Busy as Can Bee

I do most of the correspondence for my work over the phone or e-mail or in ways that don’t require a peek inside my home. It’s not just the baskets of clean laundry stacked in my living room the past week or the pile of dirty dishes on my countertop or my chronically unmade bed that makes me unsure about using Skype and other webcam services. It’s the whole juggling act of working and parenting.

The other day, I was attending a webinar – thankfully not one with video-conferencing capabilities – on honey bee colony losses for an article commissioned by a local magazine. It’s a good thing most webinars are recorded, and if they’re not, their information can usually be double-checked on a website somewhere or at least by giving the speaker on the webinar a quick phone call.

So, I’m trying to write down various quotes and all the pertinent information on these beekeeping management surveys. A lot of research, something that requires quite a bit of attention. And I notice that the baby needs a diaper change.

The webinar is playing on my laptop, on my bed. The bed’s not made, so there’s only the thin fitted sheet between baby’s bum and my pillow-top mattress. I check out the situation and figure it won’t take me long to change his diaper, but in the middle of the said change, something comes on the webinar that catches my attention and I drop what I’m doing to hurriedly catch up my notes.

Somewhere in all this, my five-year-old and four-year-old burst into my room arguing about how each wanted to draw on this same piece of paper (we have a whole box of paper!), and one of the cats jumps up onto the laptop’s keyboard, muting the webinar. And I’m squinting my eyes at the laptop screen trying to concentrate all my energy into copying down the words that the man on the computer is saying without taking the time to process what that means in the scope of the story. No time for thinking – at that moment, I was a photocopier memorizing the words coming through my ears and the images coming through my eyes and using my fingers to put them on paper. I don’t have a true photographic memory, but I’m pretty darn close, which is very helpful in overwhelming moments.

I don’t know how many minutes pass, but somehow I do manage to get everything I need down on paper, including intact quotes, and I’m able to mediate my daughters’ quarrel without hurrying through it. I hear a noise, one that usually indicates a diaper change is needed and I think, Thank goodness I got a diaper on him. Except I don’t.  And now I need to do a load of laundry, by far my least favorite activity in the realm of housework.

This is an everyday occurrence. Maybe not the same events, but certainly the amount of distractions. Work, kids, kids, cat, other cat, mail, phone call, work, kids, mail is here, I’m hungry, work, kids, kids, need a nap, kids, work, kids, need a break…get a break, whew!…and repeat. Working from home while being a stay-at-home parent is a lifestyle choice, that’s for sure. This may sound like chaos, but it’s the only way I know to work and work well. I need that little bit of chaos to give my brain the motivation to hyper-organize to be able to be as productive as I am. For me, the fuller my life is, the happier I am. Although I do wish there was a way for me to avoid having to do laundry…

This post is part of the Delicate Balance series, which chronicles the juggling act of work-at-home attachment parent Rita Brhel.

Can You Please Retrieve My Bagel From Under the Bed?

rita and kids

I don’t normally eat anything found under my bed. The vacuum cleaner can only reach so far. I also have two house cats, and that’s where they go to get a little R-and-R from my three kids. Plus I do have a kitchen stocked full with food found in usual places like the fridge or pantry. But since going gluten-free this winter for medical reasons, it’s not often I get a chance to eat a beautifully soft bagel mounded with cream cheese spread. And I really wanted that bagel.

Losing the bagel – sunny side down, mind you – to the depths reminded me of a great disappointment a few months earlier. I had just left the doors of Burger King with my three children, a baby in a car seat and two girls, ages four and five, and in the crux of my arm balanced a refill of Dr. Pepper that I was really looking forward to drinking. It was a little breezy, and the older children were tired, and the parking lot seemed to be especially busy. When I got to the car, I put the drink cup on the hood and began the process of getting the car seat into its base and the older children into their booster seats. Triumphant with how smoothly things seemed to be going, I reached for the drink cup – when suddenly, a gust of wind shot it off the car and my longed-after Dr. Pepper dumped all over the ground. I was so disheartened that I didn’t even think of going through the drive-thru to get another one.

So, yes, I wanted that bagel. I didn’t want a repeat Dr. Pepper episode.

How did that bagel get under the bed, cream cheese side down, stuck in the dust bunnies and cat hair? Well, I was doing one of my infamous multitasking attempts. I was breastfeeding my baby while sitting on my bed, using the breast pump on the other breast (due to chronic yeast), talking on the phone with a client, sketching out an idea for a project with a pen and notepad, and eating this bagel – at the same time. The baby is at that age where anything within reach is in danger and he batted at the bagel. It dropped to the floor and rolled under the bed. I couldn’t express my dismay more than grimacing a little, because I was still on the phone. And I couldn’t attempt to get the bagel before the 30-second rule, because I was still tethered to the breast pump.

My husband didn’t even blink when I asked him to please retrieve my bagel from under the bed, like I do this kind of stuff all the time…

This post is part of the “Delicate Balance” series, which chronicles the juggling act of work-at-home attachment parent Rita Brhel.

Magic Mama

My mom was magic.

She is magic.  But her dust sparkles the most in my childhood mind.  She did it all, and now that I am a mom to a toddler at the same age she was a mom to a toddler and a new born baby, it baffles my mind she even combed her hair.

But her hair was always combed.  In fact, she always looked beautiful — flaming red hair that sparkled when the sun hit it — a gregarious laugh that was never fake and always full — a smile that welcomed many a kid on our block into her arms.

My mom, the child whisperer

She was magic.  She is magic.  She is my mom.  And she taught me about being a mom.

She threw elaborate dog parties for all our dogs:  Shaggy, the Pekingese; Sam-I-Am, the runaway Irish setter;  Bear, the Collie –- the-great-big-fluffy-his-breath-stinks-so-much-drooled-so-bad-he-could-clear-a-room-when-he-farted-soft-cuddly-lovable-dog that was my mom’s favorite; and even Arthur Roo, the-curly-tight-permy-looking-poodle-that-jumped-all-over-you-if-you-just-as-much-as-looked-at-him-sideways.  He just was excitable.  That’s what my mother said.  Even jumping hyper freak dog got his own birthday party.

Then there was Penny.  Penny was a German Shepard my mom adored and who protected her from an attacker once.  Mom didn’t hesitate to get rid of Penny quicker than lightening when she started snapping and growling at us young kids.  Mom always put her needs last and us first.

She was magic.

Each dog had its own party, complete with party hats, party favors (biscuits, balls, and bones.)  What I remember the most was Mom right there in the middle of it — flaming red hair, giant open-hearted smile, and children surrounding her.  Her hands calm and her warmth radiant.  She responded with patience and humor.  She loved a party.  In fact, she wanted to own her own children’s party store, but did not pursue that because she wanted to be at home with us as much as possible.

You see, my mother could have had any job she wanted.  She was a genius by IQ and creativity and  had been an executive at the King Home in Evanston, Illinois, which was a retirement community for men as  there are many nowadays, Loomis Lakeside at Reed Landing is a full CCRC or takes new residents directly into Springfield MA nursing home care.

My mom at the King Home (Evanston, IL)

That is my foxy redheaded mom standing next to some very important people at the King Home in Evanston, Illinois.

Betty chose us.  She chose to be home.  This was her greatest work, for we were her miracles.  She had had over ten miscarriages.  We were her miracles. We were her gift; she was ours.

She was magic.

The dog parties would have all the trimmings – really, I’m totally serious.  My mom made the dog cake and let us help.  It was made of wet dog food with dry dog food to create a crust.  Party hats were given to dogs and children.  Candles were lit; birthday songs were sung.  Candles were blown out, and sometimes even the dogs barked out the candles.  Party hats were given to dogs and children.  Children were invited on invitations that read, “Sam-I-Am Turns Two.  Bring your dog.  Bring your sneakers.”

What party is complete without party games?  Betty had that all planned.   The ultimate party game was chase Sam-I-Am.  We lived close to a huge field and behind the field was a forested path where Mom often took gangs of children to pick wild berries.

With a magical tone, she’d ssshhh us all down from the towers of sugared excitement.  We’d all listen.  She was magic, after all.  She’d give the directions in clear, short sentences.  We all understood, as our eyes widened.

The point of the game was to let Sam-I-Am off his leash and catch him in the woods.  The winner would get a prize.  We were gone for hours.  On foot with our sneakers and curiosity leading the way, giggles and silly struts created a caravan, lead by Betty.  We were on an adventure.  It was magic.

She was magic.

Pow-Wow Party

That’s me at a Pow-Wow Mom had planned, complete with tribal dancing, a bonfire, a circle of sleeping bags, and Indian head dresses.  That’s Betty dazzling her magic charm, handling out drums and enthusiasm.

I remember my older sister’s Girl Scout unit went to a party at the Girl Scout Cabin around Halloween.  Mom had organized the best game ever – John Brown’s Body.  She went to the butcher to get bones and the super market to get spaghetti.  She peeled grapes for the eyes, and creatively and curiously narrated the spooky story of John Brown’s Body as we passed along intestines (cooked spaghetti), eyeballs (peeled grapes), and leg bones (beef bones from the butcher).  Every major organ was represented by something we could touch with our fingers under the blanket so our imaginations could run wild.

The story got all of us spooked out of our minds, but we were mesmerized;   It was magic.  Mom told the story, with the lights off and a flashlight choreographed just right to give it enough spook and enough game to make us giggle nervously.

She was magic.

I wet the bed that night.  I begged her to let me go upstairs with my older sister’s friends and the rest of the Girl Scout troop my mother led.  She snuggled me close and told me just what I needed to hear. “Meggie My, you are little.  You will be a Girl Scout soon enough.  Snuggle here darling.  Snuggle close.  I need someone to keep me company and I’d like it to be you.”

I soon forgot about wanting to be older, wiser, and more girly.  And Mom and I snuggled.  I was embarrassed that I wet the bed.  I woke her.  I whispered, “Mommy, I wet the bed.”  She whispered back, “We’ll take care of it.”  She was so patient.  We folded up the blue mat that lay on the wood floor of the big open first floor room in the cabin.  I followed her, tiptoeing in wet pajama bottoms and we went into the kitchen through the swinging door.  She made sure nobody would find out.

She made me an ice cream sundae after I changed.  I could hear the Girl Scouts up above giggling, telling secrets and stories, playing with their flashlights.  I got jealous I couldn’t be up in the loft with the other girls, knowing I was too little.  Knowing I was still a Brownie.

Mom and I had our own magic.  She washed me up, while singing me a song — probably one of her favorites from her childhood days of sleep-away camps and Girl Scouts.  It was probably the song she always sang us — our lovie song, which I sing to my son now.  It goes like this:

My mom with me on her lap

Who’s my Little Whose-It?

Who’s the one I love?

Who’s my little whose it?

Who’s the one I love?

The thing about that song was, after each line, I’d giggle, and jump into her arms saying, “Me.”  Then I’d shake my little feet back and dance in anticipation for the next line:

Who’s my little whose it?

Me!

Who’s the one I love?

Me!

She was magic; she still is.

Mom went with me to the local college up the street as a young teenager.   Somehow we’d just walk right into the gym and it would be empty and open.  I would take the basketball and dribble, dribble, dribble.  Then I’d practice my 3 point shot.  And I’d practice again and again.  She never got bored — that I noticed.  She had no phone to text or call anyone.  She just had me and she watched me — encouraged me.  Even after air ball after air ball.  But day after day, week after week, I started to get better.  Her great big smile would cheer me on.  She clapped, jumped, and cheered each time I made one fall through the net.  Then her magic became my own.  Ask anyone – I can seriously throw up a nothing-but-net-hear-that-electric-sound-of-the-swish-3-pointer- buzzer-beater.

Mom was The Picture Lady in elementary school.  She volunteered her time to talk to my class about art.  She’d walk into the class and that magic would light up the room.  She’d bring Picasso, Monet, Manet, Warhol, and ones we never heard of, encased is shiny glass frames she would check out from the local library.  She’d talk to us like we were brilliant, like we understood, because we did.  She’d check out a new painting each week and she’d tell the entire class about the artist and the painting.  But then she always turned it to us.  She’d ask us what we thought and like elementary children are famous for — we all chitter chattered how it made us feel, think, and see.

She was magic.

Attachment

I remember sitting in the group, hands folded on my lap. Quiet.  Questioning.   My own wheels turning in my young mind.  I loved art.  But I loved that The Picture Lady was my mom.  I watched how they reacted to her; the children danced in her presence.  She celebrated with them and ignited something that seemed to already be blazing.  That was my mom, she was magic and her flame warmed me.

We cuddled on Sundays when Dad was at work.  My sister on one side, me on the other.  She’d say, “That is why I have two arms – one for each of you.”  We’d watch Family Classics with Frasier Thomas on WGN.  And Mom always cried when it counted — when Scarlett O’Hara clutched dirt deep in her hands, and called out, “As God is my witness, I will never go hungry again.”  And when Judy Garland sang out, “Clang clang clang goes the trolley, clang clang goes the band…” in Meet Me in St. Louis. Mom would sing.

She was magic.

Mom was a genius and could have had any job she wanted.  But she chose to stay home and work part-time as an accountant at the gas station close to our house.  Literally, it was just a quick run outside and through a secret tree lined passage and up into her office we’d go, in the midst of a kid squabble my father had no idea how to handle.

Mom was magic.

She’d explain it to us, Betty style – honest and direct, with her Cajun seasoning of magic.  We’d shake hands or hug and off we’d go back to playing.

My mother taught me how to play.  She taught me how to love and she taught me I have my own magic.  And that there’s plenty to share.

She celebrated life.

She celebrated me.

She celebrated my sister.

She celebrated life.

She was magic.

And she taught me everything I know about the beauty of motherhood.

She is magic.

* My mother has been battling non-cancerous brain tumors for twelve years.  She was diagnosed in 2000.  Her condition has declined slowly and gradually.  She has one brain tumor on her brain stem and one in her cerebellum.  The magic is still there.  Ask anyone.  They all know Betty; nobody forgets her.  She is magic, after all.  Here is a link to a photo I have submitted to a creative invite from the Moxie Institute on Talenthouse.com.  If selected, it will be featured in Tiffany Shlain’s documentary film called Brain Power.  The movie will be viewed by non-profits.  You can vote for the photo through your facebook or twitter account.

What I have come to accept is, no matter what happens, has happened, will happen — she will never lose that magic.

A Mother to Mother Conversation With Mayim Bialik

“…neuroscience and developmental neurobiology and psychology support a style of parenting that fosters healthy dependence. It’s simply biologically true.”

We know of Mayim as Blossom, the Mayim who earned a PhD in neuroscience, Mayim as Amy Farrah Fowler in the hit TV series, Big Bang Theory. She adds “author” to her impressive list of titles with her new book, Beyond the Sling, scheduled to release tomorrow. I recently had the pleasure of talking to Mayim Bialik about her new book and her preferred role, Mayim the attachment mother.

First, I’d like to hear how your book came about.

I’ve been the spokesperson for Holistic Mom’s Network for a while now, and I started writing for this website called Kveller.com, and I guess sort of became this unofficial spokesperson for a style of parenting that I don’t see as particularly bizarre or strange at all. But obviously it’s really out of the norm of the way a lot of people parent. And so honestly, I was kind of just asked to write the book.

I was being interviewed by an actress named Theresa Strasser. She’s a comedian and she had just written a book about pregnancy, and she said to me, I would never want to parent the way you do and I think it sounds ridiculous in theory, but, she said, the way you talk about it makes it sound so not judgmental and it actually sounds like it makes sense even if I wouldn’t choose it. My book agent wants to talk to you. And I’m thinking, book agent? I spoke to him, and four months later we had a book proposal. Kind of an unlikely way to write a book, but I basically wrote the lifestyle that me and all my friends and everybody at Attachment Parenting International and La Leche League sort of know about but I guess once you put a celebrity name on it people will pay attention. I don’t know, I guess that’s the sad state of our culture.

It seems like it covers a lot of myth vs. fact, a lot of, the why behind outward appearances. What do you think people most misunderstand about attachment parenting?

I think people misunderstand a lot of things about the kind of children that people think you raise if you practice AP. People think that my goal, or anyone’s goal who parents this way is to raise spoiled, manipulative, whiny children who are clingy and never gain proper independence. But I think also one of the main things of the book is trying to take on is, not that you need a PhD in neuroscience to write a book about parenting or to be a parent, but that neuroscience and developmental neurobiology and psychology support a style of parenting that fosters healthy dependence. It’s simply biologically true. And that attachment parents don’t choose this because we’re lazy, or because we don’t know how to get our kids out of our bed, or because we don’t know how to say no to them when they keep asking to breastfeed. So I think the notion is that this is a conscious choice and parenting philosophy that is believed in. It’s not passive parenting, it’s not lazy parenting, and it’s not careless. It’s very conscious and concerted.

And there are a lot of different ways to do it! There are families with a lot of structure and discipline that also are attachment parenting families and there are families that are a lot more permissive. It’s a broad term that really describes a lot of people.

What is your biggest parenting challenge going on right now?

[Laughs] Um, how to pick? We don’t have easy kids. A lot of people think I have easy kids simply because they seem easy, but they’re high-needs kids. As anyone with a high-needs baby or child knows, it takes a lot of work to keep that going, and sometimes I feel like I don’t have much more attention to give. But I’m getting clear signals that they need more attention and it’s a huge challenge and especially, my husband’s home with them when I’m working, so I’m here even less than I need to be. But there’s still so much that needs to get done. I joke with friends of mine, we say, how can they need more attention? I’m giving them all I have!

Having so much on your plate, author, blogger, neuroscientist, homeschooler,  and obviously Big Bang Theory, and with attachment parenting being the most hands-on parenting philosophy, at least the most hands-on I know of, how do you strive for balance? That’s one of the attachment parenting principles, so what do you do for Mayim?

I try and find small, not time- or money-consuming ways to kind of replenish. I think we’re in an unusual situation where I was the primary caregiver, you know, hands-on, 24/7 for years, and it’s only recently that I’m working and my husband is the one home. So I think it’s important also, for the primary caregiver which is my husband at this point to also find ways to replenish. So, I think he feels that sometimes I get to leave the house, and that’s my replenishment.

But I think that in weeks that I’m off, and all of those times that I am just me with them – I don’t do a lot of social things, I don’t go out a lot with girlfriends, I read, I study a couple times a week with a Jewish study partner, which is an intellectual exercise and also a social one. And I do small things. Like simplifying life so I can catch up on things that make me feel organized and like the house is in order. So for me, sometimes it’s relaxing to know that, like last week me and the boys, we re-did all of their little shelves where they keep their clothes. And things like that give me a sense of peace and balance because it’s one less thing that I have hanging over me.

You mentioned your husband is staying home with the kids full-time. The traditional role has the man as provider and the woman as caregiver. How does he handle that, and how does the family handle that?

It’s unusual for sure. It’s still an adjustment for him. It’s an adjustment for the whole family, but now that Fred is now out of the stage where he’s breastfeeding as much as he had been, it’s much easier. My husband has always been super supportive of breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding. And Fred does still nurse, but he’s not at the point where I’m pumping anymore, which I think is in some ways easier for my husband. He has more autonomy, now that he’s settling in and now that they’re both older and they can do more active field trips together and that the day is not dictated by naps, you know, for the little one.

This particular unit study is about medieval England. This unit study is called Time Capsule: Medieval England by Michelle Caskey. There are daily lessons to keep your children engaged and learning for 12 weeks (300 activities in all)! For each day you also have a variety of activity options to choose from to suit your child’s interest and needs. The unit study also includes a supplies list and suggested reading list.

In this unit study your child will experience being:

  • A Peasant in Medieval England
  • A Tradesman/Tradeswoman in Medieval England
  • A Knight/Lady-in-Waiting in Medieval England
  • A Monk/Nun in Medieval England
  • A Baron/Baroness in Medieval England
  • A Knight/Queen in Medieval England

Your child will get to create and wear peasant clothing, listen to Old English, go on a field trip to a local farm, one of my kids has dyslexia so when i try to find a place to go i make sure they have  dyslexia tutors to give to children with dyslexia where they can , learn to whittle, make a water clock, design their own castle, make a medieval battle axe, and much more.

While these activities would be fun for boys OR girls, they are especially suited to active boys. Not only will they be reading and writing, but doing lots of fun physical activities too.

I read that you’re the only parent on the cast of Big Bang Theory. What’s that like?

Many of our writers have kids, and I’ve actually done a little lactation consulting, on the side I guess, for one of our writers in particular. As it is, when you’re the only in a group of friends to be the first to have kids, it’s a little bit like being an alien species. And I think also, until you have kids, you can’t imagine how much of a part of your brain and your heart are always devoted to them, no matter what you’re doing. I can argue a lot of things about a lot of different styles of parenting, but I will say that when you choose this path, it really is a constant part of you in ways that sometimes I meet other parents who don’t feel that way. I meet a lot of people who say, I’m happy for someone else to handle them. I’m not really thinking about it, it takes a village, and I don’t want to be involved. For me, that’s not our choice. I always miss my kids in a very specific way.

What do you do when you mess up – when you’re short with your child, when you find yourself yelling and kind of losing it? What do you do to repair that relationship?

I guess I’ve been told it’s called a “mommy time out.” I need to know, literally, when to shut my mouth and walk away, meaning to stop the, you know, bad mommy behavior. And I think promptly admitting you’re wrong to your child is extremely powerful. I think I make a very very conscious effort to not make excuses when I apologize. Meaning, I don’t say, I yelled at you because, or I’m angry at you and I used harsh words because you blah blah blah. There are times to explain to a child why or how there may have been a trigger situation but when you’ve hurt a child I believe very strongly all that needs to be communicated is that your intention in life is not to hurt them, and that you feel bad and will do things to not repeat that with them.

And you cannot apologize to a child as if it’s a spouse. They’re not on the same intellectual or emotional level. That’s something I try really hard – I try to do that with adults too! To say, I’ve hurt your feelings and I’m sorry, is different than, I’ve hurt your feelings and I’m sorry but, you’ve really let me down, you know?

And I think also, something I try and do is I try and, especially with our oldest son who’s six, I’m not afraid – well, I’m afraid and I’m not afraid to try and be real with him and tell him, Mama messed up. Mama doesn’t know how to be the mama of a six-year-old except through this experience and we’re trying, and I’m learning. That’s one of my favorite things I say to them. I’m learning too. And I’m not perfect.

And I’ll make a joke out of it too, I’ll say, I know you think I’m perfect because I make the best pancakes, but I’m not. So a little humor also can take the edge off, so that you can have access to them because they put up a wall when they’re hurt. It’s what people do. It’s protective.

What do you say when people negate your parenting style?

I think with my first I was very sensitive and I was defensive and I questioned a lot, and I doubted myself, but for me a big part has been to find a community of like-minded parents and that’s sort of what API and places like API are doing. Once you have that support and you can have your behavior normalized, it really can give you a lot of strength.

And now I’ve learned which battles to fight and which not to fight. And even with family members, even well-meaning friends, I’ve learned a couple key phrases, like, “it’s working for us,” or, “thanks for your thoughts,” or “I guess we all get to do it our own way,” or, “I’ll keep that in mind, thank you.” But I really don’t get into the complicated discussions with people, especially when I can tell that they only want you to have their opinion. Because some people want to have a healthy debate, or they’re interested in decisions and why you make them, but a lot of people really just want to be right, and I don’t always have to have that conversation.

You mentioned the organizations that support you, such as API. What individuals make up your support system? Who are your rocks?

I have a group of girlfriends, who we kind of formed a renegade mom’s group and I single them out in the book. One of them is actually my friend who took the photographs for the book. She took the cover photo and, she’s one of those people. I have one La Leche League leader and mentor in particular who I kind of go to for all things even beyond breastfeeding, and she’s sort of my attachment parenting, well, everything. That’s pretty much it. I mean, we have a small circle. I do participate in La Leche League still and Holistic Moms’ Network events and things like that, but for me to have three people, three women in my case that I know I can turn to, even if they don’t agree or do it the same, I think that’s been the most helpful.

I personally struggle with this: how do you just do your thing without making other moms feel like you’re judging what they’re doing?

I know that other people’s opinions are none of my business now. And if people have guilt, it’s not for me to either create or take away. I simply keep it within my circle of my family, and know that what’s working for us works.

I had dinner the other night next to a very prominent celebrity mom and she was there with her nanny, and her two kids and I was there alone with my two kids, and it was very friendly and very nice, but I was kind of wondering, does she look at me and think, how’s she doing it? Why am I not doing that? Why can she do it? Do I even what to do what she’s doing? And I looked at her and I was kind of wondering, wow, that would be really nice to have an extra set of hands right now!

But again, I learned early on that you never know what goes on in people’s families or what they need, or why they’re doing what they’re doing or not doing what they’re doing, so I really try to mind my own business. I mean, honestly I try to mind my own business and I also make sure to use general concepts and phrases that I do believe are true. That we all want to do the best for our kids. It may mean different things to different people, but we all want to do the best. And once you kind of level the playing field, then you can open up a conversation and then you can get away from all that stupid mommy wars stuff.

Do you remember a turning point when you decided that attachment parenting was the way you wanted to do things?

Before we had our first son, both my husband and I were both planning on research professorships. I don’t know, I struggled a lot with breastfeeding. I had a difficult, slow learning curve, as it were. And I think making the commitment to stay home for 40 days, which is something we did after both of our sons were born, I think that tuned me into a new rhythm that I decided not to fight. Because I know a lot of people fight it, and I know people who go back to work after 2 and 3 weeks, you know? But I think for me it really helped tune me into that rhythm, and help us make that decision.

Does your husband read the AP books? Does he do the research?

My husband is rarely yes dear about anything, but if he sees something for himself, that’s the proof he needs. He’s a very principled, rational, confident person, and he, honestly, he doesn’t like to read things like that. I mean, he does a tremendous amount of reading, but no, he has really become a phenomenal example of someone who is not super interested in emotional attachment or psychological development, hadn’t really given it much thought, and literally lived for himself the evolution of this beautiful, beautiful relationship that he has created with our kids and that we have in our family. Although he sees, for sure not one of the principles of attachment parenting was something he thought was totally nuts, and once he saw how it worked, totally jumped on board on his own. But he’s not the kind of person who reads up on things or says yes dear, so it’s been actually really interesting to see. It’s even worked and made sense for him.

Who are your influences as far as parenting goes?

I admire Dr. [William] Sears and Martha Sears a lot, also for their functioning in a conventional world as proponents of attachment parenting. Our pediatrician, Dr. [Jay] Gordon is a huge influence for us, and then personally I mentioned my La Leche League leader, Shawn Crane who is also sort of my everything mentor and parenting expert extraordinaire. But I feel like the real people that kind of make it happen are my girlfriends, Nancy and Denise.

What was it like to work with the Sears’ and Dr. Gordon?

What’s impressed me kind of in this whole book journey has not only been the support on the professional side, from API and the Sears’ and from Dr. Gordon, also a really really positive, healthy general notion that we’re all working toward something good and trying to empower parents to make decisions that are good for them and for their kids. And I think that’s actually been honestly surprising. I’ve been shocked at the lack of ego that I’ve run into and I’d like to think that it’s indicative of the attachment parenting philosophy at work in adults.

Mayim’s new book, Beyond the Sling: A Real-life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way, will be available in stores March 6th, 2012.

Photo: flickr/pennstatelive

Numero Dos: Sharing The Love.


As the date of our big move from the U.S. to Canada approaches and we shuffle from one generous friend’s abode to another, this pregnancy, the little growing one all snug in my tummy, often seems to take a back seat (not in the back of our Volkswagen Golf, but in the back of a very long bus)–which makes me a little sad. Aside from the slowly, and finally, dissipating constant nausea and fatigue, my little tummy buddy hasn’t gotten much air time in any sense of the word over these last 13 weeks.

I can remember the last time I shared my body. It was a little over two years ago. From the day that joyous pink line appeared across the plastic pee stick, little Noah Finn was all that I could think about despite the fact that I was working everyday. I woke up and thought pregnancy, I peed (a lot) and thought pregnancy, I taught and thought pregnancy, I ate (a lot) and thought pregnancy, I slept (very little) and dreamed pregnancy. My growing abdomen was always on my mind.

This time is definitely different. Running after a bouncing, bounding, boisterous toddler while volleying between temporary living situations has certainly captivated the time that I don’t spend eating and sleeping. The fact of the matter is that constant urges to snack and slumber aside, I often forget that I’m pregnant.

What does all of this mean? Is it normal? I am betting so. But it certainly does recall those initial pangs of subtle trepidation I first experienced when pregnancy test number two revealed yet again that solid pink line: sharing the love. How does a mama who has experienced everything about mommying–pregnancy, birth, mothering–with one child not feel guilt about sharing such sacredness with another? It feels almost like cheating on the first.

Melodramatic? Perhaps. But, these are real anxieties, that while slowly fading as the months tick away, remain present nonetheless.

So, how does a mommy share the love–that smothering, doting, gooey love that’s gushed all over the first with the second and subsequent bundles of joy? Will my little Noah feel shortchanged and left out the decision making process–after all, he had no vote here!? Will he harbor feelings of abandonment and isolation, regress and insist on learning the alphabet Z thru A?

Think I’m being melodramatic, again? Perhaps. But these are tangible fears that I sometimes think about. That is, when I remember I’m pregnant anyway.

Finding Grace and Love in Potty Training?

Potty training. Again. While I’ve done this twice already with varying degrees of difficulty, I still find the process to be exhausting. Most days, I want to throw all the cloth diapers out the window – other days I want to chuck the potty seat and trainers along with my determination to teach this skill.

What transition are you working on? Moving your child from your bed to a crib, weaning from breast milk to bottle or cup or giving up diapers in exchange for the potty are not small tasks. And even if you’ve done them before, the reality is you’ve never made this change with this child. It’s all new to him or her. Some changes come about quickly while others drag on stubbornly. That’s where we are with potty training.

Before giving up (or forcing my will upon the poor child), I’ve found it’s helpful to examine my motives behind making the transition at this time.

Motivations for change often fall into three categories:

  1. Shame/embarrassment. You know you should have taught this skill sooner but didn’t. Maybe you waited until your baby was nine-months old before introducing a bottle. (I’ve been there.) Or you waited until your four-year-old became so big that you can no longer sleep in your own bed comfortably and must demand they sleep elsewhere. The logical part of your brain knows that developmentally, there is no reason why your child is unable to make the change. But the emotional parent part of your brain is too afraid to make it happen.
  2. Anger/resentment. Do you feel so tired of the way things are and find yourself blaming your child? Maybe you wonder why they can’t just do (or stop doing) this one thing. After a lot of introspection, I realize I’m probably in this category. I don’t feel resentment, but after more than eight years of changing diapers; I’m very, very tired of it. Perhaps I’m ready to move on whether my daughter is or not.
  3. Competition. You really want to tell the grandparents, or other moms, that your little prodigy accomplished this transition easily and early. You want to brag a little about whatever milestone would give you this edge on being a good mother. It sounds shallow, and you will probably deny you’ve ever felt this way, but chances are you really are competing with another person’s timetable.

I’m tired of changing diapers, that’s for sure. I suspect there’s a little more going on as well. This is my youngest of three children and we are certainly not having any more. I stopped trying to hold on to the baby years mostly because she refused to stay in the baby phase, reaching all of her physical milestones many months before her older sisters.

But I also prefer to breeze through a transition without marking its passing; hoping to avoid any sadness or longing on my part. She gave up breastfeeding sometime in her 17th month, but I do not have a memory of the “last” time nor did I want to dwell on it. I loved breastfeeding and while a part of me misses this connection; I knew that marking an official end would be too painful. We simply moved on.

Potty training will also mark an end to my baby and toddler years. This independence will mean I no longer have any babies in my care. No more diapers. While it will be sweet freedom, it will also mark a major transition for me as a mother. Dragging out this transition for so many months just prolongs the pain.

I’ve come to realize that the one thing that is required of me at this time is love. My daughter will be potty trained in the near future. (I sometimes chant this just to convince myself.)

It’s my job to love her, to love the stage we are in and to use this love to fuel my patience.

It’s this love that will also lift me out of sadness when I realize there are no more babies, no more toddlers and someday, no more little girls in my care.

So, I’ve made a few changes to how we go about potty training. I removed the changing table from her room. We don’t use it anyway and it helps us solidify the transition taking place. I also added disposable diapers to my shopping list. While we use only two diapers a day for nap and bedtime, I need the mental and physical break from washing them. We’ll continue making the transition using consistent behaviors, but I’ll relax my timetable and renew my love for caring for a toddler.

Mom Dare: Life is filled with one transition after another. Look at what changes you are trying to make in your life and with your children. Examine your motivations, remove the negative emotions and concentrate on love. Use this positive emotion to feed your actions each day as you bring about a positive change.

Motherhood’s Magic Mirror

It starts off simply enough. I smile, you smile. Then it gets more complicated.

My daughters had a hard time using the word “please.” I noticed this several years ago, when I was constantly correcting their demands, making them insert the word before I would honor their request. They always said, “Thank you,” just not the “p” word. I remember the moment when I discovered why this phenomenon was occurring and needless to say, it was a head-slapping revelation. I asked my child (about age 4) to do something and she looked at me while asking, “please?” She was correcting my rudeness.

So, I listened in on all my conversations that day. Do I ever use the word? I frequently use the words “thanks” and, “I’m sorry.” I say “you’re welcome” and I always say “I love you” at least twice a day per family member. Somehow I had gotten into the habit of issuing orders without the basic nicety of “please.” It didn’t matter that I was telling my children to always use this word, they were simply mirroring my own behavior. It was so basic. So many trite sayings have formed out of this one constant of human development. Monkey see, monkey do. Do as I say, not as I do. But there it was staring me in the face without me really seeing it.

There are many times in raising children when you need to stop, examine your world through your child’s eyes and ears, and really think about what they are learning from you. Are you telling them not to hit, but spanking them as a form of punishment? Do you raise your voice when angry, but reprimand your child for yelling? (This is one of my uglier problems that I’m still working on.) Do you wish they would interact more with other children, but spend all your time with them instead of making strong connections with other adults?

It’s not easy realizing that your children are so much like you, yet so different. You assume they will only pick up your strengths and excel at the areas you have mastered. In addition to picking up your bad habits, magnifying them and mirroring them back to you like a carnival fun house; children also pick up on your energy. They know when you are tense, sad, angry with your spouse or worried about life. They know instantly when you don’t like someone. Unfortunately, children assume that they are the cause of your negative emotions, not an outside influence. My oldest daughter has the eerie habit of plucking thoughts right out of my head. It happens so often now that I’ve come to accept her ability as yet another reason to focus my thoughts and energy into positive messages.

MOM DARE: Spend this week listening in on your conversations, really hearing yourself the way your child does. Are they imitating you? Can you see how one of their troublesome behaviors could be related to something you have inadvertently taught them? Are you stressed about something and your child is picking up on your anxiety? Try spending a little more time this week reassuring your children that they are doing a good job, that you love them, and that life is truly beautiful. Please.

Sharron Wright is the work-at-home mother of three girls, ages 2, 5 and 8. Her mission is to help other new parents feel empowered and to instill in them the confidence to care for their babies in a loving, positive way that respects the uniqueness of all children. She blogs at http://momswithgrace.wordpress.com and helps new moms at www.babylovecarebook.com

Taking Care of Ourselves

park benchMany parents (myself included) are under the impression that the moment we are born into the world of parenting, our own needs and desires become secondary. That is true to an extent: parents do not make up the bulk of the nightlife scene, we often have to yield the bathroom to littler bodies, and we have less time to leisurely read the newspaper or go backpacking when children are around.

But sharing our time and space with children does not mean that we have been forced into a life of martyrdom. We have our own needs, and we need to take care of ourselves in order to parent effectively. I recently wrote a guest post on dealing with mama guilt; the first suggestion in that article was to take care of yourself.

Mothers who are stretched too thin – who run from work to their kids’ activities, who volunteer and organize, who cook and clean – without also doing something to make themselves happy, are apt to burn out. There are several reasons this is not ideal, not the least of which is that a burnt out mama is not functioning at her best.

Nor is a completely selfless mother the best role model. She is passively teaching her children that her needs are not important. Consequently, her children will not consider her thoughts and feelings either. She is also influencing her children’s future relationships. Her child may learn to always bow to the will of others, or he may never stop to think about the feelings and needs of his friends and family. Neither is a desirable outcome. If you are looking  hair cut for women in Franklin , visit us now. In case you’re searching for the cut you need when you need it, simply stroll in, call ahead, or registration online anytime. You can demand your preferred beautician or see any of our skilled staff!

Take Care of Number One

Here are a few things I have tried to do lately to take care of myself:

  • Leaving the house for an hour or two: This gives my husband and son the chance to play uninterrupted. I can run an errand or surf the Internet alone, and my son learns that papa takes care of him just as well as mama does.
  • Stashing a special treat away: Not only does sneaking a treat give me a little chocolate “ahhhh” moment, but it has the added benefit of detracting from any potential mama guilt for letting my son eat too much sugar.
  • Indulging my vanity: I used to care what I looked like when I left the house; not so much anymore. I’m lucky if my clothes match, and I rarely do anything beyond washing my hair. But once or twice a year I have someone cut my hair. And once in awhile I color my hair from a box (I used to pay someone to do that, but I’ve discovered that’s not necessary at this point in my life). And I insist on my favorite shampoo (one big reason I’ve been hesitant to go no ‘poo).

What do you do to take care of yourself, and how often do you consciously do so?

What effects can you feel if you neglect your own needs?

Photo credit: costi

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