Posts

“I hear so often that your entire life changes when you become a mother. But I just really want to know how… How exactly does it change? Like, specifically.”

As we walked down the sidewalk on a cool spring day, my best friend, who was pregnant with her first child, asked me this question.

I suddenly felt very nervous, as if I were in an interview and my answer was going to be highly scrutinized and dissected to its core. How can I possibly narrow down the specifics of a life-altering experience? I racked my brain and let out an anxious chuckle as I grasped at how to articulate all the million ways my life changed when I became a mother.

“I think the biggest thing that changed for me is… time. Before kids, I thought I was busy. I thought I had a never-ending to-do list. I thought I was overwhelmed. But I had NO idea what busy was. After kids, you literally have no time. You are working 24/7, whether it’s at a job or at home or both. You are constantly taking care of everyone else’s needs. All. The. Time. It never stops. And it’s the most exhausting and overwhelming thing you’ve ever done. You’ll sacrifice so much… but it’s so worth it because you will finally understand what unconditional love is.”

I vividly remember the moment I realized what being a mother meant.

My first daughter, Jackie, came as a happy little surprise. Although I certainly didn’t feel ready to be a parent, at the ripe age of 27, I found myself with the most precious bundle of joy. There was a flood of emotions as I navigated the waters of motherhood, especially when it came to being a working mom. My entire perspective changed one night, as I rocked and nursed my sweet baby to sleep after a long day at the office.

I realized that motherhood is a thankless job; expected; commonplace. It’s just what you do.

There are no awards given to the best mom. No “Mom-of-the-Month…” (although there should totally be!). You don’t get a raise for doing an exceptional job. No one congratulates you on calming a screaming baby or praises you for changing 50 diapers in a day. There is no recognition for how many times you woke in the middle of the night and no trophy for the fact that you are still able to run on three hours of sleep (barely). And all that hard work you pour into making and sustaining this tiny human will never get you a promotion.

But the paradox is that being a mother is actually MORE rewarding than any amount of acknowledgment you could ever receive. To experience the love a mother has for her child is beyond anything I can begin to describe. It’s supernatural. It’s divine. And that’s what keeps us going at 1 a.m., and 3 a.m., and 5 a.m. … through the blowups and blowouts, the baby blues and the bliss.

Motherhood is a thankless job that I, for one, am so very thankful to have.

Looking for more parenting resources? Click here!

Time for parenting 101! When David and Victoria Beckham were criticized by parenting experts for allowing their 4-year-old daughter to have a pacifier, David fought back. He took to social media to set the record straight.

“Why do people feel they have the right to criticize a parent about their own children without having any facts?? Everybody who has children knows that when they aren’t feeling well or have a fever you do what comforts them best and most of the time it’s a pacifier so those who criticize think twice about what you say about other people’s children because actually you have no right to criticize me as a parent,” said Beckham.

His response garnered over 600,000 likes on Instagram and more than 23,000 comments. Most of the comments encouraged him in his efforts to be a great dad.

Isn’t it interesting how people can take a snapshot in time and make assumptions that may or may not be correct?

The Irreducible Needs of Children: What Every Child Must Have to Grow, Learn, and Flourish,a parenting book by pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and child psychiatrist Dr. Stanley I. Greenspan, lists seven basic needs of children. They are:

  • Nurturing relationships;
  • Physical safety and security;
  • Opportunities based on individual personality;
  • Developmentally appropriate experiences;
  • Rules and expectations;
  • A supportive community and cultural continuity; and
  • Future protection.

Anyone with siblings or children knows that, even when children have the same biological parents, their personalities can be as different as night and day, and their needs are not the same. A parent may not be able to turn their back on one child for a split-second without something happening, where another child entertains himself for lengthy periods of time. One child may be more outgoing than the others. Some struggle with what seems like non-stop ear infections while the others are the picture of health.

Engaged parents know things about their children that other people usually do not.

Have you ever been “that parent” in the mall, watching your child have a meltdown while feeling helpless and beating yourself up inside because you know people are watching and probably judging your parenting skills?

Parenting is complicated. It is easy to sit on the sidelines and judge, but when you are in the throes of it, it just isn’t that simple. There is no one cookie-cutter approach for every single child. Most parents are doing the best they know how to do. Being critical without being privy to the big picture is not helpful unless there is legitimate concern of abuse.

Every human being needs to know they are loved, capable, valued and safe. Children look to their parents and want to know if they love them and believe in them and if they measure up.

How parents express answers to these questions probably will look different depending on the child’s needs. Some may need a pacifier when they don’t feel good, even when they are 4 years old. Others may cross a clear boundary and receive a very loving, firm and needed consequence. From an outsider’s vantage point, it may even seem harsh.

Some parents really do need help with their parenting skills. However, it doesn’t seem like judging them publicly without knowing more details is the answer. Remembering that healthy parenting choices vary depending on the situation, the child and the environment can help foster empathy while avoiding a rush to unfair judgment.

It’s your first child. Naturally, you’re going to be highly motivated to pull out all the stops, learn all the tricks and be the “perfect” parent. Since your child doesn’t come with an owner’s manual, you’ll more than likely rely on friends, family, the internet and your own ideas about what’s appropriate and what to expect from your child.

Dr. Kevin Leman, author of First-Time Mom, says many first-timers who are trying to be great parents push their firstborn a little too hard. There’s a tendency to approach parenting from the perspective of raising the perfect child. Unfortunately, the child often gets buried underneath those high expectations and can feel as if they never measure up.

“Your firstborn child is already going to be highly motivated,” says Leman. “Instead of using conditional love and asking them to continually jump through new hoops, choose to be a nurturing, encouraging presence.”

Leman identifies 10 traps first-time parents often fall into:

A critical eye.

Be aware of your standard of behavior. When is the last time you had a perfect day? Children are the same way. Training takes time and the standard is not perfection. Accept your child as he is and recognize that he is not going to excel at everything.

Overcommitment.

Children want to be a part of a family and they want to identify with their home. When you choose to live an overcommitted life, you are training your child to identify her heart with what is outside the home.

Not enough Vitamin N. 

First-time parents often fall into the trap of thinking that they can make their child happier and better adjusted by what they give to their child and the experiences they provide for their child. Vitamin N stands for No! Too often, giving our child things becomes a substitute for being their parents.

Lack of Vitamin E.

One of the biggest myths today is the concern over self-esteem. Instead of telling your child how wonderful she is just for being a child, you want to teach your child to think in a constructive, positive manner. Esteem comes from accomplishing something and from giving something back. If a child learns how to do something and her parents comment about what a great job she did, she recognizes that the most significant people in my life – my mom and dad – notice what I’ve done and what I’ve accomplished and recognize that I have a role to play.

Playing the competition game.

Human development is not a race. Early development does not guarantee that a child will be above average her entire life. Instead of comparing your child, enjoy him.

Overexcitement.

As a first-time parent, you will go through many trials and anxieties for the first time. Babies do best with calm, confident parents. It gives them a sense of security, serenity and peace. Your baby will take his cues from you. Don’t treat minor instances like they are life and death occurrences.

Over-discipline. 

As a first-time parent you may not be as familiar with age-appropriate behavior. As a result, you’re more likely to over-discipline your child. Your goal is not to control your child, but to be in authority in a healthy way. One mother told how her 9-month-old walked up to the couch and grabbed some decorative pillows. The mom said she told her daughter not to throw them on the floor. The child looked her straight in the eyes and threw them on the floor. Instead of recognizing this as age-appropriate behavior, the mother viewed it as intentionally defiant behavior on the part of her child.

Under-discipline.

The flip side of over-discipline is letting your child do whatever they want without any consequences. With firstborns in particular, you need to lay out exactly what the age-appropriate rules are and follow up. Since firstborns don’t have an older sibling to model behavior, you must be specific about what you want them to do.

Letting other people raise your child.

It is too easy to give into your parents’ or in-laws’ advice. As a first time parent, it may take you awhile to assume your role as a full-fledged adult. You are the parent. No one knows your child better than you. Be responsible for the decisions you make in raising your child.

Allowing your child to be the center of the universe.

Up until age two a child’s favorite word is “mine,” which is totally appropriate. Past this age, teach children how to share and interact with a variety of other children. Teach your child to be aware of other people and not just selfishly barge ahead.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

Jake and Lou Anne used to live in a loft and have people over all the time. But once they decided to have a family, they moved to a house in a quiet neighborhood. And, their friends came over significantly less often.

“It was definitely a dramatic change for us,” said Lou Anne. “It was hard to give up our two-seater convertible, but we knew it wasn’t a family car. We had hoped we could keep it and add a family car, but since we couldn’t predict our expenses after Cara’s birth, we traded it in.”

Their daughter arrived in October of 2005. Even though she was an “easy” baby and had a great temperament, she still rocked her parents’ world.

“We were pretty on-the-go kind of people before Cara arrived on the scene,” said Jake. “That has come to a screeching halt. Lou Anne and I really enjoy each other’s company and spending time with our friends. It has been an adjustment just trying to figure out how to have time together, much less work in our friends,” Jake said.

While Jake says the changes in their life have truly have been just that – changes, not sacrifices – many couples know that bringing home that new bundle of joy can cause everything from joy to total frustration. Even when you know that life is going to be different, going from spontaneous and carefree to a schedule and being responsible for someone else can throw a good marriage into a tailspin.

In her book, Childproofing Your Marriage, Dr. Debbie Cherry says there are two major threats to the marital bond when couples have their first child: lack of time and lack of energy.

Intimacy can be greatly affected by:

  • feelings of grief at losing couple time,
  • sensing disconnectedness from your spouse,
  • feelings of jealousy about the amount of time and attention the baby receives, and
  • the loss of energy from caring for the baby.

If a couple does not recognize these threats and deal with them openly, they may begin to feel even more alone and isolated from each other.

“You really can’t measure the love and joy that comes with having a baby,” Jake said. “At the same time, I think it is really important for Lou Anne and me to have time together. We consider personal time, couple time and family time equally important.”

The couple spent the first year trying to get in the groove of how to do all three.

Time is a precious commodity, especially for new parents. Things that you used to take for granted—like afternoon naps on the weekend, taking your time in the bathroom, sex, watching your favorite sitcom, or grabbing a bite to eat—become things that practically have to be scheduled into your day.

If you’re a new parent, Cherry’s suggestions can help you stay close after bringing your baby home:

  • Develop a couple-centered, not a child-centered relationship. For the first time in the relationship, couples have to choose who really comes first. Starting here and now, determine that the couple comes before the children. If children are number one, their never-ending need for attention will eat up everything you have to give, and the rest of your life will suffer because of it. Love your children, provide for them and meet their needs. But remember that one of their most important needs is to have parents who really love each other.
  • Become co-parents, not compulsive parents. Moms and dads alike can fall into the trap of believing they are the only ones who can adequately care for their baby. Somehow they forget that many parents have come and gone before them and have learned to capably care for these helpless little creatures. Becoming a compulsive parent creates isolation and will eventually lead to parenting burnout. Breaks and daily support from each other are a must for parents.
  • Talk to each other every day. Check in with each other regularly. Talk about changing expectations and needs, and division of labor. Discuss your disappointments and fears about parenting. Communication involves both talking and listening. Be the best listener you can be if you want your spouse to continue to share his or her deepest thoughts, feelings, fears and needs.

“I think one of the most important things we keep in mind is that we are on the same team,” Lou Anne said. “I really depend on Jake. We try hard to be respectful of each other and to mind our manners. When you start stepping on each other’s toes, then it becomes a matter of ‘that’s not fair,’ and things go downhill quickly. Cara has been a blessing. Our goal is to keep our marriage strong so we can be a blessing to her through the years.”

For more insight on parenting and how to stay close after bringing baby home, download our E-book “4 ways to stay connected after Baby” Download Here