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Tag Archives: new mom

  • Advice to New Moms -Be Yourself!

    link to Art Docent Program Home PageIf you are about to become a first time mom or if you are a new mom, here is my hand me down mom advice for you. Don’t cringe, because it’s advice you’re going to like, not critical unsolicited advice that by virtue of being a mother you will be sure to get a lot of anyway. Here’s my advice, do things your way. Don’t crumble to the pressure to be perfect, or try to be your own mother re-incarnated. You may not be wired to be just like that neighbor or friend who “seems” to do it all perfectly while sewing her kids’ clothes and posting cute Pinterest quality DIY birthday invite, party favors and everything in between. It’s easy to drive yourself crazy from pregnancy onwards trying to figure out how to live up to what you perceive is the perfect mom because, really, no one really is. We can only be our own best version and that’s usually much better than copying somebody else’s version.

    My advice to you and my younger self of 10-12 years ago is try to simply be the best mom you can be without driving yourself crazy. Being the best mom for you might mean that you splurge on a biweekly housekeeper to help you keep your sanity. It also might mean that your husband is the main cook in the house and you all do not fall in the traditional role criteria for Mom and Dad – that’s just fine too. Maybe you are the main breadwinner and both you and your husband work fulltime, so you child is in fulltime daycare. There are many excellent daycares our there that work out wonderfully for families (just be sure to vet them and be willing to pull the plug and change if for any reason you feel you should). It might mean that you hire a babysitter on your day off so you can recuperate and feel human again.

    Yes, being a mom takes sacrifices that 95% of the time you are glad to make. The hard part I find (and in talking with other mom friends it seems to be a theme), is feeling the need to live up to all of the mom standards that seem to be imposed upon us. As your kids get older to preschool and elementary school age, you will find there is tremendous pressure to volunteer. Now volunteering is a good thing and a tremendous benefit to not only your child but other children and can be very fulfilling. But if volunteering becomes an obligation that crowds our calendar out of other priorities and the energy we need to be a good mom at home with our own children, then the balance has tipped too far. Sometimes as moms we feel that it’s okay to sacrifice ourselves to the breaking point and the truth is that when we are totally burnt out and spent and even ill, we are of no use to anyone, including our families. So, it is okay to say no and to ignore the guilt when we feel we do not need to give more if we are not going to giving cheerfully.

    Also, you might find there are certain areas that you enjoy volunteering (and perhaps more gifted at) than others. I have found I enjoy teaching my kid’s reader’s workshop and some art classes, but I get antsy chaperoning for every field trip. My kids whine and complain when I don’t go on many of these field trips, but I tell them there are other moms that do that type of volunteering, but I do the other sort of volunteering in their art classes or reading workshops. The opportunities are endless for volunteering in the class, on the playground, on the soccer teams and for playdates of course. Don’t overcommit yourself or you will become bitter and there’s nothing worse than an unhappy volunteer or an unhappy mom. Choose how you can best contribute and leave your guilt on the doorstep.

    In addition to busyness the other area we need to stand up for as moms (this goes for moms of older kids too), is the right to embrace our own identity. Once a mom, always a mom and that is beautiful thing. In the beginning it’s a new and novel identity that we can revel in or sometimes feel we haven’t quite deserved (don’t worry, that feeling will pass soon!) But, as we give more of our time and selves to our children and families, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle and forget that we have needs too. So, it is important, no matter how silly it may seem, to set a discipline early of not only taking couple time with our partners, and girl time with some friends, but also time alone to do something we really want to do even if it’s read a magazine and have a cup of coffee somewhere where no one will bother us for an hour or taking a little time out each day to walk or hit the gym. By doing this on a regular basis we will reconnect with our inner selves and have a renewed enthusiasm for our family and loved ones.

    Fashion is also a way to connect to our inner selves and something that we can choose to express who we are. A famous fashion icon (can’t remember who) once said something truly revolutionary- it was “if we change the way we dress, we can change the way we think.” The gist of the message was that if we truly dress to express our identity, not necessarily the trend or please our partners (which is not always a bad thing from time to time on a date night), but play with and develop a style that suits our personalities, than that fashion statement becomes a means to expressing our unique personalities in our lives. This is why actors and actresses wear a costume or dress the part for a play or a movie, because not only does it communicate to the audience who they are in their role, but it allows them to fully embody the identity they are portraying. It is the same with fashion and quite liberating and fun as well to experiment with our style and give ourselves permission to change our style, until we find something that truly makes us feel alive and show our truth.

    Pregnancy is wonderful opportunity to experiment with our style and go outside our comfort zone. The pressure is off because when you are pregnant, people are excited for you and your growing bump. The pressure to be thin becomes irrelevant (and should be). Also, you suddenly need to shop for a wardrobe of maternity clothes because you have outgrown everything in your closet. As your body changes, we can suddenly experiment with enhanced cleavage styles and empire waist designs that you might have never tried before. Have fun with it and play dress up on your new form with new styles and colors! Try out that maxi maternity dress or bold prints that were out of your former fashion comfort zone.

    Motherhood is a wonderful time in life but it can also be busy. Focus on the beauty of your children and don’t second guess your instincts. Follow your gut in making smart choices for your child and for yourself. But remember to embrace your unique identity and have fun expressing yourself in your maternity fashion choices.

  • Friendly Tips for your Pregnancy Journey

    Melissa Rycroft PregnancyIf it’s your first time to be pregnant, you may feel surprised by the enormous change and rate of change that your body, mind and hormones are going through. Maybe you have been trying to get pregnant for years of maybe it happened by surprise or all of a sudden. Either way, it’s an enormous change to life as you have known it, even though it may be thrilling and exciting at the same time. Fortunately we have a good eight months (from the time we find out) to get used to the idea that we are adding a member to our household and to do all we can to make the necessary practical and emotional preparations to add a baby to the family.

    As a mom of three children in the maternity clothes business, I have talked to hundreds of moms over the years. There were a number of things that I wish someone told me when I was pregnant (each time!). Here are my learnings that are not meant to be judgmental or preachy, because you get enough of that when you are pregnant and as a mom, but just meant to help you along your path and to put in your back pocket for when you need the encouragement:

    First, don’t worry about everything being perfect. It’s admirable to strive high and create the perfect nursery and have your complete six months of clothing and gear ready to go for your child before it’s born. But apart from the bare necessities of a safe sleep area, diapers, blankets, sleepers and some onesies, you are going to be just fine. Remember there is online shopping when you do need that new nursing bra because the ones you bought during pregnancy don’t fit and you are too tired to leave the house. There is also diaper services if you opt for cloth diapers but don’t want to deal with cleaning them.  Fortunately for these hectic times in life we do live in a day and age when answers can be at our fingertips. However, don’t forget to let real live people help you too. Call on your neighbors, friends and any nearby family if you need them. Now is the time to cash in on any goodwill that people are willing to offer you, you do need it and deserve any help you can get and most people are happy to help out.

    Do make sure you do have a childcare arrangement in place before you hit the nine month mark. Fill out all the necessary paperwork for FMLA/maternity leave and inform managers and coworkers of your leave. Have a plan in place at work to cover for your absence and let people know your timeframe for leave, even if it is subject to change.  Whether it be an extended maternity leave or grandparents pitching in when you return to work, it does give you some peace of mind to have at least have a plan in place for the first few months for your baby’s care. It’s also stress relieving for yourself and those around you to have a clearly communicated leave plan so you don’t leave tasks hanging or yourself and others panicking the minute. This brings me to my next point and one that many women struggle with:

    There is no right or wrong answer to what you decide on with the BIG decisions of returning to work or staying at home with your child fulltime. It is a difficult decision and if you are not sure, then maybe opt for something in between – look to have a longer maternity leave if you can negotiate that or return part-time or set up a work at home arrangement or flexible work hours. Even with large corporations it often boils down to what you can work out with your manager and generally if you can bring it up a number of months in advance you will get a more favorable response than to spring it on them a few weeks before your maternity leave. Choosing a longer leave or a more flexible hour work week is often a good stepping stone before making a more definite fulltime work or fulltime stay at home decision. You may find something in between that is just perfect for you for a period of time. Although many people will have a lot of ideas on this subject, and it may be helpful to hear their ideas and personal experiences, it is ultimately your choice to make in harmony with your partner and your financial goals. Many fathers also take FMLA and extended leave for their newborns. Some Dads decide to stay at home or work out a more flexible work schedule. Explore your options fully and just go with the best decision for you and your family (and don’t worry about making the perfect decision). Do not let anyone guilt you about your decision to stay home or not stay home. They are both equally valid choices.

    There are many solutions to caring for your newborn from a fulltime nanny, daycare, grandparents pitching in or some combination of everything. If you are looking at caregivers it is a good idea to start interviewing in advance of your due date. If you are looking at daycare arrangement then embark on your tours of these facilities well in advance and go with your gut if you are not comfortable with a particular place or caregiver. Many daycare businesses have a waiting list, so it may be a good idea to get on the waiting list early, even if you find a better plan later an and drop off the list.  Remember you are allowed to change course at any time. No one is holding you to your decision and if they are, then they should not be as this decision is yours and your partner’s alone. You can be a good mother and work at the office, you can be a good mother and work at home, and you can be a good mother and stay at home with your child. There are good nannies and not so good nannies and some grandparents are excellent fulltime caretakers for their grandchildren while some do not have the energy, abilities or desire to take on this more involved role. You can navigate these steps and arrive at the best solution. Life is not perfect and it's not supposed to be - how boring would that be?!! We all do our best and our best is typically more than enough for the health and wellbeing of our baby, selves and family, even if it is not perfectly perfect. Children have turned out well with all varieties of paths for early caregiving.

    The next point of advice is the one that is often most ignored by both new and experienced moms. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. This advice extends to pregnancy. Now is a time when your body is under tremendous change. Every day you will probably notice something different about some part of your anatomy whether it be a tighter bra, a bigger belly, snugger shoes or a new food aversion or craving. The body you used to know so well is evolving into something totally alien that you are trying to understand anew each day, let alone dress! It’s difficult to even know what to eat! You may find your energy is a bit lower but then you may also find you have bursts of energy in your second trimester. Get used to tuning into your body and listening to what it tells you. What used to be normal is no longer normal when you are pregnant and that’s ok. Be kind to yourself and cut yourself a little slack. Go ahead and get that pregnancy massage and let your partner rub your feet at the end of the day. Buy some maternity clothes that are comfortable and make you feel pretty. Try to find time to take small naps when you are tired, even if it’s just on the weekend if you work. Do something nice for yourself each day, even if it’s something small.

    Although it is important to get your rest and scale back on activities when you feel tired, it is also helpful to take some form of physical exercise, even if it’s just walking around the block. It’s necessary to keep up your strength up during pregnancy and to maintain your health, blood sugar and to help with delivery (unless you are on bed rest of course).  Maintaining fitness will also help you bounce back that much easier after pregnancy and give you the energy to care for your baby (which can be a bit of marathon in the early weeks particularly if you are nursing around the clock).  In addition to the added benefit of helping you look good, exercise will help balance your serotonin levels and allow you to achieve a more positive mental outlook so that you feel happier, more joyful and peaceful as well as sleep better at night. Do be careful not to engage in any risky physical activities (remember your balance and stamina are not the same) and listen to your body at all times when you exercise so that you don’t overextend yourself or get dehydrated. Remember you are pregnant, so don’t try to break any records running marathons or playing tennis tournaments!

    Finally try and take some time out and smell the roses. This is a special time in life that you will always remember. Get some pretty photographs done while you enjoy your shape (sometimes we are so enormous in the last few months of pregnancy that we don’t want a camera anywhere around us!) Spend some time to bond with your partner and indulge in some date nights or a Babymoon if you can find the time, even if it’s something special nearby. You will always remember this special time together before you had your baby and the memories you created.

  • My Life as a Mom - Part 3

    I nursed my third baby nursed for 15 months until about the time I started feeling he was going to outgrow me. Looking back on it I realized I did succumb to a bit of social pressure or perceived social pressure. If I had it to do again I would have nursed him as long as I liked. Of course my husband believes our six year old would still be nursing if I didn’t wean him in that second year. However, the idea is to nurse him as long as I, the mother, would like and am able and not someone else tells me he is too big to nurse and should order for himself at a restaurant.

    I was actually quite surprised with how easy the weaning process was for all three of my kids. It always seemed so daunting when I would hear about people weaning their baby in a hurry before returning to work. What I discovered with the process is to do it gradually makes it easier for all, particularly my own body which was used to producing huge amounts of milk. I found that it is a lot less traumatic for the mother to emotionally and physically adjust to the reduced amount of nursing when it is stretched out over a longer time horizon than trying to power wean over a weekend. When weaning is done gradually over time, the baby barely notices and you might even find you want to hang onto that last nighttime feeding a little longer as you bond with your baby before he falls asleep and as you sometimes fall asleep yourself . One of the perks of nursing is that it does help you relax and fall asleep. It is remarkable how smart and flexible babies can be to new schedules and how fast the body can regulate to new supply and demand updates. Nature has made us elastic with our babies’ needs and babies are amazingly adaptable learners to new modes to feeding – although it may not feel that way at first because they have a lot to say about it.

    Looking back today as my youngest is 6, my middle child is 10 and my oldest 12, I am truly glad I was able to nurse all of my children for as long as I did. The first two I was able to continue to nurse after my maternity leave ended and I was working fulltime. It is amazing how you can make things work when you really want to do so.  Once we made it through the very rough first couple of weeks and even months it was a very fulfilling experience (and it did help me lose a lot of baby weight!) It provided me with a lot of bonding with my children and forced me to take my own “time out” of my busy day and evening to unwind with my baby. This was particularly nice when I was working fulltime and our caregiver would feed my baby my pumped milk during the day. The evening feedings when I was at home could be done in person and I could truly bond without a pressing commitment to my baby or hooked up to a machine.  I did find that keeping some interesting magazines around my go-to glider were a must have for daytime nursing. It also feel gave me a sense of competence and completeness that I was enough to continue to provide life and nutrition and comfort to my child. I was equipped with the goods as a mother. However I also know that having the support from my husband and caretakers when I was working fulltime was a big part of that equation as well, particularly when multitasking with other children and work responsibilities.

    Each stage of motherhood holds its own challenges and joys. As soon as you think you have one mastered, you enter the next. I have also found that each stage is less daunting than it seems from the distance. The terrible twos and toddler years can hold their share of stress but can also overwhelm you with joy and fun in firsthand experiencing your baby come into their own and literally start exploring and testing their world. The preschool years can be a big breath of relief as well as trepidation as you maybe for the first time drop off your child at school and leave them there for a period of time with people you have not personally hired and vetted. Even the older kid and tween years are an enriching time of seeing your child become more confident and independent and less in need (or desire) of constant handholding as they bond more with peers.

    Each and every stage holds its surprises and rewards. I have found and continue to find that reaching out for help when you need it is key. If you do not have family nearby (as we do not), finding a neighbor or mom at your school to help with carpooling, trading off on playdates and, if you can afford it, finding the occasional babysitter so you can escape on a date night is important in keeping some sanity and balance in your life. Everyone tells you to enjoy your kids while they are young. Sometimes it’s hard to enjoy every moment, especially when you are tired and sleep deprived. It's easier to enjoy them when you have the support you need to take care of them.  Just remember to be kind to yourself, patient with your kids and say “yes” to help whenever it is offered! You also deserve a mom time out, even if it's just a cup of coffee by yourself or a trip to the mall or bookstore. Treat yourself occasionally to a nursing top or something you like. It will make your whole experience all the better when you are not feeling deprived and your own needs are met. Remember to put your own oxygen mask on first, then are best equipped to meet the needs of your child!

  • My Life as a Mom - Part 2

    Now whoever says that having a 3rd child is no different than having a 2nd is clearly delusional as I was when I entered this pregnancy with that mindset. I observed blissful friends who handled 3rd and 4th babies with a cheerful attitude while flexing stronger biceps. I believed the adage of adding one more potato to the pot was all that was required for one more child to the family (in addition to a new college savings fund that cost more than a whole field of potatoes).  Like most parents of multiple kids, we generally felt we were prepared and experienced for this third time around the block.  We had the gear – strollers, cribs, car seats, clothes, blankets, sippy cups. We knew the drill – schedules, naptimes, feeding and diapering.

    What we forgot was that we were 6 years older than when we had our first and approaching middle age. I was pushing 40 at the time of my 3rd child’s birth and those extra years did make a difference in my energy and ability to bounce back after my pregnancy compared to my earlier pregnancies. Not to mention I had two younger kids to take care of and I didn’t have a nanny or housekeeper to help with everything. So, maybe there was more than age at stake in that extra wave of fatigue this final round.

    The biggest surprise was that nursing did not come easily. For some reason I just assumed it would be easy as I nursed my other two kids for almost a year each. Although I had problems in the beginning with each in terms of milk supply and every kind of lactation difficultly from painful latches to mastitis, I did eventually work through it with the help of a lactation consultant and my OBGYN for a fulfilling and successful nursing experience with both of my children. So to find I had the same exact array of problems with my 3rd was shocking. Once again I found myself at the mercy of baby scales and schedules and trips to the pediatrician’s office to check the baby’s weight gain. In all of my years of school, college and graduate school I never experienced the same degree of test anxiety as that of getting my baby weighed and awaiting my pass/ fail results from my pediatrician. I felt like I was always just barely getting by but working like crazy and pulling all-nighters preparing for the weighing in exam.

    Finally after the help of a lactation consultant once again, a Medela hospital grade nursing pump to help with milk supply stimulation, my husband’s unwavering support with all the other baby responsibilities, and the help of herbal supplements and Reglan to promote milk supply and sheer persistence, we made it through to the other side of nursing the way it’s supposed to be, painless and brainless.  You know the side, where you can nurse anytime, anywhere and everyone is happy and dinner is always warm and on time. I used to be paranoid and modest with my nursing with my first baby, very worried that any bit of skin might peek out or I might offend someone with the sheer act of nursing my baby. Not so with my third baby.  I would nurse in open air at a park, in an airport, on an airplane next to any stranger, at a restaurant and not feel the need to retreat to the tiny bathroom stall for privacy and modesty. Armed with a good nursing bra and sometimes a stylish nursing top, I was good to go anywhere with my baby and feed on demand. Now at last I could enjoy my baby and the perks of not having to pack a bottle

  • My Life as a New Mom - Part 1

    Pregnancy and motherhood is a sacred time in our lives as women. The miracle of growing a human life inside of us is awesome. When I look at my kids and think that they somehow arrived here through my body and have now matured into the full personality individuals they are at 6, 10 and 12 year olds, it is more than I can wrap my head around.

    Pregnancy and motherhood is a journey and a process. You become a mother once you are pregnant, even before your baby formally arrives. Already you are thinking for two, eating for two, even dressing for two in your maternity clothes. You start planning nurseries and logistics around working or staying at home with your baby. If you plan to return to work you begin the process of looking into daycare or nannies or even reducing your hours or maybe working a more flexible schedule.

    I remember going through this whole process as a first time expecting mom more than twelve years ago before my son was born. We explored all options for our son’s care before and after he arrived but finally decided on a nanny once my maternity leave ran out. It was a challenging process of commuting to work, pumping milk while away from my baby and returning home again to care for my child. I missed my baby while at work but also enjoyed returning to my identity as a working person. I appreciated my job more and liked having adult conversations with coworkers and making decisions that did not involve nap schedules or baby feedings. But none the less it was challenging leaving my baby and pumping milk when I would rather be nursing my baby in person.

    When I had my daughter two years later I was able to mostly work from home while my nanny cared for both of my children. I was very structured about separating work from mothering and would literally close the office door to shut out any noise and to physically compartmentalize my professional world during working hours. The only thing that crossed the line was pumping milk, which usually occurred while on mute during a conference call. None the less, I kept my “double life” pretty quiet although I was open with my manager about my arrangement. Sometimes I was able to nurse my baby during part of a lunch break - which literally became my baby’s lunch hour with the rate that my methodical daughter nursed. But, it was a welcome break and a special time of bonding that I felt lucky to have while working.

    When my daughter was approaching two, I quit my corporate job to stay at home with my kids and focus my attention on my new online business. Although it first felt like a vacation to stay at home with my two young children and not have an outside work commitment, I soon found that life as a work at home mom without a clear work schedule, or a schedule that my two under 5 children were willing to go along with, was more challenging than I first thought.

    Joining the ranks of the Stay at Home Moms was not an easy process. Although most were friendly and welcoming at preschool pickups and drops offs, I often felt like a foreigner who was not savvy on the many activities, mommy and me programs, playdate calendars and volunteering that these women could rattle off in detail as part of their daily lives. I observed how they communicated at a faster quicker beat (often frequently pausing midsentence to respond to a toddler’s questions or address a baby’s needs) than work colleagues’ deliberate measured tones and corporate lingo.

    I marveled at how these women could pull off so much while pushing baby strollers, dealing with toddler demands and hefting babies in and out of car seats without missing a beat in conversation or their daily itinerary of playdates, errands, meal planning and even social outings. Often toddlers would troll behind them like ducklings with sippy cups or snack baggies in hand as these fit mamas, often sporting stylish gym clothes in what appeared to be perpetual workout mode, pranced a few feet ahead, always in motion and cheerfully conversing with those in their path. Somehow they were able to seamlessly integrate their kid’s schedules and naptimes into their daily life on the go. Often naptimes were incorporated into errand running while kids were strapped into their car seats or strollers or taken to the park on a "Mom" playdate with another friend with young kids. Meals and snacks were often packed ahead so there was no need to return home, ever.

    By the time I felt I was getting the hang of it to legitimately fake being part of this league of moms was about the time I learned I was expecting my 3rd baby. That's when I found out I was out of my league.

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