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If there’s one thing I’ve learned on my journey as a mom, it’s that I can’t do it alone. And it’s not enough just to have my husband’s help – even though I appreciate him and he is a huge support financially and emotionally.

I guess before Marie was born I really thought Spencer and I could handle it all on our own.

I’ve never been more wrong about anything.

I don’t want to spend too much time reminiscing about the details of Marie’s newborn phase. It was so much harder than I could have imagined beforehand. She was healthy, but I had breastfeeding challenges as well as a difficult physical recovery from birth. We made it through, thanks in large part to my mom and mother-in-law who frequently spent the night on weekends to help care for Marie in the night and give Spencer and I some longer stretches of sleep.

Once we made it through the newborn phase, the isolation of being a stay-at-home mom with a baby kicked in. I developed postpartum depression and anxiety, and probably even PTSD from the birth and newborn ordeal. I had nothing on my calendar anymore, and each day seemed to go on forever until my husband came home and I had someone else to talk to.

Yes, I should have sought counseling but I didn’t have health insurance and didn’t think we had the financial resources to pay for counseling out-of-pocket. But the thing that helped get me through was seeking out community. I realized I couldn’t spend so much time alone with my baby anymore, so I tried to engage with community in whatever ways were available to me. I went to:

  • library story times
  • mom & baby yoga
  • baby sign language class
  • mom writing group
  • MOPS

We moved back to my hometown so I could get more support from my family, and I found new sources of community here. We had another baby. Now, my first child is nearing age 4 and I’m still a stay-at-home mom, but I don’t feel isolated anymore. The days go by quickly. I’ve found community through my family, MOPS, church, and preschool. I’m busy chauffering Marie to preschool and play dates and working a few hours a week as a publicist for her choir.

My pastor said yesterday that community is messy, but it’s the only way. It’s so true. Relationships with other people can be challenging. We all have our sharp edges and annoying habits. When we seek community we’ll experience awkward moments, and sometimes rejection. But we’ll also find deep and meaningful relationships.

Recently I’ve had the experience of reconnecting with old friends from various stages of life – from grad school, college, high school and even elementary school. Even though several of these people I hadn’t seen for years – I still felt that we connected when we got together. Once you build a close connection with someone, you can often get it back even if you’ve been out of touch for awhile. So I think the reward of building real friendships is more than worth the possible risk of rejection. Quality friendships are priceless.

No mom is an island.

What are some ways that you’ve found community as a mom?

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If you’re a mom with young children and you’re looking for a community of other moms, consider checking out MOPS or your local chapter of Moms Club. Also, I thought that mom & baby yoga was pretty awesome.

 

 

Dear Blogiverse,

Since becoming a mom three years ago, I’ve entered a whole new world of expectations for women. In my pre-mom days, my personal goals mostly had to do with my career – if I felt bad about myself it was usually because I wasn’t meeting those goals. But I’ve found that for moms there seem to be a lot of cultural guidelines that determine what makes a good mom – and a whole new list of things to feel insecure about. People seem to think that a good mom:

– Keeps a moderately clean house

– Cooks healthy and tasty meals for the family

– Is thin and beautiful without being too sexy

– Puts the needs of her family before her own needs

– Has a well-kept garden

– Excels at crafting in the form of sewing, knitting, jewelry making, etc.

What’s the deal with the crafting part?  I don’t mind working on a craft that someone else has set up, but I don’t have any Martha Stewartish expectations. I made snowman cupcakes one day around Christmas and they looked nothing like the picture in the book. But who cares? They tasted good.

I’ve noticed that women can have a weird sense of competition around their crafting abilities. Is this true or is it my imagination? Shouldn’t it just be something you do for fun?

Maybe I just don’t really understand women, because my husband has been my best friend for the past 11 years or so. Do I need to become more crafty in order to fit in with the other moms?

Sincerely,

Uncrafty Mom

 

 

 

 

Ducks don't worry about the ideal time to start a family.

Ducks don’t worry about the ideal time to start a family. They just have lots of cute babies.

Having a child is, ahem, a major life change. Some times of life are obviously less-than-ideal for becoming a parent — like when you’re still in high school. But is there a best time to have a baby? And how do you know when that is?

My daughter was born when I was 28 and my husband was 29. We were among the first of our friends to become parents. Now that I’m approaching 31, parenting is becoming the new normal among our circle of acquaintances. That biological clock just becomes harder to resist, I guess.

We had several reasons for choosing to start our family when we did. We had already been married for 5 years when I became pregnant, so we felt like we’d had plenty of childless years together to develop our relationship. I also had finished my master’s degree and had several years of professional work experience, so I figured it would be possible to rebound from taking time off. I wanted to have my first child before age 30, because that reduces a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. We thought we might want 3 children, and I wanted 3 years between each child, so that would allow me to finish having babies before age 35 (at 35 you become an “elderly” pregnant woman — ability to conceive and sustain a pregnancy drops significantly). In many ways, 28 seemed like the perfect age to become a mom.

On the other hand, we hadn’t reached the financial goals I had expected to reach by 28. We didn’t own a house or have disposable income. In fact, we lived in a small 2-bedroom apartment with no dishwasher and one bedroom functionally unusable due to severe mold problems. So, that was not ideal. But we told ourselves: Our financial situation could change on a dime! God will provide! We’ll find a way!

So how did things turn out? Our finances have not improved. It’s been challenging. Still, we’ve managed to get by, remain debt-free, and even move to a new apartment with a dishwasher and 2 functional bedrooms.

In some ways, it definitely would have been easier to wait to have a child until we were older and (theoretically!) had more money. Or it might have been easier to have a child when I was 23 and had more energy. Don’t underestimate the enormous amount of energy required to care for a young child.

Really, there is no perfect time to have a child, and the best time will vary from couple to couple. If you’re considering whether now is a good time to start a family, you may want to ask yourself the following questions to help you evaluate the situation:

— Am I in a stable monogamous relationship? Would my partner make a good parent?

— Do I need more time to get to know my significant other before adding a baby to the mix?

— Do my partner or I have any addictions or serious emotional problems we should work on before becoming parents?

— Am I willing to sacrifice my waistline, sleep, personal life, career goals? (Yes, you can continue to have a successful career and be a parent, but often one parent’s career does go on the backburner for awhile…)

I asked my husband what he thought about this, and he said, “Don’t ask questions. If you want to have a baby you should. Nothing’s ever going to be perfect.” So there’s a perspective from someone who’s not a Type A personality.

If you’re a parent, how old were you when you had your first child? Would you have rather been older or younger if you could have done things differently?

I was pretty nervous about the idea of flying with my daughter. The thought foremost in my mind was: What if she throws a tantrum and everyone else on the plane thinks I’m the worst person in the world for ruining their flight? Or, what if she has a poopy diaper on the flight? I couldn’t imagine trying to change a diaper in a tiny airplane bathroom.

For these reasons, I probably would not have chosen to fly with my toddler except that we were graciously given plane tickets to Palm Springs for Christmas. And, right under the two year age limit, Marie could sit on my lap for free. So, I had no choice!

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We made it to Palm Springs! She wants to be a golfer, like her Daddy.

Here are some tips I discovered for making flying with a toddler a positive experience:

1) Plan a short trip. Take as short a trip as possible (with a direct flight) to ensure the best experience for everyone involved. Maybe you can postpone the 10-hour flight to Paris until your child is older? Lucky for us, our flight was only slightly over 2 hours.

1) Bring a copy of the birth certificate. If your child could possibly pass for two by any stretch of the imagination, bring a birth certificate just in case the airline challenges you. If you don’t, they might make you pay for a seat for your child. Expensive!

2) Bring your stroller or Ergo carrier. Navigating your way through the airport with toddler and carry-ons can be challenging. Marie was napping when we arrived at the airport, so I just strapped her into my Ergo carrier and then had two hands available to pull our rolling suitcases. Even though I rarely use the Ergo now that she is so heavy, I was glad to have it for walking through the airport. It was also great during the security checkpoint — that can be a little scary for kids and I know she would have wanted to be held then anyway.

3) Give her something to drink during take-off and landing. Drinking or sucking on something helps relieve ear pressure during take-off and landing. Marie likes pureed fruit packets, so we gave her one of those and that seemed to do the trick. Also, if you’re still breastfeeding, don’t forget that’s an option as well. I didn’t really want to nurse her on the plane with so many strangers around, but she got fussy and I ended up doing it anyway. Ultimately, I figured people would rather I nurse her than listen to a huge tantrum from which there was no escape.

4) Enjoy the magic of Disney. Yes, they say that children under age two shouldn’t be allowed to watch movies or television. We eventually had to lift that ban to avoid going insane — sometimes we just need a break. (Her exposure to media is still very limited, don’t worry). On the plane, do what it takes to make your child happy. For Marie that meant letting her watch Disney cartoons with no sound, because she refused to wear headphones. If you don’t want your child to watch movies, bring lots of books and toys for her to play with.

Luckily we didn’t need to do any emergency diaper changes and things went pretty smoothly for us on our flights to and from Palm Springs. Holding her in my lap was like snuggling with a warm teddy bear for two hours. My husband didn’t need to help much, and was able to spend most of the time chatting with other passengers. We even received some compliments on our wonderfully well-behaved toddler. So, success beyond my wildest dreams! Although the car rides to and from the airport were a different story altogether.

Have you flown with a toddler or lap infant? Do you have any additional tips that helped you through the experience? Did you have to do any awkward in-flight diaper changes?