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Baby

  • Is your Baby getting enough Vitamin D?

    Breastfeeding your baby is a great way to not only bond with your baby but to give them the very best customized nutrition and antibodies that they need to be healthy.  However the one vitamin that you may be lacking in providing through your breast milk is vitamin D. Vitamin D is an important part of both your pregnancy diet while your baby’s bones are developing and your breastfeeding diet as your baby continues to grow and develop.

    If you do not get enough Vitamin D in your diet when you are pregnant your baby may develop a condition called rickets from soft bones. Also by getting enough Vitamin D while you are pregnant you increase your chances of having a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy.

    While breastfeeding it is important that you eat a healthy diet as your nutrient intake is what feeds your baby the vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy as well. Depending on how much vitamin D you are getting with your diet and sun exposure, you may or may not be providing enough vitamin D for your baby. If you do not have enough vitamin D in your diet, you will need to give your baby a vitamin D supplement (and you should probably a supplement for yourself too).

    Vitamin D deficiency is linked to a number of factors including:

    Not enough sun exposure outside.

    Having dark skin

    Being overweight or obese

    General recommendations for Vitamin D for pregnant women by the Vitamin D Council are 4,000-6,000 IU/day. Researchers found that moms that took at least 4,000 IU a day where more likely to have uncomplicated births and their newborns were likely to have enough vitamin D when he or she was born. Women without enough Vitamin D in their diets were more likely to have premature births, develop gestational diabetes, have preeclampsia and more likely to have a C-Section.

    The Vitamin D Council’s recommended intake of vitamin D for babies is 1,000 IU/day.  If you are getting enough vitamin D as a breastfeeding mother, then your baby is also getting enough vitamin D and does not need a supplement. If you baby does need a supplement you can give them prescription vitamin D drops directly or add them to food or drink for your baby.

    If you as a breastfeeding mother are taking a supplement of 6,000 IU of vitamin D each day, then your baby does not need a vitamin D supplement as your breast milk will have enough. If you are not taking a supplement (or you are taking less than 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D) and not getting a good amount if sun exposure, then you need to give your baby a vitamin D supplement.

    If you are getting a good amount of skin exposure to the sun each day, then you are probably getting enough vitamin D to make your breast milk rich with vitamin D. However most mothers are not able to get enough skin exposure every day to meet this requirement and do need a supplement 5-6 days a week. When you are not getting enough sun exposure for a number of days your breast milk will quickly clear itself of vitamin D unless you are taking a supplement.

    The upper limits for Vitamin D intake is 2,000 IU/day for babies and 10,000 IU/day for pregnant women. So, unless you are over supplementing, it is hard to exceed these limits. Formula milk varies with how much vitamin D in the formula. Most formula milk has between 40-100 IUs of vitamin D per 100 calories. You will need to figure out how much formula your child has a day to add up the vitamin D IUs they are getting. Based on this result you can figure out if you need to supplement your baby with vitamin D or not and how much to supplement. Remember to adjust your supplements as your baby’s intake of formula may increase over time.

    Although exposing your skin to the sun is a great way for pregnant and breastfeeding women to increase their vitamin D supply for both themselves and their babies, you also want to be careful not to burn. Although skin exposure for your baby will increase their vitamin D directly, your baby’s skin is extra sensitive and should not be exposed directly to the sun for at least the first six months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Even after 6 months you will need to be careful of your baby’s sun exposure, especially in the hot summer months as burns can happen quickly to your baby’s sensitive skin.

    Vitamin D supplements are a good subject to bring up with your pediatrician. However it is also good to educate yourself on this subject as well so you can have a very informed conversation with your doctor on how to best supplement your baby if needed.

  • New Research Supports Vaccinating your Child on Time

    The vaccine controversy has raged for a number of years, particularly with celebrities sharing personal cases of why they have chosen not to vaccinate or why they are in favor of delaying vaccinating their child.  New research may add more fuel to the fire of that argument or at least more support for following wide spread agreed upon practices by the medical community to vaccinate your child in a timely manner as recommended by your doctor.

    Current statistics show that one in eight children have been under vaccinated due to parent’s concern over vaccines and refusing or delaying their child’s vaccines. These parents are concerned that their child may be receiving too many vaccines at one time or for their young age or their child's small size.

    By inspecting the data more closely, it has been discovered that the opposite is true. A recent study published by JAMA Pediatrics found that the risk of an adverse reaction to a vaccine, such as a fever or in extreme cases, a seizure, increased in older toddlers from 16-23 months old, versus younger children 12-16 months old (which is the recommended age range for receiving the vaccine). This research suggests that delaying vaccinations was not a safer choice, as many presumed it might be. Instead the younger children with less well developed immune systems actually had fewer side effects from the vaccine despite having less robust immune system than the older toddler, who was more likely to have a side effect.

    In the editorial written by Dr. Kristen A. Feemster and Dr. Paul Offit , she stated in response to these findings, “vaccines are recommended at certain ages and intervals to optimize the immune response, ensure protection when a child is most at risk for disease acquisition, and minimize adverse events.” Her editorial goes to state that this type of research supports the well-established safety and timing of the current vaccine schedule for children.

    Avoiding the vaccines altogether is even riskier as more and more cases of measles are cropping up across the United States from children and young adults who have never been vaccinated with sometimes fatal results. This is a risk that many parents do not take into consideration when choosing to delay or refuse vaccines as many may think that these older less frequent diseases, such as measles or whooping cough, are no longer a threat. As more parents refuse vaccines, there is a much greater likelihood of a breakout from these older diseases which can quickly become more widespread in an unvaccinated community. The risk is even greater in today’s global economy with diseases passing quickly across borders with people traveling more frequently and with air travel.

    While you are pregnant, this is a good time to do your research and talk with your pediatrician about any concerns in vaccinating your child. If you have not yet chosen a pediatrician, this is the time to interview and choose one that you are comfortable with – remember this is a doctor who you will be visiting quite often in the early months and years of your child's life and perhaps for the entirety of their childhood and early adulthood. This person will be your trusted advisor for many a well-child visit and any time your child gets sick.

    It is important that you do your own research as well with vaccinating so you know where you stand when decision time comes up. Celebrities with well stated public opinions on these matters are just one data point and who are usually not medical experts. So do not give undo weight to their opinion over well conducted clinical research. Your pediatrician is the best place to start if you have any questions or concerns about vaccinating your baby and making an informed decision on your approach to vaccination.

  • The Magic of Maternity Swimwear

    One must-have item that every pregnant woman needs in her wardrobe this summer is a maternity swimsuit that she loves. The criteria for loving it is that you will actually wear it and maybe look forward to wearing it, and that it does in fact fit comfortably and can be worn in the water without coming off or showing through.

    Many expecting women think that they really don’t need a maternity swimsuit, but the truth of the matter is that you will be hotter than hot this summer as you are running on a pregnancy thermostat, which always runs hotter than your normal pre-pregnancy temperature with elevated levels of progesterone flooding your veins. The reason they say you have a “bun in the oven” is because you are in fact cooking and yes, you are the oven.

    There is probably a good chance most of us will be near water at least some point this summer and there is no more relaxing activity or safer exercise for a pregnant woman than going in the pool and actually swimming or even just wading around. Your baby is swimming inside you all the time, so why not join him and her with your own water aerobic workout, swim a lap or two or simply move around in the water and enjoy the buoyancy of a lighter belly at last. In fact it will probably be the only time where you actually feel both cool and weightless, and that in itself is reason to invest in a very nice maternity swimsuit.

    The other misconception pregnant women often have, and myself included for my first pregnancy, is that you don’t actually need a maternity swimsuit. This, my friends, is an 'ole wives tale because either they don’t remember how uncomfortable it was to wear a regular swimsuit while pregnant (including buying one size up which just makes you feel bad and still doesn’t fit just right) or they probably didn’t make maternity swimsuits when those “ole wives” were around anyway. Anyone who has tried to squeeze a second to third trimester body into their pre-pregnancy swimsuit knows that it just doesn’t work and is very uncomfortable. Plus, by the end of those nine months that swimsuit is pretty much shot anyway with spandex that does not spring back into place, ever.

    Maternity swimsuits are really the best invention since sliced bread. Once you try one on, in the right size, you will have a "Hallelujah" moment. Finally, at last, someone got it right! You are not fat and your body is not bigger with the same proportions, you just have completely enlarged Dolly Parton proportions that can often include not only the expected belly and chest parts but also the bottom, just to help balance out that center of gravity in the front no doubt. Plus your breast are extra sensitive, so don't even think about minimizing swimsuits nor does your tummy need any pressure. Be respectful of the bump and honor it, you do have a living being down there after all who is only getting bigger by the minute and needs to breate. Also the thought of restrictive clothing of any kind is both suffocating and nauseating to most pregnant women.

    Maternity swimwear, when done well, is genius. It can have you actually looking good in your swimsuit, maybe even sexy if you allow yourself to admit it. Plus it is made to stretch and stretch and stretch comfortably where needed without falling off in the pool or getting carried away in a tidal wave (not that you should be doing any aggressive wave jumping at this point!)  As a result you can actually save money by not having to buy a new ill-fitting non-maternity swimsuit every 2 weeks or show excessive cleavage or worry about wardrobe malfunctions while enjoying the club pool with mixed company or chasing a toddler in the baby pool.

    Good fitting, well made and deliciously styled maternity swimwear is your right, your privilege for being pregnant in the summer time. It's your reason to get in the pool and move those achy joints while looking good at the same time. Enjoy your pregnancy and your summer with the right maternity swimsuit!

  • Why the French Look so Fit so soon after Pregnancy

    Now we have new evidence not only why French Women don’t get fat but why they bounce back so quickly after having a baby compared to most of us in the United States and other countries.

    In most countries, the US included, women are often sent home ASAP after the baby, sometimes as soon as the next day following delivery. Once at  home women are left to fend for themselves for both caring for their baby, breastfeeding their newborn and recovering from birth both physically and mentally.

    In France, however, women see their gynecologist within the first month of birth for a full checkup and discussion session. They then routinely get twelve half hour sessions with a specialist in postnatal physiotherapy to rehabilitate their pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. This specialist also checks the abdominal muscles for any damage or separation caused during pregnancy and French postpartum women are then given exercises to tone them up.

    Many of us develop “mommy tummy” following delivery that oftentimes never fully goes away. This is the horizontal roll of fat along your stomach that hangs down in two sections if you bend over. The technical name for this is abdominal diastasis and it is often an indication that the abdominal muscles have not fully closed back together again after childbirth. This separation is caused during pregnancy when the front abdominal muscle that wraps around the baby starts to pull apart. In France this abdominal area is checked before women even leave the hospital and they are then given a set of exercises to heal the damage. In most places in the US, women are overlooked in this department and sent home fully oblivious to any damage caused to their abdominal muscles and pelvic floor during pregnancy nor are they given any instructions on what to do about it.

    Oftentimes women unknowingly exercise these stomach muscles too vigorously too soon after birth, like doing sit-ups or running (particularly if they used to be super fit before they were pregnant and are eager to resume their fitness routines), which further contributes to increased separation and damage of this muscle. In France women are shown how to strengthen their pelvic-floor muscles to close the gap and then introduced to more advanced abdominal exercises.

    Knowing this, it is a good idea to ask your doctor to check your abdominal muscles before leaving the hospital to determine if you have any separation and, if so, to understand the degree of it. It is common to have more of a problem if you have had more than one baby or if you had a big baby.

    If you do have a gap ask your doctor to prescribe for you some basic stretching exercises to help to begin closing this gap. Ask your doctor to show you how to feel the gap when you lie on your back so you can also monitor the progress at home.

    Even if we don’t live in France we can at least reap some of these postnatal benefits by educating ourselves on what they are doing so well. We can also speak up to our doctors for the same rehabilitation advice so we can be healthy and happy postpartum and lose the "mommy tummy" for good!

  • Attention Expectant Moms – Drive Carefully!

    Drive Safely! Drive Safely!

    A new study by the Canadian Association Journal cautions that pregnant women, particularly those in their second trimester, have a significantly higher risk of getting into car accidents than women who are not pregnant. Although the cause is still uncertain, it did find the risk of getting into a serious accident rose 42% during the middle trimester of pregnancy.

    Although I usually attribute such news or assertions to stereotypical data skewing, this research does seem to have some valid data behind it to warrant a cause for concern. The study leader, Dr. Donald Redelmeier, told NPR that he suspects the normal symptoms that accompany pregnancy and which may be more pronounced during the second trimester such as fatigue, insomnia and stress, are likely the reason for this uptick in driving accidents.

    This would make sense as numerous studies have shown that fatigue is as big or sometimes bigger culprit than alcohol in many motor vehicle accidents. Also, pregnant women oftentimes have to deal with nausea, morning sickness and even under eating and unusual diets during this time. Physiologically expectant woman have increased hormones associated with pregnancy, namely progesterone and estrogen, which can lead to looser tendons and ligaments, thus further lack of coordination and reaction time when driving a car.

    Now hopefully this study does not give us one more thing to be paranoid about during pregnancy as we already have such a laundry list of “don’ts” but increased awareness and vigilance is not a bad thing. Dr. Redelmeier tells NPR, that telling pregnant women to be careful drivers “seems like incredibly banal advice to give. I realize that. But every one of our crashes in the study could have been avoided by a small change in driver behaviors.” Those small changes included minimizing speed and distractions (not texting or reading email while driving or talking on cell phones while driving) and simply taking care to follow traffic rules could have avoided an accident.

    Maybe skipping that morning coffee has increased the risk as well (they didn’t check out that variable)! In any case, go ahead and grab your keys and drive where you need to go, but just be a little extra careful to pay attention as you do have a baby onboard.

  • Tylenol during Pregnancy may be linked to ADHD

    It seems there are so many rules during pregnancy that it gets very confusing about what we need to take, like Folic Acid, and what we should avoid, like alcohol, caffeine and many pain medications. Now the latest research has uncovered that many seemingly benign over the counter pain relievers, including Tylenol, that are often prescribed to pregnant women, may not be as safe as we thought.

    A new study from Demark published Monday in the journal of JAMA Pediatrics now suggests that over-the-counter pain relievers with acetaminophen when used during pregnancy may be associated with ADHD behavioral problems in children. Although this is new research and the study authors were careful to state that “exhibiting ADHD-like behaviors” is not necessarily the same as being diagnosed with ADHD. All the same, it is cause for concern and for caution in taking medication containing acetaminophen as the active ingredient. This news is especially alarming since Tylenol has long been considered one of the safer medications pregnant women were advised to take for a fever, headache or the many aches and pains of pregnancy.

    If you have taken Tylenol during pregnancy do not panic. The study suggests that the risk is more highly associated with taking acetaminophen for long periods of time and particularly later in pregnancy. The women in the study that reported used acetaminophen pain relieving medications for 20 weeks or more had a 50% increase in requesting ADHD medication in their children later on. It is too early to assume that this is a cause and effect relationship but there is certainly enough evidence to avoid Tylenol and any medication containing acetaminophen during pregnancy if possible or at least to be very cautious in dosage and how long it is taken during pregnancy.

    This study reminds us to be extra vigilant about medications during pregnancy and to be sure to consult your doctor if you have any questions about any medication. No question is a stupid question for your doctor. Also it is important to do your own research on medications in addition to consulting your doctor as studies such as this one are very new and may not have made the rounds to all the medical communities. It is also important to have these conversations with your doctor to inform them of new information that may not have been known when they were in medical school and is not yet common knowledge.

    This study is also a reminder that we cannot assume that what we did prepregnancy exercise-wise, work-wise, or medication-wise is also safe during pregnancy and nursing postpartum. Also, it is a constant re-evaluation of what is best as our bodies are constantly changing during pregnancy, so nothing is static. If you are having pain issues there are many non pharmacological ways you can explore to deal with pain including massages, baths and acupuncture to name a few. While we do not want to be paranoid about everything we do, it is also better to err on the safe and conservative side during pregnancy when in doubt.

    Knowledge is power. It is important to do your own research during pregnancy and make your own informed decision about everything you decide to do. The end of day do not stress over your choices, just know you did the best you could do which is really what parenting is all about. None of us is perfect and guilt gets us nowhere, but informed decisions are the best way we can be the responsible and loving parent for our child that we all want and strive to be.

  • Folic Acid during Pregnancy may reduce Baby’s risk of Autism

    Most of us have received the news flash that we should take our prenatal vitamins and in particular we should take our folic acid when we are pregnant. Folic acid is an important vitamin for helping prevent neural tube defects in babies. However, did you know that it may help reduce autism?

    Now this is even more relatable a reason for most of us as autism is almost always in the news, seemingly on the rise or at least on the rise in terms of diagnosis and is surrounded by a shroud of mystery and debate over how a child can get it or be born with it.

    A new study in Norway found a very strong correlation between a reduction in autism and women who took folic acid supplements four weeks before their pregnancy and through at least the 8th week of their pregnancy. Women who took Folic Acid daily during this time period saw a 40% reduction in autism in their children (when they were tested about 8 years later) as compared to the children of the pregnant women in the group who did not take folic acid for this time period. This is a huge reduction in autism!

    Apparently timing does matter. The earlier you can start supplementing with folic acid prior to conception, the better. The study found that in terms of autism risk that the folic acid supplements did not seem to have any impact beyond the 22nd week of pregnancy. The crucial time interval was from four weeks before conception to eight weeks into the pregnancy.

    Of course it does not hurt to continue on with folic acid throughout your pregnancy and who knows, maybe there’s further benefits or risk reductions that are yet to be uncovered from continuing with folic acid beyond the first trimester. However, what researchers have uncovered so far is enough evidence to start any woman even thinking about having a baby to be popping a folic acid supplement right away.

    So what is folic acid? It is the B vitamin that helps with the construction and repair of DNA molecules which is the genetic code that controls all of the body’s cells, including the brain cells. It is especially important to take it early in pregnancy during the development of the baby’s spine and nervous system to prevent neural tube defects, including spina bifida. Doctors typically recommend that all women who are planning on getting pregnant to take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily from a multivitamin and continue taking this amount throughout their early pregnancy.

    Now with 1 out of 88 children diagnosed with autism we hope that this research will help us reduce the risk of childhood autism and increase awareness of our ability to potentially prevent this disability by supplementing with Folic Acid early in our pregnancy and even before. Knowledge is power so let’s empower ourselves and those we know with this scientific knowledge and preventative health measure of supplementing daily with Folic Acid if we are pregnant or hope to become pregnant. It’s an easy lifestyle adder that can reap benefits in our child’s health and well-being for a lifetime.

  • Our Breast Milk is Smarter than We Thought

    Just when we think we know everything healthy and nutritious and miraculous there is to know about breastfeeding and our baby’s health, we find out something new. A new study just uncovered even more amazing news about the mother’s body, it’s uncanny knowledge and ability to know our baby’s gender and produce customized milk for our baby girl or baby boy. (We already know it produced milk for the exact age of our child, be it premature or full-term, or a toddler a year or more after birth if we still nurse).

    Interestingly, a common theme in humans, monkeys and other mammals is that there are a variety of differences in the quantity and type of milk that is produced for our babies depending on their gender. Baby boys tend to get richer or denser milk which has more fat and protein in it, providing them with more energy while baby girls tend to get milk that is produced in greater quantities. (Didn’t we always say baby boys were pumped full of adrenaline and our baby girls calmly nursed forever?)

    Last Friday this research was shared at the Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting. Although it is not clear why human mothers produce such different milk for their girl or boy babies, there is evidence that this customized milk is developed while the baby is still in utero. This does give mothers more reason to try and breastfeed our baby with our individualized formula which our body intelligently produces for our child.

    "Mothers are producing different biological recipes for sons and daughters," said Katie Hinde, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University.

    "While the food aspects of milk to some extent are replicated in formula, the immuno factors and medicine of milk are not and the hormonal signals are not," Hende said.

    As new research continues to uncover more interesting facts about mother’s breast milk, it is clear that breastfeeding is the optimal food choice for our baby. As we continue to learn more about our body’s ability to produce the ideal milk formula for our infant, we are encouraged about how this new scientific knowledge can also help other infants who are in need of specialized breast milk and who cannot get it from their mothers.

    “Getting a better understanding of how milk is personalized for specific infants will also help hospitals find better matches for breast milk donated to help nourish sick and premature infants in neo natal units”, added Hinde.

    It’s powerful knowledge to know that you are your baby’s best nutrition source and you are your baby’s perfect biological match, not only for giving birth but for continuing to feed, nourish and nurture your unique child.

    If you are having trouble nursing, do not hesitate to ask for help. You can contact a lactation consultant or even a mother’s support group like La Leche League in your area to find the support that you need to help you nurse your baby successfully.

  • Mom Blogger and Burn Victim Survivor, Stephanie Nielson, Shares thoughts on Motherhood

    As a Stay at Home Mom I am always looking for inspirational stories about mothering to inspire and motivate me to be a better mom. The other day I noticed a story about an amazing woman, Stephanie Nielson, who survived a plane crash with her husband, Christian Nielson, in 2008. Both Stephanie and her husband were badly burned by the fire from the plane explosion, with Stephanie sustaining burns of over 80% her body.

    Stephanie was put in a medically induced coma for 10 weeks to survive the burns. Today she is alive and well as a mother of 5, but not without daily physical challenges and pain and scars from the accident, including significant burn scars on her face and hands.

    Stephanie has a Mommy Blog called the NieNie Dialogues which she started before accident in 2005 as a 23 year old wife and mother of four. She continued with her blog after her accident when she could use her hands again to type and even published a memior about her experience, “Heaven is Here” in April 2012, the same day her fifth child, Charlotte, was born.

    Recently Stephanie was the keynote speaker at a RootsTech Conference, a family history and technology conference. She spoke about the importance of documenting your lives.

    "Document your families," she said. "Document your life. You may not have been through a plane crash, but you do have a story. Everyone has a story, and it needs to be told."

    She also spoke about the preciousness of motherhood and how being a mother to her children was the driving factor in her survival and recovery from her accident. However her path to health and recovery was not easy.

    “Each day, when I was in this excruciating, horrible pain, doctors and nurses would change my bandages, sometimes twice a week, and I still couldn't move on my own," Nielsen said. "Each day I was so discouraged. Each day I became a little more depressed, and my dream of being that mother I've always wanted to be my entire life was disappearing."

    When her kids first saw her after she awoke from her coma, she said they expected to see their mother the way she used to look and were shocked and frightened to find her disfigured and badly scarred. Her daughter, Jane, took one look at her and was too frightened to look at her again.

    "After the visit I pretty much cried that entire day and night and weeks and days that followed," Nielsen said. "I decided that I never wanted to be a mother again. But as the days went on, I thought a lot about our meeting. I think that meeting was both horrible as it was inspiring. I wanted my job back."

    Gradually she was able to get that job back of being a hands-on mother again. She was also able to get pregnant again and have another baby with her husband which was a dream of hers since before the crash.

    Stephanie encouraged those at the conference to capture memories and document their family’s lives. It does not have to be through blogging as she does, but any tangible way – through scrapbooking, journaling, audio – and to never stop doing so. She told the people at the RootsTech conference that these documented memories will be a gift for their children and future generations.

    "You are here today because you love your family, because you want a connection with your descendants," Nielsen said. "I encourage you to find stories with your loved ones that can help you develop an attitude of gratitude for the ones who came before you. We are all survivors of something."

    This story inspired me not only to begin to scrapbook and start putting together those family albums and wall photo collages I have been promising myself to do since I first gave birth to my son 11 years ago, but also to take the time to actively appreciate my kids and the gift of motherhood more.

    As Stephanie says, motherhood is “a job” and one that we are privileged to have. It’s not an easy job, but it can be a very fulfilling one and meaningful one if we take the time to appreciate the small moments of each day and to develop an attitude of gratitude. By taking the time to document and savor these experiences we help both ourselves be more joyful and grateful in our lives and provide our children with a wealth of experience, love and learnings to pass to future generations.

    Like many of us, I am one of those moms who takes a lot of photos and captures a lot of images of my kids on my cellphone. We have literally thousands of photos stored on our computer of our children through every stage of their lives and then some – film is cheap, right? I am good about passing along a quick photo of my kids to grandparents and relatives or even a short video clip. However I have not been good about taking the time to put together something meaningful and accessible with all those photos for my immediate family, so we can enjoy the best of these cherished images on a daily basis and be reminded of the special moments we have had together in our lives.

    There is a wealth of goodness in each day and we don’t need to be in a plane crash or to be a burn victim to begin to understand the messages that Stephanie’s inspirational story tells us. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday to do lists and the exhaustion of trying to keep up with the daily demands of parenting. Just taking a step back and altering our perspective a little to look for the light and goodness of each day and even just to be grateful for our physical abilities to be a mom, is something most of us can take to heart. I know I can.

  • SAHM Chronicles - What it's REALLY like

    In Annabel Monahgan hilarious article, “An open letter to my husband, don’t ask me what I’m up to today” she highlights how staying at home isn’t all “naps and brunches.”

    Whether you are a professional mom on maternity leave or a seasoned Stay at Home parent of multiples, you quickly find out that staying at home with your child is often not as glamorous or as easy as it sounds. Also, the better the parent you try to be, the more work it is (and the less you productive you actually feel)!

    Staying at home with your child can be the best job in the world; you get to spend more time with your baby or older kids, no business trips or early morning conference calls to deal with, you can wear anything you want, right? But sometimes it can be the most frustrating and undervalued in terms of feelings of accomplishment and value with no regular office hours and no paycheck to take home. Kids can be more unruly than coworkers and there is nowhere to hide and no one else to blame when things get rough or go wrong. You assume as a woman that mothering and homemaking come naturally so there’s no major learning needed; women have been doing this job for years so how hard can it really be? It’s not like you can get fired, right? But that whole assumption is a myth at best, you may not get fired but your family can give you a lot of grief if things start going haywire so that you wished you could get fired. Staying at home is a job and it is truly a labor of love that often goes unnoticed and underappreciated for all the work it is, mostly by the person doing the work herself.

    After reading the satirical article by Annabel Monahgan where she details a few typical days of herself as a SAHM, I could not stop laughing at how closely it resembled many of my days at as a stay at home parent and probably the life of most of the SAHMs I knew. I promptly mass mailed it to everyone I knew who was a fulltime at home parent. Soon afterwards my inbox was flooded with exclamation points in vigorous agreement on the validity of this author’s humorous rant.

    My husband did not think Annabel’s article was the least bit funny, and he seemed a bit insulted that I thought it was, that I maybe felt underappreciated in my job as a SAHM as he never minimalized my role (nor did he ask me to be a SAHM, I decided that one myself and spent a good couple of months convincing him and everyone else, namely myself, that it was a good idea).

    I told my husband that the point of the article was not about blaming the husband for assuming he is quietly judging the SAHM wife for being unproductive or useless, the husband was in fact the “straight man”, even the “good guy” in this story and never showed any hint of disappointment in his wife’s chosen role, it was about the SAHM wife herself trying to justify her existence and sense of accomplishment in her daily life as it appeared she was doing absolutely nothing (as she was still in her pjs with dirty dishes and needy children at the end of the day when her husband returned home as she was at the start of the day when he left). She had in fact done plenty -racing around kids in and out of school to doctor’s offices, making meal, running necessary errands, doing the dishes, just nothing that seemed very important at the time. Everything she did and needed to do fell below the radar of even mentioning to her husband over coffee on most days of the week unless it was attending a School Board Room Meeting, where she would proudly enunciate Ex-ec-u-tive as part of her title in her appointed position as a school parent on the Board. However, the majority of her mundane and seemingly silly repetitive or stress inducing tasks were highly necessary in order to raise healthy, productive, nourished kids and to keep the house and everyone’s lives running smoothly. This in itself is a daily miraculous feat for any of us although it’s easy to not see or appreciate the effort that goes into this arduous task until you personally experience it first hand, everyday.

    What really struck a chord with me (and other SAHM who responded to this article) was the lack of visibility of accomplishments in the mom-job. This is actually true for both working and stay and home moms. The difference is that the fulltime SAHM, unless they are highly secure evolved individuals, not in need of positive reinforce or monetary reward and who truly understand the meaning of life and their important place in the world, have very little tangible and visible day to day proof of their hard work.

    For example, unless your house has gone from very messy to clean over the course of the day (which begs the question as to why you allowed it to get messy in the first place or why you haven’t better trained your children put away their clothes and clean up their toys), you generally don’t have a lot of “proof” of your accomplishments from that day, and you certainly don’t have a paycheck to show for it (although you might feel the need to justify the kid’s new spring wardrobe or even worse, new additions to your own wardrobe).

    It seems the bar is always being raised for moms, not only are we expected to take care of the kids and their meals as a woman might have over 50 years ago who stayed home with her kids, we are also supposed to prepare meals that are properly balanced in the ever changing food group ideal and prepared according to the current guidelines of what is considered “safe” and “healthy” for your family to consume without some fatal allergic or carcinogenic ingredient. Even if ,say, you cooked a new dish for dinner that was properly organic , glutton free and vegan with the right balance of carbohydrates and protein according the food pyramid du jour, you have not really nailed it completely as a model SAHM. To be truly accomplished in this endeavor you must encourage your kids and husband to sit down at the table together politely and with good table manners (that in itself a monumental task), have everyone enjoy and eat all of the said meal while remarking nicely over its flavor and finish said meal on time before carting the kids off to their next activity or helping finish a homework assignment and or get kids showered and changed into pajamas AND get all of those dishes and counter tops cleaned up before bedtime before it could really be said to be a job well done with today’s high standards and expectations for parents, particularly moms. But you ask yourself as devil’s advocate, isn’t feeding your kids and family a nutritious meal on time just part of the job description of SAHM, not something you should get kudos for – just feeding the family dinner right? It’s not like you got a raise, promotion or invented a patent…

    Of course the professional parent has the same dilemma for mealtime, but I know when I was professional parent I cut myself a lot more slack and leaned on my husband a lot more for meal preparation. It really boils down to self-assessment and expectations, which can feel insurmountable if we believe the myths of our culture.

    So the measure of success is difficult for a SAHM and since no one is really interested in measuring it besides you, it usually boils down to you yourself being your own boss and oftentimes a pretty tough one when it comes to self-reviews of job performance. It’s a very ambiguous area, although it is clear when you are truly slacking and have missed the mark in certain areas…Like when the school calls to tell you that Johnny has been waiting at the school office to be picked up for the past 45 minutes and you forgot it was Tuesday when he doesn’t take the bus home. Now not only is Johnny late for soccer practice he is pretty grumpy at being forgotten and abandoned at school when you yourself told him you would arrive early to get him first thing in school carpool pickup lane that day. Instead he had to sit glumly as the minutes ticked away on the big school office clock as an unclaimed child next to the humorless office clerk who was not too thrilled with his humorless company either.

    Or, you know you missed the mark when you get a stack of library notices in your kids’ take home folder that indicate that every one of your children have overdue books from the beginning of the school year that are not to be found in your house ANYWHERE at all. None of them. Also you owe the library double the costs of each one of these books although they would really prefer that you find and return the actual books themselves. But they are NOWHERE. You have checked in your kids’ backpack and all over your house, every room, drawer, under the kids’ beds, bookshelves, laundry bins, trash cans, outside in the backyard sandbox, nowhere. How big of a personal check do you need to write the library and how big of an apology do you need to give to the homeroom teacher and librarian to cover this mess of incompetence? Should you buy all the books on Amazon with overnight shipping to quickly assuage this debt to the struggling school library and your struggling ego as a responsible parent? Heck, this sin cancels out your week of volunteering at the School Book Fare last month!

    Or how about the day when you forget to pack your child’s snack AND lunch which you only happen to find out about en route to dance class when your daughter casually mentions to you that she has not eaten ALL DAY as she did not have a lunch or snack at school (or think to buy one on credit or have the school call you) and is REALLY hungry! When you return home later you discover the untouched lunch box and pristine brown snack bag sitting innocently on the kitchen counter where it was neatly packed that morning and where it was unclaimed by your child and never placed in their backpack as they were running late to the bus that morning. It was also never noticed by you in the midst of your whirlwind morning routine. How did this slip through the cracks?

    Or worse, your kid comes home sunburned from school and you later read the teacher email sent out to all the class parents cautioning that the kids should be sure to wear sunscreen to school along with their long distance running shoes with the current surprise heat wave that’s going on and with outdoor PE at noon as they are still running laps on the black asphalt on Wednesdays despite the warmer weather. You KNOW the email is targeted to you alone and that every parent on the mailing list who picked up their child at school that day MUST know it too as they have also seen your red-faced blond headed child sitting on the curb at the afternoon carpool pickup. Yes it’s easy to get a little paranoid or self critical. These are the days that you feel you have truly “failed” on the job and there are no two ways about it, because on these days even the President knows you do not deserve your title as “Mom” and the school principal himself must be calling Child Protective Services at this moment. But somehow the sun goes up the next day and you have a blank slate to start the day with and a chance to raise the bar and tally up some “Good Mommy Points", although only you are really keeping score, right?

    So it goes in the life of the Stay at Home Mom. But again, this is often a self-chosen profession, so no pity parties here and most of us are grateful for the privilege, although we do have our days in our pjs doing dishes at night when we wonder, what did we accomplish today? Just remind yourself, plenty.

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