Lessons from a mom of two

Five lessons from mom of twoIt’s been a while, hasn’t it? Welcoming Gregory into our world has not been an easy ride. Being a mom of two is hard! H-A-R-D! I’m beyond exhausted. Some days I can barely keep my eyes open. I could sit here and make a million excuses as to why these pages have been blank or why I’ve neglected you, but the truth is they aren’t blank and I haven’t forgotten. I have so many draft posts sitting here, waiting for me to hit publish, but for some reason, I haven’t. At the beginning of this blogging journey, a friend and successful blogger said that the success of her blog was due to always finding a way to make it positive. There are bad times for all, but it’s important to leave the reader feeling positive. Always blog purposely. 

Do you want to know what makes for hard positive content? Being a parent. Toddlers. Two children under the age of three. A baby who is terrible at sleeping. Potty training a stubborn toddler. Being a full time working mom of two and desperately trying to cram an entire day of quality time with your children between dinner and bedtime.

I’m exhausted, constantly. Every minute is an internal battle of which child to give attention, while feeling uneasy from the dirty dishes piling up in the sink. Then using the next minute to vacuum the third spilled bowl of cereal scattered on the rug, while simultaneously feeling guilty for not using your “free time” to play with your children. And outside of that, trying to give time to your marriage. And finally to yourself. The latter seems further and further away most days. However, we are surviving. I guess that’s the positive. I’m learning how to manage along the way. I can’t say that we are thriving, but surviving, yes. At some point, perhaps I’ll have both feet firmly planted but for now, I’m chasing a toddler who found a marker and is far too determined to draw all over her baby brother. 

Hard Truths and lessons from a mom of two (four months and counting): 

Let me repeat. Being a mom of two is hard. Being a parent is HARD. I was barely keeping it together when I was chasing after one, and now we have another one zapping our energy. From all of this, I’m trying to figure out how to survive. Here are just a few hard truths that I’ve discovered on this crazy journey. 

1 – Toddlers are assholes – and it’s not your fault.

I’m sure toddlers who are only children are also jerks (so do not think I’m discriminating). They are all jerks. The determination and stubbornness of a toddler trying to tie their own shoes is enough to make you pull your hair out while you wait for 20 minutes as they scream “No, I do it!” over and over again. I never once thought in my life I would have to blame being late to a meeting on a toddler who trapped herself in her dress but would flip out if I attempted to help.

Survival tactic – start any task 30 minutes to one hour earlier than when you need to logically start it. The worst thing that can happen, your toddler is completely ready with time to spare. This has yet to happen. Typically, I now end up only 10 minutes late (depending on if her cereal is up to her standards – Too much milk. Not enough milk. Too crunchy. Wrong color. Oh the complexity that is breakfast).  

2 – Babies are gross. So very gross

And they have this sixth sense of knowing when you have a big meeting and spent too long selecting the perfect outfit. And they will wait until you are walking out the door, already running late, to projectile vomit all over your nicely pressed shirt. (I’m lying. My shirts are never pressed. Who has time for that?).

Survival tactic – invest in cardigans. Keep multiple cardigans in your car and wait until after daycare drop-off before putting it on. Never before. Trust me. On top of that, keep a brush and wipes in the glove compartment – to get that fun spit up out of your hair. I had someone actually compliment how shiny and smooth my hair looked like one day. I just hope they didn’t come to close to smell it. 

3 – You will not have a warm meal – just give up. 

My children get picked up at 6pm from daycare. That means we have approximately 2 hours to make dinner, eat, and get ready for bed. Dinner typically consists of constantly getting up to appease each child. I must say, Abby is pretty good at eating what is in front of her (most days). But, as soon as I sit, she’ll want the blue fork (not the green), or a glass of milk instead of water, or needs one thousand napkins because she’s being a toddler. And once she’s settled, Gregory will need a bottle or his own baby mush heated up. Since he’s four months old, you must learn to master feeding a baby while also feeding yourself. And while feeding the baby, your toddler will magically forget how to hold a fork because see lesson one. 

Survival tactic – go out to dinner without children whenever possible. 

4 – Your house will be a disaster – let it go

My house is barely staying together. I try to clean up as we go but to be honest, with the limited amount of time I have with Abby and Gregory each day, I’ve mostly given up. I’m doing the bare minimum to get by. The laundry is being done and dishes cleaned, but it may be a few days before I put either away. There may be longer periods between vacuuming or dusting. And anytime I attempt to clean, Abby demands a book or blocks or tea party. 

Survival Tactic – Let your toddler help. Letting your toddler help makes tasks take three times as long but also needed. Abby loves helping. It takes her three times as long to accomplish a task but she loves contributing in anyway she can. She’ll help wash Gregory’s bottles, putting things away, and even vacuuming. It will never be perfect and I’ll have to redo it later, but letting her help makes her happy and prevents tantrums.  

5 – Life will be constantly chaotic  

Your life will never be the same. Children (whether you have one or one hundred), will completely change your life. The way of life you knew before is no more. These little humans (who have your mannerisms and attitude – watch out) demand so much of your time and energy.

Survival tactic –  Give in. Give them all of you. The errands and chores will be there another time. Trust me. They always pile up. I’ve tried ignoring them but eventually you run out of diapers and dry shampoo (both staples needed in a working parent household). But for the moment, let it go. Accept the fact that a typical trip to the grocery store will take three hours as you attempt to steer clear of the cookie aisle and hope no one has a poop explosion. Or that your baby will wake up every two hours one night even if they were sleeping through the night the last three weeks. And it will, of course, be the night before a big presentation. Your toddler will throw herself on the ground because her goldfish are too “fishy.” You’ll find a sippy cup or a bottle from months ago behind the couch and not be able to recognize the substance inside of it. Tip – just don’t open it. Throw it out. Trust me. No good can come from looking in it.

Bonus – Make (don’t find) time for you and your relationship

It’s ok to need a break. Trust me. But, breaks will not come knocking. Believe me. There are not many people in this world who will watch your tiny humans while you enjoy a night out. And there are even less who will do it for free (thank you mom and dad!). Take advantage of any and all babysitters you can find. Go out to dinner. See a movie. Can’t get a babysitter? Enjoy a date night in. Once the kids are asleep, open a bottle of wine and just spend time together. Send the kids to daycare when your office is closed and treat yourself to lunch and a manicure. Just do it! It will be better for everyone involved. Children are amazing but also…see lesson one.  

Working Pregnant Mom: Allowing myself to breathe

Working Pregnant Mom Learning to Breathe

It’s been a while. And honestly, I could sit here and up come up with a million excuses. A few of them would actually sound forgivable. But, to be completely honest, I stopped because I found myself wanting to spend those moments I could have been writing, with my family.

The truth is, juggling a new job while halfway through a pregnancy has been harder than I could have imagined. I knew it would be difficult, but I didn’t realize in what way. Of course there are the expected hardships – learning a new environment, working diligently to prove myself, a new routine, and trying desperately not to get lost each day.

And ironically, every part of my new job has been a welcome blessing compared to my previous one. John’s noticed that I’m happier, less stressed, and generally excited about the projects and adventures waiting for me each day. But, it’s the emotional obstacles that I didn’t expect. And, on top of that, we lost my Grandmother a week after I started. The emotional toll of that experience was far more than I could imagine. One day I’ll put those emotions on paper. The realization that this was the only Grandparent still alive when Abby was born. Hearing the news when I was 8 hours away from my father’s side. And experiencing loss while a child grows inside of me. It was an entirely new side of loss for me.

I think one of the biggest challenges about this new job, aside from the aforementioned, is being so excited about it. When I was pregnant with Abby, my mind was focused on her — on the tiny baby girl kicking me during meetings, the thoughts of what her first laugh would sound like while I completed filing, and creating a maternity plan so nothing would go unchecked while I was off enjoying motherhood.

And yes, I worked hard while I was pregnant with Abby, but it was a different type of hard. I knew the job I was doing and I was good at it. I knew the upcoming deadlines, who would be best to lean on for support in case I ended up out earlier than expected, and how to handle any obstacles that may come. It’s to be expected after two years. Being on autopilot allows you to daydream a bit — the sound of her first cry, laugh, word; the scent of her hair; and the feeling of her head on my shoulder.

But now, I’m 26 weeks pregnant and have been at my new company for a month. I just stopped getting lost going to the bathroom (which being 26 weeks pregnant, means I frequent often so that’s an entirely different kind of blessing). I’m still in the onboarding phase and learning the ropes, so there is no time to think about the baby boy inside of me, or the deadlines coming up (as I’m still trying to learn all of the acronyms). I find myself forgetting that I’m pregnant and, nstead, focusing on the interesting program I want to implement.

At this point in my pregnancy with Abby, we had put the finishing touches on the nursery, complete with her name, which we had finalized months before, in wooden purple letters above her crib. I spent every morning talking to her, excited for the day I would get to hold my baby girl. This time around, I can’t even think of a name, his crib has been sitting in a box in our basement for a few weeks, and the only time I find myself talking to him is when Abby points to my belly and says “baby.”

With Abby I would daydream about the day she would be born, the day we would bring her home, if she would look more like me or John. My mind would wonder constantly, imaging how incredible it would be to finally be a mother. Now, when my mind has a chance to wonder, it’s usually about Abby. How will she handle needing to share mommy and daddy? Will she resent him because she’ll have to give up half her room? Will she understand this tremendous change?

The fear and self-doubt plagues me. I start questioning everything. How will I be able to handle two kids when my house looks like a bomb went off with just one? Will I do right by my children? Am I good mom?

And then, that beautiful baby girl who is no longer a baby runs to me screaming “My Mommy” with her arms spread wide open waiting for a hug. And all is right with the world. Somehow she knows I needed that extra bit of encouragement. She is my greatest adventure and my best example that I can do this. Of course I’ll make mistakes. The house will never be “perfect.” And probably, one day this baby boy will too lick the cat just like his sister, I’m sure of it. But through it all, we will do our best. We will survive. And both of them all of us will be just fine.

Accepting a Job Offer While Pregnant

Accepting a job offer while pregnantAs someone who has always tried to follow a path in life and prides herself on staying three steps ahead, when I do something out of my comfort zone, my heart pounds and my anxiety boils. So, of course, this means, parenthood has been a constant struggle of not being able to control life. The positive thing about it all, though, is that I’m learning to live outside of the path I thought I needed to stay on. And all of this brings me to yesterday and what it represents. [Busy working mom/mom to be and need advice? Jump to “Things to keep in mind for accepting a job offer while pregnant.”]

Monday will mark 20 weeks into this pregnancy – halfway there! During my first pregnancy, I meticulously planned every aspect of our lives in order to feel in control. I strategically saved money to account for maternity leave AKA unpaid leave. I alerted my supervisor and coworkers early and created a plan for my leave, in case it started earlier than expected. I closed out all of my projects in plenty of time. And I stopped traveling once I entered into the third trimester. (Of course, nothing about Abby’s delivery went to plan, but that’s an entirely different story.)

When the test rang positive this time, I started planning out my time and money with even more diligence. I had a better idea of the aftermath of delivery and having a newborn. I worked out our budget. I put extra into savings to account for unpaid leave (and was excited to learn that New York State would pay part of my leave this time around). And I planned for the paid 18-20 weeks of leave I was entitled to based on my employer’s policy. Everything was going to happen according to plan once again. And then, something came along to shift everything and interrupt my perfectly laid out plan – an incredible job offer. And after debating it in my head and with John for what felt like years, I decided to jump at the chance.

That’s right – the planner, the one who stays on the path to ensure she’s always three steps ahead left the comfort of her job in the middle of a pregnancy to start a brand new one.

So what does leaving my job and accepting a new job actually mean?

What am I losing?

It means that I’m giving up job protection under the Family Medical Leave Act (and putting my faith in my new employer). I will no longer be eligible for paid New York State leave (which was recently passed). And those 18-20 weeks home with my baby boy have now vanished.

But what am I getting?

The chance at my dream job. The chance to try something that scares, challenges, and excites me all at once. I’m terrified and thrilled all at the same time.

And the decision to accept was not an easy one for me. Even after putting in my notice, I went back and forth in my mind if it was the right decision for my family and the baby boy growing inside of me. My husband, the optimist, told me I should stop worrying about all of this as he believes I’m doing the right thing. I’m hoping that positive attitude rubs off on me, especially as I near closer to the end of this pregnancy and the thoughts of spending a limited amount of time home fill my mind.

Questions and thoughts that plague my mind

  • Will he suffer entering daycare earlier than his sister?
  • Will he resent me in the future if he finds out that I waited 20 weeks before leaving her but far less with him?
  • Am I bad mom for changing our structure for my own career?

It’s hard to put that type of pressure on yourself. I’m not sure if it’s my own anxiety fueling it or society telling me that as the mom, you worry about the family and nothing more because me choosing to take on an entirely new job is (mostly) for me. Of course there are perks that my family will benefit from but it is my career, not their career, so you question it, every step of the way. I had someone ask me why I didn’t just stick around at my current job and then stop working afterwards. How does one explain the importance of their career but also not make her family sound like the second string? It’s a fine balance, even today, to figure out how to be a mom and have a career, but appear to be successful in both (even if you’re struggling every day).

The reason I was able to take the leap

Every step of the way, when attempting to figure out if choosing the new job was the right decision, I thought of my family. I thought of my baby boy growing inside of me, of his needs during the rest of the pregnancy and following, of the weeks after his birth and the new life we will have with two children. My family (and my new employer’s positive attitude towards this pregnancy) was a huge factor when I finally said yes. So yesterday, as I drove away from my office for the last time, I smiled at the fact that I actually did it. I took a huge risk, something I honestly never thought I would, and right before I turned on the ignition, I smiled at my growing belly and thanked my baby boy for giving me the strength to do it.

Thinking of accepting a job offer while pregnant? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

You may not be entitled to job protection

The Family Medical Leave Act (US) entitles you to job protection after the birth of a child, however, there are some stipulations to this as well. For example, you are only eligible if you have been at your employer for at least 12 months. Despite the fact that the last month of pregnancy feels like a year, you are only pregnant for about 40 weeks. For more information on the Family Medical Leave Act, visit the US Department of Labor. Please note that after you have a baby, you will not want to / probably wont be able to go back to work just a few days later. You will need time to heal and bond with your baby. In addition, most daycares will not accept a child who is under 6 weeks old.

You may be entitled to some leave

Before accepting a job, look through the benefits policy, or speak with Human Resources. In my case, I’m entitled to Short Term Disability from day one. Depending on your policy, this can entitle you to 6-8 weeks depending on your delivery. In most cases, this is also paid (either through the employer or your state). Look into all of this before accepting any offer as you will need time after you give birth.

You have many doctor appointments while pregnant

In my case, I go to the doctor every four weeks until I’m 28 weeks along, then it will be every two weeks until I’m 36 weeks, and then every week until I deliver. In many cases, these appointments happen during typical working hours. You will need to be prepared to take unpaid days off, or work something out with your new employer to attend doctor appointments.

Your insurance coverage may change

If you will be using your own insurance policy (and not on your partner/spouse’s policy) look into everything about what is covered and what is not covered, and how long it will take for it to go into affect. You never know what may happen during your pregnancy so having a lapse in coverage may be a determent to accepting a job. In addition, check with your doctor to ensure they accept this new insurance carrier. If you will need to change doctors or practices, it is important to know that in advance of accepting an offer.

If the new job will make you happier, then it may be the best decision for your family

For me, this was a difficult thing to keep in mind. There were many reasons to stay at my previous job, but the biggest motivator to leave was the regret that I might feel for not taking an opportunity that could make me happier. While you grow a child, your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Honestly, your mental health is ALWAYS just as important as your physical health (not just during pregnancy). So, if your new job will make you happier, give you less stress, and overall improve you, then it is probably the best decision. If, for some reason, the new job will bring you more worry, more stress, and more anxiety, then perhaps it isn’t the best path. Ultimately though, you need to figure out what is best for you and your family.

Are you thinking of making a switch while pregnant? What are your biggest fears? Did you make a switch while pregnant? Tell me how you survived. I will take any advice I can get. 

 

The Art of Improv: When a Toddler Runs Your Schedule

Survival guide for type a

I’m a classic Type A personality. My life is color-coded. I value time given and use it to the minute to ensure all projects are completed early. And I create scenarios in my head to overcome all obstacles you may face that diverts you from the original plan. I create spreadsheets for fun. I even created a color-coded agenda for my sister’s bridal shower (I’m sorry again to all of her bridesmaids). And I pride myself in advancing my career. All of these characteristics have been invaluable when it comes to work – those color coded spreadsheets on event day are no joke – but not so much when it comes to pregnancy, or even parenting. The worst (and best) thing that can happen to a planner is pregnancy because pregnancy and parenthood is filled with unknowns you could never imagine.

Lessons I’ve learned from Pregnancy (and Parenthood) as a Type A personality:

Your time is not your own.

Prior to becoming pregnant with Abby, my life was set on a schedule. Wake up, go to the gym, head home to get ready for work, commute, work, commute, dinner with my husband, me time, bed. It was a perfect balance of life and work. I had time in the evenings to work on projects, writing, or simply unwind with my husband. During the first pregnancy, everything changed. By dinner time, I could barely keep my eyes open, so any post-dinner activities became nonexistent, which meant those precious hours of completing projects or unwinding also disappeared. For a planner, losing those hours creates a cascading effect on your mindset. I actually remember doing the math. Each night, before pregnancy, I had about 3 hours of time after dinner for the aforementioned. That means each week (if you only count weekdays), I lost 15 hours of time a week, which roughly estimates to 63 hours a month – that is a little over 2.5 days. So every month, I was losing 2.5 days. That may not sound like a great deal, but for me it meant I was losing 2.5 days of opportunities. Of course, now I know it was all worth it. I look at that crazy child and I would give up weeks just to hear her laugh. And now, with a toddler, I can make plans months in advance, block my schedule in a way that I know will work around nap time. Ensure that we are packed in advance, so there are few delays getting out of the house. And, just like that, my baby girl will decide she hates naps and will fight me with every ounce of energy she has left. Just this past weekend, we were all set to meet up with people at 2 pm for pumpkin picking, perfect timing following her normal nap routine, and she decided that naps were no longer important, screaming and running around the house until 1:30, two hours past her normal nap start time. And then slept for three hours, which is very unlike her. Needless to say, we didn’t make it to the pumpkin patch.

Planning doesn’t exist

My entire life, I have set a plan – where my career would be by the time I was 30, the years until I owned a home, and the timeline for pregnancy. Of course, this plan has adjusted over the years as the life I thought I wanted at the age of 10 is completely different than where I eventually ended up. Though, I still stand by the fact that I could have been a lawyer who spent her nights and weekends singing on the side, except for my complete lack of musical talent and that I spent that one semester in law class during high school bored beyond belief. But, generally speaking, I followed a plan. Went to college, landed a job, got married, bought a house, adopted a dog, and had baby number one right away. Except that it didn’t work out that way. When you live your life by a plan, and it takes almost a year before you see two lines on a pregnancy test, you spend your days believing you made some sort of unforgivable mistake because the pieces weren’t falling into one-another perfectly. And after I finally conceived, there was no plan or course correction in place to overcome the scare we had at 8 weeks or the spot my doctor saw on my ultrasound at 20 weeks or the fact that my body wouldn’t allow me to push out a 9 lb 3 oz baby girl. However, everything worked out. But each time something diverted from the plan, each time something was out of my control, I would breakdown.

And now, as a parent, the world tells you by that age, your child should be doing this, and by that date, your baby should hit this milestone. And you plan for your child to meet each milestone on time, if not early. And then you discover that your child does not care in the slightest about milestones. I see children around the same age as Abby reciting their colors, numbers, and shapes. Meanwhile, Abby is picking her nose and trying to lick the cat. Everything happens at their own pace and on their own time. If you don’t believe me, try getting an “independent” toddler ready in the morning in under 15 minutes. I bet you all the money in the world, that she will scream that she can put on her own shoes, and even after 30 minutes of trying, will yell at you “I do it!” when you offer to help.

Work will have to come second

I’m ambitious by nature. I made it a point to have a job in place right after graduation and I work very hard to advance. Before Abby, I would come in early, stay late and sacrifice personal time for work. Let me just tell you, that isn’t necessarily a healthy attitude in the first place, but it worked for my lifestyle. I had plenty of time to spend with John and friends after work was complete, so I didn’t think twice about it. Even while I was pregnant with Abby, I didn’t allow myself to slow down. I worked until the very end of my pregnancy. For some reason, I believed if I didn’t, I’d miss out on something important at work, and my years of hard work would be for nothing. And, I convinced myself prior to delivery that I would be back at work no later than 12 weeks, despite having the option of more. And then I met Abby and my life changed. I’m not saying work isn’t important anymore. My career will always be important to me. But, that baby girl flipped a switch in my head to understand that there was more. I took 20 weeks off after my daughter was born, and honestly, if I were given more, I would have taken it. And today, now that we are in a rhythm with daycare, I do need to make sacrifices at work to be the best mom I can be. That doesn’t mean I slack off or I stop working as hard; it just means that I learned to balance my time more constructively. I can’t come in early or stay late because daycare opens at 8 AM and closes at 6 PM. I can’t easily attend an after-work function or late night meeting without notice as I have to schedule child care or, at the very least, coordinate with my husband.

Surviving Pregnancy (and Parenthood) as a Type A Personality:

So how do you survive all of this? How can a Type A accept that time is fleeting, planning is obsolete, and work may need to move down the priority list?

Learn to adjust.

You may not have all the time in the world to finish, because your evenings are cluttered with playtime with your child or exhaustion from the pregnancy, or taking care of your children. I can barely keep my eyes open past 9 pm right now. Between pregnancy and chasing a toddler, I could nap for ages and it wouldn’t be enough. And, even if I find energy, my brain has been going for so long that I can barely think. So, you learn that your brain stops functioning after a certain time and adjust your life to find time for you. Even now, it’s 5 am as I write this because I know I typically have a clear window between 5 am and 6:30 am as my house sleeps. Though, every so often I do look at the monitor as I know while Abby typically sleeps until 6:30 am, she has been known to wake up early and throw off the schedule.

Throw out the schedule and stop apologizing.

This is a hard one but I promise it’s an important one. I only have a few friends with children. Those who do typically understand that it’s important to not deviate from the nap schedule. And I make every effort possible to ensure I can attend gatherings (asking to schedule them before or after naps, ensuring that nothing will keep her out later than 8 pm, and finding childcare if it would be impossible for me to miss it) but, I do preface all meetups with the notion that I have a toddler and she makes the final schedule. I have had to cancel plans at the last minute, which I do hate to do, because Abby decided to throw a tantrum over not being allowed to eat cookies, or she woke up with a fever, or she simply was just not in the mood. In the beginning, I would apologize constantly and I would feel terrible. But, I’m learning to understand that this is life. My baby’s needs have to come first. And generally, the world understands.

Use your work time wisely and set boundaries.

Another hard one but an important one. I have never looked at myself as anything less than a hard worker. As mentioned, I sacrificed my own time to ensure work was completed early. But now, I’m tied to the schedule of daycare. I’m also an even harder worker now, though. While others may have the time to stay past 7 pm at the office to finish a project, I can’t. So I work as hard and efficiently as possible to ensure the work is completed by 5 pm because that is the latest I can stay in order to pick up Abby. But, of course, there are late night meetings or conference calls after hours in my field. I accept that. But, after being back at work post maternity leave, I knew I needed to set some boundaries in order to be successful both at work and at life. I have a personal rule that no work can happen between the hours of 6 pm and 8 pm, because that is the only time I actually have with my daughter, and a portion of that is spent making dinner. I turn my work phone off and refuse to check my email. After her bedtime, I’m open for a conference call or a webinar or late night cram session, but not beforehand. Of course, not everyone will accommodate this timing but, for the most part, my supervisors and colleagues have understood, especially since my work is still being accomplished successfully, just on new terms.

Just remember, this isn’t going to be easy. I still struggle with these life adjustments every day. Just yesterday, I needed to be at an early work event, so I knew I had to leave the house 10 minutes earlier than normal. I work up early and prepped as much as I could, as early as I could. And I alerted John far in advance of this change. And, Abby decided that she wanted to sit on the potty (yes, she now asks to sit on the potty, does ABSOLUTELY nothing but enjoys sitting on the potty). And, of course she needed Mommy to help her, not Daddy (despite the fact that she has been attached at John’s hip for the past few weeks, for this one moment, she needed Mommy). So, I sat with her in the bathroom, as she sat on the potty and exclaimed “Potty!” and “I did it!” over and over again, clapping at herself. Yes, it was very adorable. And no, she didn’t do anything, she just sat there. I’m still proud that she wants to sit on the potty – step one, right? So, I left the house 10 minutes later than I normally would, got lost attempting to get to the event because of an accident on the highway, and ended up arriving a few minutes later than intended. Everything ended up being fine. I alerted the team that I was running late and went straight to work when I arrived. The event went on without a hitch but I was still frustrated in the morning because the schedule was thrown off. And then, as I was about to walk out the door, angry, Abby grabbed my leg and said “Bye Bye Mommy” with a big smile. I melted and took a few more minutes to get a last minute hug from my baby girl. Parenthood is going to throw you curve balls constantly, you just have to learn to course correct and breath when things don’t go as planned.

Daycare Hacks for Infants

Daycare hacks

We just got the notice yesterday. In one month, our baby girl will be transitioning into the Toddler Room at daycare. (Insert brief teary eyed realization that my baby is no longer a baby). With this new adventure coming before we know it, I was immediately overwhelmed and stressed about new challenges and changes. And, as a planner extreme, I immediately read through the Toddler Room packet – how do I prepare, what do I need to pack, what are the expectations? And you know what I realized, the Toddler Room requires SO MUCH LESS than the infant room. Cue happy dance music. But, now that we are breathing a little easier on the packing list, I thought I’d share some life hacks that helped us in those Infant Daycare Days.

Bring in Bulk (if allowed)

Abby’s daycare required the following items in the infant room:

  • 1 Crib Blanket (each day in attendance)
  • Bibs (typically 1 or 2 per day because babies are messy)
  • 1 extra of clothing (from head to toe) each day (meaning, shirt, pants, and socks)
  • 8-10 Diapers per day (and diapering needs – wipes, cream, etc.)
  • Bottles (if formula – prepared in advance for the day ahead)
  • Baby food (if needed)
  • Bowls and Spoons

Needless to say, it was quite a bit of items to bring in. Abby attends daycare full time – that’s five days a week, meaning she needed a total of 5 crib sheets, 5 sets of clothes and about 50 diapers each week! The best solution we discovered – the ability to bring everything in bulk as needed. The Friday before she started, we brought in a full month worth of items (including an economy size box of diapers) – it looked like we were moving in! And the teachers had plenty of room to store it – as long as it fit in her assigned areas. AMAZING solution. If you can bring everything in bulk – do it! Saves you headache and time on those mornings your are trying to rush out the door. The last thing you want to stress about is not having any diapers available.

Invest in Labels

Daycare requires labeling – constant labeling. Everything must have your child’s name on it – from sheets, to bottles, to diapers. If it’s not labeled, it will probably get lost. Sheets and (almost all) clothing was relatively easy to label – permanent marker on the tag, done! Except baby socks – I just gave up with those. I think they are made without the ability to label because babies hate them so much. It took 10 minutes to get socks on her, and about 0.10 seconds for her to pull them off and start chewing on them. Towards the end (prior to actual shoes), I literally would just show up holding socks, ensuring the teacher knew I tried my best to dress her from head to toe. But I digress. Labeling any food source item – bottles, bowls, cups – was an annoying battle. Most people suggested painters tape and a marker – easy and cheap solution (usually my favorite kind). However, Abby pulled that tape off with little effort AND when she would miss one, I still found myself having to constantly relabel because the tape would be worn from the dishwasher. So, I invested in bottle labels, and they really were the best decision. I know, I know – but they cost almost $10. Yes, I normally would find the cheapest option – however, these amazing little things, they withstand a toddler’s efforts to remove AND the dishwasher. Speaking of labels – for some reason, Abby had a ton of baby clothes that were tag-free, making it basically impossible to label. With the help of friends who have kids in camp, I discovered they make clothing labels too (iron free and sew free ones!) Side tip: Abby also owned a few baby items that were dry-clean only. Please don’t do that to a parent of a baby because babies are gross and usually all of their clothes end up with food or poop all over. 

Prep as much as possible the night before

This is one that we still haven’t mastered, but on those days when we do, the mornings are much more pleasant. Normal (non-prepped) mornings involved us rescuing a hungry Abby from her crib, preparing a bottle for her and coffee for us, running around looking for clean clothes, sheets and bibs, while simultaneously prepping all bottles for the day.  We had to prepare four 8 ounce bottles with formula every morning, yes FOUR bottles. And not those two part bottles – no, we had to prepare the “Dr. Brown – I have 8,000 parts to make feeding ever so much easier, kidding – bottles.” Don’t get me wrong, I loved these bottles, but cleaning them by hand and preparing took FOREVER. I was so happy when we were officially done with bottles. I found out recently they have a new kind without the blue insert – oh well. To save time, on Sunday nights, we would pack everything she would need for the week – 5 sheets, 5 sets of clothing, and bibs (and check the Daycare list to see if she was running low on diapers, wipes, or cream). Digging through a basket of clean laundry on Monday morning looking for five sheets with a screaming baby is no easy task – do it the night before, when she is sleeping. Every night before daycare, I’d also prep the four bottles for the next day with water – just water because daycare had specific rules about how long they would keep formula (tip: ALWAYS check the rules for formula and breastmilk storage in advance!). The following morning, I’d do the final steps of adding the formula powder to the bottles, and adding in the extra label (this one was painters tape), with the day and time (another rule of daycare).

BONUS: Money Saving Tips

Daycare needs multiple sheets and sets of clothing. And, if you are anything like me, you do not want to be forced to do laundry multiple times a week to keep up with the daycare demands. I learned early on that Abby does not need to be dressed in her best when she’s at daycare – yes, she needs to wear clothes, but she doesn’t need to wear the super cute adorable dinosaur shirt with denim skirt that I love seeing her in. She also does not need the crib sheets that match her bedroom color scheme at daycare. My biggest tip for this – shop around and buy second-hand. Almost all of Abby’s extra set of clothes at daycare, are those I bought second hand, were once new but now have a marinara stain on them (hey, it’s still a shirt and it’s clean!), or I bought on a crazy sale. Yes, she may own 7 blue onsies that all live at daycare, but they cost me a total of $2 and she doesn’t seem to care. In terms of sheets – I have gotten a few questionable stares about purchasing sheets second-hand with the fear of bed bugs and whatnot. I have actually discovered, most second hand stores will ONLY sell crib sheets if they have never been open. Literally, I have purchased multiple sheets from second-hand stores that were factory sealed. It’s pretty amazing! (Side Money Saving Tip: If you formula feed, and your child has no issues – buy the generic/store brand formula. It will save you SO MUCH in the long run! AND, it’s usually the EXACT same. In the US, Baby Formula is so heavily regulated that it all must be safe: According to the FDADo “house brand” or generic infant formulas differ nutritionally from name brand formulas? All infant formulas marketed in the United States must meet the nutrient specifications listed in FDA regulations. Infant formula manufacturers may have their own proprietary formulations but they must contain at least the minimum levels of all nutrients specified in FDA regulations without going over the maximum levels, when maximum levels are specified. Source: FDA/CFSAN Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling and Dietary Supplements July 2002.   Good luck on your next adventures! Let me know what are some of your daycare life-hacks!

Daycare, One Year Anniversary

Hard Truths About Daycare

We did it! It took 365 days, but we did it! We survived a year of daycare, meaning I’ve survived being a working mom for an entire year. That astonishes me. How did that happen? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I dropped my tiny (and I use that term loosely since my daughter has always been in the 99.9th percentile) at this foreign place, laid her down on a boppy and cried hysterically the entire ride to work. That first week was rough. And now that I’ve been around the block for a year, I can say this with confidence – Daycare was the BEST decision we could have ever made for our family. For those of you who stay home with your child/children, that is incredible, but for our family, for our needs, it wasn’t in the cards.

And since we are now “experts” (sense the sarcasm because, honestly, we are just making this up as we go – though it’s been working), I wanted to share some of the ugly truths about daycare that I wished I had known beforehand.

The first drop off will hurt

It may hit you in the parking lot. It may not hit you until your at work. It may not even hit until you’re driving home from that first day back at work, rushing to see that baby, but it will hurt. You’ll feel a pain in your gut that you’re a terrible person for handing your tiny beautiful baby over to a basic stranger. How will this stranger know if my child is hungry or just wants to be held? Will this stranger even have time to hold her? Does this stranger know that she likes to hold your hand when she drinks her bottle? Will my child hate me for leaving? So many thoughts will flood your head. My recommendation – on that first day, take a DEEP breath. If you can, go back to work part time to test the waters. If I could go back in time, I probably would have done that. Leaving your child for a full week, for the first time is HARD. But always remember, it will get easier.  Eventually, you’ll get into a routine. Every morning, you’ll prepare for the day ahead, survive drop off (and get in your goodbye hug and kiss), you’ll go to work, and you’ll come home to your baby. The beauty, I’ve found, you start to treasure that limited time between pick up and bedtime. You’ll get less distracted by your phone and soak in every moment you can in that short window before your baby rubs her eyes, ready to head to dreamland.

You will miss firsts

I know this is hard to hear, and believe me, it was one of my biggest fears about daycare, but the truth is, you aren’t around your baby 24/7, which means you will miss things. You wont be there the first time glitter is introduced (though, honestly, I can’t imagine that is a positive experience for someone with animals and very limited time to clean). You won’t be there the day your baby decides one nap is all that is needed. And, if you’re anything like us, you wont be there when your baby girl takes her first steps.

That’s right. The first time Abby walked, the first time she let go of someone’s hands to take a step, neither of us were around. And, it was hard realizing we had missed it. We didn’t get to see the excitement on her face when she first figured it out. We didn’t have a video to proudly display. I honestly felt like a terrible mother because I had missed such an impeccable moment in my child’s life. We only found out because her teacher told me during pick-up. And, because she is stubborn like her mommy, Abby refused to walk in front of us. Not only did we miss the first steps, we missed out on a week (maybe more) of her walking. However, I must say, the day she did walk at home, for us for the first time, she beamed with pride. It was almost as if she were rehearsing for a big show at daycare, and didn’t want mom and dad to see until opening night. And now, she runs! Toddlers seriously have no fear, and no sense of direction – that poor girl has fallen so many times and walked into so many walls. Once again, another trait she got from mommy.

One day, your baby won’t say goodbye

This was and continues to be a hard one to swallow. Shortly after she learned to crawl, Abby refused to sit still. And now that she’s running everywhere, it’s nearly impossible to catch her. And, the day will come, where you’ll put your baby down at daycare and she will not look back at you. There’s a new toy in the corner that needs to be chewed on, or a few books that have not yet been ripped to pieces, or just another child to interact with. And there you are, standing in the doorway, with no goodbye hug nor kiss. And you’ll start to think your baby, the one you have cared for every day, prefers the teachers over you. Every day when I drop Abby off, she runs (no sprints) to her teacher to give her a morning hug, eventually turning to me to say “BYEEEE” with barely a glance in my direction. I wont lie, it stings. I do make it a point to walk over to her for a goodbye hug, despite if she is distracted, because I’m human and I need my goodbye snuggle before I deal with the morning rush hour. But here’s the thing, it’s actually a good thing that your baby runs to the teacher, or immediately decides to play with a child, or grab a toy. It means your baby feels at home at daycare. It means that your precious baby is in good hands. I have been told that eventually, they start to revert and will cry as you leave. I’ve seen this with the older kids. And then, a magical thing happens. The hysterical child will see mom or dad leave, look around, and begin playing. I’m not sure if this will make me feel worse or better once that time comes around.

But here’s the thing, you know what makes up for missing out on that goodbye hug and kiss, or not having a child screaming for you to stick around – the welcome you receive at pickup. No matter how stressful my work day may be, or how frustrated I was by the insane amount of traffic, or how nervous I am about the to-do lists flying around my head – when I walk into that classroom and see that smile on my baby girl, it all melts away. And Abby is not a special case. Every child I have seen during his or her own pick up, lights up immediately when mom or dad enter. Abby now sprints to me, yelling “MOMEEEE”, and often trips on a toy, but jumps right back up and begs for a hug.

So, for any parents worried about surviving daycare, focusing on how hard drop off may be, the fear of missing out, the worry of being replaced, always remember your baby loves you. It will be hard. It will be stressful. But your baby will love you no matter what.

Happy one year anniversary to us!