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?

 

Advertisements

When Mom is Sick

I’m sick. The germ kind. This is what happens when the weather is pleasant and my schedule is flexible. As you can imagine, this happens frequently during holidays, vacation, special occasions, and other times that have the potential for enjoyment. For this cough and cold I have, I blame my sister.

Motivation frequently evades me. Even on my best days, I am easily distracted and unable to… oh, look… Pinterest! If you clicked on Pinterest, you are just as easily distracted as I am. When I am not feeling well, it is even more difficult to find the motivation to complete my daily tasks such as getting out of bed, leaving the house, and showing up at work. Further, I am struggling to compensate for the hour of sleep I just lost to Daylight Savings Time.

The world must go on, but I’m a non-believer. I believe it should stop until I am physically able to continue. Unfortunately, spouses and children do not recognize when mom is not feeling well. Their needs increase as does their own irritability. It is frustrating to the families of sick moms that their needs and requests are not top priority because mom: 1. Does not feel well and cannot fulfill their request 2. Is putting her health and wellness before mundane issues 3. Is not capable are caring about family nonsense. Families are always important, of course. However, so are moms.

It has been a year since I was sick. Last time I was sick, I enjoyed 3 weeks of a sinus infection and was unable to treat aggressively due to nursing. By enjoyed I mean I was miserable. Currently, I am only on day 3 of an unidentifiable cold and cough. I suspect this is the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. We all know how households fail to function properly when mom is sick. Imagine a world of moms with cough and colds. Zombie apocalypse.

My husband is concerned for me… or at least he is afraid I am turning into a zombie with a runny nose and an incoherent attitude. Whilst I coughed for an hour and a half last night at 3 am-ish, he asked me if I was ok. What he means is “You are keeping me awake. You should go somewhere and do something about that cough.” He’s probably right, but a medication induced sleep makes it impossible to find the energy to climb out of bed. I’d rather just lay in bed and cough (and complain about it the following day).

Zombie or not, I managed to brush my hair and show up at work. I certainly hope zombie isn’t contagious. Although I am suffering a sensitivity to sunlight and happiness, I’m holding on to humanity as best I can.

What happens to your household when mom is sick? Share your stories in the comments!

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.

2002: Not a Cool Enough Year to Make a Movie About

I’m not sure if you know this or not, but 2002 was like ten years ago. I know, right? If my son had invented time travel, I could take you back to 2002 with me. But alas, he is still working on it. I vaguely remember a few events that occurred in 2002 (who I was dating, where I was working, what I looked like) but mostly it is an intentional and embarrassing blur.

2002 was the year I had my braces taken off. Not the oh-I-didn’t-even-know-you-had-braces kind, the metal-made-radio-signal-disrupting kind. Yes, I graduated college with a mouth full of braces. Without braces in the summer of 2002, I proudly started grad school and work on my Master’s in elementary education.

2002 was the year I had my second to the last boyfriend. My next boyfriend became my husband. Sorry to the first-runner-up. I’d like to tell you you’re better off without me, but I think it’s the other way around.

2002 was also the last year I had with my Mema. Enough said.

Without the invention of time travel yet (come on son, mommy’s waiting) it’s easier to look forward than to look behind. As you can imagine, a lot can change in ten years.

2003: My grandmother passed away.

2004: I met my husband.

2005: Moved to Maryland where driving skills are optional when acquiring a driver’s license and was involved in a nasty car accident. Also, I started teaching.

2006: Did we skip 2006? I don’t seem to recall this happening. Yes?

2007: Taught 7th and 8th grade and planned-me-a- wedding.

2008: Married on July 26th. Left teaching to pursue some political opportunities.

2009: Worked and worked some more. Also, moved to Virginia because it’s for lovers.

2010: I got pregnant. Yeah, Virginia really is for lovers.

2011: Birth of my son on January 13th.

Knowing my luck, if I could go back to 2002 and tell myself what would happen in the next 10 years, the flux capacitor in my car would probably get it wrong and I would end up in 1985. And if you have no idea what I am talking about, you are the first person I am sending back to 1985 so you can get yourself some pop culture.

Life Labeled as a ‘Working Mom’

Hi, it’s me standing on my soap box. Yes… again.

Moms make difficult decisions every day: Should I buy the generic diapers on sale or should I splurge on name brand? Breast or bottle? Is my child crying because he really needs something or is he crying because he’s a little fussy? Despite the unsolicited advice and lectures I have endured regarding my family’s ‘controversial’ decision to co-sleep, the toughest parenting decision I have made is little more complicated and selfish; my decision to be a ‘working mom.’

Being a mom is a super-duper important job! It is both challenging and rewarding. Moms don’t earn a paycheck for their hard-work, but they raise curious babies who become intrigued children who become responsible adults. Moms are responsible for nourishing their children, keeping them safe, and totally loving them! If it sounds difficult and complicated, that’s because it is.

You have my deepest apology for using the clichéd term, ‘working mom’ as you read on (if you kindly choose to do so). Labels should be for jars of baby food, not moms!

Being a working mom has been a difficult experience for me that I underestimated and was not prepared for. Sure I’m always struggling to find time, but what mom isn’t? The issue has been an emotional one that I can no longer blame on hormones.

After 6 weeks of maternity leave, I was back to work in March of 2011. Was I ready? Not at all! Although six weeks sounded like a vacation before maternity leave began, when you actually have a newborn, six weeks is no time at all. I have since encouraged other working moms to take extended leave if possible, unpaid or not. Yes, where maternity leave is concerned I offer my unsolicited opinion to other moms.

So why be a working mom? For some, it’s not a choice. As a first time mom, this was one of the first decisions I had to make in which I had to put my own feelings second to doing what was best for my family. I’ll be honest, it was a tough lesson to learn. I was, and still am, very selfish about my child. I want to spend every possible moment with him (and what mom doesn’t).

But there were other reasons for returning to work as well and I only have myself to blame. I have worked very hard to get where I am today (shout out to the working girls!). Opportunities in my field are limited and highly competitive; leaving meant the likelihood that I would never be able to return to the position I am in today. I had to ask myself if I was ok with that, and my honest answer was no.

You may have noticed I seem to be contradicting myself. Yes I am. But I did say this was difficult. Honestly, after nearly a year of being a working mom, it hasn’t really gotten any easier and I still struggle with the same emotions. I can’t possibly describe how much it hurts when another mom says something like, “Oh, I can’t imagine being away from my children all day.’ Yeah, pretty much sucks as much as the guilt you just dumped on me.

So why do it?

It’s a combination of doing it for the good of the family and doing it for myself professionally. So far, being a working mom has been the right thing to do, despite the challenges.

When my son is not with me, he has been exclusively in the care of family members who devote 115% of their time, attention, and love to him.  Not only do I save a small fortune in child care (we’re talking more than $1000 a month per child in the DC area) but my son is with the same people who raised me. Mostly, I think I turned out ok and my son will too.

His reaction each evening when I get home from work also dispels my irrational fear that my baby will forget who I am and love me less because I am not with him 24/7. Babies understand families and love a lot better than we give them credit for. Added bonus that perhaps me being a working mom can someday be a teachable moment for him.

Emotionally, it is fortunate for me that my husband and I commute together and meet for lunch each day. Most people don’t think of traffic as quality time together, but we make the most of it. It’s also nice to talk about the stressful parts of our day before we take our stress home with us. We leave our stress stuck somewhere in traffic and give our son the better parts of our days.

I have no immediate plans for leaving work. Things are good and we like ‘good.’ Although my family intends to remain on its present course for the time being, we are open to re-evaluating things when the situation warrants other consideration. If I have learned anything about how quickly children grow and develop, it has prepared me for the very real reality that I will begin homeschooling soon enough and the label of ‘working mom’ will someday have a different meaning for me.

My Family Featured on Babble.com

Monica Bielanko, a Babble.com contributor, recently included our very first family photo in the Moms and Dads edition of That Very First Photo.

Check out our family photo (and a precious moment when a Daddy returning from Afghanistan met his new son) HERE!