Category Archives: newbie parents

Dadchelor Parties: A Dream or a Disaster?

I saw this segment on ABC Nightline last week about “Dadchelor” parties becoming all the rage among soon-to-be daddies. In fact, according to one expert interviewed during the segment, roughly 1 in 5 dads has a dadchelor party.

If you’re like me and don’t know a single dad whose had such a party, a dadchelor party is a man’s version of baby shower. And because its usually given by men for men, it tends to end up looking seriously similar to a bachelor party, with loads of booze and questionable entertainment generally lasting well into the wee hours of the morning.

It would appear that most soon-to-be mommies aren’t exactly big on this idea. It’s totally immature, but I personally think it’s brilliant.

Leave it to men to figure out how to take the idea of a baby shower to the next level. How lame do ladies lunches with traditional shower games seem next to a party bus full of raucous friends with a final destination of the nearest casino? And the diaper keg is ingenious. Basically how it works is every dadchelor party participant brings a box of diapers to the party in exchange for booze. I also really like the idea of bringing a new stroller full of beer or drink-with-me Elmo games, as shown in this dadchelor party spoof:

But while I find this whole dadchelor idea totally creative on the part of soon-to-be dads and their degenerate friends, I sincerely do think it’s a good idea. From what I gather from a lot of my mommy friends, nearly every husband has a freakout moment before the birth of his first child. (Mine most definitely did.) It most often looks nothing like a soon-to-be mommy freakout. Rather than coming on fast and furiously like a freakout does for soon-to-be moms (thanks, hormones!), soon-to-be daddy drama usually builds builds slowly and sort of festers before exploding, usually after some serious nagging by the moms to get off their duff and do something on that honey-do-for-baby list.

That trigger for a lot of soon-to-parents is the issue of the nursery. Moms totally stress about getting the nursery ready and especially about setting up the crib. Dads generally don’t have the same urgency in dealing with those tasks, which drives most moms absolutely nuts. I see this lack of urgency almost as a subconscious refusal to deal with the reality of having a baby. It’s like a last grasp to hold on to life as they’ve known it. No crib roughly translates to more time to still be the kind of married-without-kids carefree that they’ve enjoyed for some time. Conversely, the crib is a physical reminder that those days are seriously numbered. And this reticence has nothing to do with not being excited about a baby or the prospect of being a dad.

So, maybe a dadchelor party is just the cathartic experience that some dads need to reconcile their fears with reality. Sure, life changes in a big way post baby, but it’s in a good way. You don’t just stop being the person you were, but you do start to learn more about the person you are. I get that for a lot of dads it’s scary to be looking at an overnight change. Personally, I wished I’d have known about these dadchelor parties back when I was pregnant. I think my husband would’ve totally benefited from one last blowout before getting down to the real business of baby.

Admittedly I would’ve also been jealous had he had one. I’m not sure when I’ll get a night on the town dadchelor style. But maybe that’s where a compromise is in order. Dad gets a dadchelor night out and mom gets a post-baby moms-gone-wild night. Sounds like a deal to me.

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Filed under daddy care, dads, diapers, family, infants, marriage, maternity, mom style, mommy care, moms, nesting, newbie parents

Three Lessons for All Moms

I recently had lunch with three mommy friends that I’ve known since elementary school. (It seriously makes me so proud to be able to say that we’re all still friends after all these years.) Lunch with these ladies, who are all either two or three times more experienced at the mommy thing, is always enlightening if not totally entertaining.

Part of what makes it so fun to continue to get together is its a chance to take stock of what’s changed.

For example, one of my mommy friends ordered an unsweetened ice tea to go with her lunch. Another friend looked at her, shuddered, and said, “Whoah, unsweetened? That’s hardcore.”

That just about sums up how exciting the mommy life is. So long gone are the days of sneaking out of dances to meet up with boys. Or trekking through the woods at night to a bonfire kegger. Or backpacking through nine countries in eight weeks. Hardcore is now defined as living without the little luxury of a lump or two of sugar.

But what hasn’t changed is the uniqueness and humor with which each one of these women approaches life, and especially the responsibilities and realities of mommyhood. I’ve learned (and laughed) so much from their own stories of success and failure when it comes to keeping it together with kids. Here are three gems that I can’t resist passing on:

Lesson #1: You can avoid extraneous meltdowns. When my friend had her first child, she came up with a rule to keep the crying to a minimum. The rule was simple: You can cry if there’s blood. I didn’t even have kids at the time that I first heard this mom logic, and it still struck me as a brilliant idea. Now that I am a mom, it’s pure genius. I can’t wait to start pulling this one out. Take that minor bumps and tumbles, we’re saving tears for bigger drama!

Lesson #2: It’s okay to keep a secret. This trick of the mommy trade kind of traces back to the old adage of “what you don’t know won’t hurt you.” My mommy friend, for example, doesn’t tell her kids when the fair is in town. In fact, she doesn’t even drive down the street next to the fairgrounds during that week. (It didn’t even occur to me that I could do this as a mom!)

She’s totally figured out that life can go so much more smoothly without the questions, begging, complaining, and crying that go hand-in-hand with kid-magnet activities like county fairs. This isn’t to say that my friend doesn’t take her kids to places like fairs; it’s just that she’s gotten savvy to fact that she can totally circumvent the annoying and/or exhausting build-up to the event.

Two caveats: This technique works better with the not-yet-literate set and is by no means foolproof, as my mommy friend can attest. Her child started inquiring about the fair after a play date with another child whose parents weren’t keeping the same secret.

Lesson #3: Never forget to make your kid feel special every day. I had a little exchange with my friend’s four-year-old son the other day that I thought was so reflective of the type of my mommy my friend turned out to be. Her little boy said, “Do you know what the most beautiful word in the whole world is?” I, of course, said, “No, tell me.” He said, “Thomas.” That was of course his name. And what he said was, of course, so very true. That’s totally what every kid should be taught. Every day.

So, thank you to my friends for sharing these pearls. From the practical to the sweet, I feel so much better prepared to navigate mommyhood thanks to you.

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Filed under daily life, moms, newbie parents, parenting

Baby Envy

I had a friend the other day ask me when I was going to start thinking about baby #2. The better question would have been when haven’t I been thinking about baby #2. All it took was for my post-birth stitches to heal and I was already planning for the next one.

Most new parents love the you-me-and-baby-makes-three stage, to the point that it’s a little hard to quite picture life with a second child. And it is awesome. You’re in this sort of beautiful baby bubble. But for whatever reason, my husband and I so want to be on the accelerated kid plan. Maybe it’s that we feel like we were a little late to the whole baby party (what were we waiting for anyway?) or maybe it’s because my husband was an only child and dreams of nothing less than a houseful of kids. Or maybe we just realize time is really no longer on our side. I mean, you start doing the math on how long it can take to get pregnant, how long you are pregnant (I’m of the 10-month philosophy), and how long before you sort of have things under control once baby has arrived and it’s like a two-year minimum for every kid, on average. And as painful as it may be to admit, we’re not getting any younger.

Of course making good on the promise of a second wee one is a physical impossibility for my husband and me right now. Short of a miracle–but I’m not really holding out for an act of god in this case, although in writing this I’m wondering if I should get our company prayer group praying for it–you kind of have to be in the same place for just a tiny bit of time.

This reality, of course, almost makes me want a #2 even more than I did before. And if that didn’t, the recent second baby wave among a number of my friends would do it. I’m especially fascinated, if not the slightest bit jealous, of the friends whose first babies are still little–like a year or 18 months old–and they are due again within a couple months. Are these wonderful ladies ridiculous fertile or did they use some crazy technique to shift into high-gear baby making?

Some people would say that I’m crazy; with my so-called hectic life, I need two babies in diapers like a hole in the head. True, but I still want them. And honestly, my first baby is so not meant to be an only child. Just watching him interact with other kids, I know he really wants a sibling, too.

But there are always some reservations about a #2. Most moms I know worry most about being able to love the second as much as the first. In my head that totally makes sense that so many mommies feel that way. I mean, moms have been so singularly focused on baby #1 that it’s hard to imagine having the bandwidth to be able to give that kind of love and attention to a second without somehow shafting the first. But I don’t really have that fear.

My biggest fear is about the getting pregnant with #2. Baby #1 was a whoops of sorts, so I didn’t have to stress about getting pregnant because it happened without us really planning for it. But with how eager we are to have a second, it makes me worry that our hopes will put nutty undue stress on the trying. And the last thing I want to be when thinking about a new baby is frustrated.

But I feel for mommies who don’t know that their hearts are infinitely expandable. I don’t know where I read it or heard it, but at some point it sunk in to me that when people have more children, their love is never divided; instead, it’s multiplied. I just love that idea.

While my time to multiply isn’t now, that little realization keeps me looking forward to the days when (hopefully) I won’t be able to hold all of my kids in my arms at one time. And in the meantime, I’m content to be insanely happy, even if the tiniest bit envious, for my mommy friends who are on the road to becoming mommies for the second time.

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Filed under babies, birthing, family, first year, infants, maternity, newbie parents, pregnancy

Mommy Meals on Wheels

Get in my belly!

Because I took both a birthing class and a breastfeeding class with Juliana Parker of Birth ‘n’ Babies, I am still on her e-mail list. Most of the time her updates are on new classes or deals on Madela products, which at this junction I’m over. However, this last Web announcement completely caught my eye:

HOME COOKED MEALS AFTER THE BIRTH OF YOUR BABY, WITH A SICK BABY OR DURING A FAMILY EMERGENCY!

Successful individuals will tell you that the key to success is knowing your strengths and weaknesses… and when the going gets tough, the tough ask for help!  Having a baby, having a sick baby or dealing with a family emergency can be exhausting!  This wonderful program is offered to you exclusively by Childbirth-n-Babies.  We coordinate your friends, neighbors, relatives and members of your community to help you out!  Remember, people WANT to help!  Volunteers are not paid because they are worthless, they are not paid because they are priceless!!

Maybe I’m totally out of the loop, but I’ve never heard of such a service. Fortunately, my mom was able to come down after baby’s birth to take care of the feeding me and whoever else’s mouth happened to be around. But I sure do have a lot of friends who didn’t have that luxury, as they sorted out the chaos of a new baby without much, if any, support. How great would it be to know that not only dinner is control, but it’s also likely to be something at least slightly healthier (and probably much more delicious) than delivery pizza or Chinese food?

But more interesting is how this thing works. So, if you’re an expectant mommy (or dad), you send an e-mail to meals@childbirth-n-babies.com about 2 weeks before your due date. You supply the organizers with the following info: name, delivery address, number of people in household, dietary restrictions,  2 preferred delivery time windows, and a list of names and e-mail addresses of friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors who would be happy to help you out when you need it.

Then you just contact Birth ‘n’ Babies, when your wee one(s) arrive and the organizers will contact the folks on your list, as well as other kind-hearted, meal-making saints in your area who like to volunteer their time and groceries to help out new mommies, to sort out a meal schedule. Once that happens, you receive a link to an online schedule that will let you know when you can expect some good eats to show up. Of course, you’ll have to fend for yourself some of the time, but just knowing there are days you won’t have to deal with feeding yourself is awesome.

I just think this is such a cool concept. I mean, I feel like when you’re an expectant mommy, especially the first time around, so many people tell you not to hesitate ask for help. You know that they mean it, but most of the time, you never really take advantage of their generosity. Maybe it just feels too weird to ask for help. But this is the perfect way to really take them up on their super kind offer to help without doing all the organizing yourself. (Like you have time for that with a newborn, a sick baby, or an emergency on your hands.) You just put them on this list and when you’re ready for some help, someone is already on standby.

And it’s totally free! That’s even better in my book. Although I would imagine it wouldn’t hurt to pay the favor forward and, once the household is back under control, volunteer to whip up a few lasagnas or other goodies of your own to offer other newbie moms.

Although I’m not going to be expecting another baby any time soon, I’m so tempted to volunteer just to see how this thing works. Sounds good in concept, but I wonder if reality is a different story. Either way, I give Birth ‘n’ Babies props for getting creative for D.C. area moms.

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Filed under family, feeding, first year, hospital, infants, mommy care, newbie parents, newborns, post-pregnancy

Everything I Know About Child Rearing I Learned from My Dog

I have a bad dog. He jumps on the furniture; he clobbers guests when they walk in the door; he barks uncontrollably at random objects like brooms and mops; he pulls on the leash; he howls in his crate every time I leave the house; he steals things from the baby and then eats them; and, if you haven’t guessed, he doesn’t listen all that well, if at all at times.

Student or sage?

Part of it is his age–he’s still a 10-month-old puppy–and part of it is that he’s just a hard-headed Doberman. (Sometimes he’s even a butt head, as one dog expert calls him.) But because he’s still incredibly lovable despite his foibles, I spend the time and the dough nearly every week to work with a trainer–Rachel Jones of K-9 Divine–to help him become a better dog. Better is of course the key word.

While Zus still has a ways to go before becoming a certified canine good citizen, the training totally helps. I really feel like once he’s through his teenage years, rife with rebellion, I’m probably going to have a really well trained dog on my hands.

But we’re not there yet, so there’s still a lot of work to be done. But in pursuing this obedience training, I’ve learned a thing or five about dogs that I think have made me a better parent.

  1. Schedules are a sanity saver. Yes, my dog has a schedule. It’s not as strict as baby’s, but there is a framework in place. Like baby, Zus has a wake-up time, scheduled activities (usually a Kong stuff with treats and peanut butter or a bone), naps/quiet time in his crate, exercise and play periods, and meals. Having a routine solves a bunch of issues, but the biggest one is that it keeps the dog occupied so he’s not doing stupid stuff like eating baby booties out of boredom or anxiety. I totally believe the same is true for children. While I don’t advocate a super strict routine, a stable one really goes far for my wee one. He learns to know what to expect, so there are fewer meltdowns over taking a nap or eating dinner. And when the dog/kid isn’t melting down, the likelihood of mom melting down diminishes rapidly.
  2. Parents have to be on the same page. When training a dog, especially in the early stages, it’s critical that joint owners subscribe to the same training method. For example, it’s not fair to expect a dog to respond correctly to both owners if one says “sit” and the other says “sit down.” The owners need to use exactly the same commands and also adhere to the same rules (is the dog allowed on the couch or not?) to really be able to give your dog a shot at being obedient. Similarly, parents need to figure out what the house rules are and both abide by them if their children are to respect them. It’s not going to work all that well if one parent is a stickler about naps and the other could care less, for example.
  3. Practice makes perfect. My trainer says it takes an average dog about 100 times of responding to a command correctly to truly master it. I don’t know how long it takes for children–sometimes I feel like its fewer than 100 repetitions and sometimes I feel like it’s 10x more–but my theory is that if you want your children to do something without a struggle every time, parents need to keep modeling the appropriate behavior. (I saw this in action on Super Nanny, an ABC reality series where Super Nanny Jo Frost helps desperate parents regain control of their children.) For example, you don’t try to reason with a child about going to bed. You go through the bedtime routine, then it’s lights out, and then if they continue to get out of bed, you take them by the hand and walk them back to their beds. Repeat until they realize that they aren’t going to get to stay up.
  4. Most of the time I’m the problem. There have been points in my dog training career where I’ve gotten frustrated with my dog because he was failing to obey my commands. However, what I learned was that most of the time he wasn’t obeying my commands because I wasn’t articulating them correctly to him. For instance, the dog wouldn’t immediately sit down when I asked him to do so. Turns out, without realizing it, I was telling him to sit down twice without giving him enough time to complete the action after the first time I gave him the command. So, several weeks later, he wouldn’t respond to me until I said the command twice; I had unknowingly created a habit. I imagine that parents can often assume that their kids know what they, as parents, expect from their children. But I would venture a guess that maybe that’s not always the case. So, I think as parents we need to not only be explicit in our direction but also patient in allowing our kids to process it and react before we jump all over them. Otherwise the original message lost because we’re interrupting its transmission.
  5. Don’t get emotional during conflict. Admittedly, this is not one of my strong suits. In periods of high stress, my dog really knows how to push my buttons and I have definitely lost it. But I backed off on yelling at him early after I realized that when I yelled at him he sometimes peed on the floor out of a mixture of excitement and fear. I had enough baby spit up and poopy diapers to clean up that doggy piddle was just too much, so I figured out that if the dog stole something and I wanted it back, the best thing to do was not to yell, chase, or try to tackle the dog to get it back. I simply turned and went into the kitchen, got a treat, and nonchalantly walked over to wherever he was and in a very nice voice asked him to sit down. Inevitably he dropped the stolen object and I gave him a treat. It’s classic positive reinforcement technique, and I believe that it’s pretty effective with people, too. Basically, you ignore the bad behaviors and reward the good behaviors.

This definitely isn’t rocket science, but I totally found it interesting that responsible dog training had so many similarities with good parenting. I am not suggesting that children are like dogs, or should be treated as such, but I do think there are some fundamental communication skills that are applicable across relationships with dogs and humans.

I think it’s safe to say that at this stage in the obedience cycle, I’m pretty sure Zus has taught me at least as much, if not more, than I’ve taught him.

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Filed under newbie parents, parenting, pets

With a Little Help from Our Moms

As I wrote in my last post, I’ve loved becoming a mom and have counted my first year as one one of the happiest of my life. But as any mom can attest, it’s not always easy. But thank god mom’s also have moms; mine made my first year as a mom about more than just surviving it.

She was there from the very beginning with baby. She was ridding my closet of junk right up until the point where my contractions were so intense that I couldn’t take it anymore and wanted to go to the hospital. She sat with me all through baby’s birth and even cut his umbilical cord since dad wasn’t able to be there to do that himself. She stayed with me until it was clear baby and I could be on our own; we were going to be fine, but I remember never feeling so sad to say goodbye to her as when she left after baby was born.

Since then, she’s never stopped being the amazing support she was at the beginning. Even though we are far apart and she can’t physically help me when it would seem I need it most, she always finds a way to help make an impossible situation manageable. It’s easy when you’re feeling overwhelmed to forget to think yourself out of a spot, and I am grateful that she’s there to remind me of that.

For as much as I’ve appreciated my mom during this first year, I can say the same about my husband’s mom. Not only do I love how much she adores baby, but I would never have been able to keep up with some of my work if she didn’t think all her vacation days were well spent watching baby and taking care of our animals while I go to conferences.

And of course I count ourselves extremely lucky to still have both of my husband’s grandmothers in the picture to impart some of their wisdom on us as newbie parents.

So, I’m wishing all of them the happiest of Mothers Days today. Without them, this past year would have been immeasurably harder and a lot less fun. Thanks for being such great people to us. We love you beaucoup!

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My First Mother’s Day

I had a friend yesterday wish me a happy first Mothers Day. My first reaction was, this isn’t my first Mothers Day. And then I remembered that I was just very (very) pregnant last year at this time.

But how interesting that in my head I had already switched from just being

A year ago things were good...

me to being mom before baby had even arrived. I mean, it’s hard to just feel like you when you’re pregnant but when you’re pregnant for the first time you don’t know exactly how your life is going to change.

It’s hard to capture the extent of those changes because, on the one hand, life changes super drastically and then  you sort of get into the groove as a new parent, so the changes don’t seem as huge anymore. And then there are the moments you’re never sure how you lived without.

Last night I watched the Ed Burns movie The Groomsmen. While there’s definitely a reason its an instant download on Netflix, there were some good laughs and a few sort of deep reflections. The story line is simple–the main character, Paulie, played by Ed Burns, is freaking out days before he’s marrying his already-pregnant girlfriend, played by Brittany Murphy–so there are lots of good, fairly humorous “guy” scenes and dialogue exchanges.

But for all the cheap laughs, there are also some pretty insightful moments that held up like mirrors to things I have experienced. For example, there’s a scene where Paulie and his girlfriend get into an argument after he sets up the crib because she also wants him to paint and he doesn’t want to. That leads to a whole meltdown where she finally yells at him that it would be nice if he would just once bring her flowers, make her breakfast in bed, or give her a foot massage because she takes care of everything else.

That scene played out a number of times between my husband and I during my pregnancy, as he tried to squeeze as much into the last of our “free” time and all I wanted was to slow down and enjoy the fun of expecting baby.

But this whole concept of so-called free time before and after baby  is worth a visit. My husband and I have always been a couple constantly on the go, and post-baby, that really hasn’t stopped. We don’t go out as much at night any more, but our days our definitely very full. In fact, I’m not sure when I’ve ever been busier than now.

But the amazing part is how productive I have become. Part of it is the not

...but they are even better now

going out as much at night, which gives me a pretty big block of time after baby is in bed to do everything from pay bills, clean, and of course write. And the not going out as much at night means I get up earlier on the weekends–Saturdays and Sundays tend to feel a lot like any other day of the week–which gives me some hours in the morning to do things with baby whereas I would’ve normally been sleeping in or otherwise having a lazy morning.

It’s like this other scene in The Groomsmen where Paulie is talking to his friend Dez about his fears about becoming a father and losing his freedom. Dez, who has a couple of kids, says to him, “What were you doing with your free time anyway? You were watching TV.” And that’s really it. The free time that I had pre-baby was really just a lot of wasted time.

And while being busy means that I often find myself fairly exhausted at the end of the day, I like it. I would be lying if I said I didn’t wish for a day to sleep until noon uninterrupted or an afternoon spent at a bar watching football without keeping track of my babysitting tab, but, for the most part, I feel like I contribute more to the world now than I ever did before.

The responsibility of having a baby is sometimes meltdown-worthy, but for me, having a baby was like adding a rudder to my life. I have direction every day; my goal is to make baby’s day the best day possible so that he can sleep happy. Sometimes I fall short in that goal, but lucky for me I get a chance to get up and try again the next day. So, tomorrow I’m going to celebrate Mother’s Day by just being a mom. In my book, there’s no better way to spend my day than doing that.

So, here’s wishing every mom the best kind of Mothers Day–one spent with her kids.

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Filed under babies, daily life, family, first year, infants, moms, newbie parents, newborns, photos, post-pregnancy