It’s a fact of life: Whether you work at home or out of the home, part time or full time, life with young kids is always a juggling act.Achieving balance is really only aspirational — never truly possible. But living in Hawaii has shown me that surfing is an apt metaphor for what we all aspire to — a sense of freedom and control in the face of powerful life forces.
I’m especially proud of this post I wrote for my fab partners over at The Learning Care Group: Check it out, and let me know what YOUR tips are for staying sane when trying to stay on top of it all.
I’ve been doing some serious writing now for several months, so it was refreshing to have a fun conversation with Tammy Pescatelli recently. She’s mom to a preschooler, star (and producer) of her own TV show, and hardworking stand-up comedienne. With credits like Leno, Carson Daly, and Last Comic Standing to her name, plus winner of Comedy Central’s Standup Showdown, she’s a force to be reckoned with in entertainment.
But I was more interested in her approach to motherhood. She’s a hard-working lady in a family that values family — so much, in fact, that they’re full of advice. We’re talking enmeshed Italian family here. (As a member of an enmeshed Jewish family, I feel I can say it — Jewish, Italian — same thing.) And like many of us, Tammy is an older mother has had enough life experience to have more confidence in her decisions and in her parenting. She tells me that being in the public eye has reinforced the notion that you can’t make everybody happy all the time.
For instance, Tammy revealed to me that she didn’t breastfeed her son. Despite her valid (and personal) reasons, she was judged and criticized for it. Long-time BabyShrink readers know this is a pet peeve of mine. So many moms suffer rude (at best) commentary from others who feel somehow justified in crossing over this very personal boundary — involving our babies and our bodies. And Tammy’s story is actually worse than most I’ve heard — she received a phone call from a “lactivist” organization, saying that they had “heard” she wasn’t breastfeeding her child, and could they send a lactating mother right over as a wet-nurse? SERIOUSLY!
But Tammy has strength and confidence in her convictions. She’s focused on her son and her family — and she knows that balaning their needs with the needs of her demanding career may be difficult — but ultimately worth it. She’s nurtured her internal voice of what’s best — her “Mother’s Intuition” — plus she does her research and consults with experts. And she doesn’t apologize or get depressed when others criticize her — she laughs about it. And she’s as pleasant, funny, happy, confident, and centered as she seems on TV.
After all, if we’ve lost our sense of humor in this kooky journey of parenting, we’re in trouble. So thanks for the reminder, Tammy, and good luck with your new show! I can’t wait to watch the first episode, this Tuesday, January 25 on WeTV, at 10 pm Eastern.
Lately I’ve been getting a lot of requests for expert comments on baby stuff: parenting mags who want info for their stories. I’ve got a love-hate relationship with those magazines. They recycle the same old stuff, and aren’t in-depth enough to get down into the heart of the issue. So parents are left with a handy-dandy little checklist that MIGHT work with their child (but just as likely won’t) — and they’re left doubting themselves and their parenting ability (or the development of their child.) “If National Parent Mag says this should work, why doesn’t it work with my child?”
Most of the writers are simply learning right along with their readers. I recently spent 20 minutes explaining to one writer why sleep cycles (and parents’ approaches to sleep) should change over time. Meaning that a 3-month-old is a totally different animal than an 18-month old, and therefore, responds way differently to sleep “training”. There’s no quick, “one size fits all” sleep-training answer. It hadn’t occurred to this writer of a major parenting mag (a parent of a toddler herself) that since the psychological needs of a young child vary over time, so must our approaches to the various issues that come up.
This has me thinking of the simple but powerful ways that parents can consider the psychological development of their babies and young children (which really is the whole point of BabyShrink). I’m working on a book on the subject, which allows me more room to explore the issue, but for the time being I’m left with the same problem that parenting mag writers have: cramming a huge subject into a limited amount of space. So what I’ll do is list some “thinking points” for you to consider in your parenting, and we can discuss further as you have questions:
BabyShrink’s Thinking Points For Parents:
* Your baby’s psychological needs change over time. 0-6 months is about getting oriented to the world and trying to feel safe in it. 9-12 months is a whole different ball game, and leads into toddlerhood, which is different yet again (check out “annoying toddler behaviors” under my Categories below and to the right). Vary your approach as your child goes through each stage.
* Psychological development doesn’t follow a straight line. There will be “regression”, and there will be progress. This is normal and expected.
* The fact that your young child CAN do something doesn’t mean that she WILL do it. HAVING a skill doesn’t mean your child is psychologically ready to USE it. Readiness to sleep through the night, potty training, talking, and most other issues have strong psychological components — handling that aspect artfully, helps your child navigate the issue more completely, and with less chance of later problems.
* Your child’s temperament is a major Wild Card here. What works for an “easy” baby might be worthless for your “fussy” baby. An “intense” toddler needs a totally different approach than a “shy” one. A “bold” preschooler needs a different approach than a more “sensitive” one.
Randomly trying new parenting “solutions” can be really frustrating. Understanding the psychology of your child, and making a parenting plan based on these “Thinking Points”, is the key to finding your way with your child. If you want to to know more about how psychological development affects your parenting, and how it can best be handled given the unique temperament of your child, there are lots of ways to learn more. Click around my site, Twitter me your questions @BabyShrink, comment here, or email me at BabyShrink@gmail.com for Parent Coaching.
There’s lots of talk (and worry) about money these days, and we’re all thinking about our families’ budgets. My friend and colleague Dr. Brad Klontz talks about financial well-being, and how it doesn’t “just happen”. Like part of any healthy lifestyle, there are skills to be learned, bad habits to be eliminated, and good attitudes to be built. The good news for your family is that you can start the process out in a good way at even the youngest of ages.
Your children will start to internalize your money attitudes every time you discuss (or argue about) household expenses or take a trip to the grocery store. Be conscious about spending and Use Your Words with your little ones. “Hey! Our favorite cereal is on sale. That’s a great price! Let’s get an extra box today.”
Build an awareness about money — actual coins and bills. In our house, we’ve gotten the kids those inexpensive State Quarters collecting kits, and they’re excited to look for the coins, trade for ones they need, and show them off to friends. They also learn cool things about the States. Also, have them help you plan your shopping list, and make them responsible for holding the list and “checking” it. Make up a computer list of regularly purchased items and a little picture of the item next to it, printing out a new one each shopping trip. Your preschooler can color in the things you need that week and keep track of it in the store.
Now you can start talking about the price of things, saving, and allowance. Include them in plans to save for special purchases, help them donate to good causes, and support “lemonade stands” and other budding entrepreneurship.
But the most important job is ours. Money is the main reason for couples’ arguments and divorce. This issue is worth your time and effort, people: Take stock of your financial problems, and how your attitudes are involved. Examine the weird money “scripts” from your family of origin. Challenge assumptions like “it’s bad manners to talk about money”. Get yourself in the habit of good financial behaviors. I highly recommend Dr. Klontz’s books on the subject, which are easy to read, yet powerful. Check them out here.
And finally, GIVE. Every religion and moral/ethical tradition talks about the needy and the importance of giving. Use Your Words to model gratitude for what your family has. Help your child pick a cause and put aside a small amount of her savings to her cause on a regular basis. Carry it through by showing her how you donate the money. Make visits to learn about the cause and help in person, if possible.
Families have been hit hard by the recession — I see it every day in my practice. But you’d think that wealthier parents would be having an easier time than they are. Instead, they’re scrambling. Because parents who relied on money to raise good kids had their priorities messed up, and now they’re getting their assumptions challenged. I’m talking about the competitive, “keeping up with the Joneses” kind of parenting that results in this kind of stuff:
- Trying to find the “perfect” stroller
- Getting on a years-long wait list with the “best” preschool
- Overscheduling even young children, from “Mommy and Me” to “enrichment” classes
- Parents not having any adult life (or getting any sleep) because their lives are 100% kid-focused
But even for those of us who weren’t ever considered “wealthy”, there’s a lesson here about priorities, and what it truly takes to be a Good Enough parent.When you take money out of the equation, all of the extra garbage is drained out. And parents who are used to parenting by spending are forced to start parenting by being.
Being with the kids — just hanging out. Getting to know their temperaments, tendencies, personalities and foibles. Helping them learn about themselves, and how to be a good person. And helping them to learn about money — what it CAN buy, what it CAN’T buy, and how to make budgeting and saving fun.
This is a really good thing. Because your kids don’t need lots of money to grow into happy, healthy, productive human beings. They need YOU — your interested time and attention.
I know by experience, people. I’m not much of a shopper, but I LOVE baby gear. I’ve spent 10 years searching for “the perfect stroller”, and wasted tons of money on the 7 or 8 strollers moldering away in the Stroller Cemetery in our garage. But none of our four babies ever loved being in ANY stroller, and if I had just waited to get to know them a bit before I started buying, I could have saved a ton of cash. Patience and careful thought are worth a lot — in life, and in parenting.
It starts at the earliest ages. In our family, we’ve discovered that toys, balloons and candy shouldn’t get bought at the market as an incentive for good behavior. Toddlers in our family get told, “Let’s put the balloon away now that we’re done shopping. The balloon lives here — let’s say bye bye to the balloon.” When they don’t expect a lot of buying as young children, they enjoy the stuff we DO buy much more.
This is an opportunity to re-focus on the simple (but powerful) fact that it’s US, not our “stuff”, that make our kids into great human beings. Staying home, cooking together, reading, and running around outside is not only cheaper, it’s a better way to focus on the enduring priorities of parenting.
And in the process, we get to know ourselves better, too.
Prevention and Practice. If you expect her to take a bottle intermittently, you’ve got to keep up the practice. Have her take a bottle at least every 1-2 days — even if Mom will be with her — to keep up her familiarity with it (and prevent problems when you DO need to leave her). I can’t emphasize this enough.
DON’T PANIC. I know Baby is hungry and fussy, but this too shall pass. The more stressed out you are about it, the more the problem will be reinforced. Stay calm, keep trying, and Baby will eventually accept the bottle again. In the meantime, arrange your schedule so you can nurse, but keep trying with the bottle.
Often, Dads, sitters and grandmas have better luck with the bottle than Mom will. We Moms often have trouble trusting that anyone might possibly substitute for us, but this is a sure sign it’s time to let go.
Offer a bottle to Baby when she’s asleep. She’s more likely to accept the bottle when drowsy or sleeping.
Experiment with different bottles and nipples, but don’t blow Baby’s college savings on this technique. It often doesn’t work — but worth a try. Babies who refuse one nipple will often accept the same one just a few hours or days later.
Don’t try to “force feed” in any way. This will start a struggle that you can’t win. Offer — repeatedly — over different times of the day, different temperatures, and by different people. If she refuses — immediately take it away for at least a couple of hours — and don’t get aggravated. She’ll pick up on your frustration, and a negative cycle will begin.
Have Dad, Grandma, Sitter, or Sibling offer the bottle when Mom is COMPLETELY OUT OF THE HOUSE. Babies smell Mom, and will wait her out if they sense she’s nearby!
And of course, make sure there’s no thrush, teething pain, tummy trouble, allergies, or other medical problem interfering.
“Bottle Strikes” (or their cousin, the “Nursing Strike”) are very common. Just when you’re sure Baby will never take the bottle again (or nurse again), you’re likely to be surprised. Hang in there!
Mom of Four, Parenting Expert
It’s hard to believe, but 6 weeks ago I was in agony, being awakened 6 or 7 times a night by a 7-month-old baby who seemed desperate to nurse each and every hour over night. I was at DefCon 7, or 8, or 47, or whatever the highest possible number might be for Maternal Sleep Deprivation. Worse, this is our 4th baby. My fantasies of finally getting a baby who was a good sleeper were shot to hell, and I was MAD.
Going the “babywearing” route — responding to every need — wasn’t working — it was making things worse. So I undertook the most rigorous “Sleep Training” program I’ve tried yet. And it worked.
Now, I’m not advocating that you try Sleep Training — and by that, I mean some variation on the “Let Them Cry Longer Than You Normally Would” theme. No, please don’t take this as something I’m necessarily advising you to do. Just hear me out for a minute:
Some babies do very well with “babywearing” and co-sleeping. Mine don’t. They either get all aggravated with the extra body contact — they want to be “free” — or think sleeping with Mommy and Daddy means fun playtime all night long. It seems they want to sleep in their cribs, because they’re wonderfully well-adjusted (and much more well-rested when they finally “get it”), but they need help in “getting it”.
So I used my Shrink’s Crystal Ball and devised a perfect sleep plan just for her that worked immediately. Hah! I wish. No, seriously, I thought about her specific age (7 months), her temperament (loud and excitable, but resilient and forgiving), and our family’s needs (3 older kids who need to have a reasonably quiet house at night plus 2 working parents), and went from there. It was 6-ish weeks, with 2 or 3 of them being fairly challenging, but I am happy to say that the plan has worked fabulously well. Miss Nighttime Partier is now sleeping 10-11 hours at night.
This combination: Your baby’s age, temperament, plus your family’s needs, all get put into my formula for improving any parenting problem with your baby — not just sleep. It’s a personalized approach that goes way beyond a checklist that you might find in a parenting magazine. It’s developed for you and your family. That’s the basis for my Parent Coaching service that I’m preparing to offer online, and I’m really excited to be able to help families far beyond my little island home out here in the Pacific.
So stay tuned for more details on BabyShrink Parent Coaching, and in the meantime, comment or email me for more specifics on your little nighttime partier.
We’re doing our own version of Sleep Training around here, since baby #4 has proven to be immensely resistant — and LOUD — in our efforts to help her sleep through even a decent portion of the night. Adorable as she is, she’s the most rotten sleeper I’ve yet produced. Tough Love is in order.
But Tough Love is rough on me — and on the family. A fussing (or screaming) baby feels like a constant reminder of some kind of parental inadequacy, and is really grating on the nerves. Not to mention the fact that it often happens at ridiculous hours of the night when most other babies are surely sleeping soundly. And forget sleep for poor mom. I’m a zombie.
But persist I must. I won’t give in to an 18-pound 8-month old, no matter how cute she is (in the daytime, at least). It will be worth it in the end.
Here are my tips for getting through this rough time, if you’re going through Sleep Training:
Make sure you and your partner are on the same page. There’s nothing worse than arguing about sleep training techniques at 2 am, standing outside the door of a screaming baby. Agree ahead of time — or don’t attempt it.
Prepare the older kids for nighttime noise. I tell my lightest sleeper that he may hear the baby fussing at night. “But you’re a big boy and can roll over and go to sleep. Soon we’ll all get better sleep.”
Use a little reverse psychology on yourself. (You’re so sleep deprived it just might work!) Instead of preparing for a night of sleep, prepare for a night of watching “guilty pleasure” TV, listening to great music from your (childless) past, or even folding laundry. Fooling yourself into thinking you don’t really need to sleep somehow makes it less painful to be up at weird hours.
Take a deep breath, have a zen moment, do some mindfulness meditation, yoga, or pray – pick your version of expressing gratitude and relaxation. Having a non-sleeping, screaming baby at 2 am is really hard. But in the scope of things, not really that big of a deal. A few moments recalling the years when we feared we couldn’t get pregnant, or thinking of friends who have a baby who’s quite ill, and others who have God forbid lost a child, and I’m ready to get through another tough night of sleep training. Having a healthy, happy, non-sleeping baby is a high-class problem we’re blessed to have, quite honestly.
I’ve written other posts about getting through the sleep deprivation aspect of this, but let me also mention our friend caffeine here. Don’t overdo it. At my peak, I have a mug of java in the morning, some iced tea at lunch, and another cup of coffee around 2. That’s 3 servings a day. Any more and I get frazzled and nutty — and no more awake than if I had stayed with the 3 servings. Studies say that some coffee is fine for most of us, but too much will definitely make you feel worse.
Sleep Training eventually works — I’m writing this now as the baby sleeps nicely in her crib. Get through the rough nights and I promise things will improve!
Mom of Four, Parenting Expert