help-my-kid-starting-daycare

Help! My kid has started daycare!

Today is the Bug’s first day of daycare. I’m celebrating (and distracting myself) by writing a long-overdue blog post!

So he’s out of the house… What now??

I have been extremely lucky. First, I benefitted from Canada’s generous parental leave policy with one whole year of maternity leave. Second, my family’s timely move from Canada to Germany allowed me to extend my maternity leave while we settled into our new life here.

But it’s time for this charmed period of my life to end. It’s time to get back to work. This, of course, is easier said than done.

Since it looks like Chico and I may move around quite a bit in future, I have decided to become certified as a teacher of English as a second language–a career that will hopefully allow me to work wherever we end up.

I’ll be taking a 4-week intensive CELTA course (a Cambridge English certification) in Munich starting in September. I’m lucky enough to have daycare lined up, as well as family who are available to come and take over running the house while I am in class full-time. Not everyone is so lucky.

Organizing your overwhelming amount of free time

Suddenly you’re home alone, and you have all this amazing free time. You’re going to be able to get all that stuff done you’ve been meaning to do! Right? Wrong.

The few precious hours you have will slip by like water over Niagara Falls. There’s just so much to cram into a short space of time that (if you’re like me) you can sometimes end up ignoring it all and wasting time online.

So how do you make the most of the time without feeling overwhelmed? I have a simple answer.

LISTS.

i-love-listsI love lists. Lists help keep things clear, manageable, and tidy. I make lists for everything: To Do lists, Honey Do lists (technically for my Chico, poor man), packing lists, grocery lists, and many more.

I use a notebook to make a general list for each week. Then, I’ll make a break-down list to more specifically detail each day’s plan.

A list of what makes a good list notebook:

  • Spiral-bound
  • Able to sit open on a desk or tabletop
  • Lined or squared
  • Portable (A5) size
  • Tear-away option for the pages

A list of what makes a good list:

  • Short. Limit yourself to a maximum of 3 to 5 main tasks.
  • Specific. Don’t just say “clean.” Clean what? The kitchen? The bathroom?
  • Sweet. Don’t just put chores or unpleasant tasks (like cleaning) on there. Make room for a cup of tea, or for writing a blog post!

Making lists helps me to remember what I so desperately wanted to do before the chasm of free time stretched out before me. That chasm has a tendency to swallow all memory of what I had planned, hence the lists.

Take time to do something for yourself

Whether it’s an activity you love (exercise, reading, crafting), or a personal development project like my CELTA training, take some time to do something for yourself.

The few parenting resources I’ve read (I swore them off after I started feeling overwhelmed last year) recommend that parents set an example for their children of taking care of themselves.

Pursuing our own development shows our kids that parents have enough self-respect to maintain our interests outside of our families. Most everyone who’s an expert on the subject agrees that this sets a good example of self-respect to our children.

Far from resenting our absence from their lives, as long as we strike a good balance between our activities (whether it be work or hobbies) and family time, our kids will appreciate the example we set.

Enjoy your kids all the more when they get home

If they’ve been gone all day, chances are you’ll be pretty excited to see your kids when everyone gets home. As time spent together gets more limited, enjoy the moments you spend together to the max.

As far as I can, I’ll try to have everything prepared to keep cooking and chores to a minimum when the Bug gets home, and put away the iPhone and iPad, and try to nab some quality time with the little man.

Here’s hoping all goes well.

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Mamas: Stop Talking About Your Babies

It’s only natural; you’ve just had a baby. What else is there to talk about? Poopy diapers, how he sleeps, nursing, and just how ADORABLE he is when he smiles!

But mamas, you really need to stop talking about your babies. Here’s why:

Your babies are people whose privacy should be respected.

What? Not what you were expecting, right?? You thought I was going to tell you that you’re boring everyone, and no one wants to hear you talk about your baby, right? Well, perhaps. But there’s more to it.

Pot Calling the Kettle Black

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE talking about my baby. I will talk about my baby with anyone who shows even a remote interest. My Bug (who really is no longer much of a bug) is, to me, the most amazing little person in the world, and given half the chance, I will talk your ear off about how awesome he is.

But the thing is, aside from that being kind of obnoxious for my listeners, it’s also kind of obnoxious for my child.

Here’s an example. A few months back, I kept commenting to acquaintances that my little guy wouldn’t nap during the day. It became my main kvetch: I couldn’t get anything done because he wouldn’t nap.

A few weeks later, when all that had changed completely (because, let’s face it, everything in babyland is a phase and is over quickly), I was out with a group of ladies (sans babies) and someone made a comment that struck me.

She said, following on a conversation about someone else’s baby, “Well, at least your kid sleeps during the day, unlike Jane’s baby, who is always awake and crying.”

My first instinct was to protest the falsehood of this statement, and defend my child. But then I realized that the only person who had given this woman that impression of my child, was me.

It was an unfair representation of my Bug (who is perfect in every way, obviously), and I had no one but myself to blame.

A Reformed Big Mouth

So what is the point? The point is that our babies are our family, and our family deserve our complete loyalty. And I would argue that loyalty includes discretion; not talking about our family members willy-nilly, or spilling all their secrets.

Remember, that even though your baby is currently a little blob of a person, unable to express him or herself articulately, he or she is still a person. Just like we know we shouldn’t bad-mouth our spouses to others, we shouldn’t discuss our babies’ every concern with all and sundry.

Your Discretion Will Earn Their Trust

Now I’m not saying you can’t share anecdotes or concerns, or perhaps swap advice or strategies with other parents. I’m just saying that after that experience, and a couple others like it, I’m going to try to be more discrete about what I say about my kiddo. I now ask myself, “Would I want someone sharing this information about me?” If the answer is no, then I zip up.

So mamas, remember: there is such a thing as over-sharing, but the concern isn’t so much boring your audience, but mortifying the person you’re sharing about. Some things should be kept private, and if we get into the habit now of guarding our family’s secrets and being discrete, our kids will grow up knowing that they can trust us to listen and not spill our beans to everyone.

And isn’t our kids’ trust worth everything?

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More Helpful Lessons from Parenthood

Earlier, I wrote about surviving the first weeks of motherhood. As I get the hang of this whole motherhood thing, I want to share with you a few more helpful lessons from parenthood.

Note: these are some things that have really worked for me. Of course, every family and baby is different. Let me know in the comments if you had other tricks/recommendations that really worked for you.

1. Choose your visitors carefully.

Even if you’re the most put-together, organized person, having good help when you have a baby is essential.

All visitors are not created equal, however. Try to surround yourself with helpful, useful people whose goal is to make your life as a new parent easier. If you can, ask them to pick up groceries, or help you with cooking or a load of laundry.

Limit visits from people who will expect to be entertained. If friends or family come over expecting a warm meal from you, they are sub-optimal postpartum guests. If you feel you must see these people, suggest a meeting outside of the home in a café or restaurant, and then do not invite them home for a coffee.

2. Rethink your priorities.

Are you picky about the bed being made or the house being super tidy? Well, get over that.

Parenthood does not necessarily mean that your life will become a disaster (I’m thinking of this comic from the Oatmeal–caution, strong language), but if you’re a neat freak, you may have to tone it down a bit.

At the beginning, you’re going to want to sleep when your baby sleeps. If that’s in the middle of the day, so be it. It’s tempting to take advantage of a nap to throw on a load of laundry or do some dishes. But if you are sleep-deprived, forget it. Ask someone to do it for you (see point 1).

Eventually, as things get more regular, and your baby sleeps better at night, you’ll be able to do more.

3. Get out of the house.

This one can be tough for some and essential for others. It was essential for me.

Our Bug needed to visit the hospital two days after he was born for a follow-up check, so in early January in Quebec, we bundled him into the ErgoBaby carrier and trekked over to the hospital.

I was super stressed out about whether he was breathing okay, if he was warm enough, etc. But once that first outing was over and it went so well, Chico and I made a point of going out on an almost daily basis.

Getting out of the house will help you in so many ways: it’s exercise, it’s a change of scenery, and it will likely knock your kid out for a nap. Sweet.

4. Make a bedtime routine.

I have no idea if Chico and I just lucked out, or if it’s because we started a bedtime routine from early on, but our Bug is a champion sleeper (knocking on wood like crazy here).

Starting at just a few weeks old, we got used to giving the Bug a nightly bath, and now it’s like a pavlovian response: his trigger is the bath, and his response is sleep. It’s amazing.

Bath time is also a great opportunity for Chico to bond with the Bug. Chico is the Bath Master, and he and the Bug have a blast splashing around in the tub, and then giving and getting a massage.

Little by little we are working on a daytime routine as well, in order to help Bug master the daytime naps. I’ll let you know how that goes.

5. Baby wearing is a lifesaver.

Some people swear by it, and others say it’s dangerous to get a baby used to it, but our Bug loves to be slung in the Moby wrap. Sometimes he falls asleep, sometimes he doesn’t, but he always loves it.

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Sorry about the poor photo quality, but here’s me wearing the Bug.

 

I read in “What to Expect the First Year” that baby wearing for a few hours a day can actually lead to a less fussy baby, and promotes bonding.

Eh, whatever. All I know is that our Bug loves it, and he has even nursed in the Moby wrap like a champ. When he’s fussing and I have things to get done, I sling that baby like a badass and carry him around while I fold laundry, do dishes and get dinner ready (just don’t go putting anything in the oven while you’re wearing your baby, okay?).

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What lessons have you learned that made your life as a parent easier? Do tell in the comments!