Mothering a Newborn: Tips for the Criminally Exhausted Mommy

5 weeks. 5 weeks of being an official mother of 3. 1 newborn, 1 preschooler, and 1 kindergartener. How do I feel? Probably the most common question I am asked, right before “Are you getting any sleep?” Both of these questions can and should be answered the same: It changes every day.

Today I am tired. Tired from several sleepless nights due to a recent discovery that my newborn is lactose intolerant, which apparently equals to painful feedings, screaming, crying, and incessant toots – those being painful, too. Poor baby. And yes, poor mommy.

Then the morning comes, always too quickly, and my older two children need to be fed, dressed, and out the door before the tardy bell rings. The tardy bell – that’s a whole other story… who knew kindergarten teachers could be so scary! To me, not to my kid. He loves school. I’ve already managed to get in trouble for messing up the car pool line, forgetting my car pool sign, being too early to school, too late, buying the wrong color binder… geez! Get it together, mom! I should have done a little more research on mom expectations before the first day. But, oh well. We will survive. And, we’ll all be okay.
These first weeks of mayhem are reminding me of 1 very important lesson I’ve several times learned and frequently forgotten…

Let go of at least one thing that doesn’t have to be done today.

I find I often want to do a lot of things and accomplish a lot of tasks. Clean the house, fold the laundry, put away the laundry, go to Target (because that’s what all home bound moms live to do) cook dinner, eat dinner, bathe myself, bathe my kids, sit down, sing nighttime songs, read bedtime stories, spend time with my husband, wash my face, brush my teeth, go to sleep, get some sleep! Before waking up and doing it all again.

Seems doable, right? On a “normal” day, sure. But, with a newborn? Not so much. Doing any one of these things can feel like an accomplishment when you’re bartering with a tiny human for food, sleep, and comfort.
 
When I’m approaching that danger zone of “If one more person asks for me for one more thing, I’m going to freak out!” I must ask myself, which of these “must-do’s” can I erase off my list? Better yet, maybe best to just trash the list all together. I’d rather have a little extra calm while wearing a spit up stained t-shirt, feeding my kids pb&j for the 5th day in row (trust me, they love it!) than be frantically squirming back and forth between laundry piles, burnt food on the stove, and kids crying because “mommy keeps yelling at me”.

I mean is that what I want my life to look like?

I think not.

 So, I ask myself, what can go un-done today? What can I let go of? What can I put off until tomorrow. What can I ask for help with? Epiphany! You can ask for help!

Maybe for today it means I let the dust collect a little more. (I reeeaaaallllyyy hate dust, but it will not kill me to see it for one more day). Maybe it means ordering takeout or eating soup for dinner. Maybe it means not making it to the gym, which is a luxury these days anyway. Maybe it means greasy hair (for me and my kids) or maybe it means getting to school after the tardy bell rings. Shocker! Life will go on. And by the way, no kid was ever sent to therapy because his mom got him to school late one day (or a few). It will be okay.

You’ve got to make sure you are okay. Cancel plans. Stay in bed. Forget the dishes. And the laundry. There will be another day, if we are so lucky, to do it all again.

NEW SCHOOL YEAR AHEAD! Preparing Your Child for Change: BEING POSITIVE

Last week I sent my daughter off to a new preschool. All anxiety, trepidation, and fear (on my part) was laid to rest as she went bounding into the room with a smile on her face, ready to take on the new adventure. In that moment I became very aware of two possibilities: either I am a very overactive nervous mommy OR I did a sufficient job preparing her for the change. Maybe both.

In my previous post we talked about preparing your child for the new school year through proactive prepping. Today we will focus on being positive in the face of change and all things new.

Now you might be thinking that in order to be a positive thinking parent you must be a positive thinking person. I am here to tell you, this is not true. You may, however, find that through some practice you will become a more positive person, and who doesn’t want that? I, by nature, am a skeptic. I’ve trained my brain to believe if I consider all the things that could go wrong I will then be able to prepare myself to handle it more successfully. Faulty logic, here. What actually ends up happening is I turn myself into a worrying, stressed, and irritable mess who’s actually less capable of handling the circumstances gracefully. Maybe a little positive, hopeful thinking is a worthwhile alternative to consider… I decided to give it a try.

Being positive doesn’t mean you ignore the negative. It means you include both potential pitfalls and potential successes by addressing them with a solution focused mindset.

Since we are talking about beginning a new school year, let’s take my son for example. He’s turning 5 next week and will be entering elementary school 4 days later. He’ll also be partaking in welcoming a new sibling within this exact time frame. 3 big milestones here!

My son happens to be a bit of a skeptic himself, thinking of what could go wrong before what could go right. Preparing him effectively takes a lot of positivity while still paying careful attention to his concerns. Again, we are not seeking to discount the supposed negatives here. How do I go about this delecate task? Let’s take a look…

How to be a Positive Parent when Facing Change


1). Listen Fully


As I reminded my son this morning that we were going to his kindergarten school to talk with the teacher, I could see the nerves creep up on him. “But why, mommy? I don’t want to. I don’t want you to leave me there. I will be scared.”

First, I needed to remind him what was actually going to take place. “I am not going to leave. I will be there the whole time while you talk to the teacher. We will be there for a little while then we’ll come back home.” (Proactive Prepping in action). “Oh, okay.”, he stated as his nerves soothed a bit.

It is crucial to listen to what your child is telling you, verbally and non verbally, so you can effectively respond. Being positive does not mean discounting the concern through statements such as, “It’s fine. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Don’t worry. Etc.” This causes your child to shut their fears inside where they remain unaddressed. Encourage them to let it out.

2). Validate their feelings.


“Honey, I know going new places and meeting new people can seem scary. It’s all so new! Let’s think of what you might do when you we get there. (More proactive preparing here).

3). Consider the Positives


Help your child consider the good things while validating the supposed ‘not so good ‘. “I bet the teacher will be so nice. And the classrooms – ooh man, I bet there are so many cool toys and crafts in there. You will have so many fun choices! What do you think it will be like?” “I think there will be computers?! And games?! Lots of things to color with?!” “Oh yeah! I bet you’re right! I can’t wait for us to go and check it out together!” This convo sounds like it’s taking a positive turn.

4). Let go….


There comes a time where you may need to release the grip and let your child see for himself that it really is “okay”. If you have a particularly anxious child, seeing is believing. After all your preparations and positivity they may still feel nervous, and that is okay. Having your positive belief that it really is okay will allow them to step forward in trust. There may be tears and little fists gripping your shirt that you have to pry loose with the jaws of life, but they can, and most likely will see for themself that it is okay. Better than okay even.

Monitoring your own anxiety is critical. If you’re child senses that you’re afraid, they will feel afraid. Remind yourself and your child that THIS IS A GOOD THING! You wouldn’t be doing this, on purpose, if it wasn’t.

Change can be daunting, or scary, but there sure are a lot of exciting things to be experienced on the other side. Have fun!

			

New School Year Ahead! Preparing Your Child for Change: Being Proactive

http://happymindhappyhome.com/new-school-year-ahead-proactively-preparing-child-change/

“I want to go to my new school!”, squeals my (almost) 3 year old. In a few short days she’ll be transitioning to a new daycare . My husband and I have been prepping her for this change for a couple months… and prepping ourselves as well. Due to multiple changes occurring within this month ahead (hello baby number 3, kindergarten here we come) we figured why not just throw in one more thing. Changes all around! No man left behind! Let’s go all in!


If you’ve read any of my most recent posts you understated that for me, change usually brings anxiety. But, we are not here to talk about anxiety today. I’m taking a break from anxiety for a while. Instead, I’m focusing on being proactive, positive, and peaceful. I’m keeping in mind that I can only control so much. The rest I must leave up to faith, hope, and trust. I have come to realize I really do know very very little about predicting the future. Psychic readings are not my calling. <huff>

Let’s take some time, shall we, to focus on these 3 “P” words: Proactive, Positive, and Peaceful. Given that there is much to be said on each one of these “P” words I am going to break it down to 3 separate posts over the next 3 weeks, which will be just in time for most of you as you get ready to send your kiddo off to a new school year. We’re going to start with the first, and most important, in my opinion –

Being Proactive:

Though I cannot know for certain how my children will adjust to their new schools, new friends, new teachers, new sibling, and all other things new, I can, however, prepare them for what to expect  (as best as I am able).

Let’s take my daughter for example. She has gone to the same daycare her whole life. This makes it difficult for my husband and I to move her somewhere new where she doesn’t know anyone. Somewhere new where we don’t know anyone. ** Now these two sentences here are important. Important because as parents we may have the tendency to project our feelings (anxiety or otherwise) onto our children. I may be feeling anxious, my husband may be feeling anxious, but my daughter, well that’s a maybe. All I know right now is she feels excited about going somewhere new. She likes new. She is an adventurous soul in this way. Me – not so much. All the more reason not to assume that I know how she’ll feel. I can know, with a little therapist background in my pocket, that preparing kids for changes is crucial no matter how fluidly they adapt to changes or not. We all like to know what’s ahead.

Proactive Prepping

So what is the best way to proactively prep your child for change? The number 1 rule I share with the parents I work work is:

Paint a Mental Picture for Your Child.
 

Not an actual picture, a mental picture. Children function through images. They develop understanding through seeing and doing as opposed to hearing. Learning through hearing is an acquired skill that develops more through development and growth. When children are young, they need to see and do in order to fully grasp ahold of a concept. This helps them feel empowered and in control.


With my daughter we’ve been driving by the school regularly, we made a visit to the school so she could see the classrooms, see the actual space she’ll be going to each day to play. This will help her feel a little safer when we return on her actual 1st day. Now, lucky for me I have the opportunity to bring her there for a trial morning in which she’ll get to return home with me after a couple hours versus a full day. To be honest, I’m not sure if this is more for my peace of mind or hers. Like I said, this is a change for everyone. I don’t know these people either!! I digress…. back to being proactive. If you don’t have the opportunity to physically see a change before it takes place, you can still very well assist your child in creating their mental picture. Most important is you want to speak your child’s language – play. Remember, they learn through seeing and doing.

Here are 3 simple ideas for how to do this:

  1. Draw a picture together
  2. Enact a scene using dolls and other toys.
  3. Dress up and act out a scene together of the first day.

How to get started:

  • Start out by reminding your child about the upcoming change.
  • Tell her that today you’re going to draw a picture/play a game together about the first day of school.
  • Allow her to select the materials to get started.
  • Ask questions along the way to help shape her mental picture, such as what will it look like, what colors will the room be, what will her teacher be like, what will she play with, what will she eat, etc. There are no limits really to how imaginative you can become. *It is important, though, that this picture be one grounded in reality. You want her mental picture to closely reflect what will actually happen.
  • Also helpful to include here is a play by play. “Mommy will bring you to school and walk you to your room where we’ll meet your new teacher. I’ll get you settled in your room then mommy will leave for work. After work I will come back to pick you up. I’ll be so excited to see and hear what you do on your first day!” Always great to end with something you can both look forward to.

All of these help shape your child’s understating of what will take place when this change occurs, aiding her in feeling masterful over what’s the come as opposed to feeling at the whim of the changing tides ahead.

Helping our children feel in control in a healthy way is the best way of preventing them to look for control in unhealthy ways. These little people deserve this help from us. And hey, you will likely find that it’s quite helpful for you as well!

I look forward to hearing how proactive prepping helps you and your child grow through change together. Please share. And come back next week for tips on a being a positive parent through change.

			

Breaking Up with Anxiety: 3 Steps to Freedom Through Mindfulness

I am no stranger to anxiety, but I wouldn’t say I’m his bestie either. Generally speaking I find I keep an adequate amount of space between myself and this worthy opponent, but late term pregnancy seems to bring out his guns, and trust me they come a blazing. What is it about impending change that conjures up the fierce fires of worry? Maybe it’s just me, but I doubt it.

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Confessions of a Screaming Mommy Part 2: Acknowledging Your Child’s Feelings (without neglecting your own)

Today we’ll file under the “no good, very bad day” category in parenting land. My soon to be 3 year old daughter is rounding the bend towards “independence” which easily translates as defiance. My least favorite toddler trait of all. Defiance by her usually leads to screaming by me – again. How does one get a strong willed child to cooperate? Well, the answer is clearly not “exert your parental power until she claims defeat”. Nope, lesson learned on that one. Eventually she might give in, or give up, but I’m the one who ends up apologizing. What’s the lesson in that? Certainly not what I was going for. Have to recalibrate my parenting map once again and set forth in the right direction. First thing: determine my destination…

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Confessions of Screaming Mommy: 3 Steps to Regaining Control & Letting Go of “being in control”

Okay, you got me. I will be the first to admit that I am guilty, from time to time, of losing my temper and yelling at my kids. Okay, fine. Screaming at my kids, actually. I hate that I do it, it sucks when it happens, and I feel guilty for days following. Miserable, I tell you. Just miserable. Feeling this terrible about a behavior begs the question, “why don’t you just stop?” Well, just go ahead and make me sound like an addict, why don’t ya? Actually, maybe you’re onto something here….

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Speaking Up: What Are We So Afraid Of?

Speaking up… In my post last week on authenticity I referenced the notion of speaking up as one component to authentic freedom. Of all the 5 points I listed, speaking up seemed to bring on the most feedback. I heard things like, “I really need to work on speaking up”, “I don’t speak up enough”, and “thank you for giving me permission to speak up for myself”.

This got me thinking: What is it about speaking up – bringing voice to our feelings and thoughts – that causes so much anxiety and apprehension? I realized this is worth exploring…

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Free Your Mind: 5 Steps to Cleaning Out the Mental Clutter

I’ve been experiencing some type of writers block here recently. It’s like my brain, after a long hard summer, has powered down into hibernation mode. It’s not ready to gear back up until it has fully recharged and that moment is currently unforeseen. I’m just here patiently, or impatiently, awaiting its return.

While I sit here twiddling my thumbs, I am curious if this mental silence has anything to do with the actual sharing that’s taken place here in the past two months. When we first launched the blog the words couldn’t seem to come out fast enough. My mind was in overdrive. The thoughts were just begging to break out. As if they’d been shoved into a confined space for so long that at the first sight of light they took the opportunity to dive headfirst onto the page. They knew if they didn’t seize the moment, they might be trapped inside forever! Well, take a chill pill, guys. You’re free to dance across whatever page you wish now. This is the internet, after all.

Now that my mind is emptied of all its old “friends” I feel… what’s the word… Empty?  No, that’s not it. Clear? Possibly. Content? Perhaps. At ease? Yes, that one seems to fit. At ease. It may be best described as having room to move around more fluidly without bumping into sensitive spaces at every turn. Calm. Content. Clear. At ease. With room to fill.
 
I don’t exactly want to fill up the space again, however. I don’t want to re-clutter my space only to have to clean it out again. What’s the sense in that? A light dusting now and then? Perhaps. That’s just practical maintenance right there. Got to maintain the space to keep it tidy. How do I do this, though? If I’ve been accustomed to storing my shit to the bursting brim, how do I become accustomed to upholding a standard of shit free living?
Well, here’s what I’ve got figured so far…

Tips on how to shit proof your brain:


1) Pay careful attention to what you feel at each and every moment. Sound tedious and annoying? You’ll get used to it. The feelings may be unpleasant, they may be irritating, uncomfortable, scary, whatever. Just freaking feel it. Notice it.

2) Speak up when necessary (it’s always necessary). Now that you know how you’re feeling, Get It Out. Out of your brain and out of your mouth. This might mean sharing your totally uncomfortable feelings with someone/ anyone who will listen (and support – key word here). It might mean sharing silently through art, music, a blank page, or whatever other creative outlet you are drawn towards. It might mean blasting your thoughts to the world wide web or through social media (try not to be one of those social media folks, though. But, if you must, you must). Point is, however you need to SHARE your thoughts, do it. Share. Speak up.

3) Expect NOTHING in return. “Huh? What do I mean, expect nothing in return? I’m putting it all out there, aren’t I due some support, comfort, or care of some kind?” Well, I can’t answer to what you are due or not due, but I can contest to the fact that if you are waiting for this type of feedback to validate your new found openness you will soon find yourself surrounded by the mental shit once again. Seeking the feedback is probably what got you crammed back there in the first place.

4) Which brings me to number four. Applaud yourself. Get your pom poms out and be ready to be your very own cheerleader. This is where the prize money is, folks. Now that you are here it is prime time to learn that you’ve got all the support, care, and comfort built right into your very own soul. You own it. Depending on your significant other,  your bestie, your mother, father, sister, brother, whomever to rally you through isn’t going to cut it. Why not? Because it’s not their job and it’s not consistent. Of course if you get the cozy comfort you’re looking for then squeeze it, kiss it, thank it, and wave to it gracefully as it leaves. Because it will. It always does.

5) Allow your own sense of confidence, comfort, and satisfaction to be fickle. The nature of feelings is that they change. Constantly. Which is pretty refreshing actually. This means you don’t have to be married to any one feeling. And if you’re not married to it, you don’t have to be mad at it when it goes away. Don’t worry, it will be back. It’s not leaving you, nor you leaving it. You are supporting your self here, not your feelings. Your self is stable, or it can be, once you realize your feelings are not attached. Let them come, let them go.

Keeping your mental space free and clear takes effort. That’s for damn sure. Noticing takes effort. Acknowledging takes effort. Supporting takes effort. But so does fighting. Fighting off feelings. Fighting for feedback. Fighting is a long arduous draining path down shit creek.

You choose where you place your effort: Towards creating and maintaining a peaceful, open, grounded space? Or one wrought with tension, barbed wire, and armor? I know my choice. I can probably guess yours, too.

			

How Was Your Day? New & Improved

There a few things I would like to do with my carpool line sign.

None of which are appropriate for publishing on this blog. Those of you who have read my previous posts know how much I adore waiting in the sweltering hot sun (sans my cell phone) to pick up my little cherub.
 If you feel the way I do about carpool line, you might be planning to use your sign as kindling for a summer bonfire or for the environmentally conscious reader, recycle it....but don't do that just yet.

I have an idea that beats recycling it….but first, let’s talk about the one part of carpool I actually do enjoy: greeting my  sweet little man after a long day at school. 

Typically I ask the same standard question as he climbs into the back seat: “How Was Your Day?” Only to hear him mumble back the even more standard answer: “Good.”  

You know the drill… I continue to hopelessly probe with questions that usually end in “YES or NO”….and if your child is anything like mine, the token answer for “What did you learn at school today?” is “Nothing”.

NOTHING?? What??? REALLY???  I know for a fact that you learned A LOT today and I know that your teacher is amazing… So this answer is just not gonna fly with me today.

Back side of Carpool LIne sign
Front side of carpool line sign

After pondering the uber frustrating carpool phenomenon of “I did nothing today!”, I decided to change my approach for next year.  I have found a few more specific questions that I plan to have conveniently pasted on the back of the car pool sign, so I can get the real scoop about his day. Yes..some of the questions are gross…BUT you might actually learn A LOT by asking them.. Maybe even more than you bargained for.

If you aren’t crafty, (or don’t own a laminator), I have another suggestion that has helped me a time or two….

PITS AND PEAKS!!!

When your kiddo climbs into the back seat, ask him/her to tell you about their PIT (the absolute worst thing that happened during the day) and their PEAK (the absolute best thing that happened).

You will be amazed by how much information this simple question yields. It is at least a great way to get a conversation started.  Happy last day of school!

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