5 Easy Ways to Entertain Your Toddler at Home

I’m not only a freelancer; I’m also a stay at home mom to a two-year-old girl. I spend most of the day working, running errands and doing housework, but I also spend a few hours each day focused solely on her.

At this age, she can only concentrate on one thing for about 20 minutes so I’ve put together a bag of tricks to keep her entertained.

Here are some easy (and cheap!) ways that I entertain my toddler:

1) Creating artwork

Art projects are one of my favorite things to do with Norah. We color with crayons, markers, or colored pencils, paint with watercolors or fingerpaint, string macaroni, and glue things to paper. Pinterest is a great resource for cute art projects for toddlers. I’ve put together some of my favorites projects here.

2) Playing outside

Unless it’s the dead of winter, Norah and I go outside every day for at least 30 minutes. We walk around the yard looking for sticks and leaves. We take short walks around the neighborhood. We play with her outdoor toys (water table, sandbox, jungle gym). We are lucky to have a large yard, but even in our previous home we spent time on the stoop getting some fresh air and watching the cars go by.

3) Flashcards and letters

We spend 20-30 minutes per day doing flashcards and letter games. During the back-to-school season, I found a bunch of $1 flashcard sets at Target. I bought Cat in the Hat cards for shapes and colors and a deck of animal cards. We also have a few letter puzzles that spell out small words like cat, moon, and hat. We love this Melissa and Doug See and Spell puzzle set.

4) Reading

Since Norah was about three months old, I’ve taken her to the library every week and read to her for at least 20 minutes per day. Thanks to this, she absolutely loves books and will now spend 20-30 minutes sitting in her rocking chair “reading” her books to herself. Her most often requested items are a book and one of her stuffies to read it to. Our local library has a goal of reading 1000 books to your child before they enter kindergarten. If you read just one per night, you’ll read 365 in one year, 730 in two years and 1,095 in three years. You can find out more about this program here.

5) Games with household items

I set up inexpensive or free games for Norah to play in the house. Some examples of these include:

  • Homemade obstacle course

One of the easiest and cheapest things to do is set up an obstacle course in your home. I use couch cushions, pillows, moving boxes, and a hula hoop for obstacles and washi tape or painter’s tape to create lines and zig zags on the carpet for Norah to follow. This has been especially helpful in improving her motor skills.

  • Hide and seek

We play hide and seek by me hiding and her finding me (contained to one level of the house) or hiding her stuffed animals and telling her to find them. The stuffed animal hide and seek usually holds her attention longer because they are harder to find.

  • Scavenger hunt

This is the same concept as hide and seek, but we look for specific things. I’ll hide seashells, an apple, a few leafs, and some toys around the house and then give her a list of what she’s looking for. She can’t read yet, but she likes to cross things off the list with a crayon when she finds them.

  • Money sort

I have a giant jar of coins that she likes to transfer from one container to another. This activity requires supervision because coins are choking hazards. Norah almost never puts non-food items in her mouth, but I still watch her when she plays this game. This is a good activity for her to do in the kitchen while I’m cooking dinner. I’ve also done this with uncooked macaroni noodles.

  • Cup stack

I have 50+ plastic Solo cups in different colors from her previous birthday and holiday parties that she likes to stack. She’ll spend 20-30 minutes stacking them and knocking them over in the kitchen. She also likes doing this with plastic plates.

  • Tupperware drums

Playing drums on pots and pans is way too loud, but Tupperware drums are a great alternative. The noise isn’t deafening so your kid gets the satisfaction of hitting a spoon onto something and making noise without giving you a headache.

A game that I’m not including on the list, but Norah always wants to play is called “blankiehead.” She puts her blanket over her face and runs at full speed around the house. I do not recommend this game!

Entertaining a toddler does not have to expensive or exhausting. The most important part is being present with your child and actively engaging in whatever activity you choose to do together.

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Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 10/17/16)

This is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, marketing, and parenting with occasional wild cards thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

These illustrations of people who want you to work for free are hilarious. The quotes were taken from real people seeking free work from artists.

Alex Honeysett has some great advice on how to pitch a guest post. Researching the place you’re pitching and catering your proposal to their specifications are two of the suggestions that I fully support.

Stephane Kasriel takes the information from the recent Freelancing in America survey and proposes the three things that freelancers need from the next administration. He suggests that the government study freelancers before proposing any new legislation that affects them.

Marketing

Brittany Berger put together an awesome comprehensive guide to time management systems. If you need to get organized, check out this post!

Alex Mathers discusses how creatives are using social media to gain clients. I’ve found that Facebook groups are a great place to get leads.

Daniel Newman forecasts marketing trends for 2017. Trends include more and better quality video and personalized everything.

Parenting

If you’re looking for a gift for the one-year old in your life, check out this list. Norah got the Beatbo robot for Christmas last year and she’s still obsessed with it.

This article talks about which children are most affected by parenting style. According to Drake Baer, children who have “negative emotionality — the precursor to neuroticism” are the most susceptible to being really hurt by angry and neglectful parenting.

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Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 10/3/16)

This is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, marketing, and parenting with occasional wild cards thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

Caroline Beaton discusses her journey from full-time employee to full-time freelancer. She made a series of smart, strategic moves to ensure that she could always support herself.

Ryan Robinson shares his tips on how to write an effective pitch for a freelancing client. These suggestions secured him a $500 per post gig!

Julio Vincent Gambuto wants you to be a freelancer who actually makes money. He has some fantastic ideas for how to stay lucrative.

Marketing

Your customer has 30 different needs, does your product or service meet them? Larry Kim talks about the attributes driving customer purchases. Which ones can you tap into?

Email marketing has many benefits including boosting your website’s SEO. Jayson DeMers explains how regular email communication can improve your rankings.

Kevan Lee walks through the process of getting verified on Twitter. A verified account can boost the perception of your online presence, but you need to be a somewhat public figure to be approved.

Parenting

A round-up of 45 hilarious “parenting tips” ‘from Twitter. “Never take a toddler’s word for it” was one of my favorites.

How do Jewish mothers approach parenthood? The Chicago Tribune has four suggestions and I love the one about encouraging geekiness.

Hobbies

Cat Noone talks about how she got started hand-lettering. This is a skill I plan on learning.

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Daytime Potty Training Using the Oh Crap! Method

Because I’m an overachiever and my daughter is very verbal and showed interest, I started potty training her in April at 22 months old. It was actually common for parents of the previous generation to potty train around 18 months! For millennial moms, this may seem a bit early because the current trend is training around two years old. Each child is different and although you should wait to see signs of readiness, you should also give it a try when you are ready to put in the work.

I used the book Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right by Jamie Glowacki to daytime potty train my daughter.

The Oh Crap! method offers two options, you can tackle day and night time potty training in one swoop or you can separate the two. Since I don’t like my sleep messed with, I decided to start with daytime potty training. This decision was also influenced by my pregnancy. I thought that I would tackle nighttime training in December when I would be up with a newborn anyway. Although there won’t be a newborn in December, I will still be tackling night time training after Norah transitions to her toddler bed.

The Oh Crap! method starts with getting the child to recognize when they are going to the bathroom. There are six stages in the process:

  1. Peeing and pooping while naked, either with prompting or without
  2. Peeing and pooping with clothes on, commando, with prompting or without
  3. Peeing and pooping in different situations, with prompting or without
  4. Peeing and pooping with underpants, with prompting or without
  5. Consistent self-initiation
  6. Night and nap (unless you do it all at once)

On the first day, we kept Norah naked from the waist down (per the books recommendation). We bought three inexpensive Summer Infant potties for $9 each. We keep one in the bathroom upstairs, one downstairs, and one in the back of my car. As Norah went about her normal day, she would notice that she was peeing. The first time it happened she stopped what she was doing and stared off into the distance. We immediately grabbed her and said in an upbeat voice  “We go pee in the potty” while carrying her to the potty. By the time she reached the potty, she was done. By the second or third time that day, she was saying “Uh oh pee pee” or otherwise indicating that she knew she had started going.

The first day she also pooped on the carpet without much fanfare.

Note: I kept a Bissel spot cleaner in the living room to clean up messes as soon as they happened.

We started this process on a Saturday so we’d both be home during the first two days. Sunday proceeded much like Saturday, but Norah showed more awareness of what she was doing.

We did not go anywhere or do anything besides potty training for the entire weekend. We kept her contained to one room and one of us had our eyes on her the entire day. It was absolutely exhausting! Even though I take care of my daughter every day, I don’t have my eyes fixed on her nonstop.

After several days, she began going on the potty with more regularity. We took her to the potty as soon as she woke up in the morning and every two hours during the day. We had her sit on the potty before we got into the car and immediately when we arrived at our destination.

She was able to transition to the next stage – being fully dressed – by day five. She had many accidents during the first 5-7 days. Around the one week mark, something seemed to click and she was able to hold it while telling us she had to go. We also became aware of her “potty tells” which are stopping what she’s doing, standing completely still, and staring off into the distance. Whenever we saw those signs, we’d rush her to the potty.

We also had her go commando (no underwear) for three weeks per the book’s recommendation. Jamie’s hypothesis is that tight underwear feel too similar to diapers and the child will have more accidents if you introduce them too soon after taking away diapers. When we introduced underwear during the third week, there was an uptick in accidents for a few days.

Norah has been daytime potty trained for about six months now. She rarely has accidents, but does not like to poop in the potty. She will often hold it until her nap or bedtime. There is an entire section in the book that I need to revisit that discusses what to do in that situation. As of right now I’m not worried about it because I still need to tackle nighttime training. Most of the time when Norah has an accident, it’s our fault because we’re dragged her to several stores or went a few hours without bringing her to the potty. She is also much more likely to have an accident if she’s engrossed in something like a TV show or game.

A few tips for tackling potty training:

  1. Choose a method and be consistent

I chose the Oh Crap! method because I liked the humor of the book and that the method is a “no rewards” strategy. I did not want to use treats, toys, or stickers to motivate my child to go the bathroom for a few reasons:

  • I didn’t think I would always have those things handy
  • I didn’t want to associate food as ‘reward’
  • I didn’t want to reward biologically necessary behavior
  • I didn’t want to get into a heated negotiation about how many things she could have.

If rewards sound good to you or you think your child would do better with incentive then you should choose a method that includes them.

All in all, I doubt it matters which method you choose, but it does matter how consistent you are. Potty training will eat up an entire weekend so don’t try to do it when you have other plans, don’t feel well, or aren’t up for it. It’s an exhausting weekend and you only want to have to do it once. You don’t want to give up on day two, only to start from scratch a few months later.

2) Talk it up and make it fun

Norah loves books so we made sure to borrow as many potty books as we could in the weeks before we start training. We’d talk to her about how fun it was going to be and what a big girl she was. We let her pick out underwear and the color of her potties. We talked to her about how everyone and everything goes poop and pee. We tried to make the process as fun as possible because she initially showed some fear of the toilet.

3) Stay positive

Potty training can be very stressful and tiring. Keep in mind that it’s a slow process and there will be many accidents. Look for progress and not perfection. The first time Norah went on the floor there was no recognition that she was even going. By the second or third time, she was looking down at the mess and by later the same day she was saying “Uh oh.” No matter what timeline your child is on, it’s pretty incredible that they can grasp the concept within a few days. Stay positive and focus on the progression towards the goal instead of how much urine is soaking into your carpet.

Once the process is over, hopefully you’ll never have to do it again…until the next child.

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Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 8/29/16)

Mama's Favorites
This is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, marketing, and parenting with occasional wild cards thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

Organizing your finances is extremely important when you’re a freelancer. This detailed article by Kristin Wong gives step-by-step instructions for what you need to do to get your freelancing financial house in order.

If you’re currently a freelancer, consider signing the petition for the Freelance Isn’t Free Act like I did. This act can help freelancers get payment for services rendered. Read the article and sign if you agree.

Josh Hoffman swears that these simple habits translate to a six-figure freelance business. One of the best suggestions is spending time on your business before spending time in your business.

Marketing

Mike Sturm talks about the importance of words and how we’re devaluing our creative work by calling it ‘content’. I’d never thought about this before, but I agree with his conclusion that content is a weasel word.

Social media can be soul-draining, but it’s essential as a marketer. This article by Leila de Bruyne talks about how to stay sane on social media.

Watch these eight Ted Talks for a marketing boost. Kelly Hoey shares a list of inspirational videos that will help improve your marketing efforts. I love Seth Godin’s take on making ideas spread.

Parenting

Parenting can be tough so it’s essential to keep your sense of humor. Amy Camber creates hilarious and sweet comics about parenting her two children ages 3 and 6.

Encouraging your child to try different activities is good for their development, but so is quitting things they don’t enjoy. This New York Times article talks about the benefits of letting your children stop doing activities they aren’t interested in.

Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Can’t Miss Content (Week of 8/8/16)

Mama's Favorites

Mama’s Favorites is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, parenting and marketing, but occasional wild cards will be thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

Bitch Media discusses the reasons why more women are choosing freelancing. Women are not only going into business for increased work/life balance flexibility but also for better pay. After you read this, check out my post on the same topic.

Tessa at CloudPeeps talks about how to maintain a positive client relationship after the job ends. As a freelancer, it’s so important to keep your connections strong and your reputation stellar. You never know how you and a former client might help each other in the future.

Improve your writing in two minutes with Josh Spector’s tips. I love Josh’s suggestions. Getting rid of “I think” can make your writing so much stronger. He doesn’t mention removing “just” from your written (and spoken) vocabulary, but it’s worth doing too.

Belle Beth Cooper was a former Buffer employee who has been freelancing for over a year now. She shares her insights on the pros and cons. I can relate to the entrepreneur life being a bit lonely. I have the company of my daughter, but she’s not old enough to brainstorm with me…yet.

Marketing

My husband wrote a tongue-in-cheek post on the 10 commandments of content. I’m biased, but it’s a funny read and offers some good suggestions – like less listicles!

Parenting

A new study shows mothers feel more judged than fathers and are less likely to rate themselves as “a really good parent”. This one hits close to home; I find that my expectations for myself as a mother are much higher than my expectations for my husband as a father.

Is Limiting Screen Time Realistic?

By the time a child reaches their first birthday, they begin to notice that screens play a large role in their world. They understand that phones, tablets, and TVs are sources of entertainment and begin to show interest in them. Our children are considered digital natives- they won’t know a time without technology.

In 1999, the AAP recommended that children under two years old have no screen time, however those recommendations are considered outdated and are being revised. Is it possible or even practical to set strict limits on screen time today?

My daughter will be two in June. She’s been interested in phones and the television since she was 18 months old. As she grows up, we know we will have to navigate many discussions about the type and amount of technology in her life.

Passive versus active screen time

Not all screen time is created equal. Passive screen time has been shown to provide almost no benefit to children. Passive screen time includes watching TV shows and videos, but not all TV shows and videos fall into this category. If the show has an element of interaction, it may spark imagination or teach your child something about the world. Some examples of interactive shows include Little Einsteins, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and Sesame Street. Entertainment that is strictly passive includes movies and shows where the characters do not break the fourth wall and talk to the audience.

Active screen time promotes brain activity and critical thinking. There are a variety of TV shows, apps, games, and educational websites that fit into this category. Active screen time can also include video chatting on Skype and Facetime with friends and family members. These activities encourage the child to interact with the screen. As a rule of thumb, if the medium requires interaction to work – e.g. pushing arrows on the screen to advance the game – then it would be considered active screen time.

Screentime in moderation

I’ve worked from home with Norah since she was 10 weeks old. After she became more active and interested in the world (around 18 months old) she required near constant interaction. Before that she had no interest in what was happening on the TV and barely glanced at it. She was entertained by toys, stuffed animals, and household items. Since she became an active toddler, I’ve used screen time to get things done around the house, answer emails and phone calls, and to take short breaks.

Norah enjoys her shows. She loves to sing along with Daniel Tiger, pat her legs and lift her arms for Little Einsteins, and dance to Mickey Mouse’s Hot Dog song. She gets so much enjoyment out of 25-40 minutes of television a day that I don’t see the harm in it. I also don’t mind letting her play on my phone. Although she’s frozen me out more times than I can count, she learns something new every time she interacts with it.

The two most important things about screen time are not to use it too often and not to feel guilty when you do use it.

I initially thought I would follow the doctor’s recommendation and not let her touch a screen until she was two years old, but it wasn’t doable with our lifestyle. As a work at home / stay at home mom, I occasionally need something to distract her and nothing does the job better than a TV show or smartphone app.

There are so many factors to consider when trying to figure out the best way to parent your child. You can’t do everything perfectly 100% of the time, it’s not possible. I choose not to be overly cautious about screen time. I feel that the combination of exclusive attention and enriching social activities contribute more to Norah’s development than the screen time takes away from it.

Screen Free Time

As a family, we’ve decided that dinner time is a screen free time. My husband and I aren’t glued to our devices. We prefer to talk to each other and make Norah part of our conversation. When we go out to eat, we bring books and small toys and use smartphones as a last resort to resolve a tantrum. We plan on keeping dinner time screen free permanently.

We also try not to be on our phones in front of Norah. When we’re playing with her, we give her our full attention. We do at least 2-3 activities per week with Norah’s peers. I recently joined a mom’s group and hope to participate in many more activities this summer. We signed up for swimming and tumbling lessons that start when Norah turns two. When she turns three, she will be enrolled in preschool. We want Norah to have a full life that includes technology as well as nature, science, literature, art, and anything else that interests her.

As technology become more and more prevalent in everyday life, we all need to set boundaries for ourselves and our families. Every generation has different challenges than the generation before and screen time is one of ours. The right amount of screen time is different for every person so have a conversation, set some guidelines, and decide what works for your family. Enjoy your time with technology and without.

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One of the Norah’s many selfies

What We’re Into: February 2016

As a family, we have eclectic tastes and love trying new things. We’re always reading, (binge) watching shows and movies, and listening to podcasts and webinars. The amount of content we consume each month is staggering. Our daughter is also a voracious “reader” and as she enters toddlerhood, her interests are becoming more pronounced. She will tells you exactly what she wants and when she wants it – “String cheese now!”

At the end of each month, I’ll share a list of things that we were into over the past ~30 days.

Erin

This month it was all about food and audio experiences. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to music while working, driving, and doing errands around the house. Norah loves to dance and watching her spin in circles makes me happy. My birthday was this month and my husband and I had a great day going to the natural history museum and having my favorite food – sushi! I’ve always been a low-key person, but since I became a mother, I just want to spend quality time together making memories as a family.

Surf and Turf sushi
This may be the happiest mistake we’ve ever made. During a sushi run, my husband tried to order an entree of Surf and Turf for himself, but instead brought home the most delicious sushi roll I’ve ever had. The restaurant’s website says the roll is marinated steak and crab fried in tempura. There’s also some sort of delicious brown sauce on top. This roll dethroned our previous favorite, The Godzilla.

Music that sounds like it’s from another era
I have a few dozen Pandora stations that I cycle through, but right now, I’m really digging alternative music that sounds like it’s from a different era. Most of these recommendations came from my Young the Giant station. The first one is Fleet Foxes, who have a ‘70s sound. My favorite songs are He Doesn’t Know Why and Mykonos. I also like Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats; they have a funky mid ‘60s vibe. I’m loving S.O.B. and I Need Never Get Old. My last great find is Rocky Votolato who’s channeling ‘90s emo godfather, Elliott Smith, in his song White Daisy Passing.

Brain.fm
Sometimes I’m very task oriented and other times I can’t stay on one webpage for more than five minutes. When I need to focus on something, I use Brain.fm. The ambients sounds are created to improve concentration and focus. I liked it so much, I bought a full year membership. I use it for at least 30 minutes every single day and it continues to work wonders. If you’re interested in buying the service, here’s my referral link.

Michael

My husband, Michael writes a blog about solving problems, productivity and ideas. You can read more at Your Fool Laureate.

February is always a weird month for me. I can sense winter coming to an end, and we’re getting closer to one of my favorite times of the year—March Madness (more on that later). However, it’s still bone-chillingly cold here in the Midwest, and 9 times out of 10, there’s snow, so there’s still that winter malaise hanging around one’s shoulders like a long and heavy existential shawl. So more than ever during this time of year, I turn my attention to welcome diversions—those creature comforts that help resuscitate some of that warm feeling from spring and summer that I know is just on the horizon. I read, I listen to things, and I eat and drink.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
This book was just recently published in January, 10 months after the death of its author. Dr. Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon at Stanford, but was steeped in all the things I hold dear: philosophy, classics, religious studies, art, etc. This book is a memoir about his life as a thinker, a doctor, a husband, and a father, up until his death from stage IV cancer. It’s a really great read—filled with great musings on the bigger questions in life, but also warm accounts of lessons learned by being there as people died. While Kalanithi’s account of his own journey toward death is moving on its own, my usually stone cold heart was nearly melted by the epilogue, which his wife, Lucy, wrote after his death. The epilogue is an account of Paul’s death, and how Lucy experienced it. It is gripping, but told in such a way that you really feel what it must feel like to be in your final moments. It’s a fantastic book.

Blanton’s Bourbon
I have been into whiskey for a couple of years now, and I’ve tried to sample new bourbons, ryes, and scotches whenever I get the chance. Recently, I found myself far away from the home base—in exotic Woonsocket, Rhode Island, on business. After a long day of work, a few higher-ups from the customer I was visiting accompanied me to dinner. When I expressed my preference for ordering a bourbon with dinner, and that it just might be Blanton’s, one of them exclaimed that it was his absolute favorite. Apparently, there are seven different variations of the stopper for the Blanton’s bottle, which is a jockey riding a horse. Each variation represents the different stages of a race. The recommendation was a solid one. Blanton’s is a damn good bourbon, and may have usurped my favorite bourbon, Four Roses Single Barrel. I plan to pick up a bottle soon, but probably nearer to the warm part of spring. Bourbon (at least to me) is a warm weather drink, one to sip as the sun sets over the green (or greening) trees.

Back To Work Podcast
I have been listening to podcasts since waaay back in 2006, before they began booming. It’s really the only thing that I got in on before it blew up, so I’ll sing that song to anyone who will listen (lucky you, dear reader!) Since that time, I’ve cycled a lot of podcasts in and out of my regular rotation, with some being long-standing ones, and others being flashes in the pan. Back to Work has proven to be the podcast that once in my stack, never left—and for good reason. The hosts, Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin, have a great rapport. But what really makes the show is the sincerity and candor with which Merlin works through problems that nearly all of us face. While the show is nominally about productivity, it runs the gamut, touching on a wide variety of topics, and handles them all with a wonderful touch of humor. The podcast was good from the start, so if you are inclined to check it out, begin with episode 1, and enjoy a really good ramp-up to episode 7. Also very worth checking out is the three-part series on David Allen’s Getting Things Done, beginning with episode 95 – “She’s Five for a Living”

Norah (21 months old)

Daniel Tiger
Almost every morning, the first request Norah has is “milk,” the second is “Ugga Mugga”. We try to limit her TV consumption, but she watches 1-2 episodes on most weekdays. She loves the show, interacts with the characters, and tries to sing the songs. She has four Daniel Tiger stuffed characters that accompany her on most of her adventures. Some children’s shows can be annoying, but I find this one sweet and nostalgic, the characters are all descendents of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood puppets.

Potbelly’s
We got out to eat more than we should, but we’re working on adding a budget and meal plan into our repertoire. When we ask Norah where she wants to eat, she almost always says “Potbelly’s!” She loves the chicken and cheddar melt with avocado and the sugar cookies. She can be a bit of a picky eater, but she always finishes her half of the Big size.

Playdates
Prior to this month, Norah had only been on one play date, but this month she had three. As she nears two years old, she’s much more interested in being around other kids. This month we went to the natural history museum, the children’s museum and an indoor playground. Her favorite activity was splashing in the giant water table at the children’s museum. Her least favorite activity was getting stuck in a tube at the indoor playground. We’re looking into signing her up for gymnastics and swimming lessons in the summer. It’s so fun to watch her personality blossom.

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The Importance of Father-Daughter Time

I am lucky and I know it. I married a man who was even more excited about becoming a parent than I was. When we found out we were having a girl, he laughed and said he was up for the challenge. I had been certain I was having a boy so my immediate reaction was full-blown panic. A girl?! I didn’t know how to raise a strong woman! My teenage years were dramatic and painful and my self-esteem was nonexistent. How could I guarantee that my daughter didn’t go down the same path? My husband reassured me that we’d do a great job raising our daughter and that he would play just as important of a role as I did in the process.

He was right. Father-daughter relationships, or relationships with a consistent father figure, are incredibly important for developing a young girl’s self-esteem.

Why Father-Daughter Time Is So Important

A strong relationship with a father figure improves a girl’s self-esteem and shows ther that parenting is not only a woman’s role.

“I am a man, and I’ve spent time around plenty of men in my life. I know that my daughter will encounter many of them in the world and they will expect her to be various things. As a father, I want to spend all the time that I can with her so that she comes to understand that none of those expectations means a damn thing, and that she has the power to determine the kind of woman she will be.” – Michael Sturm, my husband

Evenings in a Working Parent Household

My daughter spends all day with me. We have hours of bonding time as we run errands, read books, color, or do pretend diaper changes on 100 stuffed animals. Five days a week, my husband leaves for work at 5 am and comes home at 5:30 pm. That leaves us about two hours for family time before Norah goes to bed. Unless we make a conscious effort to have quality time together, the night is over before we know it. My stay/work-at-home mom responsibilities could easily bleed over into the evening, leaving no time for father-daughter bonding.

The Goodnight Routine is Daddy’s Job

Since Norah was four months old and sleeping in her own crib, Michael has been in charge of her nightly routine. He does bathtime, stories, teeth brushing complete with Elmo’s Brush Your Teeth song, kisses and hugs then finally tuck-in. As soon as her head hits the mattress (with few exceptions) she doesn’t make a peep. When there’s been a change in routine because of a business trip, Norah has demanded daddy and been very disappointed when only mommy was there.

A Much Needed Break

Not only is the nighttime routine a great time for Norah and Michael to bond, but it’s also a much needed break for me. I take care of my daughter all day, everyday, with no outside help. When Michael gets home from work, Norah runs to him and follows him around for the rest of the evening. This gives me a chance spend some time working in my office or exercising in our home gym.

Encouraging Your Husband to Build a Strong Relationship

I know there are many women, and men, who are doing this parenting thing entirely on their own. I have the utmost respect for them, it is truly the hardest job anyone can do. If you’re like me and you have a husband who you’d like to have a strong bond with his daughter (or son), here are some ways you can help facilitate the relationship:

1) Make something his and let him do it his way

I probably wouldn’t do the bedtime routine the exact same way my husband does, but I’ve learned that too much input makes him feel inept. Bedtime is “his” time and he expects that he’s going to do the routine how he sees fit. He’s told me many times that he enjoys the quiet time at the end of the day with his daughter. Let go of a little bit of control and show appreciation for the thing being done. Even if it’s not exactly the way you’d do it.

2) Leave the baby with him and get out of the house

It was almost impossible to get me out of the house for the first year of Norah’s life. I felt like I  needed to be there at all times and didn’t want to run an errand without bringing the entire family along. To get comfortable with letting go of control, I started out with small errands, like running to the store for milk, during the time that Norah would be happy and playing. After doing that a few times, it became easier to leave. The more alone time that your husband spends with his children, the more comfortable everyone will be. There may be some bumps along the road, but if you feel that your partner is responsible and trustworthy then you have to give them the space to make mistakes and learn.

3) Talk to him about your relationship with your father/father figure

Every woman has had some degree of a relationship with a father or father figure. If your past with your father isn’t good, tell your husband about it. My father was physically present, but had very little interest in his kids. This had a negative effect on my self-esteem, especially as a teenager, and on my ability to choose friends and boyfriends. I’ve been candid about this with my husband and expressed my desire that my daughter have a better relationship with her father than I have with mine. On the other hand, if your relationship with your father/grandfather/ uncle/stepfather is good, then tell your husband about what a positive impact that has had on your other relationships and self-esteem.

It’s every parent’s hope that their child will have it better than they did. It’s my hope that my daughter will have the confidence to pursue her dreams because she knows her parents unconditionally love and support her. And because her dad told her she could do anything.

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