Wednesday, June 25, 2014

No More Mom Guilt: My One Week Experiment

Nothing can prepare you for the amount of guilt you will likely feel once you become a mom.  Virtually every decision or choice you face will come with it a heavy dose of guilt.

Guilt is probably the major source of negativity in my life.  This is interesting, considering guilt is a self-imposed feeling.  No one is saying to me, "Feel guilty!  Feel really, really bad about x-y-z!"  It is all in my mind.

What would life-- even just for a day or a week-- be like if I mindfully attempted to "shut down" the guilt center of my brain?

Summer is a less structured season in our home, which is both positive and negative for a stay-at-home mother of a 4 year old and a 1.5 year old.  There aren't many places you need to get to "on time," which is nice, but, well, that means there aren't many places [i.e. preschool] one needs to be.  It seems like the right season for a little Guilt-Free Experiment.

Here are the 5 decisions I will try NOT to feel guilty about in the upcoming week.  Please join me or add your own in the Comments!:

1.  T.V. for the kids.  The AAP recommends no more than 2 hours of screen time for kids older than 2 (and NONE AT ALL for kids under two).  I tend to feel guilty just about any time I turn on a show for my kids.  Why?  Did I not watch Sesame Street growing up?  I was a good student.  I read constantly.  I liked school.  I also liked t.v.  I shall try NOT to feel guilty this week when I turn on Dora for the kids so I can take a breath.

(Little Einsteins.  Is it bad that I kind of like this show too?)

2.  One thing I try to do when my kids miraculously settle down for a 20 minute show is work on my computer.  I would love, love, love to write more every day, but because being a SAHM is my main job right now, I simply can't devote as much time to writing as I would like.  I am determined NOT to feel guilty this week if I use some time this week to write if my kids are occupied, whether it be with a show, a babysitter, my husband, etc.

3.  I'm starting to think everyone loves taking their kids to the park more than I do.  Almost every mom I know asks if we want to 'meet them at the park.'  Sure, in theory, that would be great.  Could we sit on a bench and sip iced tea while our kids gleefully play on the monkey bars?  No.  I would be in a sweat chasing mine around while they run in opposite directions; my son would surely throw a fit about something seemingly inconsequential to everyone else, and my daughter would fall down at least 5 times.  I would be ready to leave in about 10 minutes.  This week I will NOT feel guilty for not spending inordinate amounts of time at a park.

(Ah, wouldn't it be wonderful if this were reality?)

4.  My son is doing a 2 morning a week summer camp this summer, where he spends about 2 hours outside playing games with kids his own age led by energetic, young counselors.  Yes, he gets nervous separating from me.  Yes, I worry about him the entire 2 hours.  And, yes, I dutifully drop him off those two mornings a week, feeling the guilt physically as an ever-present nervous pit in my stomach.  However, a little voice in my head tells me that he NEEDS to be around other kids.  He NEEDS to separate from me and his baby sister from time to time to develop autonomy and self-confidence.  Therefore, I will try really hard NOT to feel guilty this week when I drop the little guy off at camp.

5.  Similarly, because SAHM's do not have lunch breaks or the ability to duck into Target or the doctor solo on a Wednesday afternoon, I occasionally have our beloved babysitter spend a couple of hours with my kids so I can write, check my e-mail, go to the grocery, or even go to the dentist  (what luxury, right?).  I will try NOT to feel guilty about this.  Because, again, perhaps it is good for the kids and me to get a little breather from each other now and then.

I could go on, trust me.  I am sure there are many other sources of guilt in my daily life.  But let's start with these 5, shall we?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Post-Experiment Update:  Giving myself permission to relax a bit that week was truly helpful.  In giving myself the gift of some time to myself, I was able to restore my energy reserves, and I ended up doing more fun things with my kids than I usually would.  The experiment was well worth it.

P.S.  I'm on Mamalode with my piece on What to Expect When Visiting a House with Young Kids.  Check it out if you have a chance, and if you can, please like it, share it, pin it, etc.!  Thank you!

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You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?

Monday, June 16, 2014

How to Survive your Husband's Work Trips

So, if you are a stay-at-home mom of young kids, you [usually] manage okay when your husband goes to work during the day, taking comfort in the promise of his return that evening.  There is a certain emotional relief that comes with the shared responsibility when your spouse gets home.  (I would think the same goes for a stay-at-home dad when his wife gets home?).  (Also, before I go on-- hats off to the single parents of the world; obviously their jobs are much, much harder than mine).


For those of us who stay home with young children all day while our spouse goes to work:

How things change-- emotionally, physically, mentally-- when said spouse will NOT be arriving home that evening, or-- GASP-- for several days.

My husband travels a fair amount for work.  Not as much as some, fortunately, but certainly enough to make my heart thump faster and harder whenever a trip comes up.

I enjoy helping other moms survive the trenches of new Motherhood, so I've compiled a list of ideas to help you retain your remaining shreds of your sanity when your beloved travels:

1.  Plan, plan, plan.  Even though I like alone time more than just about anything, when my husband is out of town, the days just feel so. much. lonelier.  And so incredibly long.  Arranging time with other SAHM's becomes essential.  My loyal readers know I'm not a huge fan of playdates (mainly because my Highly Sensitive son wants all visitors to leave as soon as they arrive), but a playdate with a loyal, understanding friend will help you feel less alone even if your kids have a hard time.

2.  Enlist Babysitters.  For those of us without our mothers and sisters nearby, we must look to the outside world for help.  There is nothing wrong with finding a nice babysitter who can play with your kids for a couple of hours so that you can browse the aisles of Trader Joe's solo and get a cup of coffee.  [Related note:  if you find yourself judging moms who need to use babysitters, please stop.  It is hurtful and clueless and makes me want to tear my hair out].  Anyway, after your kids have some sitter time, you will come back to the house feeling less frazzled and hopefully ready to take on the rest of the day/night that lies ahead.

"Mom?  Mom!  Mom?!! Entertain us!"

3.  Embrace the television.  Yes, I feel guilty when my kids watch too much t.v., but I never judge other moms for putting on the t.v.-- why am I so hard on myself?  If you have to add in a couple extra episodes of Dora so that you can clean up the kitchen, make dinner, call your sister, or whatever, then do it.  I need to take my own advice, because again, after having a mini break, we are better able to tackle the entertaining/feeding/bathing/nighttime routine solo that is soon to follow.

4.  Create a toy stash.  You know how things feel a little easier around the house post-birthday and Christmas?  That's because your kids have new toys to fiddle with.  Have a stash of new things in a hidden closet or cabinet.  Then choose a few to bring out when their father is out of town (this eliminates the need to drag the kids to Target [and further exhaust yourself]).  The excitement and fun of a new toy, Play-Doh, puzzle, or book can often buy you some independent play time! (Again, let's try not to feel guilty about this.  We aren't spoiling them-- we are surviving!).

5.  Believe in the power of the Happy Meal.  They make everyone in the family happy (at least for 10 minutes).  Once in a while, don't we all deserve to push the easy button for mealtime?

6.  Last, but certainly not least, rely on early bedtimes.  I won't even admit to how early my kids have gone to bed when my husband is gone; those times when I just cannot take onemoresecondofmommyhood.  You know what I've found?  They are fine with it (clueless, in fact), and they usually don't wake up any earlier (which is plenty early already) than they typically do.  Sound effect:  cracking open a bottle of beer.

What other tips do you have for getting through the challenges of going solo?

~Frantic Mama

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You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Favorite Parent/Child Movies and Shows

I love movies.  Of course, now that I have young children, I don't watch as many as I used to, but I have not completely given up my familiar little red envelope membership.

I'm feeling nostalgic for some of my favorite movies and t.v. shows featuring parent/child relationships, and I thought I'd share 10 of them with you.  As always, I would love to hear about any of your favorites as well.

In no particular order, here are 10 of my faves:

1.  Baby Boom (movie).

(Diane Keaton.  The 80's.  The dreamy vet.  The adorable baby.  Pure awesomeness).

2.  Modern Family (t.v. series).

3.  Parent Trap (the original movie).

4.  Mr. Mom (movie).

(LOL.  Micheal Keaton as a SAHD)

5.  Big Daddy (movie).

6.  Friday Night Lights (the t.v. series).

7.  Father of the Bride (movie).


8.  Parenthood (the original movie).

9.  The Middle (t.v. series). 

10.  Gilmore Girls (t.v. series).

P.S.  Steve Martin is awesome (he is in two of these).  While I'm on the subject, it may not a parenting movie per se, but do watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles featuring Steve Martin if you have not seen it before.

Now I just want a day to sit around and watch all of these, drink Diet Coke, and eat Twizzlers  (Ha!).

~Frantic Mama

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You can find more of my musings on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

How to Win [Mommy] Friends

Friendships can be tricky.  Even as an adult, we are often looking to make friends, solidify friendships, and maintain friendships.  Based on my own experiences (and pet peeves), I have a few tips for making and keeping friends when you enter the world of SAHM.

Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.
                                                                                      -Edna Buchanan

Even an introverted homebody like me needs a few fellow stay-at-home moms to get together with, relate to, and chase after my kids with from time to time.  This is even more true if you do not live near your own sister or parents (I do not).

Let's start with ways to maintain new friendships:

1.  I beg of you, don't compare your children's milestones and percentiles.  No one wants to hear that your kid is in the 99th percentile of anything.  Not because of jealousy, but because it is simply obnoxious.

2.  If your friend has a baby, please visit her, call her, text her.  Bring her a dinner.  Hold her baby so she can take a shower.  She will remember it.

3.  Try not to think that the grass-is-always-greener with your new friend.  Remember that you both have challenges in your lives, even though she may be hiding hers and appears to live on easy street.  Envy makes people uncomfortable and takes away from one's generosity of spirit.

4.  Reciprocity:  If someone invites you over for a playdate, plan on returning the favor in the weeks that follow.  Playdates are easier for the mom who is the guest because her kids are so entertained by all the 'new' toys at the host's.  It can be tiring to always be the host.  (Though there are exceptions, like when my daughter still took a morning nap, our only choice was to have people over to our home for a while to play with my son).

5.  My favorite tip?  Try to get together without the kids in tow every once in a while, even if it is just a couple times a year.  You know, so you can actually finish a sentence and get to know each other.

Very new moms might read this and wonder how on earth you make some mom friends in the first place?

Here are a few ideas that have truly worked for me:

1.  Call a mom you met at preschool drop-off or pick-up who seems nice and who you think your kid might get along with and invite them over.  (Sidenote:  After being with my reserved-at-first husband for many years, I have learned that often a quiet, shy person is just that.  I try not to automatically assume someone is bitchy just because she isn't immediately Chatty Cathy).

2.  I have made new friends at the park.  Parks are for moms a what bars are for single people.  If your kids are the same age, there are many things to talk about, and you can trade numbers before you leave.  Warning:  If a mom seems competitive, know-it-all, or some other annoying trait, I have learned to never take the next step; the last thing I need is a stressful friendship.

3.  The children's sections at libraries are also SAHM hot spots.  I encourage you to approach the disheveled, frazzled mom to approach-- she will probably be funnier, nicer, and a lot more real with you.  Lesson:  the more frantic (ha!) she seems, the better partner in crime comrade she will likely be.

What are your best friend-making and keeping tips?  I'm sure I can always learn more.

~Frantic Mama

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Frantic Mama Vent on Mommy Amnesia

I haven't aired any frustrations related to Motherhood recently, so now feels like a good time to do so.  Here is my latest and greatest annoyance:

Moms who COMPLETELY FORGET how hard it is to have young children.

My son just turned 4.  My daughter will be 2 in a few months.  Every second of my day right now is busy, and it starts very early.  If one of them is happy, the other one is likely crying, pooping, or about to take the happy one's toy.  If one is sleeping (and only one of them does so during the day now), the other one wants NEEDS my undivided attention.

So, moms with older/school-age kids who ask to meet us at the park or go on some other complicated outing?  No.  No, thank you.  Because I know what will happen there:  You will be there with your 5 year old (or older) kid, sitting on a bench waving happily to her, or perhaps pushing her on the swing.  I, however, will be chasing around my toddler in a sweat, as she tries to put everything in her mouth, repeatedly falls down, attempts climbs up the slide while bigger kids are coming down; my preschooler will be pulling at me the whole time to A.  Go Home.  or  B. get me to play with him/chase him/go down the slide with him.  Therefore, you and I will have little or no interaction while at the park.  Unless you are fully prepared to help me with these endeavors, again, thanks but no thanks.  Because I also know that I will end up leaving the park feeling hot, dirty, and exhausted.  My kids will too.  And then I will feel bad about myself for many, many reasons.

(Not my baby, but I ask you: How do people forget how stressful the sound of one's own baby crying  is?)

In sum:

I do not understand how people forget what it is like to have your days completely ruled by the whims, moods, and appetites of young babies.  (Related rant: don't ask me in passing a nonchalant "how it's going?" while one baby is crying on my hip to be put down while the other one is taking his shoes off on the way to the car.  Because it's going.  It's going hard).

There are moments of exquisite joy, cuteness, and fun every single day with my little ones, but there are more, longer moments where I am tired and need a break and could use the extra hands of that friend who has time and hands to offer.

I am taking a self-imposed oath right now that I will reach out to new moms when my kids are the older ones, when I have a chance to breathe.  I will show up ready to change diapers, take a walk with you, or watch Dora with your kids.  I will most certainly not ask you to meet me and my future 6 year old at a park on a hot day, just to watch you chase your toddlers around while I sip iced coffee on the bench.

~Frantic Mama

P.S.  I do have a couple of friends with older or fewer children who have been enormously helpful and supportive of me the last year or two, and I completely appreciate them.  But it is rare.

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I am honored to contribute to:  Mamalode and What the Flicka?