Celebrating Three Years of Motherhood

As of today, I have been a mother for three years. The time has flown by. I remember spending Mother’s Day 2014 very pregnant anticipating the birth of my daughter. Now I’ve had three years of experience and am very pregnant again!

Even though I’ve only experienced the newborn period through toddlerhood, I feel like I’ve learned a lot.

I’m sure that when my son arrives next month, I’ll learn even more about motherhood and parenting as I adjust to being a mother of two.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned in three years of motherhood.

Patience is the greatest virtue of all

Raising children requires a saint-like level of patience. Kids don’t understand time, they don’t care what you have to do and they aren’t bothered by something taking absolutely forever (as long as they are in control of it taking forever). You have to have a huge reserve of patience to get through the day with children.

I didn’t think of myself as an impatient person before I had children. I could stand waiting. I had some tolerance for uncertainty and I was able to keep it together when I got annoyed or aggravated with another adult.

I find that working on myself through meditation, journaling, and making time for self-care helps me have more patience and be a better parent. I also read articles and books about children’s brain development and the different stages they go through. It helps me to understand that my child’s behavior is normal and necessary and makes some of the struggles a bit easier to deal with.

You have to go with the flow

Trying to do too much or control too much is a recipe for disaster. You have to go with the flow and be comfortable changing your plans, canceling things or admitting that you can’t do it all. There are times when I forgo doing something because I want us to stay in our pajamas all day.

In the past, I might have felt guilty about this because other people would want us to do something else, but the longer I’m a mother, the less I care. If someone doesn’t understand that things change when you have kids then they either don’t have children yet or have forgotten what it was like.

You can’t do everything right

It’s not possible to do everything “right.” There are going to be times when you mess up. Sometimes you know you did something wrong, like lose your temper, and other times it’s a matter of opinion.

I am not a perfect parent. But I try really hard and have a good sense of self-awareness. I am open to criticism and commentary on what I’m doing. I don’t want to live in a bubble where I’m being told I’m “doing my best” if that’s not the case. I also don’t want to be critiqued for my choices when I believe they are in my child’s best interest. I’ve learned to graciously take the advice of my elders and other mothers, and use the bits that I like while ignoring the rest.

You can’t please everyone

Many people had children before you did. They have advice and opinions and want to share them with you. No matter how you choose to parent, someone will always be unhappy with what you choose. As a child’s parent, it’s up to you to decide what works for your child. That may be limited screen time, no sugar, using a ton of hand sanitizer or putting your child in daycare.

You have to find what makes you comfortable. I’m putting my daughter in preschool at three years old because I feel that’s best for her development and socialization. Other mothers feel they can offer the same benefits at home. Some mothers aren’t concerned about it at all. Everyone will make different choices and you won’t be able to make everyone happy. I choose to make my immediate family (husband, daughter, and myself) happy and not worry about the rest.

Be happy with your choices

When coming to a new stage, there are hundreds of resources you could use. There are people who think sleep training is evil while many moms let their child cry it out. There are others who sleep in a family bed until their children are teens. You find a method that works for you and go with it.

There’s always going to be another method that directly contradicts the method that you chose. This is pretty much true for everything – not just things in the parenting world. What matters is choosing something that feels right for your family. Although I am interested in writing about different methods and ways of doing things, I’m not that interested in talking about it in real life because I don’t want to sound judgmental or be judged. Whatever worked for you was the best choice for you and whatever worked for me was the best choice for me.

In the end, most kids seem to be roughly on the same developmental level by the time they are in school anyway.

Take time to enjoy your children

Raising children can be exhausting. It can feel like you’re not doing enough or that you’re doing too much. Make sure you take time to enjoy your children. Listen to them when they talk, engage in the things that interest them, and soak up the snuggles and cuddles.

I’ve made it a point to put down my computer, phone, book, laundry or whatever else I’m doing whenever my daughter wants my affection or attention. I know she won’t always want a snug or a smooch. These times are precious and I try my best to enjoy them as much as possible. I sing with her, dance with her, and try to make her day as special as I can. I encourage my husband to spend time alone with her when he gets home from work so that they can build their relationship. Everyone has told me that time flies and I know this is true, so I enjoy it as much as possible.

Parent with your “big idea” in mind

Life is a series of small moments. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and realize that you aren’t making progress towards your goals or that you aren’t living your ideal life. The most important thing that I’ve done as a mother so far is parent with my “big idea” in mind.

My big idea is that I want my children to think the world is a wonderful place. I want them to feel safe, happy, and cared for. I want them to believe that they can achieve their goals and that their parents will always be their biggest fans. I want them to think that there’s some magic out there and people are kind. I try to speak with my daughter with this in mind. I don’t want to project my fears onto her or raise her to be anxious about her future.

As long as I keep that in the front of my mind every day, I think I’m doing a pretty good job. I have a long way to go, but I know this is the most important journey of my life. And it is my greatest honor to be the mother to my child (soon to be children!).

We’re Reading 1000 Books Before Kindergarten

We love reading! Every week we go to our library and pick out a new batch of books to add to Norah’s list of 1000 books before kindergarten.

The 1000 Books before Kindergarten program

The 1000 books before kindergarten program encourages parents to read 1000 books to their children before they start school. The program promotes pre-literacy and literacy initiatives as well as family bonding.

Though the goal of 1000 books may seem huge, it’s very doable!

Why you should participate in 1000 Books before Kindergarten

Reading to your child strengthens their language skills and builds their vocabulary. Did you know that by three years old, a child from a low-income family will have heard 30 million fewer words than a child from a professional family? In addition, one in three American children start kindergarten without the skills needed to learn to read. Two-thirds of children can’t read proficiently by the end of third grade.

Reading to your child is a great way to prepare them for future success. If your family doesn’t have the means to purchase books, that’s no problem. Search for your local library and become a member, it’s free!

Reading aloud to children promotes brain development and helps build important language, literacy and social skills. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading to your child daily from infancy.

In addition to the educational benefits, reading to your child helps build a nurturing relationship and develops their self-esteem.

How you can participate in 1000 Books before Kindergarten

To participate, you only need to make time to read to your child each day. The sooner you start, the better!

If you start at one year old, reading 4 books per week = 1,060 books by kindergarten

If you start at two years old, reading 1 book per day = 1,095 books by kindergarten

If you start at three years old, reading 2 books per day = 1,460 books by kindergarten

If you start at four years old, reading 3 books per day = 1,095 books by kindergarten

 

How to read 1000 books before kindergarten

 

Most children’s books take less than 10 minutes to read. Even if you start when your child is older, you’ll only need to spend about 30 minutes per day reading. That’s the length of one TV show! If you replace one episode of your child’s favorite show with three books, you’ll be supporting their development and your relationship.

Reading doesn’t have to be a solo activity. Taking your child to story hour at the library counts too!

Find out more about 1000 books before kindergarten

Each library decides whether to participate in the program. Find a participating library in your area. If your library is not currently participating, you can suggest the program to a librarian or the library director.

My local library supports this awesome program. They recognize children who complete 1000 books before kindergarten by adding their name to a poster on the wall and giving them a prize. They also provide a notebook to record books read.

If your library doesn’t participate, you can do this initiative on your own by recording the books read on paper or in a Google document. If your child reaches 1000 books, you could take them out for dinner or buy them something special to celebrate the achievement. Whatever you choose to do, make sure to read to your child on a daily basis to set them up for success.
1000 books before kindergarten

Announcing Baby #2

This fall, we got some wonderful news. We’re expecting baby #2!

Due to my miscarriage, I wanted to wait to announce this pregnancy until I was sure everything was going well. I also wanted to inform my clients before I let everyone else know.

We had our anatomy scan on February 15 and found out we’re having a boy!

The baby looked great and everything is on track. We should be expecting the new baby around July 4th!

I’m so excited to have both a daughter and a son! I imagined myself a mother of girls so I’m a bit nervous about this new adventure.

My husband grew up with one sibling and I grew up with three, so we always knew that we wanted at least one sibling for our daughter. We are very excited to welcome this new life into our home and become a family of four!

I will also be navigating running a business and a household with TWO small children. I won’t lie, I’m a little scared. I plan to talk about my maternity leave, informing clients about a life change, and how it’s going during each developmental stage.

Thank you for sharing this happy moment with me!

Announcing Baby #2

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.

Toddler selfie
One of the Norah’s many selfies

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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