Tag Archives: parenting

3 Tools to Leverage Parenting as a Spiritual Path

img_9649Raising children is hard work. It’s deeply trying, physically and emotionally. Many studies have confirmed the drudgery of parenting, finding that the work itself is more tiring than chores or paid work . For those of us who have little ones, whether we care for them all week long or after hours, that’s no mystery.

Parenting is an all-in occupation, with every bit of us being needed for the job, including those parts of us we’d rather forget about. Parenting pushes all of our buttons on purpose. It’s our second chance to dig up and heal all of those old traumas we’ve buried. And depending upon how many kids we have, it’s also our 3rd chance, 4th chance etc. Because with each new character in our brood those feelings emerge as freshly as we experienced them in childhood.

How do you react when you hear your child screaming? It hits you deep down, right? And you’d do anything to make it stop. And that’s by design. By observing how you handle that feeling, and your reaction to your child as they get bigger and push your buttons, we get a unique window into our own childhood, into our parents’ experience, and theirs before them.

We are the inheritors of a unique legacy. All of us come out of childhood with some form of baggage. And we spend an outsize amount of our lives burying it so that we can “function normally”. But normal functioning isn’t dancing on top of a garbage mound and pretending we’re at a beauty pageant. It’s digging down and finding out who we are under all that garbage. It’s allowing and even welcoming all the experiences of life, and all the messy emotions that come with them. And if we have children, we’ve signed up for the messiest of those duties.

Childcare is physically challenging, but as babies turn into children, we find that the emotional challenges feel far more difficult than those early months when our bodies ached from constant carrying and personal hygiene fell low on our priority list.

Parenthood holds up a huge mirror that helps us see our stuffed feelings, our ideas about what’s wrong with us and our beliefs about who it’s acceptable to be in the world. Dealing with that gracefully is difficult on a good day, much less when your charge has smeared peanut butter in your hair and peed on the carpet.

3 ideas to get you through.

1. Laugh. A sense of humor can get you through just about anything. Another benefit is that laughter is healing, in that it lets us release tension and it tells our brain to celebrate. And celebrating is definitely the correct response to useful information that will help you to free your inner child so that you can actually enjoy watching your kid splash in the puddles while wearing her sneakers. or better yet, join in!

2. Take notes. I know it’s difficult to find time to journal when you have a kid, but some of us somehow find ways to send texts. So text yourself when you notice a pattern, when you’ve caught a glimpse of yourself (good bad or ugly) or when you find something you’d like to ponder later. These truths about ourselves are gems, and it’s worth taking a few minutes to jot it down if you can.

3. Roll with it. Yes it’s difficult. And it’s hysterical. And it’s sad. And every other emotion you can imagine. When we open ourselves to our inner experience, as we’ve detailed in the Flow chapter of The Other Baby Book, we can be present to what’s happening in this moment with our child, which is all there ever is.

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Miriam KatzMiriam J. Katz is co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year, where you can find a guide to safe co-sleeping and other fun tools. Miriam is an intuitive life coach whose passion is to help others overcome obstacles to living their life purpose. She lives in Boston with her husband and two children.

Toddler Identity and the Scam of Product Marketing

Last week, I took my two-year old daughter to Target. It was intended as a quick in and out trip, with the intention of picking up a baby shower gift. She begrudgingly held my hand ( a requirement for walking in public places), and off we went to the baby section. Typically, I try to avoid any displays that are too enticing and invite wild displays of passion for whatever Target has decided to put at toddler eye-level.

Unfortunately for me, I missed the mega display of Disney princess, glaring pink plastic ride-on cars. Ugggh, seriously Target? Her eyes lit up, and she ran to the shelf like a moth to a light. I reasoned: “these aren’t ours, so we can’t play with them.” I encouraged: “can you help me pick out a gift for the baby party?” Nothing worked, except whipping out a box of raisins for her to eat as we walked.

I was a bit angry with myself for resorting to the last option, but we avoided a total meltdown, and she happily walked away. However, it got me thinking.

What is it about products marketed to toddlers that is like crack to their little developing minds? I can’t control what Target puts on their shelves (at eye-level, no coincidence), but I can control what enters my home and takes from my wallet.

Megan, co-author of The Other Baby Book, sent me an article link that explores the allure and concern of the Disney princesses. And not to pick on Disney Princesses or the Disney company in general (full disclosure: the hubs and I met at Disney World and also married there), but this article has an important message, specifically for mothers of little girls.

What role models should we put in front of our daughters? The anorexic, big-breasted, lusciously maned princess (who more likely than not, needs some rescuing), or a strong-willed character like Anne from Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Longstocking, Laura of Little House on the Prairie, and Harriet of Harriet the Spy, to name a few?

Listen: my daughter is a normal toddler. Given a choice, she would watch cartoons all day, play in and with Princess garb and maybe even take to a Bratz doll. They’re colorful, sparkly, and have excellent (read: big money) ad campaigns.

But as a parent, I have a choice. And my choice is to pick the “boring” but reliable toys and role models that will build her self-confidence, inspire her creativity, and encourage her independence.

So the next time you’re in a big-box store, dragging your toddler away from the mega-display of Bratz themed candy (or whatever), while looking around to see who is watching, know that I’ve been there. And perhaps the princess line of little girl stuff is innocuous and isn’t harmful in the long-run. But who really knows. We have limited time to make a precious impact on our children, male or female. To shape their identity into one of strength and inner resilience.

What we spend our money on speaks to what we value most. It’s not easy to avoid the typical stuff geared toward little girls, but I’m pretty sure it’s worth it. And my daughter, who thinks her Pippi Longstocking doll (vintage: aka mine from childhood) and books are the best thing since breast milk, will be just fine.

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Kate photo 2

Kate is a full-time mama, part-time professor, and lover of early childhood methodologies and gentle parenting ideas. When she’s not testing out new activities with her spitfire of a two year old and turning their house into a home, you can find her moonlighting as a blogger here on TOBB.

5 Tips to Help Kids Adjust to a Big Transition

When you were a kid, did you ever feel like your parents made so many decisions regarding your life and you had absolutely no control? It’s a frustrating feeling for children, but totally avoidable. I hate to break it to our parents’ generation (and no offense, mom, if you’re reading), but it is perfectly acceptable for children, even very young ones, to have some say in decision-making. Whatever your parenting style, I promise you, giving children a sense of control is a gift that will continue to benefit them for years to come. And let’s be honest, it makes life easier on you too by minimizing tantrums!

When a family decides to move, whether by choice or because of a predetermined reason, there are steps moms and dads can take to help the kiddos feel secure and maybe even excited for the changes in store. Concerns about moving kids–whether to a big kid’s room from the family bed or cross-country–make a pretty frequent appearance here at The Other Baby Book. And not to expose myself as a parent who has “forced” multiple moves on my daughter (5 homes in under two years…..don’t ask), but I do consider myself somewhat experienced in the “helping kids to adjust to change” category.

So here are my suggestions, none of which are mind-blowing, but all of which are manageable in a variety of settings. (Bonus: these are compatible with different parenting styles and are flexible in structure.)

  1. The official announcement: whether your child is 10 months or 10 years, start talking about the move in a positive, excited voice. This is not the time for baby-talk, but a very clear and concise introduction to the move. Then continue to talk about it on a daily basis. By doing this, you are making the change seem a normal and routine upcoming event, not something to be afraid of.
  2. Create a vision: Paint word pictures for your child of what their new home (or new room) will look like. If you have photos or can visit in person, all the better. The idea behind this is that the child will begin to internalize and accept the upcoming change. Continue discussing and dreaming about the new place all the way up through the move.
  3. Offer choices: Give your child (or children) the opportunity to make decisions during the moving process. They can be small, i.e. “do you want your new room to be yellow or purple?” or help build excitement: “would you rather have a tree swing in the backyard or a sandbox (or both?), or even build comfort: “which stuffed animals should we take along for the car ride to the new home?” Choices give children a sense of control and help them feel involved in the process.
  4. Give responsibility: Even the youngest toddler can help pack boxes, and in turn, build a sense of accomplishment and contribution to the family. Ask older children to photo-document the old home or old sleeping arrangement and make a photo album. If you’re moving a child to their own room, let them start taking naps in the new room and arrange their things before expecting them to sleep overnight.
  5. Avoid negative conversations: As hard as it may be, keep the stress, arguments, and drama away from your children. They do not need to experience and be a witness to it or to associate change with negative feelings. It’s okay to be scared and acknowledge that to your kids, but keep your overall tone positive and reassuring. We cannot expect our kids to adjust well if we aren’t ourselves!
  6. Maintain routine: Keep your children on their routine as much as is humanly possible. Naps should be, more or less, at the same time. Kids who continue getting plenty of sleep through naps and overnight will be able to deal more effectively with change. Provide healthy snacks and well-rounded meals, even if you need to eat out. Too much fast food and junk food = cranky kids and wildly fluctuating blood sugar levels. Do yourselves all a favor and make a game plan in advance as to how you’ll find healthy meals if you’re traveling far. And this advice is for you too, mama! Just speaking from experience, drinking too much coffee and having too few healthy meals is a recipe for feeling out of control and lacking the energy so greatly needed during a busy time.
  7. Build trust and respect: Finally, provide plenty of opportunities for your kids to voice their concerns and have a mommy or daddy to lean on. Acknowledge that their feelings and anxiety are normal and that you are there for them, no matter where you live. Make sure a special stuffed animal or comfort object is available throughout the entire process. And by all means, don’t forget plenty of hugs and kisses!

Have you ever moved with kids and what was your experience?

Marissa Mayer: One Step Forward for Female CEOs, Two Steps Back for Working Moms

Marissa Mayer, the brand-spanking new CEO of struggling Yahoo, is about to be a first-time mom. Many are commending Yahoo’s Board of Directors for their willingness to embrace a pregnant female as their new top dog. Women everywhere should be celebrating her summit to the top of the U.S.’s business food chain. It’s not every day that a soon-to-be mother is also running a major company.

But amid the press junkets surrounding the sunny haze of feminist glory, Mayer mentioned her commitment to working through her maternity leave, which “apologetically,” would be a few weeks long. WHAT the WHAT!? There are so many things wrong with this picture, but I’ll tackle a few of my favorites.

  • The U.S is already hopelessly behind nearly 178 other nations that guarantee paid leave for new mothers. The only safety net for new parents is the outdated Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which guarantees 12 weeks UNPAID leave for workers at companies with 50 or more employees. Nearly 50% of the American workforce does not meet the requirements for FMLA, thus rendering them unable to take maternity leave unless they have a “generous” employer.
  • Marissa Mayer is in a position of power to facilitate a discussion over the need for better maternity coverage. Unfortunately, she is leading by example, however it is not an example that will benefit mothers in the workplace. Women must already work harder and longer at most companies, especially if they are mothers, to prove their worth and value next to their male counterparts. Her willingness to work through her leave, as well as only take a couple of weeks, sets up a detrimental pattern of expectations for other working mothers.
  • Most importantly, this situation effectively demonstrates the conundrum many women face today: we captured our place in the workplace, but we cannot get out. 1970’s feminism set the precedent for two-income-earner households, making the stay-at-home mom (SAHM) a near anomaly. Money, debts, the economy, all drive the typical U.S. family’s financial decisions, and maternity leave or a parent staying home are often the casualties. Although Mayer can probably afford ample, quality childcare and household help to maintain her image as a powerful exec, the majority of us cannot. She had the opportunity to champion family rights and declare the importance of maternity leave, family bonding, and childcare, but chose to (and perhaps, unknowingly) support an outdated, male-centered approach to the workplace.

Ultimately, this is one woman making a personal decision about her family and job. And as much as I object to her stance, it is her right to do as she pleases. Only time will tell how the limited maternity leave will affect her family and perhaps even her job.

If maternity leave rights for parents are important to you, and you’re as steamed as I am, check out these resources for more information:

  1. Read: A report by the National Partnership for Women and Families
  2. Act: Sign this petition for better maternity coverage, sponsored by NPWF.

The U.S. and Children: Blessing or Burden?

Whether or not you are a parent, have you ever thought or said (or heard someone else say) any of the following?

  • “Children should be seen, not heard.”
  • “Why can’t they control their kids?” OR “I’m so glad my kids aren’t like that!”
  • “I wish my kids would just behave.”

Sometimes these phrases slip so easily off the tongue that it’s scary. Or maybe it’s not you. Perhaps you hear these things when out in public or from a well-meaning family member, friend, or co-worker. Either way, it sometimes seems that U.S. cultural norms, which often dictate the collective view of childhood, say that children are a big pain in the rear. And so I wanted to tackle some of these ideas, namely the phrases above, in the hopes of dismantling the viewpoint of children as a burden rather than a blessing.

“Children should be seen, not heard”

This particular phrase is old-fashioned at best, irrelevant and damaging at worst. We, as a country, have moved well beyond the Victorian age which spawned this phrase. So why do some people still toss this time-bomb around? Perhaps it’s a desire for the “old days when kids behaved and respected adults” or simply an idea that children are bothersome or annoying. Either way, the underlining message of this is disturbing. Childhood is a rambunctious, playful time of curiosity. A silent child is a child that is probably not exploring, learning, or growing. I hate to think of the ways someone might “train” a child to meet this ideal.

“Why can’t they control their kids?” OR “I’m so glad my kids aren’t like that!”

Our culture is obsessed with control. We work long hours to control our bank accounts. We obsess over food and exercise to control our weight and body image. We are in control of every aspect of our children’s plans, whether it be play dates, sports to excel at, or classes to master. And many of the things we “control” are a subconscious attempt to control the opinions of others so that they think more highly of our families and ourselves. So when we place a judgment call on another child or family, we’re essentially pointing out their lack of control. The reality is that everyone parents differently, and we all have bad days. But I like to think of kids as inherently good (and who make occasional mistakes), rather than labeling kids today as: “______” (fill in the blank: lazy, silly,manipulative, stupid, disobedient, willful, etc.). And let’s hope we’re never on the OTHER SIDE of the equation where someone is judging us as our toddler has a meltdown in Aisle 9.

I wish my kids would just behave”

What does it mean to “behave?” Obviously every parent has a different idea of what constitutes “good” and “bad” behavior. But what if we move beyond viewing children as alternating between two polar opposites, defined by us or (gulp, even more frighteningly) society? Sometimes I think the desire for absolute control of everything has a negative (and often unintended) outcome on our children. When I decide my child is doing something bad, is it because she is truly doing something dangerous to herself or others OR is it because what she’s doing doesn’t fit in with my plans? Am I asking my child to do something that she is developmentally unable to do? Children are not little adults, and we must not treat them so. Having some flexibility while parenting and being realistic with expectations will make it less likely the above phrase will slip out of your mouth or someone’s else’s.

 

One more thing. Parenting is an intuitive thing, and we all have ideas of how we would like to raise our children. But our society’s viewpoint of children as a burden can affect even the best intentions. View children as the challenging but lovable blessing that they are, and I truly believe that intuitive, go with the flow parenting will follow.

 

 

Kate is the mom to 16 month old Vivi, her firecracker of a daughter who inspires her everyday to be a better parent. When they’re not practicing how to nicely pet the dogs or playing with “Baby,” Kate tries to catch a few minutes for a cup of coffee and some reading. After all, a relaxed (and caffeinated) mama is a happy mama.

Summer Sucks

Do you know what I used to do all summer?  Sit on my butt. Well technically I was paid to make sure swimmers didn’t drown. But there were many many hours when I did little else but swim laps, nap, read People or musty paperbacks, re-apply tanning lotion and eat cold delicious cantaloupe out of my little cooler.  And that was just the days! Every night I would hang with my friends laughing, sipping beer, flirting with boys, listening to live music.
Years later my husband and I would start the weekend by sleeping in, then we’d get iced coffees and sit by the pool passing sections of the paper back and forth.  When we were bored we’d take dunks.  At dusk we’d have people over, grill steaks, sit on the patio and stare at the fire.
Oh man I loved summer.

Things I used to worry about in the summer
1.  ummm
2.  or… eh… my towel didn’t dry completely from the day before?

Things I worry about in the summer now that I have kids
1.  Sunscreen
2.  Whether my kids’ sunscreen is made out of poison
3.  Insect Repellent
4.  That every walk or hike = Lyme disease if I’m not diligent about #3
5. Bald baby not wearing a hat
6.  UV blocking scuba suits- you know what I mean- those horrible long sleeve things for albinos
7. Sand in kids’ eyes, hair, private areas, new car
8. Sweaty baby wanting to cuddle or be worn
9. Horrible non absorbent and crazy expensive swim diapers
10.  Poop in swim diaper
11. Evil Ice Cream Truck
12.  Snack Bars and the begging related to snack bars
13. Burning Hot Metal Playground Slides
14.  Bees, Wasps
15.  Gross, freaky street fairs with carnies from central casting and rides that last 90 seconds and cost more than a gallon of milk
16.  Stupid long days where it is broad daylight at bedtime and blackout shades are not cutting it
17.  Sauna cars and toasty carseats with melted buckles
18.  Meat locker AC too cold for baby
19. Concrete around pools- why has someone not invented rubber pool decks?
20.  Drowning, Drowning, Drowning

My teacher friends will cry when I write this, but how long ‘til September?

Rebecca and her family, including sons ages 3 and 1, live in New Jersey.  Someday when she is very brave she will join her fellow residents and summer “down the shore”.  But for now the local pool and tennis club is about all the fun she can manage.

Stop the Pregnancy Hazing Already!

Are you pregnant now? Have you ever been pregnant? Chances are, if you fall into one of the those two categories, some well-meaning person has decided it was their duty to tell you some childbirth horror stories. Or to tell you that you’ll catch up on your sleep in about twenty years. Or to remind you that your body will never, ever look the same as it did pre-pregnancy. Even celebrities, such as Jessica Simpson, cave to fear-based decision-making in the last moments of pregnancy. Negativity, more often than not, surrounds what should be a happy and joyous experience.

And really, who is to blame for our society’s often negative view of childbirth? We could certainly blame it on the media. Childbirth and motherhood are sensationalized, and TV shows portray pregnant women being rushed to the ER, babies in distress, and slovenly and exhausted moms with a bunch of bratty kids in tow. If we truly believed the negative press on childbirth and motherhood, who would ever have kids?

So let’s get a few things straight and talk about it honestly. Yes, childbirth can be painful. Yes, parenting is a tough 24/7 job that lasts a lifetime. But to focus solely on those two points to the exclusion of everything else is an exercise in emotional and mental hazing.

What would it take to change our societal view of childbirth and parenthood? What would it take to stop the ritualized “hazing” that takes places in the supermarket, at the park, and from your co-workers, friends, family, even strangers? A few months ago, a pregnant acquaintance of mine told me of how many people criticized her decision to homebirth. Yet no one stepped forward to tell this first time mama what a joy it is to give birth naturally and to feel the harmonious sensation of your little one skin to skin for the first time. No one told her to follow her instinct to birth at home. And certainly, no one trusted her instincts either.

My experience was no different. I had a “well-meaning” co-worker (whom I wasn’t even close with) debate my decision to birth naturally in front of other faculty at a holiday party. Multiple people told me that I would be begging for an epidural and questioned my decision to use a midwife rather than an OB/GYN. If not for the support of my classmates from a Bradley Method childbirth class, I might not have stayed true to my instincts.

Unfortunately, we cannot rely on the media to change the way childbirth and motherhood are portrayed. But we, the mothers and fathers who have experienced it, can. No matter how you gave birth or where, support a pregnant friend in her decision-making. Encourage her to trust her instinct. Give her (and her partner) what the media cannot: a positive, supportive experience based in love, not fear.

Kate is a first-time mama who experienced her fair share of pregnancy hazing, including a stranger in the grocery line encouraging her husband to “force her to get an epidural.” When she’s not advocating for others’ childbirth and parenting decisions, she enjoys sewing, researching different parenting philosophies, and playing “animals” with her sweet little girl.