5 Parenting Things I Should or Shouldn’t Be Doing

Although I am a working mom, my toughest job is being a mom. Children are complicated and they don’t come with any instructions.

I taught for five years before switching careers in 2008. My students ranged in age from 3 to 14 and the subjects I taught ranged from Montessori to Spanish. Some of the more friendly parents would talk to me about their parenting issues, and I assumed that someday I would be well prepared to handle it. As a teacher, I had to deal with potty fights (use your imagination), wrangled groups of kids on the playground, and helped several children deal with some serious emotions and situations.

This is where I say something like; Oh, how wrong I was.

Working with children has, in no way, prepared me for having a child of my own. I’ve looked to parenting literature, social media forums, and other parents as I struggle to be the best mom that I can be.

When I am in public with my child, I am aware of the stares I get from people who used to be just like me; the people without kids who silently remind themselves that they never want to be a mom like me. There is no right or wrong with parenting, there is just… different. But despite my open mind about parenting, others have strong opinions about how it should be done. Moms come in a lot of varieties; strict, cool, serious, kind, silly, strong, etc. I’m the confused kind of mom.

As parents, we can all agree that nothing is more important than having safe, happy, healthy, and loved children. What we disagree on is how to make all those things happen. I am aware of some things I do as a mom that other parents disagree with. Below is my list of 5 things I should or maybe shouldn’t be doing.

5 Things I Should or Shouldn’t Be Doing

What I do: I let my son brush my hair My hair is thick and long, thus taking a very long time to dry even with a blow dryer. My son has been mimicking what he sees others doing and that includes brushing his own hair in an awkward manner his motor skills can’t handle yet. He has his hair brushes, but he really likes to use mine. When I hand my brush over to him, I know it’s gonna be painful for me. Why I do It? We’re bonding; he is trying to take care of me the way that I take care of him. Kind of like the monkeys that pick bugs off of one another. He’s also learning good grooming and controlling the force of his touch (the grabbing-pulling that makes doggies cry when he pets them).

What I Do: I let my son play with my cell phone My husband, mother, and so many others have told me this is a bad idea. Mostly, they think I am teaching him playing with phones is OK and they are afraid for theirs. I have rules though. He can only play with my phone when I offer it to him. If he takes it himself, I take it away. I also require that he only play with my phone under my supervision. I don’t want him eating, trowing, or losing my cell phone. If it looks like he is getting rough, again I take it away. Why I do it? It just makes him happy. More often than not, the only thing he does with my phone is turn it on, turn it off, and smile each and every time he does it.

What I Do: I feed my son food other than fruit and vegetables I was strict on what my child ate during the first year of his life as though I was following a specific recipe to ensure healthy eating habits for life. Now? Not so much. As we added more and more foods to his diet and different textures, I don’t restrict him to fruits, vegetables, and small portions of healthy meats. I have no problem sharing a few bites of cake with him. Why I do it? If he wants to try something I am eating, then why not? It’s my job to teach him how to make healthy choices, not limit his taste buds while he’s growing.

What I Do: I let my son play with things that are not toys Like things with buttons (computers, calculators) newspapers, shoe boxes, and other things you might just throw into the trash. Currently, his favorite toy is a tin box and some ticket stubs. He loves opening and closing the tin box and passing out the tickets one by one to anyone nearby. And like a lot of other children, he also loves cooking with an empty bowl and spoon. Sometimes he even makes ticket soup. Why I do it? This entertains him for HOURS and is made up of a tin box a friend gave him and left over ticket stubs that were garbage. He plays quietly, why wouldn’t I let him play with it?

What I Do: I let my son make a mess Yes, sometimes I watch him dump his toy bins on the floor and mix the organized contents. That same thing some mother’s update their Facebook status about with pictures of the damage their children caused. Why I do it? He’s just having fun and clean up is a game for him. I cheer and praise him when he puts toys back into his toy box or the bins. So instead of telling him NO when he makes a mess, I’m telling him YES when he cleans it up. This positive reinforcement has led to him spontaneously putting things away and another game he likes to play called, pick-up-the-tiny-thing-the-vacuum-missed-and-give-it-to-mommy.

BONUS: I also let my son shower instead of bath (you just try getting him to sit in the tub), I laugh at how cute he looks when he has a tantrum, and I let him get dirty when he plays in the yard.

Do you let your children do something maybe they shouldn’t be doing?

 

Tuesday 10: 10 Favorite Photos

Below are 10 of my favorite photos that capture some of the most special moments in my life. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I will let these special photos speak for themselves.

1. When we first met…

2. Celebrating our marriage with family and friends…

3. Baby’s first picture…

4. Our first family photo…

5. Mother and daughter…

6. Little baby goes to Washington…

7. Precious smile…

8. Sisters…

9. That’s my boy…10. I love every, simple, mundane moment…

Looking Good: Pregnant and Pospartum Bellies

Why, oh why, is it such a big deal when a pregnant woman poses nude?

Although I don’t have time for reading magazines (unless I need a distraction in a waiting room), I check out the cover to know all that I need to know about which celebrities are getting a divorce, which celebrities I have never heard of, and which celebrities made a million dollars selling their baby’s first photo. Although I am a prude about being sexy, magazine covers are not shy about selling what sells; sex. If it’s not a celebrity baby’s first photo on the cover, you can bet it is a sexy celebrity showing some skin. Combine the two and you get a pregnant celebrity posing nude.

I was 11 years old when Demi Moore posed on the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991. Let me do the math for you, I’m gonna be 32 this year. I didn’t understand ‘pregnancy’ back then and thought it was gross. I hoped that when I had children, there would be another way to do it that wouldn’t involve a big round belly. Big round bellies were for Santa Clause.

During the first 7 months of my pregnancy, I looked bloated like I usually do. I was relieved when my belly got bigger and I no longer had to endure stares from people trying to determine if I was pregnant or not. If you’ve got an Etsy shop, perhaps you could make a t-shirt that takes the guess work out of it; This isn’t a belly full of Doritos, I have a person growing inside of me.

I gained 35 pounds during pregnancy and it was all belly. Big belly. BIG belly. It was like an uneven shelf and I used it as such. When I was sitting behind by desk, I had to slide my chair back further as pregnancy progressed. I realized something wonderful was happening.

I DON’T HAVE TO SUCK MY STOMACH IN!

Whenever I posed for pictures, I could turn to the side and let my belly stick out. Whenever I wore a form fitting fabrics, I didn’t need to wear a jacket to cover my belly. Whenever I wore pants my belly could just hang over the top. Oh, glory! There was no more pretending to be a smaller size I wasn’t. I was pregnant and proud!

My boobs went from big to biggerer and I have no idea what my legs looked like down there. Also big I think. I eventually lost track of my belly button too. Gone! Things were just big. This was my body and I was growing a baby! YAY!

Dramatic re-enactment of what my cover might have looked like. Does my face look model-moody or just moody?

Alas, magazines did not offer me compensation for posing nude during my pregnancy. If they had, I would have enthusiastically accepted. I have never in my life been so proud of my body. So confident in my shape. The ‘pregnancy glow’ must be caused by confidence and comfort in the curvy shape that results from growing people.

It is a shame that only hours after giving birth, I was wondering why my stomach didn’t look much smaller than it was when there was still a baby in there. It made me sad that when I left the hospital my shirt was tighter and my maternity pants were still very necessary.

A postpartum celebrity posing nude before the personal trainers and chefs get them back into shape would be a nice reality to show on a magazine cover. Pregnant bellies are wonderful, but what happens to our bodies after babies are born is equally as dramatic. But ‘reality’ means something very different when a celebrity is marketing or exploiting themselves. It would be nice to see a celebrity stepping forward to showcase a sagging belly, swollen breasts, and a sleep deprived facial expression. They would have the enthusiastic support of this mommy!

Please vote for Mommy Huh daily… and from your smart phones too!

When Something Scary Happened to My Son

This topic is a little more serious than usual. I learn so much from my experiences, and wanted to share this one.

The sun slept in on Saturday and got a later start than usual. Unfortunately, the same was not true for me. I had a list of errands to do before a bridal shower at noon. Although motherhood has taught me efficiency, it has not taught me patience. I was in foul mood until my to-do list was completed and we made it to the bridal shower.

My mother and I were greeted at the bridal shower by family we don’t see as often as we would like and some new friends. For them, it was their first time meeting my son. He didn’t mind the attention, but was staying cautiously close to me. When the bride-to-be opened her gifts in the living room, I stood just outside the empty kitchen. Releasing my son was like opening a birdcage. After pacing through the kitchen several times, he was at my side and playing with a pair of balloons.When he sat on the floor beside me, I gave him a snack.

I took advantage of the opportunity to be sociable, and directed my attention back to the bridal shower for a moment as I stood just beside my son. When I looked down at him seconds later, I noticed something was very wrong.

“HE’S CHOKING!’ I shouted immediately. The words were there before I understood what was happening. Suddenly, time stopped.

I grabbed my son and began hitting him on the back. When that didn’t work and he continued gasping for air, I used my fingers in his mouth. I had CPR and First Aid training years ago, but I was too busy reacting to what was happening to ponder if I should be doing something differently. My mother was beside me now and while I continued to use my pinky in his mouth, she was hitting him on the back with the heel of her hand.

He gagged and spit up a little. Then he did it again. Finally, he vomited and his airway was cleared. After he got some air, his scream was one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard.

While I took care of him, the other moms at the bridal shower were taking care of me. I couldn’t truly comprehend what they were saying. When my son was choking, I didn’t have the time to freak out. Now that he was in my arms and enjoying a bottle, I replayed the moment over and over again in my head.

Even now, it upsets me to think of that first moment when I realized something was wrong. But in the seconds, minutes, hours, and days that followed, I have learned a few things that I wanted to share.

I have been spinning my tires in the mud worrying about what I did wrong. What mom doesn’t blame herself when something happens regardless of whether or not she has control over it? Sure I could have NOT given my son a cracker, but he’s had them so many times before. Should I never-ever give him a cracker again? After the incapacitating shock wore off, one of the moms gave me a pat on the back and told me this incident would just be the first of many ‘scary’ incidents. As our children grow, develop, and try new things, they take risks. Although we can not, and should not, shelter our children (young or old) from life, we can do our part to TRY to keep them safe. But keeping them safe, no matter how hard we try, is no guarantee.

This was one of those ‘special’ moments when I felt instinct controlling me. Sure I had the CPR and First Aid training years ago, but it is much easier to sit here now and remember it than it was while my son was choking. I am sure there was a better technique I could have used, but the cracker needed to not-be-stuck-in-my-son’s-throat and that was all that mattered. Even now, that is still all that matters.

There was a small part of me that I can not deny was a little embarrassed afterwards. I had given a room full of women (most of them moms) a scare during what should have been a fun and happy moment for the bride. Their laughter became anxious silence when I shouted out. They all approached me afterwards (some several times) to check on my son and I. It was natural for me to feel embarrassed for being the center of attention for a few minutes, but wrong of me to think that others might feel annoyed that I had given them a scare. Nothing mattered to them more than my son being ok.

What impressed me most was that I realized my son is tougher than I am. He moved on from the incident very quickly; unfazed and behaving as though nothing had happen. I monitored him closely through out the day, but he wasn’t bothered. I needn’t be afraid of him loving me less (or even loving crackers less). It happened and he’s over it. This mom, however, is still working on it.

I started my day with a to-do list, but there is no way of predicting or controlling things from happening. My son wasn’t choking for more than a couple of seconds, but it has certainly affected me since then. The only thing predictable about life, is that it is so unpredictable.

In case you didn’t know, I am not a medical expert. I’m just a mom who wanted to share her experience. This was an opportunity for me to sort my thoughts and the what-ifs that have been bothering me.

Moms, what have you learned from similar experiences? How did you feel? What did you do? Feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Getting Work and Life More in Balance

Blogging is greater than just writing. It is about conversation and interaction. If bloggers didn’t want a response or reaction to their posts, they might use a pen and paper to record their thoughts and keep them private. But here I am; an open book.

After Work-Life Imbalance was Freshly Pressed, a productive conversation about work and family occurred. Some shared their personal experiences, others shared advice and encouragement. I would be a fool if I neglected to recognize what I was learning from their comments. I would also be greedy if I didn’t share their wisdom with others.

I wanted to highlight a few comments from different perspectives and with different backgrounds than my own. Recognizing that no two stories are alike, but that they are equally relevant, is important as we all journey to be better bloggers, parents, and people.

Flav_Holman: I think my life went completely off balance 5 years ago when I had my daughter. Never to go back to the way it was again 🙂

ASuburbanLife: I wish I could find the person who coined the term “work life balance” and kick him. The definition of balance is “a state of equilibrium or equipoise; EQUAL distribution of weight, amount, etc.” or “to be EQUAL or proportionate” (my emphasis in all caps). When you are a working parent of young children there is no balance! I prefer “work family juggle” (juggle = to hold, catch, carry, or balance precariously; almost drop and then catch hold again!).

emmahevezi: you need to concentrate on what you are doing well not on what other people appear to be doing or how you compare to other people.

Life’s amazing journey: There’s a chance that the work/family-life balance is a myth. I think that it’s easier to take work and family as it comes separately – work for these hours, family for the other hours.

kramerjen: I don’t think anyone really has it figured out.

kcburk: Work 8 hours. Get 3 with your kids before bed time. That’s an even trade right!?

krafte: From the other side: I had a stay at home mom, and while she was always there, as I got older, she was STILL always there. It ended up being hurtful both to me, and to her, I think.

divaofdelicious: I hated to work my butt off just pay $$$ for someone else to do what I wanted to do…raise my kids.

oilandgarlic: I’ve written about this topic numerous times. I think flexiblity is more important than the mythic work/life balance, as there is always an imbalance of sorts!

Ruby Bagga: When at home, just try to spend quality time with him and the house work gets neglected. Its a never ending vicious circle.

Thank you to everyone who has been participating in the Work-Life Imbalance discussion. You are more than welcome to share your thoughts or additional comments below.

Babysaurus Rex: My 1 Year Old Eats Like a Dinosaur

Something happened at the pediatrician last week that I don’t quite understand. Although I am happy to report I did not sob through my son’s booster shots again, I’m a little confused about the way I behaved.

One of my biggest parenting peeves (EVER) is when other parents assume that they can tell YOU how to parent. But motherhood is a lot like driving; once you figure out which side of the road you should be driving on, you have to figure out how to get where you’re going. Confusing? Yes. Yes, of course it is.

I have always been very careful about monitoring the foods my son is eating. I am hopeful that the healthy choices I make for him now will be healthy choices he will make for himself in the future. Despite my scientific-research-based and pediatrician-advised efforts, I have long endured comments from other moms about how chubby my son is.

“Oh, my! Look how chubby he is! You have a BIG boy! What are you feeding him?”

I smile, nod, and pretend to ignore the vocal emphasis on the word big that makes me think they might be describing a dinosaur. It’s not necessarily a weight issue, but the implication that I am feeding my son a brontosaurus for lunch and a Jurassic Park jeep for dinner. Not sure how either one of those got into my breast milk. Also, I thought his cereal puffs were sweet potato, not extinct-herbivore. I love-love-love my son’s chubby legs and knuckles, but are his eating habits and weight unhealthy?

After 4 shots, this little dinosaur was as angry as a Photoshopped T-Rex!

When we visited the pediatrician last week, I nervously waited for a lecture (or a take-home pamphlet) about my son’s weight. However, his height and weight were in the 44 and 50 percentiles. Yes, my son is perfectly average. I must have exhaled heavily, because the pediatrician asked me if something was wrong. I explained my concern that he was overweight, and she reminded me that he was, in fact, a baby. A healthy (and handsome) baby boy.

When I left the appointment, I felt like updating my status on Facebook to proudly announce how average my son was. However, I was embarrassed about what I had learned about myself, after all, bad parenting moments are among the most teachable if we aren’t too stubborn to admit it. Despite the fact that I have strong opinions which are easily expressed on my blog, I’m not otherwise vocal about agreeing or disagreeing with others. Yes, despite saying I don’t like it when other people tell me what to do, I take what others say VERY seriously. I mostly end up thinking that I am the one doing it wrong or not very well if someone else is doing it differently. And with billions of people on this planet, that’s a lot of ‘different.’

I could not possibly say enough good things about the network of moms and women I have encountered through blogging, web, and social networking communities for their pats-on-the-back and encouraging words when I dare to be brave about my feelings regarding parenting issues. It’s not that everyone agrees with me, but merely reminds me of the fact that we all must make decisions and assessments for ourselves.

And no, brontosaurus will not be on our dinner menu this evening.

Work-Life Imbalance

On a daily basis I find articles and blog posts promising good advice on balancing work and family. They only seem to help with making me feel more out of balance. How do these working moms do it?! There is a deceiving calmness to the advice they offer and I always ask myself the same question. What am I doing wrong? A harmonious work-life balance is like Bigfoot; I want to believe it exists.

On occasion, I have brought my son to work. He’s well behaved when he’s somewhere new and loves the oooh’s, awww’s, and attention he gets from co-workers. Although I don’t know much about cooking, I do know a 1 year old and an office environment full of things he can’t touch is a recipe for a tantrum.

The working hours are long and even longer when I am lonely for my son. Which is like always. Working from home sounds nice, but I can’t even fool myself into believing that it would be a good option to consider. Worth a try, but likely not a productive solution.

Fortunately, I have found ways of feeling closer to my baby during the hours of 9-5 when I’m doing my ‘other job.’

My son is always in the care of family when I am at work. Instead of a standard written report telling me about his day, I get pictures through out the day showing me the exciting things he is doing. For a moment, seeing his pictures makes me feel like I am right there with him. Fortunately my co-workers are good sports when I show them the pictures too.

There is also a special area in my work space where I keep a few of my favorite (and fabulously Washington, DC) photographs. I proudly display his hand prints we made during his first day in the office many months ago. Don’t be fooled by the neatness and organization. This is the only thing orderly about my cubicle. Might explain why a work-family balance feels so unattainable to me.

Occasionally, there are those days and opportunities for bringing my son to the office. By opportunities, I mean days when a lower level of productivity is acceptable. Mostly, those are just weekends.

With President’s Day just behind us, I’m reminded of how difficult 3 day weekends can be. You know what happens to the mouse you give a cookie to, right? Inevitably when I return to work, I miss my son a little bit more than usual.

If there is a such thing as a work-life balance, I am still looking for it. In the meantime, I have his pictures, baby-talk phone calls, and a wonderful greeting each evening when I come home. Although the quantity of time I would like to spend with my son is significantly less than I would prefer, the quality of our time together is wonderful. Perhaps it is the quality of family time that keeps work-life in balance. In that case, mission accomplished.

 

UPDATE 03.01.2012 Check out a follow-up to Work-Life Imbalance at Getting Work and Life More in Balance.