Thanks for the love, Scary Mommy

Scary Mommy

I started writing my blog because I realized Facebook wasn’t the right platform for what I wanted to do. My facebook friends were sick of seven paragraph updates on my parenting adventures. They told me they were sick of these long posts by commenting things like, “you should start a blog” and “you should really start a blog” and “you are clogging my newsfeed, please go start a blog.”

Being the people pleaser that I am, I obliged. And wow, am I glad I did. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of the enthusiasm! Your encouragement was exactly what I needed to get myself into gear and post, post, post. I’m even starting to “feel like a blogger.”

And, Guess what?! Scary Mommy is publishing an article I submitted. They are publishing it around September 21st. I’m pretty darn excited. Scary Mommy is my favorite site for parenting articles and I literally sprinted down the stairs and jumped onto the treadmill my husband was running on to tell him about getting a submission accepted. I can’t even pretend to be cool about this. I. AM. STOKED.

And, guess what again??!! Scary Mommy accepted a second article to be published on September 25th! I’ll post a link when it’s live!

Mom Brain.

We all know it’s a thing. In fact, some of us know it’s a real, scientifically researched thing. We know it’s something to joke about, acknowledge and do our best to combat, right? Wrong!!! I think we need to take a second and rewire our opinion on this one!

Mom brain typically means forgetting something you did, heard or said two seconds ago. It can mean walking into a room three times before remembering why you were going in there. It can mean staring at a fellow mom for a little too long before remembering their name, or not, “I know it’s not Carrie, I’m pretty sure it’s Liz, it might be Eliza, no, no, that’s not right. Stephanie? Amanda? Ugh, I’ll just smile and wave.”

But we are all ignoring a few really important things about mom brain, the amazing things. The things that mom brain’s are wired for to keep us all safe, comfortable and strong AF. Instead of spending energy beating yourself up for the mom brain forgetfulness, or the racing thoughts or anything else, start to embrace this new mindset, this mom brain is doing some pretty amazing things.

I might forget why I got the chicken nuggets out of the freezer when I can see my little ones eating their PB&J’s, but you better believe my Spidy-Mom-Senses go on full alert when my baby, who is upstairs in her bedroom with the door shut, starts coughing.

I might have forgotten my third child’s shoes and have to carry her into music class, but you bet I can carry my other toddler at the same time who is having a meltdown about the pavement of the parking lot being too hot, even though he’s wearing shoes. Am I also holding my oldest child’s hand so she doesn’t feel left out? You betcha. My mom brain makes me mentally strong and the physical part just follows. It’s like I have six arms in the parking lot.

I might have forgotten to bring my kids to gymnastics, but that’s because my brain was preoccupied with the millions of other things I’m doing for my kids. We’ll make it to gymnastics next week and I’ll continue to mentally juggle all the things.

It’s exhausting, it’s confusing, it’s complicated, but it’s making me strong. And it’s not that my partner isn’t on board, he so totally is! He helps with diapers, with bedtime routine, with cooking, with most of the things….but whatever way his brain is wired, it’s not mom brain and he doesn’t think about all the things the way I do.

The next time you forget something and you curse your mom brain, take a second to think of one great thing that, that mom brain did for you! Did you notice your kiddo was upset even though they weren’t talking about it? Did you notice your kid was about to do something dangerous before they even did it? Did you hear your baby crying a mile away? These Spidy-Mom-Senses are real, and they’re all thanks to mom brain!!!

Is this seriously still a debate? Fed is best.

Fed is best. Why is this even a debate?

Do I think it’s important to try breastfeeding first, sure, but only if the mother wants to. Wait, what??!!! What about the baby? Well, I hate to ruffle feathers, but I actually think the mom is more important, or whoever the primary caregiver is.

All three of my kids were fed differently as babies, but they’re all doing pretty well, and I’m assuming that that’s in part because they were fed. 

My first baby was huge. Like, a giant. I hate to brag, but I grew a baby that was 10 pounds 11 ounces….*inside* my womb. Feeding her was no joke. And, in fact, I was lucky because my milk came in super early, she was feeding all the time and she was gaining weight like a champ. I was nailing this new breastfeeding thing! Right?

Hahahaha.

So wrong. So, very, very wrong.

At the hospital the nurses kept congratulating me on “fabulous milk production” like I was intentionally rocking this. They told me my baby was a great eater….well, right? She was huge. I mentioned to the nurses that I didn’t think I was doing this right and my concerns were dismissed because she was gaining weight and feeding regularly. So, I went home thinking everything was fine and I’m just a wimp when it comes to breastfeeding.

But I got home from the hospital and I was like, should breastfeeding hurt this much? Should I be bleeding? I mean, she doesn’t even have teeth. Should I be resenting my newborn daughter every time I feed her because of the pain? Finally, some saint said to me, “you know, you don’t have to breastfeed, you can use formula” and I just broke down. I started sobbing and felt overwhelmed with relief. I don’t have to endure this anymore? Cool, cool, let’s get some formula right now.

After that I was a much better parent. I actually wanted to feed my baby and even more importantly, we enjoyed our time together rocking, feeding, and no one was crying in pain. Also, my sweet little babe started sleeping through the night at 4 weeks old. So, for baby number one, formula really was best, all things considered. And if we aren’t considering all things, aka, mom’s health too, then what on earth are we doing?

Baby number two I was able to nurse until he was about four months old, then my supply dipped and so I supplemented with formula and that, of course, didn’t increase supply, so by four or five months he was fully on formula. It didn’t feel like a huge deal to me. In fact, I was pretty proud of myself for breastfeeding for a good few months, and I didn’t really worry about him switching to formula too much. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the mom guilt was there, boy was it there. But, I got over it, fed my baby and he’s now a strapping young 3 year old.

then there is baby number three. She was the worst. For some reason I felt this desire to try to breastfeed her for a full year. I felt like I finally had the hang of parenting (because at that point I was really just keeping tiny humans alive) and I was determined to finally get the hang of breastfeeding.

Well, Sophia threw a lot of wrenches into my plan. By month four I was so over it. I found out I had to give up dairy and soy and I was miserable, she was not gaining weight, it was a mess. I tried to switch her to formula, but couldn’t find one that worked with her delicate little system and it was exhausting. I mean, let’s be honest, if there had been a formula that didn’t cause pain and terrible reflux to my baby I totally would have given that company all my money. But, as it was, I gave up dairy and soy and eventually things got easier.

At Sophia’s 1st birthday party I mentioned that I was pretty stoked I had made it a full year breastfeeding! Turns out that talking about feeding your child with your breasts can make the party feel awkward. But I was proud. I made eye contact with my husband after it went to crickets and he gave me a thumbs up and said, “that’s amazing, Katie! You’re amazing” which, is really all I wanted to hear. The party continued and Sophia is doing well and I’m amazing.

Just kidding, I’m a mess. Always. But my whole point is this: feed your baby so they grow. Don’t use something stupid like water and miracle grow, but formula isn’t bad and don’t forget to prioritize your mental and physical health. You can’t keep your baby healthy and thriving if you aren’t! It is selfless to put yourself first as a parent in this situation.

And, don’t get me wrong, I’m 100% supportive of breastfeeding. I do think there are more health benefits inside a bottle of breastmilk than a bottle of formula, I think there is something really special about the bond created while nursing, but I think there is a much bigger issue at play. Mom’s mental and physical health directly impact baby’s well being. Formula is good, breastfeeding is better, but taking care of both you and your baby is best, whichever option that means. So, I’ll say it again, fed is best.

Comment from my friend Cassia Mangin and it’s too important not to share. It’s also spot on.

“Fed is best. Supported mothers is better. Absolutely I believe in women’s choice with our bodies -no matter what- I also believe our choices aren’t made in a vacuum, which means that we have to examine context if we want things to be better.

Shaming a mother for her choices is NEVER okay, breast or bottle or whatever.

But, imagine for a moment, what choices would be made if formula – a billion dollar industry that has zero interest in your health or your baby’s health, wasn’t handed out so easily in the hospital unless it was necessary or requested, and it was that amazingly easy to get a breast pump for free instead? Imagine if everyone had access to an actual IBCLC (international board certified lactation consultant) rather than the “lactation consultant” at the hospital who may or may not be truly qualified and up to date on good information? What would happen if women were physically, mentally, and financially supported postpartum during the 4th trimester so we (and our hormones) could HEAL properly and bond with our child, instead of jumping right back into life and stress and pressure? IMAGINE what would happen if pregnancy and labor and birth and postpartum and infancy and just women’s bodies ffs were looked at as natural human things rather than medicalized in order to be capitalized on.

I am totally not emotionally invested in whether someone else breastfeeds or chooses formula. But I am PASSIONATE about making sure you actually have a choice, and in this culture and in this country right now, I don’t believe we truly do.

It is actual fact that breast milk cannot be duplicated and is in fact what is scientifically best for human infants. I am also INCREDIBLY grateful for formula since it is what nourished my oldest when my breastfeeding journey with her didn’t work out so well. She would have starved otherwise.

I do agree that we need to stop having this debate and instead turn our attention and our energies where it belongs – burning the current system to the ground and making it better for women and children.

If women were better supported and more secure, this wouldn’t be a debate anymore. Arguing this debate and saying it shouldn’t be a debate ignores the underlying issues at best and perpetuates the debate (that continues to deflect our attention from those profiting from mothers being unsupported) at worst.” -Cassia Mangin

Isn’t she the best?! Thanks, Cassia!!!!

Traveling with your kids part 2: 6-18 months old

So, you’re finally getting a little more sleep at night and you’ve decided a family vacation is just around the corner. Drive time be damned, you’re going to the beach, mountains, desert, wherever. It’s estimated at 6 hours of driving time and now you’re panicking, can I really bring my baby on a road trip?
The short answer is, yes you can. Will it be like the road trips with your partner that you vaguely remember before having a baby? Hahahaha! Hahaha….haha…ha. Not at all.
First things first, don’t overpack. It’s a rookie mistake and your baby is out of the newborn trenches and so are you! You don’t need 7 pacifiers, 13 blankets, 5 “lovies” in case they lose one, the crib, highchair, changing table, microwave just in case and all the other junk, er…necessities.
Secondly, whatever you do, do not, I repeat “DO NOT” walk into target without a list, a budget and an intervention team on standby. Do you know how much money companies are making by exploiting parents’ deepest insecurities? A lot. A lot of money.
Here’s what I suggest bringing and why.
  1. Pack n play for sleeping. Easy to fold up, store, set up etc. my advice is practicing a few nights so your kiddo isn’t sleeping in a pack n play for the first time on the first night of your trip. No one will sleep.
  2. Fold-up high chair on the go. It’s like a little attachment to chairs and it acts like a high chair. This is great for meals, but also other times when you need your kiddo “strapped in.” Don’t have one, but in a pinch? Bring in the car seat and buckle them in! I’m not proud of it, but I’ve had to do that before and it was pretty effective.
  3. Snacks for the car ride. However, do not hand them food from front seat… make sure an adult is sitting beside them. This age is such a choking hazard season!
  4. Your baby is still rear-facing, so a good play item is the travel mirror that attaches to the headrest of the back seat!
  5. Clothes, too, of course! Bring extra “staples” and if it’s hot outside bring one cardigan just in case, if it’s cold, bring one shirt/short outfit just in case!
  6. Diapers and wipes. Be sure you have plenty for driving days, but don’t panic if you need to buy more once you’re at your destination!
  7. Do not underestimate the power of music. As a family we attend a music together class weekly and have since my oldest was 9 months (she’s now 4.5 years old) So those CD’s are crucial in our travels. But, any music you and your kiddo enjoy will be a great way to pass the time, soothe a fussy kiddo and make the car ride smoother.

At this age and stage you may not have to stop every 2 hours like you would with a new infant who’s feeding schedule is much different. However, depending on your little one’s car tolerance, you may be stopping every couple of hours. So expect the unexpected, be mentally prepared for a dreadful trip, seriously! I cannot tell you how often I’ve gone into a road trip thinking, this is going to be awful but the destination is worth it, THEN, if the road trip is anything above “awful” I’m delighted!!! Balance that doomsday outlook with a side of adventure spirit and enjoy the memories you’re making.

Baby puked all over the car, hahaha, what a story that will be! Baby had a diaper explosion that forced you to stop in the middle of nowhere Kansas, hilarious story for the future. It took you 12 hours to go on a 300 mile journey, wow, that’s CRAZY! All good things, all good things. Good luck!!

Who am I? (if an operatic “24601” didn’t just go through your head, can we even be friends?) But, seriously, who am I?

As a mom, it can be difficult to figure out this new, complicated identity that is motherhood. I love being a mom and I love this new addition to my “me-ness” but…sometimes I want to be more than a mom. And not because being a mom isn’t super, but because I’ve only been a mom for 4 years and I’ve been someone else for 30 and it’s complicated.

To further complicate things in my mind, in the past couple of years I have been making the transition to staying at home…well… for the most part. I still work a little bit when I can, which for me is the perfect balance. But, when someone asks me what I “do” I sort of stumble around this weird, unnecessarily awkward explanation that I stay at home, but I still work sometimes,  and I love staying at home, but I like having my foot in the door at work. I make it awkward.

But, for 16 years “what I did” was teach Irish dance. I’ve known I wanted to teach Irish dance since I started helping with classes when I was a teenager. After college I dappled in some freelance writing, but it wasn’t my passion. My passion was Irish dance. I felt so lucky to be able to pursue my love of the music and dancing as a career. Then I had kids. Cue the sound of slamming brakes.

Kids. Change. Everything. I loved teaching dance, but I loved being at home with my daughter. Then 15 months later I had my son. Then 19 months after that I had my third kiddo. I still love teaching Irish dance, but I really love staying at home with my kiddos. I was completely surprised by my desire to stay at home. I didn’t predict wanting this role and I never “saw myself” as a parent who stays at home with their kids, but, wow, do I love it.

And even though this is what I want, it has been a challenging transition. I am so worried people will think I’m lazy because I stay at home. I’m worried they’ll think I’m not a feminist or that it was my husband’s choice, not mine. I’m worried I will become less smart from hanging out with toddlers all day. Lots of worries in this brain of mine, but even with those worries, it still feels like the right choice for me.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m still figuring out how to do this stay at home thing. I’ve learned that we shouldn’t literally stay at home because then we all go batty. I’ve also learned that I depend on my partner even more heavily as a stay at home parent because weekends feel like work days for me unless I shift a lot of parenting duties to my husband. And if I don’t get a break on the weekends…let’s just say I’m not the best version of myself come Monday. There has been a steep learning curve for all of us, but it’s what I want, and I’m so thankful that I can stay at home, still teach when I can, and now, write my heart out on this blog!

So, here I am. I’m a stay at home mom who sometimes works and sometimes blogs and sometimes loses her mind. All good things, all good things.

Hot mess

As moms we almost always feel like a hot mess, amirite? We laugh about it, we joke about it, we sometimes panic about it, but we know it to be true. However, I’ll be the first to admit, that sometimes I forget other moms also feel like a hot mess. I get caught up in this narrative in my head that I’m a hot mess, I’m the only hot mess and look at that mom over there juggling her coffee and baby like a pro, she’s not a hot mess.

Newsflash: she is.

You know that mom who looks showered, well rested, clothed like a human and is smiling? She’s a hot mess. But, I’ll also be the first to admit that sometimes I get judgy when I see “put together mom” and I might think things like, “well she must have help” or “she must be a stay at home mom” (fyi, I stay at home) or even “ugh, she’s so perfect.”

But here’s the thing, that thought pattern does so much damage. It hurts my own psyche, but it also prevents me from going up to that mom and offering a smile, a helpful hand or words of friendship. In the last several years I’ve discovered that sometimes the “perfect moms” are the ones who need a friend the most. And, SOMEtimes people think I’m the perfect mom. Hahahaha, ok that’s not true, I haven’t showered in weeks, but I can dream.

Anyway, sometimes we need to check ourselves. We are all in this together. There are so many different kinds of moms out there and it’s not fair to judge another mom just because she looks like she’s got it together, or for any reason, really.

Whether she’s dressed to the nines, in sweats and a dirty tank, yoga pants or a business suit, she’s your fellow mom, and we all need each other.

Traveling with your kids Part 1: Young Infants

When my third child was 2 weeks old my husband’s grandfather died.  It was extremely sad and there was no way we were going to miss the funeral. So what did we do? We packed up the mini van and drove the 7 hours to Northern Virginia to give our condolences, attend the funeral and be with family… and we brought our 2 week old (and our 1 year old and 2 year old)

First of all, if possible, I advise not traveling more than 45 minutes with an infant under the age of 2 months. However, if circumstances require you travel, here are some tried and true pieces of advice.

  1. Don’t panic. For real. And not because I want you to be happy, although I do, but because you freaking out will set off your infant’s spidey-senses and they will then freak out, too. Truth.
  2. Don’t think you have to pack the entire nursery, your kitchen and the changing table. Your car can only handle so much stuff and clutter can actually contribute to stress, and what was rule number one? Try not to stress for your baby’s sake. Pack the essentials. If your infant needs their own full size suitcase you’ve packed too much. Pack enough onesies so you have 2-3 per day because spit up, diaper explosion and general mess tend to necessitate a couple changes per day. Pack enough diapers and wipes, but unless you’re traveling to the middle of nowhere, remember that more diapers are available for purchase almost anywhere. If you are breastfeeding bring whatever you need to do that comfortably and effectively. Bring something for your baby to sleep in whether it’s a pack-n-play or travel bassinet. Leave the bouncy seat, floor mat, changing table, giant wooden crib and high chair that they can’t even use yet at home.
  3. If you are bottle feeding I recommend bringing a couple bottles of water that are room temperature and have the formula pre-measured in zip lock baggies, labeled with how many ounces of water they need. You can buy little plastic formula Tupperware containers but they are expensive, take up space, and are hard to pour into the bottle without spilling. I also advise bringing a bottle brush to clean the bottle once you’re there! Bonus tip: most gas stations and fast food places will give you free hot water from coffee area, just be sure to use your bottled water to cool it down to desired temperature. I’ve found this extremely helpful for my first child when traveling, she just could not drink room temperature bottle!
  4. Changing your baby’s diaper in the car, once the car is parked, is the easiest, cleanest, most convenient option. Ain’t no one got time to take infant out of car, head into gas station, find bathroom, realize no changing station, angrily curse the idiot who engineered the gas station and stomp back to your car.
  5. Don’t underestimate the uses for a clean towel. I know I said be frugal with your packing, but do pack a normal sized bath towel. They can be used as changing mats, play mats, blankets, and clean up duty.
  6. Manage your expectations. Does that drive usually take 6 hours? Expect it to take 8. I know, not ideal, but you’re traveling with an infant, time to embrace lower expectations. Depending on how often you feed your baby, you might need to stop every 2 hours!
  7. Car seats get HOT, even in the winter because of the heat blasting in the car! Make sure your baby is dressed appropriately for the drive and check to be sure they’re not overheating!
  8. Think of it as an adventure, and baby’s first road trip! Attitude can genuinely change the entire mood of the journey and your children’s mood! Including that sweet little infant of yours!

All children and babies are different, so experiment and see what works for your family. The biggest mistake I used to make when traveling with my kids when they were tiny was overpacking. I didn’t end up using half of it, but I did feel overwhelmed by all the stuff we packed and then had to unload at our destination. On the flip side, we all have to experience the joys and evolution of being a new mom versus a veteran mom. We’ve all been in those newbie shoes. They’re terrifying, wonderful, beautiful and confusing. Yay, motherhood.

Comment with your best traveling tip for a parent traveling with their young infant!