This is one of the best articles I’ve read regarding this topic. Enjoy!
A new era has begun (I hope) August 25, 2010
Is this the beginning of a new era at our house?
- Yesterday, I took our regular kitchen trash can and moved it into the kitchen. And put it on the floor. For the last year or longer, we have used a tiny little trash can on the kitchen counter, due to Mark (age 22 months) constantly getting into the trash. Having the trash can on the counter was somewhat convenient, but also made me sad because we have such little counter space to begin with. So, the trash situation has returned to normal – for now, possibly for good – in our kitchen. What a relief.
- I am currently sitting in a comfy chair and am surrounded by my laptop, my coffee, my phone, a pen, my GTD Coordinator, my Bible, and a few other things. Mark is playing at the coffee table just a few feet away, but (here is the important part) he is not attacking me, my laptop, or any of my belongings. When he starts to get a little unruly, I remind him about time-out (in the Pack & Play). Since he is well rested and not hungry or ill, he seems capable of reigning in his desire to “get into everything.”
This is a giant step forward from the chaos we have been living in for the past year. Not being able to sit down and think, plan, read, pray, or type (without fending off a very determined toddler) has really done a number on me, and it feels terrific to be able to do these things again at a time other than naptime or bedtime.
From Rosemond I learned that around the time a toddler turns 18 months old, it is the parents’ job to gradually, lovingly, and firmly build boundaries around themselves so the child learns that s/he does not have complete access to the parents any time s/he feels like it. This makes a lot of sense to me, and it seems clear that a toddler who starts to learn these boundaries has the opportunity to grow into a child who is pleasant to live with, can handle a classroom environment, can be a joy to have as a guest, and so on.
It is a great relief to me that I can finally draw some boundaries around myself. As a mother, I live with so many interruptions and intrusions – on my body, time, and attention. (Yesterday morning, for example, Mark needed to go “number 2” at least six times, all before lunch! Since he’s young, it requires a lot of time and physical labor to get through the whole potty process.)
It’s no wonder that I often feel burnt out and that I’ve lost my sense of self. It’s not uncommon for me to struggle to finish anything without interruptions or downright intrustions, whether it’s making a simple grocery list or wolfing down a microwavable meal.
This morning, I am thankful to God for these bright spots of hope, and I am thankful that He has brought me through a challenging season of parenting.
Why Feeding My Kids Drives Me Crazy, Part II August 9, 2010
I am typing this post from the comfort of my recliner. I really need a rest after the last five hours, which were filled with laundry, dishes, vacuuming, mopping, about 8 rounds of potty assistance for my 21mo (lots of lifting and bending), and the never-ending food prep, serving, and clean-up.
Yesterday in my post about feeding my kids and why it drives me crazy, I covered the first 20 minutes or so of my day, as it relates to feeding my kids, mainly my older child, who is five years old.
In today’s post, I will cover a little more of my morning.
Before taking care of 5yo Adam’s AB-1 (Adam’s Breakfast # 1), I usually give Mark, 21 months old, a sippy cup of milk. He is very capable of drinking from a regular cup, but there are a few important drawbacks to giving him a regular cup first thing in the morning.
- First, he enjoys being wild with his cup of milk, so it is necessary to give him a tablespoon or so at a time. This means that I need to stay right with him and pour him a bit more each time he finishes what I gave him (and also try to keep him from throwing the cup across the room the moment he finishes). And to be perfectly honest (as I should do in order to honor the name of this blog), I don’t find it’s worth the time and attention to do things this way. Heaven knows there are thirty other things that need doing first thing in the morning!
- Perhaps more importantly, if Mark doesn’t get a sippy cup of milk, he gets loud. And loud is not what I want when I am doing everything in my power to keep things quiet enough for Big Brother To Sleep Just A Little Bit Longer, Please God Make It Happen. My whole day can stand or fall depending on whether Adam is well rested or not, so I get a leeetle beeeet wound up in the mornings when Mark gets up very early and, being a toddler, has no concept of or interest in being quiet.
So anyway, even though I am not a huge fan of sippy cups unless there is a really good reason to be using one, I do use one first thing in the morning for MB-1 (Mark’s Breakfast # 1).
Why Feeding My Kids Drives Me Crazy, Part I August 8, 2010
Before I became a mom, I had no idea how exhausting and frustrating the area of feeding my kids could be.
Currently my two boys are 5 years old and 21 months old. Each age, and each child’s personality, presents its own set of challenges. When all these factors work together, day after day, it sometimes drives me to the brink of absolute tears and frustration.
Adam, 5 years old:
- Usually gets up pretty early, sometimes at the same unholy hour as his brother (as early as 5 a.m., sometimes even earlier).
- Typically wants to have something to eat very soon after waking up. In and of itself, this is not a factor that would cause much frustration. But,
- Often, he does not want to eat much. So if I give him a bowl of cereal, even a small one, he wants to leave off about halfway through, leaving a soggy mess for me to deal with. Not surprisingly, I usually avoid giving him cereal and milk, even though this is a quick, convenient, nutritious option. This leaves me in a situation where I need to come up with something besides cereal and milk, and most other options involve more work and mess, plus, I am still left with leftovers, unless I insist that he finish whatever I give him.
Now, it’s worth pointing out that all of these decisions and potential causes of frustration are just the things I need to deal with within 5-10 minutes of waking up and coming downstairs to start my day. It may only be 5:30 a.m., and I may have an entire morning, not to mention day, to deal with still, and I have another child who also needs to eat breakfast (ha, as if “breakfast” is one single event).
Okay, so it’s 5:30 a.m., and my oldest child has eaten what I’ll call AB-1 (Adam’s breakfast # 1). There is also Mark’s breakfast to attend to, so stay tuned for Part II of Why Feeding My Kids Drives Me Crazy.
One thing I love about this blog is having the opportunity to write about whatever is on my mind. And at the moment, what is on my mind is finding the perfect food and snacks to bring along to the pool.
About halfway through the summer, I gave in and bought a pool pass to our public pool, and we have been there quite a lot. It has been, overall, wonderful. Since we spend at least a few hours there at a time, I have no choice but to pack a considerable amount of food for the boys (ages 5 years and 21 months) and for myself (watching my weight).
I am pretty particular about what kinds of foods I will give to my kids. Unless we are on a trip or something like that, I really don’t buy fruit snacks, goldfish crackers, or graham crackers, much less chips, cookies, or candy. I am not a total health nut, but I try to be very aware of what kinds of habits I am setting up for my kids.
Why no fruit snacks? Well, they are just too much on the “junk food” end of the spectrum. Mainly sugar and not very filling for the amount of calories the kiddos are taking in (I am not swayed by “Made with real juice!!!!!!!” plastered on the packaging).
Why no goldfish crackers? All kids love goldfish, right? Well, that is exactly my concern. Those crackers are so salty and cheezy, it seems to me that we are just setting kids up for a potato chip habit. I know that both of my kids would eat goldfish by the handful, given the chance, because they are so yummy. It’s the “Bet you can’t eat just one” syndrome. Nothing wrong with wanting to eat handfuls of yummy food, but given the chance I would like my kids to be gobbling up foods thare are more on the whole/natural end of the spectrum.
Why no graham crackers? Aren’t they a rite of childhood? It would seem so, if you ask my MIL. Again, graham crackers have a pretty high “yummy factor” (thanks to the added sugar) but even the ones that are “Made with point 2 grams of whole grain per serving!!!!!” are a little too processed for me to feel good about giving to my kids on a regular basis. It’s not that I don’t give them any processed food – I am well aware of that – but in my world graham crackers are more of a treat than a staple. I just don’t think they are very filling, and I already feel like I’m shoveling food in front of my boys all day long just to keep the “I’m hungry”s at bay.
So, what to pack for snacks for the pool? It comes down to a balance of convenience and yummy-ness. Here are some things that have worked, and not worked, for us —
- Yogurt in a tube (Go-Gurt) – My 5yo likes these and can eat them without making too much of a mess. I like the protein and calcium, and we buy the version that has no HFCS or artifical flavors. I am aware that there is a fair amount of added sugar in these, but over time I have decided to accept that trade-off. The only real downside is that my 21mo son sometimes gets upset because he wants one, too — and that is a mess I just don’t want to deal with when we’re out and about.
- String Cheese -The 5yo claims he doesn’t like these, but I usually hold firm and say that if he’s truly hungry, he will eat some (he used to eat them all the time). I’m not a huge fan of all the sodium in these, but I do buy the “Light” kind so they are high in protein and low in fat and calories. Also portable and not messy!
- Snack Mix (made from Cheerios, raisins, and lightly salted peanuts) – Both kids seem to really like this, and the convenience factor can’t be beat, including the fact that leftovers aren’t a problem (unlike sandwiches). Cheerios are a processed food, to be sure, but since they are low in added sugar and have some other factors going for them, such as fiber, I do consider them a staple at our house.
- Wasa crispbread – I was really gung-ho on these for awhile. I would pack a jar of peanut butter (either natural or Smart Balance) and make peanut butter crackers for the kids on the spot. There are so many reasons I like the Wasa, but after awhile I got tired of the kids not really wanting to eat them. It seemed they like the “Whole Grain” type better than the “Multi-Grain” type, whereas for me, it’s the other way around.
- Ry Krisp crackers, sesame flavor. Both kids seem to like these, even plain, and the nutritionals are pretty good. I tend to buy these instead of Wheat Thins, Triscuits, and the like, because it seems like the nutritionals are better (lower sodium, lower fat, good amount of fiber, and so on).
- Greek Yogurt (individual packs) – for myself. They are yummy and convenient (so long as I keep some spoons in the cooler) and filling (hello, protein!) and just 2 Points (Weight Watchers) each.
- Apples – Cut into small pieces. My 5yo always welcomes these, and so does Little Brother (sometimes). Obviously very nutritious and filling.
What about you? What do you buy as a staple for your home, and what as once-in-awhile treats? What are your go-to items for trips to the pool, park, and elsewhere?
SAHM Depression vs. SAHM Burnout August 4, 2010
Over my 5 years as a SAHM, Hubby and I have both wondered if I suffer from depression, and if being a SAHM is the right thing for me and for our family. A few different times, Hubby has had the courage to suggest that perhaps I should go back to work, just for the sake of my mental health.
Something about these discussions has never really sat right with me. For one thing, I never wondered about whether I had depression before I became a mother. Then and now, some anxiety, yes, but not depression – not the kind that interferes with everyday life and doesn’t respond to “cheering up” sorts of efforts. For another, I do truly want to be a SAHM and I do truly think it is the best thing for our children.
Enter the term: SAHM Burnout. This makes a lot of sense to me, and I think that understanding what burnout is and how it comes about will be very helpful to me and to my family.
I think that burnout involves symptoms of depression, but it is not necessarily the same thing as true clinical depression. I think that burnout, left unaddressed, can be detrimental and even dangerous. It can certainly leave a SAHM feeling isolated and inadequate. I do think that when burnout is properly addressed, its symptoms can be turned around in a relatively short period of time. However, burnout symptoms can rear their ugly head again if things slide back to the way they used to be.
What factors make burnout more likely to be a big issue for me?
- When the weather does not allow us to easily spend time outdoors, this can put me in a “danger zone” pretty quickly. Where I live, the winters are long and cold, and it can take 15 minutes of concerted effort to get both of my kiddos (and myself) ready for the great outdoors. And once we’re out there, we may or may not be able to stay there very long. Summer comes with its own set of joys and challenges. Yesterday, for example, was so hot and humid that we spent a little time outdoors in the morning, and that was it for the day.
- When the kids or myself are sick.
- When I’m not getting enough sleep (this can have a variety of causes).
- When we don’t have “enough” things going on, such as preschool, Mommy & Me class, and so on.
- When we have TOO MUCH going on, and/or one particular thing starts to become a drain. A sign of this phenomenon is when you start to feel love/hate for a particular thing; for me, going to the pool has fallen into this category. On the one hand, yay! fun! water and smiles! when we go to the pool. On the other hand, all the time spent getting ready (applying sunscreen, packing food); all of the energy expended once we are there (Mark, who is 21 months old, has his own agenda at the pool, and it mainly involves wandering around every square inch of the pool complex — every DRY square inch, that is); and all of the work once we get home (baths, dinner, then bedtime, all at breakneck speed). All of these things can take their toll on me after awhile.
- Any time when I feel powerless to Get Things Done — whether those things are of a cooking and cleaning nature, or a rest & relaxation nature — because of so many interruptions and so many people (big and small) needing my time and attention. (For an interesting take on this issue, check out this Dad’s description of his week from hell.)
- When I feel like a failure at being a “good mom” (whatever that means) in spite of my efforts to not let anything slide. Today, for example, I spent the morning dashing around the house, doing some laundry and some basic cleaning; also spent a good amount of time preparing/serving/cleaning up after snacks for the kiddos and for myself. I kept glancing outside and thinking how I really “should” get the kids outside. Before I knew it, it was 11 a.m., and both kids were starving (AGAIN), so I hit the ground running in the kitchen (AGAIN) and got some lunch ready. Immediately after lunch, Mark was ready for his nap, so no more chance of a family outing in the morning; the afternoon brings its own set of opportunities (pool? park?) and challenges (me being worn out, figuring out dinner, being prepared for Mark’s post-nap demonic state). The bottom line? It is tough when, day after day, competing goals make you feel torn and unsuccessful; in this case, one goal is to Get The Kids Outside and Have Fun as a Family, while another goal is Keeping My House From Looking and Smelling Like a Pigsty, a Pigsty in Which Healthy Meals and Snacks Are Nowhere to Be Found.
- Feeling like “no one” would understand my feelings and frustrations. Over the years, I have realized that my mother, while she is a very dear and wonderful person, is not a good sounding board for me. As a result, I try not to appear too worn out or burnt when she is “watching.” With my husband, we have gone through a long process of figuring out how to make things work between us. On the one hand, it’s not fair for him to constantly listen to complaining and negativity; on the other hand, I can’t realistically put on a happy face for him day after day while I am falling apart on the inside. (I have talked with a number of other SAHMs who struggle with this very same issue.) When it comes to fellow SAHMs, it would seem that they would be perfect soulmates, but over the years I have discovered that this is not always, or even often, the case. Some SAHMs, God bless them, seem to sail through the challenges of SAHM-hood, and adding another kid or two to the brood is no big deal, not to mention the minor issues of getting dinner on the table or heading up yet another fundraiser at church or school. I have developed quite a nose to sniff out other SAHMs who love their families dearly but some days are just holding on by their teeth, and (this is key) aren’t afraid to admit it.
For me, it is therapeutic to simply list the things that contribute to burnout. What about you? What factors contribute to a state of burnout for you?
Dodged a bullet, at least for a moment August 3, 2010
Adam, 5 years old, has been particularly underfoot today.
A moment ago he came up from the basement, where he and Little Brother had been playing. It seemed that Adam was getting ready to, well, talk at me (something I have had more than enough of today).
Mom: Adam, do you need something to do? (undertone: chores)
Mom: Okay, then I expect you to not bother me right now.
I think John Rosemond would be proud. And, I got a few more minutes of relative peace and quiet.