Tag Archives: Parenting

The Best Parenting Advice I’ve Ever Recieved

August 26, 2015

Edited From The Archives

There are a lot of things you shouldn’t say to new moms. Things like “Have you lost that baby weight yet?” or “My cousin’s baby slept through the night at 3 weeks!” Unsolicited, passive aggressive advice is not welcome either. Things like, “I think sleeping with your baby is crazy, but that’s just me…” or “Doesn’t formula cause AIDS?”

Not cool. Not cool at all.

Of course there are times to give advice, times when moms need a little help or a gentle nudge in the right direction. Mostly it’s a matter of timing, only offering your two cents when your two cents is needed. If you are having trouble knowing when this time is, listen for the following words: “I need your advice.” It’s that simple.

Here are the top ten best pieces of parenting advice I’ve ever received, all given to me in a kind and gentle manner. All with perfect timing and the wisdom of moms who care.

Thank you, moms. You know who you are.

+

1) Your body was made for this.

tumblr_inline_n17irtAfEI1s7z7r6

You want me to push a who out of what now?

Things your body was made for: labor, delivery, c-sections, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, resiliency, anger, love, exhaustion.

Things your body wasn’t made for: Full body waxes, an entire container of Oreos, meth.

+

2) Never say never.

never

Things I said I’d never do: Co-sleep, sleep train, use formula, google cheap daycare near me! at 2am.

Save yourself the embarrassment.

+

3) Treat them like a human person.

not-angry-disappointed

Things we expect of our dogs: obedience, submission, quiet. Things we expect of our kids: the same, but be cheery about it too! Here’s the thing though, kids aren’t puppies. I know it’s confusing.

It’s hard to treat a child with respect who is ignoring all your demands and throwing your toothbrush in the toilet. Really, really hard. But what if you were shorter than your roommates, constantly tripping, unable to make coherent sentences, and not allowed in the bathroom? There’s a reason kids act like drunk maniacs. Patience teaches patience. Grace teaches grace.

+

4) There’s a difference between sharing and bragging.

eyeroll

The first time my first baby slept through the night, I was so excited, so proud, so FULL OF MYSELF that I immediately texted all my friends and family that lo and behold, my child hath slept through the night! He didn’t do again for another 8 months. Karma is a delight.

Comparison is the thief of joy. Every kid is different and unique. Sharing is caring, but sometimes it’s annoying too.

+

5) Just when you think a stage can’t get worse, your kid usually gets over it.michael scott

It will get better. There is no other piece of advice that is more true and more repeated in the world of parenting. Newborn screaming? It will get better. Postpartum pooing? It will get better! Baby teething? Toddler screaming? Four-year-olds terrorizing the houseplants? Dude, it will totally get better. The days are long but the years are short. They will be peeing in that potty before you know it (really).

+

6) Acknowledge feelings.dwight

You don’t have to pick up your baby every time he cries. You don’t have to give your toddler a cookie every time he asks for one. You can acknowledge how they feel, even if it evokes the craziest of crazy eyes from your tired, Grinchy soul. For example:

“You’re tired, you want to be picked up!”

“You’re so sad, you wanted to stick your hand in the blender!”

“You’re so frustrated, you cannot process one single emotion rationally!”

+

7) You are the mom.

micahelscott

You are in charge of your kid. Not your mom, not your neighbor, not your frenemy from church who has opinions on food allergies. You know what’s best for your child because you are the mom.

Self doubt is a part of being a parent, but it’s true what they say–mama knows best. Trust your gut. Do what works for you and forget the rest.

+

8) Children are not a problem to be solved.

kids

Children are not a problem to be solved but a person to be enjoyed. The problem is that parents are problem solvers, so it’s hard when your perfect baby comes with a list of things that need to be fixed (sleeping, eating, bug ingestion). Realistic expectations only work in our favor. They (and you) will be fine.

+

9) Ask for help.please

We are not designed to be alone. Work, children, marriage, our aging parents and arm skin–all of those things require support. Other parents and people are our greatest asset, even if it’s just your cousin’s half sister who offered to babysit on Saturday mornings so you can grocery shop in peace.

+

10) Get away.

miss p

Get away from your kids. I know it’s hard. I know they might cry and wonder where you are and bump their head on your mother-in-law’s coffee table. The hilarious thing is that they will be totally fine. The first time’s the hardest, the second time is okay. But soon enough, with some gentle practice, leaving your baby and your kids becomes second nature to everyone. A weekend at grandma’s house is good for everyone, even if you never leave your bed.

***

Six Books On Motherhood

August 25, 2015

e23

Edited From The Archives

As a reader and parent, I’m often asked what books I’d suggest to new moms. The truth is I didn’t read a lot of parenting books when my son was born. I started many but only finished a few, namely the ones that didn’t gloss over the hard stuff. The rest of the time I read coming-of-age memoirs and end of the world fantasy thrillers. You know, to keep my mind off the fact that I was now in charge of another human.

I have read a few great motherhood memoirs over the years. Stories about the love and tribulation that comes along with parenthood. Today, a list of the best of the best. Most revolve completely around parenting, a few do not. I can assure you non-moms will enjoy them as well.

If you ended up here because you are going to a baby shower and you thought you’d get her a book, here’s my advice: buy her the first two memoirs, a giant tube of lanolin, and a box of dark chocolate. You’ll be golden.

As always, all book reviews are spoiler-free.

Happy reading.

+

1. Waiting For Birdy.

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir, Non-fiction, Humor

If You Liked: Operating Instructions

My Review:  Catherine Newman is the kind of person you want to invite to your book club just to trick her into being your best friend. She is funny, irreverent, and cursed with a sappy heart just like the best of us. After my first baby was born, my friend Elizabeth passed this book along to me and I soaked in every word, every little detail and joke. I laughed until I cried, and read paragraphs out loud to anyone who would listen (no one). It is the book I wish I wrote. My very favorite parenting memoir next to Operating Instructions. A must read for the millennial mom.

Their Review: “Catherine Newman’s new book about the rock and roll life of newborn parents is hysterical… Don’t give birth without it.” —Jacquelyn Mitchard

Quoted: “Until it happened to us, I didn’t understand that having a baby would feel like falling in love on a bad acid trip. With an alarm clock–a pooping alarm clock. I wasn’t prepared to lie awake by the sleeping babe, my heart pounding audibly and so swollen with passion that I could barely breathe. I hadn’t realized that my mind would scan constantly for disaster, like a metal detector casting around for the big stuff and turning up endless bottle caps. What is that? Pneumonia? A brain aneurism? Woops, ok, no, just a little cold.”

+

2. Operating Instructions.

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir, Non-fiction, Humor

If You Liked: Waiting For Birdy

My Review: A few months ago I went to see Anne Lamott talk about her newest book. She was exactly as expected; bright, wise, unbelievably funny. When it was my turn to finally meet her in the book signing line, all I could say was thank you. Thank you for all the books, but especially this one. It saved me in the middle of newborn colic and complete despair over having a newborn who never stopped crying. Really, there is no reason not to read this book. My favorite parenting memoir to date.

Their Review: “Painfully honest, laced with humor and poetry and moments of profound insight. It captures the intense fluctuations of feeling, the rapid alternation of exhilaration and fury, love and despair, that characterizes new parenthood.” –San Francisco Examiner

Quotable: “I guess he’ll have to figure out someday that he is supposed to have this dark side, that it is part of what it means to be human, to have the darkness just as much as the light- that in fact the dark parts make the light visible; without them, the light would disappear. But I guess he has to figure other stuff out first, like how to keep his neck from flopping all over the place and how to sit up.”

+

3. The Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother.

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir

If You Liked: NurtureShock

My Review: Funny, engaging, and raw. I’m not sure what all the negative press and fuss was about. This book was never supposed to be a parenting manual, just a story of one mom trying to do her version of best. Chua is a brilliant writer and great story teller. I recommend it to everyone.

Their Review: “Readers will alternately gasp at and empathize with Chua’s struggles and aspirations, all the while enjoying her writing, which, like her kid-rearing philosophy, is brisk, lively and no-holds-barred. This memoir raises intriguing, sometimes uncomfortable questions about love, pride, ambition, achievement and self-worth that will resonate among success-obsessed parents… Engagingly and provocatively chronicled. Readers of all stripes will respond to [Battle Hymn of the] Tiger Mother.” –The Washington Post

Quotable:  “Unlike Western parents, reminding my child of Lord Voldemort didn’t bother me.”

+

4. How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.

If You’re Looking For: Self-help, Advice On Discipline, Books On Older Kids

If You Liked: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

My Review: The only parenting manual I’ve read without falling asleep. Practical, manageable, and wise. The perfect remedy for millennial mothers trying to follow Maya’s advice: When you know better, do better.

Their Review: “An exceptional work, not simply just another ‘how to’ book…All parents can use these methods to improve the everyday quality of their relationships with their children.” –Fort Worth Star Telegram

Quotable: “I was a wonderful parent before I had children.”

+

5. Expecting Adam.

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir

If You Liked: Operating Instructions

My Review: The true account of an academic Harvard couple who conceive a baby with Down’s syndrome and decide to carry him to term. A wonderful read for anyone, including my husband who read it before we met or had children and cried like a baby. One of the very best birth stories ever been told.

Their Review: “Expecting Adam is not one of those grit-your-teeth, lemons-into-lemonade sagas that leave the reader feeling more besieged and guilty than the writer. It is a long hymn, from a practical woman caught flatfooted by amazing grace. Martha Beck is a celebrant skeptics can trust.” –Jacquelyn Mitchard

Quotable: “…then I understood. She was talking about the soothing, singsong language mothers speak spontaneously when they talk to babies. Baby talk is found in all nations, all cultures; it is the original Mother Tongue. It translates across any language barrier because it is more about music than about words; the sounds themselves, not their meaning, give comfort and support.”

+

6. Bossypants.

bossy

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir, Non-fiction, Humor

If You Liked: Yes Please, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, all that is sacred in this life for the love

My Review: I have read it seven times.

Their Review: “A masterpiece in comedy writing…I was hooked from the first word.” -Sunday Telegraph

Quotable: “Read! When your baby is finally down for the night, pick up a juicy book like Eat, Pray, Love or Pride and Prejudice or my personal favorite, Understanding Sleep Disorders: Narcolepsy and Apnea; A Clinical Study. Taking some time to read each night really taught me how to feign narcolepsy when my husband asked me what my “plan” was for taking down the Christmas tree.”

 ***

Favorite Books

All Book Reviews

The Problem With The Good Old Days

August 20, 2015

Good Old Days

Nostalgia is also a dangerous form of comparison. Think about how often we compare our lives to a memory that nostalgia has so completely edited that it never really existed.
Brené Brown

I have written and re-written an essay on “the good old days” a few dozen times over the years, but I can never bring myself to finish it because no one wants to hear a rant. I don’t want to hear a rant. Rants are for sad toddlers and sad uncles and sad Facebook feeds. Nine times out of ten, our deprecation is better left unsaid. There is a reason Mark Zuckerberg refuses to create a dislike button on Facebook. The world doesn’t need any more negativity.

Then all of a sudden we are defending Bill Cosby, chastising Harper Lee, and caring more about a dirty, old southern flag than actual human lives, so I’m going to say one quick thing tonight: There is no such thing as the good old days.

Humans did not behave any better or worse in 1810 or 1960 or after drunk Noah said, “Let’s start over, folks!” Every corner of every religious and historical text points to the fact that we are, and have always been, the worst.

Things we ignore to protect the good old days: literature, rape, racism, murder. We will literally ignore dozens of sexually abused women to protect our memories of a tv show personality. We also won’t read a book to protect our memories of a fictional character or take down a flag because hey, remember southern hospitality?

When our precious childhoods are at stake, we are willing to do almost anything.

The obvious problem with this is that if we are constantly putting our elders or history on a pedestal, we will only be disappointed. Humans have been being human for thousands of years. We are no better or worse than the very first man or woman who lied to get out of washing the loin cloths. There is no reason to be surprised when our youth pastor watches porn or when our grandpa turns out to be racist or when Joshua Duggar cheats on his wife. Bill Cosby was never our moral tour guide, Atticus Finch was never ours to have, and the confederate flag has never been anything more than a relic.

It’s okay to let go.

I know nostalgia is hard to avoid. I love nostalgia. Nostalgia is one of my love languages. It can also hold a lot of truth. We have so much to learn from those who have walked before us. Every generation has its wisdom; knowledge and understanding we’ve lost with the passage of time. The danger of nostalgia is that it can never really reflect the complete truth. This is why our childhood bedrooms will always look smaller and our memories of first grade colored by a single picture. We will never break the cycles of violence, oppression, or pain if we can’t admit our errors.

There is no such thing as the good old days. They were just days, some good and some bad. There is only the sweet smell of nostalgia and the hope that when we know better, we do better. Let’s keep trying.

***

Not A Pregnancy Announcement

August 11, 2015

IMG_2761

Whenever someone says they have an ANNOUNCEMENT on the INTERNET, I always assume they are a) pregnant or b) trying to sell me something. Unfortunately none of those things are true today. My uterus is empty and the only thing I know how to make are enchiladas, and I have a sneaking suspicion that receiving them in the mail would look a lot like a hate crime. I guess my Etsy dreams are dead.

Instead I’m just popping in here to say that after years and years of cybersquatting on my name domain (yes, it’s a thing), whoever was holding katebaer.com for ransom decided to make better use of their time and give it up. Maybe they had to pay their kid’s college tuition or maybe they were tired of my merciless emails asking if we could “talk.”  Either way, I snagged it, which is great news because it’s easier to say, easier to remember, and doesn’t look like someone threw a bunch of letters in front of a .com and called it a blog.

As a logistical detail, motleymama.com & kbaer.com will continue to redirect to the new site, but not forever. Please adjust accordingly. I promise this is the last time we’ll have this conversation.

In other news, it’s still summer, I’m still sweating, and my kids are starting to look a lot like the kind of people I’d never invite over for a party. Loud, demanding, constantly breaking things. You know you have young children when you linger in the parking lot to google brain tumor symptoms because you’re feeling tired and slightly deranged. School cannot come soon enough.

Some parting words of our lady of wonder, Tina Fey.

You go through big chunks of time where you’re just thinking, “This is impossible–oh, this is impossible.” And then you just keep going and keep going , and you sort of do the impossible.

***

PS: Some cosmetic updates–> You can now find Baer family photos and posts (old and new) under the Babies tab. Slowly importing posts from their previous websites. If you are subscribed to my email list, you probably received a bunch of emails today linking to those old posts. So sorry about that! I can think of no one more poorly suited to figure out technical difficulties than myself, but I’m trying my best.
Back to regularly scheduled programming very soon.

Guest Post: A Letter To Moms Whose Partners Works Long Hours

July 2, 2015

IMG_0789

Austin started his first day of residency yesterday with 50 patients, two weeks of night float, and the nerves of a high school freshman who has never been in charge of a human life before. Some say making it through intern year is harder than making it through four years of medical school, but we’re just going to take it one day at a time.

A few weeks ago, my good friend Suzie sent me a letter of love and encouragement on surviving residency. I immediately shared it with my medwifery friends who now refer to it as “the letter,” and thought I would share it with you, too. Not only is it full of wisdom, but it’s packed with the kind of real life tips that are actually useful. It’s one thing to say, “Be patient!” but a rare thing to tell you how.

There are so many professions outside the medical field that require long hours away from partners and children at home without a co-parent. When I sent this letter to my friend Katie who is married to a farmer, she could only nod in mutual understanding. There is so much sacrifice that comes in any marriage, but ones that involve a lot of time apart require a certain skill set. One that I’m only starting to learn.

A letter for the sisterhood who is at home doing dinner alone for the 100th time.

We got this.

+

My dear friend Kate,

This is it. This is your “you’ve arrived at residency letter.” I don’t claim to have any amazing advice.  I only have a few  more years on you as we are about to start our LAST year of residency, as you begin your first. So, here are my thoughts.

Resentment is a dangerous emotion. Everything you feel as you go through this adjustment period (believe it or not, you will get used to this new insanity) is valid. The sacrifice you’ve made will feel huge and so much more than you knew you ever agreed to.  Try as hard as you can though, to avoid resentment. Resentment will seriously mess you up. When I’ve felt true resentment, and I have, I’ve learned to immediately name it and share it with Kyle. Often resentment comes when I don’t feel like the sacrifice is being NOTICED or appreciated. For me, I’ve learned I need words and reminders that Kyle is GRATEFUL for the sacrifice.  You might be the same way, or not at all. My advice is just to be careful and take note of resentment and don’t let it linger.

I want to talk about guilt. It will be EASY and tempting to make Austin feel guilty. Sad stories of the kids crying for their dad, little videos sent that are meant to be cute but really have a subtext of “ you’re missing this…” or a subtext of “these kids are crazy and it’s all your fault.” It’s easy to point out what they’ve missed because of work and always emphasizing how much harder your life is because of his chosen career. Please remember that what you want Austin to feel is GRATEFUL. Not guilty. Guilt does not make anyone feel better. But feeling recognized and appreciated does. Guilt builds a wedge and just makes things harder. It isolates. And a very important thing to know is he will already feel guilty on his own. More than you will know at first. He will ache to see his kids and worry about what this whole thing is doing to his family and relationships. Yes, he will work Mother’s Day and feel like shit about it already. For the first part of residency, he will doubt himself as a doctor, a husband and a father and that is a heavy burden. Be the person who makes him feel better, not worse.

I am not suggesting a 1950’s relationship where your needs are sidelined because you don’t want to make him feel bad. NOT AT ALL. I am saying is you want to get through this together and be stronger for it and I believe it’s important to be mindful of how words and actions elicit guilt. Always know there is nowhere else he would rather be than home with you and the kids.

Create a buffer for extended family. They will not get it. They just won’t. They will take things personally and be offended when they shouldn’t be.  He will miss family days, holidays, and forget how old his nieces and nephews are. As much as you feel you can, help them understand and then move on. Don’t let it get to you that they don’t understand. They can’t.

Share with others who get it! Vent and cry and talk it out. Please talk with me, voxer 1000 times about his schedule, I WANT TO KNOW. Tell me 23 times how his next day off is 24 days away. Here’s my advice though, share with those who get it in an uncensored way, but for everyone else, stick to small doses. Share with me and “the birds” and new residency friends. We will get it!! You will notice others want to understand, they genuinely do, but it can cause a sense of pity and friends not wanting to share with you about their weekend plans. You will get a sense that they just feel bad for you. You might just have to see how this goes for you, but I’ve found that friends in the same situation react in a way that feels helpful and is uplifting. With friends who can’t relate it feels like you’re dragging them down or just raining on their amazing 10 weeks of summer off with their teacher husband.

DON’T WAIT. Do not wait for Austin. I can’t stress this enough. If he’s working Saturday and texts that he will “be leaving in a few minutes” right as you’re about to head to the park with the kids, DO NOT WAIT. Do not wait to have dinner because he said he might be “out the door soon.” Do not always wait to do something fun with the kids till dad has a day off. Waiting = resentment. Too often the reality is he won’t be home in a few minutes. It will be 20 or 30 or another 2 hours. His day off will be switched or cancelled when he’s called in. If you’re living in a sense of waiting for him you will go crazy.  It’s always better to not wait because if he does get out the door…great! He can show up at the park and surprise the kids and it will be wonderful. If he makes it home for dinner, he can heat up a plate while everyone is still at the table. So much better than waiting around feeling angry. Don’t hold him to time. You just have to be really zen about this. It is hard and as you know I am not a zen master. They have no control over their time. It is what it is.

If he’s working on a holiday, don’t look at facebook. Enough said. Try as hard as you can to not compare your life with “normal” people’s lives. It is really hard.  Don’t look at everyone’s barbeque pictures on the 4th of July when you spent the last 12 hours dealing with crying whiny kids all by yourself. You know the quote on comparison. Thief of joy.

Listen and give space regarding what he needs to share about his days. His days will include some really boring things and then some really dramatic and really heartbreaking parts too. Help him not be a robot about it all. They need a wall to get through it day after day, but I think they really need someone to listen when they are ready to release the emotional parts of the job.

Let’s talk about the kids. I have a good friend from Goshen whose dad is a doctor. I’ve talked to her a lot about this and gained some insight from her experience. She has shared that her memories of this time are completely shaped by her mom’s reactions and attitude. I’ve found that challenging in a good way. She doesn’t remember feeling like her dad was never around or missed everything, even though she knows that was the case. She remembers how her mom always stressed and reminded her how important she was to her dad.  It’s important to remind the kids how excited dad will be to hear about something compared to,  “too bad your dad missed this…” This sounds like a no brainer, and you are obviously an amazing mom and will do this naturally. It is something I do find myself needing to remember. It is especially hard when Kyle gets called in on a day he should have off or has to work Christmas morning for example. My attitude completely shapes Amelia’s reaction and attitude (and soon Everett’s.) Amelia has gotten many real life lessons on how to deal with disappointment (as will your kids) so I try to be aware that I need to model what I want her to learn. I’m not saying to be fake, but there is a bit of theatrics when young kids are involved. This is a long time of their childhood and the memories are important.

Lastly, perspective. This is a mental exercise that seems ridiculous but I honestly find myself doing it A LOT. I really do try to think of things I am grateful for, because as you know, all the scientists and Gretchen Rubins of this world are right. It does make you happier to be grateful! I try to remember military wives are apart from their husbands for 9 whole months. As you know, I often hate cooking dinner. I used to complain about it all the time, but I’ve stopped. Because when I am so stinking sick of being the only one to cook dinner over and over and over, I think of refugees with hungry babies and honestly, how dare I begrudge the gift of feeding my children?! What a lavish luxury to prepare my children food THREE times a day. How many mama’s in this world would give anything for that? I could cry about it right now.  These sorts of mental exercises and perspectives help me remember that when it comes down to it, the majority of the human race has endured much greater hardships than spending a 14 hour day alone with their children. It’s NOT THAT BAD.  (THIS is not to negate feelings of the opposite that actually IT IS UNBELIEVABLY HARD. Yes. It is.  Both are true.) Mental exercises in perspective and gratitude really do help.

When it comes down to it, it will all be harder and easier than you think. It will be unbearable and then, just like that, not as much.  You’ll be going along great, thinking you’ve got it all under control and then a month from hell will take you down at the knees. But the next month will be better, and rotations and night floats will come around more than once and you will notice it is easier than it was the first time.

You’ve got this. I am here for you and I love you!!!

Suzie

***