From working woman to stay-at-home mom

Molly sat with her parents at lunch one day when she was 30 years old. The conversation shifted to life goals, and the trio pulled out some business cards they had stored in their wallets and started making a list. Six years later she came across her list again and realized that while she’d accomplished most of her career goals, there were two personal goals that she’d made no progress on.

Be married by 32.
Have kids by 33.

“I realized I hadn’t accomplished those dreams,” said Molly. “I was so career focused, but I’d always, since I was a little girl, wanted to be a mother. I was getting a little nervous because I wasn’t married yet and was concerned that the biological clock was about to run out.”

Shifting gears from career to family didn’t necessarily come naturally. Molly’s own mother was very career focused, and Molly took pride in her professional performance. But when her mom was diagnosed with cancer – ultimately losing her battle – Molly knew that she couldn’t waste any more time to have the life and the family she wanted.

“Before baby, I was the person who was all about how much money I was making, being the top producer, driving a certain kind of car, looking a certain kind of way,” said Molly. “I never could have imagined being happy being as a stay at home mom and doing the simple things and making three meals a day. It’s just been a complete 180 for me from one identity and way of being to another.”

Making the transition to new mom took some adjustments for Molly, mainly in the way she looked at her new life. Here are some things she does to make every day at home with her son feel like the incredible gift it is.

  • Appreciate the simple things.

“I used to not understand how women could be happy being home all day with their children,” admits Molly. “But I am amazed at how much happiness you can find in the simple things. Sitting outside blowing bubbles for my son, taking my son swimming in the pool, going to the park, going to the beach, watching him play with rocks, just seeing his discovery of the world. Every moment that we’re together, every moment of the day is incredible. I just can’t believe how happy the simplest things make me.”

  • Get out and have adventures.

Molly said a lot of new moms are scared to leave the house or don’t want the hassle, but she thinks that getting out and doing something is definitely something that helps her in the right frame of mind.

Take walks, go to the park, head to the mall, visit friends. Giving them new worlds to explore will keep them occupied, and fresh air will keep you from feeling cooped up.

  • Give yourself a break.

Patience takes time to work up to, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed or like it’s about to break you, take a break.

“So many moms are afraid to leave their children, even for just a moment, but if you need a breather, take it,” said Molly. “Sometimes you have to put them in their crib, put them in the high chair, and just step outside, take a deep breath, maybe call a friend.”

Those few minutes can rebuild your enthusiasm, your perspective and your patience. And that’s best for your baby..

  • Ask others for help.

It really does take a village, so reach out to friends, family, other new moms, and especially your husband. Hire a babysitter for an afternoon if you need to, or trade babysitting with another mom. Find a way to get the help you need.

  • Take care of yourself too.

“The most important thing I’ve learned is I have to take time for myself,” said Molly. “For five months I was at home, with my son, by myself, no friends or family helping out, and I hit a major wall. I knew that if I wasn’t happy as a person, I wasn’t going to be happy as a mom.”

Molly started running again, going to get her hair or nails done, meeting her girlfriends for happy hour, anything that made her feel like she was taking care of herself too.

“When he was born, the doctor put him on my stomach and I looked down at him and the perfection was just mind blowing,” said Molly. “In an instant, I realized the weight of ‘I’m responsible for this life.’ It completely took me over and changed me and my life. I’ve never felt that abundance of love for anyone or anything at any time in my life.”

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Multiple multiples & how one mom keeps from going crazy

Twin births are on the rise and bringing them home presents a whole different experience then just one baby. Laura and her husband Paul should know, they have welcomed home two sets of twins!

Laura was unaware that twins ran in her family until her second pregnancy. She had a premonition that she was expecting twins but no one believed her until an early dating ultrasound showed 2 heartbeats. After that, Laura found out that her mom’s grandmother had 3 sets of twins and her father’s grandmother also had a set of twins!

Kayley, Laura’s first child, was eight when Pablo and Mallory were born. Laura soon found out that things with twins are a lot different than when she brought Kayley home.

Breastfeeding posed a difficult challenge, as did sleeping, showering and just about everything else. The exhaustion was overwhelming and recovering from the birth was taking longer too. Laura quickly learned that with twins, routine is everything.

Eventually, things fell in to place. Laura and her husband Paul decided to expand their family and were elated to find out that they were expecting. What they didn’t know for nearly half of the pregnancy, was that it was twins, again!

These days, Laura’s twins are 5 years and 4 years old and she offers this advice to expectant parents of twins:

  • Find a balance between fun and organization
  • Get a schedule and stick with it
  • Join a twin club
  • Ask for and accept help

As crazy as her life may seem Laura says, “There is a lot of joy in our life. Every day is like a loud crazy and chaotic play date but it’s so much fun.”

You can find Laura talking about life with 2 sets of twins at her blog Lala girl and you can find out more about twin clubs in your area through NOMOTC website.

Real Moms Talk: cry it out or comfort?

Your angel falls asleep in your arms and you delicately lay her down in her crib. She grunts and sniffles, you pat her bottom and whisper, “Shhhh.” She drifts off again… for 10 minutes.

Your mother bear kicks in and says she needs you. Your consideration for your neighbors tells you to pick her up and stop her from crying. Your husband reminds you that he’d prefer to sleep without her adorable little toes in his spine. What do you do?

We checked in with moms to see which they prefer — crying it out or comforting — and how they keep whatever they do consistent with real life.

Mother of invention

As media sources began brimming with articles about the rising rates of obesity in children and the rising rates of behavioral problems in children, Nancy, a stay at home mom and former social worker, was convinced that there had to be a connection. Her own kids were 10 and 14, so she set out to study her suspicions from her kitchen.

In Morgan Spurlock’s film Super Size Me, a portion of the film documents a school for adolescents with behavioral problems.

“This school had to have police officers in the building because the behavior was so bad,” Nancy said. “Then the school changed the food system to a system that was all natural, organic, and whole grain foods. As a result there was a complete turnaround in the behavior of the children at the school. The kids were calmer. They were learning. And the police were no longer involved.”

According to his case study, Nancy’s inklings had been correct. Food impacts more than one dimension of health. The systems of the body are all part of one body. If the body is starved from nutrients, it will fight back.

Hungry to learn more about this correlation, Nancy went to back to school to study holistic health and started implementing changes at home.

“We’ve always eaten pretty well at home, but my kids were more than happy to have junk food, sugary snacks and all of that,” said Nancy.

But as she started learning more about how a growing, changing body handles bad food, she started cutting out things like partially hydrogenated fats. This wasn’t easy.

“Partially hydrogenated fats are found in so many different foods,” she said. “It’s the ingredient that makes the food more shelf-stable, so we would find it in places that made no sense to me at all. Almost every baked good, every cookie, every cracker, every cake and basically anything and everything that is pre-packaged and put on a supermarket shelf had hydrogenated fats. This was not a good sign.”

Changing the way her kids consumed food took patience, innovation and a few sneaky tricks. Here’s what worked for Nancy:

1. Sneak vegetables into meals.

Insider tip: If Macaroni and cheese is a big favorite in your house, try cooking it from scratch and hiding zucchini in the cheese sauce! You can even peel off the skin first if your kids are vegetable detectives.

2. Keep experimenting.

Nancy said it takes almost 15 tries to get a new food into her kids, but she made that work to her advantage. “If they didn’t like it the first time, I still had 14 tries to go,” she said. “Not everything works. There have been spectacular failures and that’s fine. That’s the only way to learn.”

Let your imagination run wild! Nancy made Kale chips and to her surprise, her kids devoured the first batch in minutes… anything goes (especially if it’s salty and crunchy).

3. Get the junk out of the house!

The best way to stop eating junk food is to stop buying it. If it’s not in the house, it can’t be eaten. Nancy switched to healthier versions of her kids favorite junk foods, like organic mozzarella cheese sticks.

“I do understand they are kids,” she said. “They are going to be getting plenty of junk food when they’re not with me, but I’m not worried because they’re making a transformation in their thinking.”

4. Explain to your kids (or your husband!) why you are torturing them.

Kids respond much better to changes if you are honest with them. One of Nancy’s favorite examples of this is when she took a 12 ounce can of soda and asked her kids how much sugar they thought was in a single can.

“Then I showed them. After I poured 12 teaspoons of sugar into a glass bowl, they were amazed,” Nancy said. “It doesn’t mean that they’re going to go off to a party and not have soda. It means they’re aware that they are consuming that amount of sugar. They know it’s not just mom being nuts; it’s mom being concerned.”

5. Teach your kids to pay attention to their bodies.

Nutritional knowledge isn’t everything. What also matters is that you know about yourself. Some people can eat a pound of sugar and feel fine. Most people can’t. Have your kids try new things and note how their body responds to them.

“I think the kids have more energy. I think they feel better,” Nancy said. “My son was always bothered by eczema and allergies. Now the eczema is gone and his allergies are much better.”

6. Pick your battles.

The reality is people eat every day, all day. It’s a form of communication in a way. You have to find the right system for your family.

“When it comes to my kids, I don’t want to have to fight with them three times a day, every day,” said Nancy. “Despite all the times I shudder when I think about what they might be eating out there, it’s not something I want to fight with them about. We’re going to do it together. I decided it would be pleasant and it would be easy and, surprisingly, it’s worked out that way.”

The commitment to healthy eating that Nancy tries to instill on her kids has also brought them closer together, especially during the teen years. By starting the dialogue about nutrition, she opened up the lines of communication about other things, and her children came to respect that she is actually more knowledgeable than they are.

“I like to think that all of this knowledge has made me a better parent,” said Nancy. “Now I have the facts behind me, I have information I can use to show concrete examples. At the beginning of my schooling, they just were like, ‘Oh, great. What’s she going to try on us now?’ That’s gone away. Now we can talk. They may not like it if I bring some strange new food in, but they’re willing to talk about it, and that’s been great. We’re working together as a family and I feel closer to them.”

So, what’s Nancy’s best advice? Don’t start with taking things away from your kids.

You don’t have to make major changes. You don’t have to go and throw out every food. You start small and you just add things in. The easiest way to get kids to change their eating habits is to add new foods, offer them new choices. As you keep adding in the new foods eventually the old foods fall away, and you’re left with healthier, happier kids.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Supersize Me
Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, rejected five times by the USC film school, won the best director award at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival for this alarmingly personal investigation into the health hazards wreaked by our fast food nation. Under extensive medical supervision, Spurlock subjects himself to a steady diet of McDonald’s cuisine for 30 days just to see what happens.

Slow Food Nation
Slow Food Nation is a subsidiary non-profit of Slow Food USA and part of the international Slow Food movement. It was created to organize the first-ever American collaborative gathering to unite the growing sustainable food movement and introduce thousands of people to food that is good, clean and fair.

Local Harvest
The best organic food is what’s grown closest to you. Use the Local Harvest website to find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.

Kidnetic
The cool site for kids and their parents to learn more about health, fitness and nutrition through fun games, recipes and articles.

Potty training: Getting past regression

Vanessa knew potty training her daughter Lauren would be a challenge, but she didn’t know that regression — taking steps backward instead of moving forward — would be a big part of progress.

“We had gotten bits of advice from people as to what worked for them, but really, we didn’t know how it would pertain to her,” Vanessa said. “We kind of had this idea that they potty train right away and everything’s perfect and they never have an accident again.”

When Lauren started to potty train at 30 months, Vanessa thought they had everything under control. Things were going smoothly for a while, but then Lauren regressed big time. Vanessa didn’t want to put her back in diapers, so they began a process of figuring out what to do.

Taking the pressure off, Vanessa said, was a relief for everyone. It was also particularly special for Vanessa to see Lauren successful and proud of herself again.

“It was a big moment in our house, for her and for us as parents,” Vanessa said. “We kept feeling like we were failing – we were failing her, we were failing us, we were failing. In reality, there is no failing. It’s all part of moving forward.”

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Potty Training Tips for mom, by moms!

All the resources a mom could want! Advice from peers and experts, charts and product reviews, Potty Training Concepts has all kinds of information.

Staying close to your grown-up kids

The old saying still rings true today: Motherhood is the toughest and best job in the world. Whether you’re a rocket scientist, a supermodel or a bank teller, the challenges you face when at home and off the clock are often the most trying.

With an illustrious film and television career spanning over 25 years and a successful stint as a mother of two boys for almost that long, Kathy Baker has certainly kept herself busy.

“Since I was 5 years old, I wanted to be an actress,” Baker said. “It was like a secret dream that I had, something that was beautiful and unattainable and yet maybe I could do it if I worked really hard. But I always wanted to be a mom, too. In my mind, the mom thing would just happen, and acting was something I’d really have to work for.”

Interestingly enough, Baker’s career began to really take off in the early 80s—almost in conjunction with the birth of her first son. It was then she realized that not only would balancing work and home life be difficult, but that being a parent and making important decisions for her children was by far the greater challenge.

“I wanted my boys to have a stable school and home life, and would not have been able to do it without their wonderful dad and nanny, because I had to travel and couldn’t be there at times,” Baker said. “It was so difficult to be away, because I’d miss them so much. It was lonelier than I ever thought it would be.

“But I do feel that I had a close relationship with my sons because I worked really hard for them whenever I literally wasn’t on the set. I always wanted to be the mom for them when I was home. I’d work harder on the weekends than I did when I was on the set!”

Baker’s determination to pursue a successful career in acting while being an active parent has paid off in many ways. She recalls candid conversations with her sons about why she did what she loved and why it’s important to go after a career that you are passionate about.

Today, Baker’s sons are following her lead, pursuing their creative dreams full on, and in the process of being an encouraging, inspirational mother, Kathy is now facing her greatest challenge to date — figuring out what to do with herself when the nest is empty for the first time in 23 years.

“My older son went to college locally, so when he recently moved to Chicago to pursue his journalism career, it was pretty hard,” Baker said. “And now that my younger son is about to leave for college, I’m starting to feel really depressed. For 23 years, I’ve woken up every day, and my day has been framed around a little person or two. What’s it going to be like to wake up every morning and not help one of my kids go to school? What’s it going to be like to not have the framework of their schedule framing my schedule?”

Even with a busy and dynamic career, Baker is experiencing the heartache that every other mom feels when her kids leave home and the space that was once filled with laughter, shouting, crying and playing grows quiet and still.

“Now I’m forced to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life,” Baker said. “I’ve started to do more volunteering, I’ve started to do more theater. The reality of your kids leaving home makes your kind of get off your can and do stuff.”

While she doesn’t have it all quite figured out yet, Kathy is committed to keeping her relationship with her boys strong, no matter where their dreams carry them.

“What works for me personally is staying in contact and finding a way to communicate regularly,” she said. “If it doesn’t work for you to have daily phone calls, find other ways to communicate. I’ve learned how to text really well. My kids respond to texts more quickly than they respond to phone messages. Find different ways to stay in touch with your grown-up kids, but stay in touch no matter what.”

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Birds of a Feather
If you’re feeling alone in your empty nest, reach out to Natalie’s Empty Nest Support Services, a community of parents helping each other through the transition.

When they flew the coop
31 families share their stories of when the kiddos took off on their own. At the very least, you’ll know you’re not alone, thanks to this book by Karen Stabine.

Dealing with the death of my child

n January of 2003, Mary’s firstborn child, Joseph, was senselessly murdered in a carjacking.

Crawling back from the darkness that descended upon her wasn’t easy, but with three other children and a husband still needing her, she found the strength to live in the face of death.

“They needed me there; they didn’t need me in bed, they didn’t need me drugged up, they didn’t need me drunken. I can guarantee you that those are places I wanted to go,” Mary said.

Joseph was 18, and his most prized possession was his car, a ’71 Lincoln Mark-3. He spent all of his money restoring this car, and he finally got down to the last thing that he wanted – a set of rims for his tires.
Mary remembers that when Joseph said wanted the rims for Christmas, she asked, “Son, why do you want rims? People get killed for their rims.” Still, she gave him money to go toward rims, and Joseph eventually bought a set.

Things went well until one night in 2003, when Joseph went out on a date.

The assailants shot Joseph three times, twice in the head and once in the back. It is still unknown today whether Mary’s son put up a struggle or if the attackers, in an act of thoughtless violence, shot him just for the sake of shooting him. They took his car and left him on the ground. Joseph’s blood work came back clean; there were no drugs or alcohol in his system.

“It happened less than eight minutes from the house, and what a nightmare that night was,” Mary said. She credits her faith, family and friends with helping her make it through the hardest times.

“There was a time where my husband didn’t think that I wanted to be with him because I would lay on the couch and watch TV until five in the morning,” she said. “It had nothing to do with him. I just could not lay my head down without starting to cry.”
Mary’s neighbor brought her homemade lunch and dinner, and she says if not for this act of kindness, she wouldn’t have eaten during that time.

“It is interesting because when you eat it brings comfort, but when you are going through a death like that, you don’t want to be comforted. You want to wallow,” said Mary. “I can understand how people can go into a depression so deep that you can not get out of it. If I didn’t have to be there for my family and my friends, I would have gone there.”
Mary belonged to a few support groups to help her get through, but said it still felt like a nightmare at times, until finally the killers were brought to justice.

“It was such an emotional relief that they were going to catch them,” she said. “In some of the organizations that I have been involved with, there are people who never get to that point of finding the people who murdered their loved ones.”

The support group showed Mary that as bad as things were for her, there were many others who had it worse. She met some parents who had lost more than one child, or who’d lost their child before they even had a fair shot at life. Being around others helped her feel supported and understood and gave her a perspective that turned her grief into gratitude.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Indigo No More
Beyond Indigo can help you change the way you deal with grief and loss.

Living After Losing
Beyond Tears is a heartwarming book written by a group of mothers who were united in their experience of losing a child.

Interactive Hope
A mother and daughter doctor team bring you The Grief Blog, a comprehensive site focused on healing and dealing.

Support System
GriefNet offers simple access to over 50 e-mail support groups to aid people dealing with many different types of loss.

A Shoulder to Lean on
Psychologist and grief expert Alexandra Kennedy helps people cope with the loss of a loved one with her books, tapes and seminars.

Trigger Happy
The Mayo Clinic’s resource/informational sheet about what triggers grief and the best way to face those triggers.