crackers strategically around the house.  At least he’s eating.