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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

What mommy means

When you’re out and about and you see another mother, for whatever reason, there’s an instant connection. You know, that glimpse and half smile you give to a woman whose changing a diaper or that accidental buffer we form around pregnant women in crowds.

As different as our lives may be, and unique and special as our own children are, there is something about being a mommy that is almost cliche it’s so universal.

Only moms understand what mommy means and that to earn the privilege of the title means you’ve made the shift from selfish to willing to die for another human being without ever really considering it.

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Mission Impossible
Give up on being mother of the year (they think you already are) and relish in your perfect flaws at Imperfect Parent.

Some Friendly Advice
Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris have been in various stages of pregnancy or new momdom for 5 years running. The two friends created a go-to site offering decent, open-minded and agenda-free advice at The New Mom.

Productive Parenting
From infants to young adults and everything tween, Parenting.org offers tips and advice to help your child be all you wish you could have been and all she is capable of.

A Lactation Education
Get news, product information, how-to videos and a hearty laugh from the women of Breastfeeding.com.

Making parenting peachy

Linda Perry has been featured in the New York Times. She’s been on the Today Show. Nintendo has recruited her to hawk its Wiis. She’s basically big time.

But within about 20 seconds of meeting her, she’ll most likely invite you out for Happy Hour with her, her two kiddos Amber and Jasmine, and her husband Michael.

Linda has social butterfly in her DNA, and it’s a trait she’s passed on to her kids without question. But it’s also a trait she’s used to bring almost 10,000 moms in the sometimes-isolating city of Los Angeles together.

In 1997, using the power of email, Linda started reaching out to moms from Amber’s Mommy & Me group and rallying them socially.

“I’d send an email out saying that I’m going to be at this park, who wants to come and everybody would come out,” she said. “Everyone wants to get out, they’re just not motivated to do it on their own. I always say, get one person to plan something and everybody else will follow.”

Linda quickly became known as Peachhead because that was the email address she borrowed from her husband, a die-hard Allman Brothers Band fan, when making her early contacts. When the network of moms got bigger and bigger, they all assumed the title of Peachheader to signify membership in this very intimate yet very open community.

Linda said that from the very beginning she took solace in the support she got from the women she met through Peachhead.

“I had never changed a diaper before having Amber, so these moms were my buds,” she said. “You call them up and you say, ‘I can’t put her down, she cries all the time.’ They’d say, ‘Me too!’ You had that connection of going through everything together.”

The spirit of that conversation and the good-natured support is one of Peachhead’s best assets. Linda moderates the group and keeps the messages tempered and friendly, and when things do flare up, she’s moves the discussion to a debate forum rather than censor it altogether. More than anything, she wants Peachhead to be helpful — to help other moms feel a sense of support and to help them maintain a sense of themselves.

Being able to harness thousands of friends and their children is no small undertaking, especially when you’re a working mom with two high-energy girls of your own. But for Linda it’s worth the extra investment.

Not only does she catch the attention of the country’s most esteemed newspaper and the absolute coolest video gaming console ever made (seriously, try the boxing! [and Nintendo didn’t give us a penny to write that]), she also gets a sense of satisfaction knowing that she is making life easier for other moms.

“When I go out and meet moms and they find out I’m ‘Peachhead,’ they can’t stop telling me about how the group has changed their lives and helped them out,” said Linda. “We had a mom who had leukemia and needed platelets and blood donated. When one was sick, another mom started a food chain for bringing food. No matter what you need there is always a solution, there is always somebody there willing to help and give advice.”

For a glimpse at the “momraderie” at work on Peachhead, visit its website or reach out to Linda to have her set up a subgroup for your community. Sure, you may have to send out the initial emails to rally other mothers, but once you do, you’ll finally have that village it takes.

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Productive Parenting
From infants to young adults and everything tween, Parenting.org offers tips and advice to help your child be all you wish you could have been and all she is capable of.

When Mama’s Happy
To keep mamas from getting baby brain, the gals at Mamazine have given birth to a crafty outlet for creative expression. Feel like a grown-up even though you’re all about baby.

Meeting of the Moms
Find friends. Get advice. Share experiences. Exchange recipes. Visit ClubMom.

Making playtime for parents out of playdates with children

Wouldn’t it be great if going out for family time was not punctuated with meltdowns or dirty looks from other non-baby couples?

Lambeth thinks so. That’s why she created Parent P-L-A-Y, a way for families to spend time together where kids can be kids and adults can be adults.

As an older mom who had wanted a child for a long time, Lambeth found the first year of her son’s life was full of adrenaline and excitement. As an adjunct professor of journalism at NYU and a long-time journalist and contributor to such publications as the New York Post, Marie Claire and Redbook, Lambeth was used to grown up interaction. While she relished playing with her son, she also wanted to maintain adult conversations.

“When a child turns one, things really change,” Lambeth said. “As soon as they’re mobile, it’s a totally different kind of exhaustion. You have to summon the creative forces in your life. You have to start thinking about arts and crafts, and you have to start thinking about going to the playground and having a really good time and making sure that they’re having fun. That’s a really big change.”

Charter members of Citibabes, a family club in SoHo, and sleep-deprived zombies, Lambeth and her husband wished someone would start organizing events for parents that also included kids. With that goal in mind, they gave birth to Parent P-L-A-Y.

Parent P-L-A-Y events are unique and different. The goal is to redefine how families spend time together. Parents know there is an adjacent space — everyone’s under the same roof, whether it’s at a restaurant or a comedy club — so they know that they can always just go check in on their child and see that they’re having a great time. They can relax.

“We don’t want people to come in and talk down to our parents, like, ‘You should potty train this way,’ or, ‘This is the right way to go from formula to solid food,’” Lambeth said. “That’s not what we offer parents. There’s so much of that out there already. We’re more about pampering the parents and getting them to tap into their feelings and tap into their need for just chilling out.”

Parent P-L-A-Y has received letters from parents all over the country saying, “We’ve read about you,” or, “We heard about Parent P-L-A-Y. When are you coming to our city?”

Because New York-based Lambeth can’t be everywhere at once, she’s offering some suggestions for parents who need to practice the art of enjoying family time.

1. Connect with other parents.

Try co-oping child care or creating a network of neighbors where they all get to know the kids and share babysitting duties. Make sure there’s a trust factor, of course, but if you can find a way to create community within your own area, you’ll feel more at home.

2. Find rest and relaxation with your spouse.

Give each other the time and space to regroup. It has nothing to do with how much you love your child; there comes a point for every parent when you’re just exhausted. Give yourself and your spouse a little time off and you’ll be better parents when you return to the job.

3. Create a common interest.

Find something you love working on together with your spouse. That shared interest will actually make you stronger. You’ll discover talents or insights you didn’t realize you had and uncover aspects of your partner you never knew about too.

Lambeth and her husband Brian saw a need and they used their creativity and innovative talents to fill that need in the community. Get connected and find out more about parent P-L-A-Y events.

If you are not so lucky to be in New York City to enjoy Parent P-L-A-Y, check out Imperfect Parent, a website created for parents to talk freely and openly without big brother watching. The lovely folks have gathered articles and columns written by parents like yourself, designed to share parenting experiences, to make you think, and make you laugh.

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Let’s PLAY!
If you live in the New York area and are looking for something new to do with your kids, check out Parent P-L-A-Y, Lambeth and her husband Brian’s social solution for big city parents.

Mom Community!
CafeMom is focused on creating a great site for moms that is somewhere they can come to get advice, feel supported, make friends or just relax.

Mom-to-Mom
The mommies network is dedicated to helping moms find support and friendship in their local community.