Friday, May 25, 2012

"I'm Just a Stay at Home Mom"....Losing Your Identity

How many times have I heard myself or someone else say this, almost in a apologetic, embarrassed manner?  I think the reason why SAHM (Stay At Home Moms) feel this way, is that we have seemed to have lost ourselves in the chaotic mess of parenting.  I use to be a cave diver and work in aviation before I became a mother.  Now, I'm "just a mom."  I postulate, this also probably affects working moms as well, however at least they still have their jobs to divide their life up and identity.  Being a parent is all about someone else.  It's all about raising that child and taking care of him or her, making the child (or children) happy, supporting the bread winner of the family, running the household, but what about "mom" (or quite possibly dad)?

As mothers both working and non, we are also lucky to receive almost all the blame and not nearly enough of the much deserved glory for a successful family.  When you give up your job to raise your children, the focus starts to become about the other parent and supporting their needs as well.  I feel so lucky to have had the option to stay at home.  My husband will get last minute calls to do a flight (he's a pilot), that take him away for a week at a time and I handle everything here at home on my own.  Making sure the kids are taken care of, appointments made, the house is maintained, the bills paid, the groceries bought and laundry done, birthday presents and Christmas presents bought and wrapped.  I also plan the birthday parties and celebrations for all the kids.  My husband will come home and all he needs to do is lie down and sleep after work, but usually he doesn't.  When my husband is home, he helps me get that much needed break and usually takes over, unfortunately it only happens for 2 or 3 days and he's gone again.  I really am fortunate to have such a supporting husband, because without him, I too would be lost.  Not all mothers have the support that I do.

I  remember a mother in my "moms group" from a few years ago, who's husband travelled constantly for his job, and the packing up and moving was left all to the wife to take care of.  Not only was she raising the kids mostly alone, but also selling, buying, packing and unpacking all by herself.  All her husband had to do was come home to the new house and dinner was ready and waiting on the table for him.  Do you think he fully appreciated what she did?  Did her friends and family fully realise too?  I only spoke with her a few times, so I don't know the conclusion of her story, but I think back to her often.  I'm sure there are more mothers out there then her that have similar stories to tell.  When promotions are achieved at work, all the congratulations and "good job, lets go out and celebrate" are directed to the husband.  What about the other person who in situations similar, did a lot of the real hard work to make the promotion happen as well?  What would our husbands do without our support?  Probably fall flat on their face and then direct all the praise at us when they fully realise what we actually do when they are away (LOL).  In my case my husband does know the hard work I put into our family, so we work well as a team, but like I mentioned before, not everyone is as lucky as me and my heart goes out to them.

This blog isn't suppose to come across as a man bashing session.  I fully appreciate what my husbands does for our family and I tell him this almost daily (yes daily).  Things have not always been this way in our family, and they certainly won't stay this way, but with my husbands recent promotion and schedule, it is the way it is now.  I just want to make people think about the other person in the equation too, who is almost always forgotten.  I think it's important for all mothers either working or not, to continue to do something in your life that is just for yourself.  Something you have, that gives you pride and defines you in a separate way, other then being a mother.  For myself, since the kids are so young, I have my writing and hiking.  When the kids get a little older, I would like to take up scuba diving again, although I don't think you'll catch me in a cave again...What was I thinking??? (yes that is me in those pictures).  I eventually will go back to work, our kids will grow up and my identity restored, but for now this is how I celebrate myself for being ME not "just a mom".

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Breastfeeding your preschooler and beyond...Time Magazine

If you haven't seen the new Time Magazine issue this month, please pick up a copy for the full story.
This isn't a new subject, and its been around for hundreds of years, however, it's the first time I have seen such a huge statement made in the media about it.  I've read some of the heated discussions on this topic in response to the magazine article.  I don't believe it would have created such a emotional response had they not published photos of mothers breastfeeding their preschoolers, especially on the front page.  It seems more shocking now that you have seen the act itself.

Once the emotional, knee jerk reaction of "ewww" was out of the way, and I've had some time to collect my thoughts about this, I thought I would share what my opinion was on this subject.  Lets first get the obvious issue out of the way, what these mothers are doing is not harming the health of these children, if anything it's a benefit to their health.  I have also read some responses from men and while, I do empathize with them having an opinion, they have no authority to really talk about this issue (unless its was their kid).  The reason I say this, is because you have to have breastfed and experienced the relationship that occurs personally to really know whats going on here.  Before I was a mother, I would have had no ability to empathize properly or have an educated response.

When I found out I was expecting again, and starting thinking about breastfeeding all over, I felt happy.  I also started thinking about how I wished I could give my "liquid gold" to my toddler again and protect her from all the illness that she was constantly exposed too.  We went through two winters with her constantly sick.  All mothers know what I mean, its almost impossible to avoid it.  It doesn't matter where you take them, how many times they wash their hands, they are exposed to all the germs and have to endure the sickness, sometimes lasting months!  When I was breastfeeding my first daughter, she was never sick.  The only reason I stopped was because she decided at 11 months she had enough with "moms boobs."  I was never faced with the conundrum of having to wean her because I felt it had gone on long enough.  I cursed breastfeeding the first time around weekly, threatening to quit almost daily.  Once she stopped, I was shocked at how devastated I felt!!  Finally, I was free, yet I missed so desperately the relationship we had that only a mother and child can have, breastfeeding.  I joked to my husband that I would allow our next child to breastfeed until they were 3, if need be.  Now that I have a 3 year old, I can see how uncomfortable I would be with that arrangement.

Once my second daughter was born, I started breastfeeding once again, except everything looked different this time.  I wasn't going to take this time for granted, or waste it, by hating it.  My second daughter Jorja, gets the odd bottle fed to her by my husband, and usually she doesn't finish it.  If he goes back on the road for another week, I know the milk that was defrosted, that I pumped, will go to waste.  So I decided, instead of pouring my hard earned milk down the drain, I would mix it with my 3 year olds milk and put it in her sippy cup and see what happened.  One part breast milk three parts cows milk.  She didn't notice a thing, yet I felt extra special seeing her drink it.  My three year old has not gotten sick ONCE since I started doing this.  I've only done it a few times so maybe it is a coincidence, but she has been exposed to more germs this winter then the others combined.

Only my husband and mother know that story, but I share it now with you to make my point.  Unless you have been there and done that, you really have no idea what you are talking about.  I would love to see you show me a doctor that will tell you what these mothers are doing is wrong.  That said, I cannot imagine that the little boy on the cover of Time, sucking his moms boob, will not come back and haunt him when he's 15 and in high school.  I get it, you are proud of what you are doing.  However, I take offense, that the article is implying that a mom who chooses not to breastfeed this long (or is unable) is any less of a mother!! To the children pictured in the article and the mothers who exposed their child to future criticism that is out of his or her control, doesn't make them any kind of mom, that I would stride to be.  A breastfeeding relationship is so beautiful, but its a relationship just like anything and it goes both ways.  If you feel its time to stop for YOU, for whatever reason then you should not feel any guilt over that.  We can't change how others react to our decisions, so somethings are better off kept a secret, done in secret.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Domestic Engineering Manual for Mommies

This blog may sound more crude then my usual tone due to having had a rough week.  With that said, I would really like to see a simple book out there for moms that encompasses all the topics and skills you need, to run a house and raise kids.  While, I know there isn't a simple method for raising kids, I think you could sum up the first three months of a babies life with some proven methods that work for the majority of babies out there.

Becoming a mom of four kids in as many years and running a house was a drastic change for me.  I have a house to take care of and run, a garden and yard now in my possession, budgets and several bank accounts and cooking for 5 (soon 6) instead of 1.  I think someone should publish a book that has a separate chapter for each topic and have it easy to tab, so you can access the info you need in a flash.  Even some rip out reference charts, you could tape over the change table, to trouble shoot why your baby may be screaming at 3am and some proven methods that work to soothe them.  My brain doesn't work wonderful at that hour and I am certain I am not alone, maybe I forgot something!?.

I have never taken care of a garden in my life and 13 years in a row, I kill my hanging plants each summer, longest lasting mid July.  I got a bunch of books on gardening and was completely overwhelmed by the whole topic.  Acidic dirt, types of plants, foods, fungus, parasites and the list goes on.  I am for once in my life not wanting to know the hows and whys something may work, I just want to know it does.  Who cares WHY it turns into a lump of brown shit by the end of the season, I just want to know how to prevent it.  Tell me the easiest flowers to plant and survive in sun and shade, then shut up!  I want a book that can make you look like Martha Stewart, even if you are Courtney Love.  I don't have time to read the background on every damn flower and fern, or what kind of pesticide, fungicide or spermicide or whatever it is you spray on your plants.  I want to know how to get a garden that looks like my pot smoking neighbour's does, who lives a few doors down.  If someone told me, pissing on my plants made them grow, I would do it.  I could care less, why it works at this point.

A whole section on how to trick your kids into eating healthy food would be helpful too.  I have a toddler who would be happy to eat cheesies and peanut butter for every meal.  How do I make her think shes eating cheesies and peanut butter, but its really carrots and tofu.  I have tried so many recipes and she hates them all.  So she eats fruit for supper if she refuses to eat what we are eating.  Its stressful, so if anyone had some tips, that would be great.  As moms we have been doing this for a million years, why is everyone keeping all the good advice a secret?  Why do I have to buy several books or go to different websites and baby groups for each subject?  One book is all I want.  Maybe what I am asking is too much.  I would write it if I could, but I don't have all the answers.  I don't even have some of the answers, but I can tell you one thing, when I find something that works, I tell everyone I know.  Why should others have to reinvent the wheel 6 thousand 4 hundred and 36 damn times? (random number)

I am a busy mom on mat leave and moms who are working have even less time to fuss around with this shit!  We simply don't have time for all the reading and research that's involved.  I wouldn't even want it written like a book, point form only. Keep it Simple Stupid.  Even writing this blog is taking up too much of my free time.  Maybe after falling on my face a thousand times, I will in fact write the book and put an end to this madness for all the future moms after me.  Would you buy it?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sleep Training advice from a Sleep Doula

My first daughter didn't have too many issues with learning to sleep through the night.  We were blessed with her being able to go through the night at 6 weeks.  When she reached 4 months we had a few bumps in the road and by 6 months tried the CIO method for a week (ish) which worked.  I was terrified that I would damage her in some way, however with my doctors approval, I went ahead.  She had some sleep associations that I needed to break her of, in order for her to sleep on her own (feeding to sleep).

Round two with my second daughter has not been as smooth.  I had an opportunity to see a Sleep Doula this week that was provided for free through the Early Years Center.  Apparently, my timing was perfect as she suggested 4 months was the perfect age to start.  She pointed out any training you did before age 4 months, is great, however you may find yourself having to start over.  At 4 months there is a huge developmental stage they go through and babies like to change it up completely at this time (that explains what happened with my first daughter).  I didn't bring a pen or paper to the session, so as soon as I got home I wrote everything I could remember down.  I thought today's blog would be more informative and a cheat sheet for myself and anyone else who reads my blogs (I'm sure its only my parents lol...Hi mom).  Her method isn't quite "cry it out," however she said there will be some crying involved.  I prefer this method as I found CIO was really hard on ME emotionally and would like to avoid it if I can this time.

The easiest time to sleep train your baby is before the age of 9 months, it gets harder by 12 months and almost impossible by 18 months.  The key to having a baby sleep through the night is to make sure the baby is getting enough rest throughout the day and calories.  Keeping a keen eye out for the earliest warning signs that your baby is ready for a nap is also important.  If you wait until your baby is displaying signs of being over tired, such as rubbing eyes, yawning, or pulling at their ears etc.. the body is already excreting a hormone called cortisol.  Once this happens there is a more likely chance for sleep disruption during the night.  Same thing happens to adults when we excrete cortisol, we are also more likely to wake during the night and have a disruptive sleep.

My daughter is in a category, what she termed as an "alert baby".  The best method for a baby like Jorja (who is easily awakened,) is to put her in a room that is dark, have a sound machine on for white noise and no stimulation (no toys in the crib).  This also includes the baby NOT being able to see you.  The baby is more likely to sooth him or herself if he or she cannot see the parent.  If you want to be in the room while the baby is adjusting to the training, its best to lie on the floor or somewhere out of her range of sight.  I have already noticed this many times, if I just leave the room she will stop fussing.

Jorja still is feeding through the night.  Doctors will say by 6 months, a baby should be able to go 12 hours without feeding.  No one is going to tell you however, not to feed your baby, and she certainly did not recommend this either.  Instead try "dream feeds".  This involves taking the sleeping baby out of the crib, feeding and putting them back in the crib.  If you put your baby down at 7pm for bedtime and know they will need a feed during the night, try a dream feed before you are ready to go to bed (maybe 11pm for example).  I haven't tried this yet, as I can't seem to get the nerve up to disturb her while she is sleeping (lol). So instead she wakes me up at 2 and also sometimes 4 :(  I will try this new dream feed approach tonight.

Sleep associations are a big thing that need to eliminated if you can.  Jorja, for example uses the soother, so she recommends that at age 4 months, try to go "cold turkey".  The baby will quickly forget about ever having the soother at this age, compared to trying to do this at age 12 months.  The sooner the better.  If the baby is old enough to handle the soother on his or her own, then hand the soother to the baby, and allow them to put it in their mouth if they are old enough and you wish to continue using it.  Don't put the soother in her mouth yourself, let the baby do it (teaching them how to self sooth).  She recommend a bunch of products that I listed below, for adjusting your baby out of the swaddle habit; such as the Magic sleep suit.  Swaddling is great for newborns, but not safe once the baby is old enough to roll themselves onto their tummy.  Byllee use to feed to sleep, so she recommended for mothers with this association to keep the baby awake until you put them in the crib.  It's OK if they are drowsy, as long as they aren't asleep.  Taking away the sleep association is where you will experience the crying.  She said any crying longer then 45 minutes wasn't something she was comfortable with, however there isn't a set rule with this.  She suggests staying in the room so the baby can see you, but don't pick them up.  If you have an alert baby and this just makes the situation worse, lie on the floor as mentioned and every 15 minutes to let the baby know you are still there and haven't abandoned them (let them see you, rub tummy and lie back down).  She says with young babies, if you are consistent you should have success by night 3, or night 5 for older babies.  They key is being consistent.  If your baby cries for 45 minutes and you come in and hold them and feed them, you have now just taught your baby to cry for 45 minutes. 

She also recommended having a night time routine and a morning routine.  The routine does not need to be half an hour long, it only needs to be 5 minutes or less.  Whatever it is you do for bedtime routine, your baby will expect you to repeat it if he or she wakes up during the night (this is how parents get into that terrible cycle).  She actually doesn't recommend including the bath in the routine, for the simple fact that if you start the bath when you notice your baby is tired, by the time you have them dressed and put them in bed, they will most likely have entered the "over tired" stage.  Now you will have the cortisol issue to keep them up during the night.  Having a morning routine she suggested was important too.  Normal time for a baby to wake up at 4months is between 6-8am.  If its before that, try and put them back to sleep with the least amount of stimulation as possible (no talking, no lights).  Once its time to wake up (they start fussing) turn on all the lights, open the curtains and do a "Good Morning".  They will start to associate when its OK to be awake too.

One last remark about naps.  She suggests for babies 4-6 months of age should only be awake for 2.2 hours at a time, then put them down for a nap.

So 5 days and us moms should have our babies sleeping through the night...We'll see and I will let you know how it works out for me.  I also heard an expert say 1 week for potty training and I am going on 6 months with my toddler.  I wonder if there is a "Potty Training Doula?".....

Some of the products she recommended were:

Wombie blanket - Keep in mind, when your baby can roll onto their tummy, don't wrap the arms.

Baby Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit - Its a compression suit from what I understand and can give the baby that "snuggled" affect without swaddling

Book: Good Night/Sleep Tight

Sleep Sack

Sound Machine - for white noise

P.S.  There maybe stuff I missed or forgot, or didn't convey properly so when you read this blog take it as it  is (with a grain of salt) and I encourage you to do your own research.  I think like everything else, a variation of what the experts advise to suit your own unique baby, is going to be what works the best.  A little tweak here and there and hopefully you will have success...and me too!

Monday, May 7, 2012

So What Alicia Silverstone Feeds her Child like a Bird!

I was watching a show on TV last night and yet again another segment about Alicia Silverstone came up about her feeding her child like a bird (chewing up food and giving it to her baby with her mouth).  Alright, so my first reaction when I heard this story and saw the pictures was..."OK that's different".  Would I do it? No, that what my food processor is for.  Who knows what her reasons are but it certainly does not mean she is somehow abusing her child or harming him in anyway.   Anyone who has recently visited the Zoo or African lion Safari has seen Apes, Chimps or Orangutans do this for their young.  What do you think humans use to do before we had tools and lived in a cave?  It wasn't so long ago that people thought breastfeeding was taboo and actually discourage against it, in favour for formula feeding. 

The proper term for this is Premastication or "Kiss-feeding" and it actually goes on in many cultures.  There are a long list of advantages and disadvantages, much like anything else.  It is much more prevelent in non western societies than you think.  In one study that was performed in China, they found that 63% of Chinese university students received permastication food as infants.  The practice is used today in Latin America and countries in Africa such as Zimbabwe.  The main health concern being the transmission of HIV to the infant.

Whatever the reasons are, Alicia, or other moms in western society have for continuing this practice to present day, people need to get over it.  I'm sure its mostly non parents that found this story appalling.  I personally find stories such as these interesting, because its always informative to read how other mothers mother their children.  We have the Kangaroo moms who carry their babies everywhere, parents who practice "the family bed" and now we have the bird feeders, whatever works, who cares as long as they aren't putting the baby in any danger or depriving them in some way.

I'm glad I'm not a celebrity and having someone take my picture at every opportunity to show the world and judge me.  I blog and get to edit what I share and what I do not share.  I have a 3 year old who isn't potty trained yet and I'm pretty sure I'll be changing her diapers until she goes to university, she watches "Tree House" in the mornings (Gasp!) and I even allow the odd donut.  But the best one yet, when she was 1, I used a Winnie the Pooh leash when we walked near busy streets because she liked to run all over the place.  How many times have I heard "leashes are for dogs" least I had peace of mind, knowing she wouldn't dart out infront of a car.  She's my child and I will raise her how I see fit! Every mother is allowed the gumption to say exactly that!


Pelto GH, Zhang Y, Habicht JP.
Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

3 years since becoming a mother...

My first daughter is turning 3 in a couple weeks and I am reflecting back on the amazing ride I have been on since it all started.  I remember what my life was like before she came into this world and I also remember my life the second she did.  It felt like someone picked me up by my ankles, turned me upside down and said "right, now try this out for a while."  I'd never even held a baby before Byllee, I was terrified of them.  Always scared I would break them somehow.  During my pregnancy, I figured that would all change since it would be my own baby.  It didn't.  I was scared of her when they handed her to me, and my husband had to teach me how to hold her.  During my stay in the hospital, my husband had to leave us for a few hours to go to the doctor, and the entire time he was gone I was holding my breath, praying she wouldn't wake up.  I was scared to dress her, change her diaper and most of all I was scared I would be unable to calm her down if she cried.

That fear slowly subsided over the first month as I gained confidence.  However with every new stage she entered the fear would come back.  I lacked confidence in myself that I would be able to handle the situation on my own.  I sadly spent a lot of that first year in fear, especially with the SIDS fear always hanging around in the background.

This time around with my second daughter, the fear hasn't been there.  I know what I am doing and I know I can handle it because I did before.  Sometimes it makes me sad how much time I wasted worrying instead of enjoying my first year as a mother, but its all ancient history now.  I am making up for it now anyway, and enjoying my second time around with my baby to the fullest.  The SIDs fear will always be there, but I do everything I can to reduce the risk and really just try and force it out of my mind.  Having two children that need me at the same time has been my newest challenge.  When I am on my own and trying to put one to bed and the other starts crying, I have really found myself in unfamiliar waters.  I found myself running back and forth like a mad woman to tend to each child.  Then slowly I rearranged my schedule so that Jorja was sleeping by the time I put Byllee to bed.  There are still times they need me all at once, especially in the morning.  Mornings are hard, because Jorja needs to be fed, Byllee wants a drink and breakfast and both my cats have gotten into the fight with wanting me too lol.  God forbid I need to use the bathroom or tend to my own needs, then all hell breaks loose and I have 2 crying kids and two cats meowing their heads off.  I've learn to do a sort of "kid triage system" same with house work.  If I feel like I'm living in a toilet or my house is starting to resemble a crack house as one of my friends described it, then I will start to triage that as well.  I'll figure it out, I did before and at least I now have confidence in myself this time.

Byllee has turned into such a well adjusted, smart, funny little girl, so I am clearly doing a good job.  I am so happy with my life as a mother, I feel as though this is what I was born to do.  I was a mother in my own way before they came, to my cats and its just grown from there.  Attitude is really the key to happiness.  Attitude of gratitude is probably the healthiest state of mind, and filling your life with love, whatever that may look like for others.  I look forward to all the surprises and challenges that lay ahead for me, because I know as long as I hold on to this attitude, I will turn out just fine and so will my kids.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mothers Come in All Forms and Species!

I thought I would write a blog about mothers, in recognition of Mother's Day coming up.  I recently purchased a book that I have given to my mom early for Mothers Day.  Its called "Mothers Love - Inspiring True Stories from the Animal Kingdom"  an absolutely beautiful book filled with true stories of great mothers in the wild.  This got me thinking, what is the definition of a mother?  Is a duck that adopts an abandoned squirrel as her own any less of a mother then the one that gave birth?  Absolutely not!  In fact, I think it qualifies her more of a mother.  I think its easy to conclude that giving birth does not define being a mother.  I would like to share one particular story from the book that really touched me deeply:

 A marine mammal specialist came upon a baby dolphin who had become entangled in a nylon fishing net.  He watched with horror as the dolphins mother and two other females stopped at nothing to save him.  They tried everything they could to push that baby out - at risk of tangling up their own fins!  The marine specialist dove into the water himself to cut the net.  The mother then guided her weakened, gasping calf up to the waters surface and supported him so he could breath.  Exhausted by the ordeal, she, too struggled to float, and the other females supported both mother and child, helping them regain their strength.  For the next few hours, all three adults took turns keeping the baby afloat until finally, the entire extended family swam away (Bellows 64).

This story reminds me of my own mother and father.  During struggles in my life, they are there to help me breath, taking turns until I am back on my feet again.  Is there anything else in life to be more grateful for?  I have had others, in different times of my life, step in and do the same thing for me and my family and I will never forget the unselfish acts they extended me.

Mothers come is all forms and all should be celebrated equally.  Maybe its a mother of 4 dogs, or one who has adopted a baby and given that child a chance they may not have had otherwise.  Or a stay at home mom, who has five kids and barely keeping her head above the water most of the time.  One thing is always the same: the unconditional, all encompassing love we feel for our children.  I would like to think of myself as one of those female dolphins and if I were to see another mother and child in need, I too would stop and help them breath.  Mothers of all kinds should think of ourselves as a force, one that cannot be challenged and an army of love that will come to defend our children at all cost.

This mothers day, don't just celebrate your own mother, but yourself and ALL mothers, whatever kind they maybe, because we are the keystone of society that is raising the next generation.  That is no small feat and even the strongest ones need help breathing every now and then.

Favourite quotes:

"Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws" Barbara Kingsolver

"A Mothers love for her child is like nothing else in the world.  It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path" Agatha Christie

"A mother is not a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary" Dorothy Fisher

"A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child" Sophia Loren


Bellows, Melina Gerosa.  Mothers Love - Inspiring True Stories from the Animal Kingdom. Washington, D.C. National Geographic Society. 2012

Link to book mentioned: