Healthy Family & Home

Remembering who I was before I became a SAHM

If you’re a full-time stay-at-home mom (sahm, in Internet speak), it can be hard to see yourself beyond your role as a mom sometimes.

Sure, it’s a noble calling. Yet for all its honor, dedicating yourself to the full-time care of your family is not easy. It’s probably one of the hardest jobs on this earth.

Yesterday, as I was running some errands a couple weeks after giving birth to my second son, I pondered the woman this sahm had become.

Sometimes, since becoming a sahm, I feel like my personality has changed. I’ve become a horsedriver with a whip, chasing routines and schedules, ticking off the same household chores every day. Empty the dishwasher, load the washing machine, fold the laundry from yesterday. Take my toddler to the toilet. Feed him breakfast. It’s 9 o’clock, breastfeed the baby. And so on.

It feels like the routines have taken over my mind. And there’s not much space left over for other grown up womanly things.

I listen with interest to my husband’s talk of his workplace. Then I tell him how his oldest son used the toilet all by himself. And his youngest had a good stretch of tummy time. Thankfully, he’s interested.

But I have to say I sound pretty boring to myself.

Where’s the spontaneity I once enjoyed? The fun, beautiful woman I might have been at one point? When was the last time I watched the news or read a news story (beyond children’s product recalls)?

I know we all have our ups and downs. Working moms have their doubts and guilt, too. And to be fair, I chose to be a sahm. I just have to remind myself that there’s more to me than my children.

And too soon I will have that self back as they grow up…

Healthy Family & Home

Building bonding rituals and family traditions

Growing up, our dad would give my sister and I horseback rides to our room when it was bedtime. Sunday mornings we had pancake eating contests. In the summers, we camped around the White Mountains and rode in horse shows. (I thought no one worked in the summer, since my parents were both teachers!)

Those of some of the things that defined my childhood and what I remember most of growing up in our family.

Now that I have a family of my own, I am looking for activities that can become bonding rituals for our family. Things that we can look forward to and enjoy together now, and our kids can look back on fondly when they’re grown. And perhaps continue with us even after.
We still do the pancake tradition on weekends, only I add lots of banana and blueberries to build on my dad’s recipe.

But beyond that, I’m not sure we have anything we could call a family tradition yet. Maybe it’s because our oldest is only 3 still. Any rituals seem to be focused on sleeping, eating and bathing.

A couple of ideas we’ve brainstormed for family traditions:

• Once a year attend a major sporting event like the U.S. Open.
• A yearly trip to our favorite resort.
• Go blueberry picking as a family.
• A family picnic at the nearby springs when the weather turns warmer.
• Watching a certain movie together around a particular holiday.
• Researching a new destination together before we visit.
• Visiting a local exhibit that comes to town once a year.
• Choosing a new Beanie Designs kids’ hat every winter or spring for family photos.

I imagine there should also be lots of photos taken over the years as we grow our traditions…

Any ideas to add?

Healthy Family & Home

When will you let your little girl start wearing makeup?

The TV show Toddlers and Tiaras on TLC follows little girls and boys who parade around wearing makeup, false eyelashes, spray tans and fake hair to be judged on their beauty, personality and costumes.

That’s one way to get your kid started out wearing makeup. Still, some girls don’t get into makeup until they’re teens.

I started wearing makeup when I was probably 9 or 10. My mom was always livid when she saw me wearing it. She felt it was downright sinful to wear makeup at that age.

What she didn’t know was that I was really searching for a way to make myself feel good about how I looked, as I was entering the crazy time of puberty. I hated my freckles, so I would sneak on some of her foundation to try to cover them. And it just grew from there.

Looking back, I could see that I really didn’t have much confidence in myself, and makeup was a way to try to gain some.

One day when I was about 11, I didn’t wear foundation. A friend told me I looked sick and to never go out without makeup again.

You know how kids can take things to heart. It was probably 15 years later that I finally felt comfortable enough in my own skin to go without makeup for a day.

I’d say even age 10 or 11 is still probably too young to get into makeup. But that’s just my experience. I depended on it to feel good about how I looked. And that’s not the right way to start out as a young woman.

Frankly, this question, among others, had me worried about raising a girl if we would have been blessed with one. (Thankfully, we’ll be a family of boys. So much simpler!)

What about you? What age do you think is fine for a girl to start wearing makeup? And what if she sneaks it before then?

Healthy Family & Home

When others question your parenting choices

My husband’s father looked at me across the dinner table with a grave expression one night and said, “It’s time you started serious efforts to wean your son.”

My son was just over a year old. True, we’d reached the typical milestone when many moms wean their babies from the breast.  But I didn’t see this coming. Least of all from my father-in-law. I mean, I figured men of that generation left these things up to the women.

But there it was, a severe command that made just no sense at all to me.

Breastfeeding hadn’t been easy but I was committed from the start. I felt it was something I could offer my son that would benefit him for the rest of his life. And I was ready to continue until my baby and I were ready to stop. We were nowhere near that point.

So, what did I say in response? I think it was something like, “What? Do you really think that? Hmmmm.” Or maybe I tried spouting facts about the benefits of extended nursing, I can’t really remember. It was safe to say I was in shock.

I nursed my son successfully for one more year despite concern from the grandparents that it would ruin his teeth and so on. (My dentist put it in perspective when I asked her if there would be a problem: everyone gets questioned by the grandparents, she said. After all, they’re vested in your child’s well-being, too.)

But questions, comments and advice can come at you from all directions.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to listen to a new way of doing things. There’s just no way to have all the answers yourself. But when a well-meaning friend or relative tells you you should do something without knowing the full background, or at least having done some research or gone through the same thing herself, it’s pretty hard to know how to respond.

On one hand, you want to just come out and say what you’re thinking: “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” But there are relationships to be preserved. And mostly people give advice because they care, right?

The most regrettable part is I haven’t become any smarter in my responses.

What do you do when a well-meaning friend or relative has opinions that just don’t gel with the choices you’ve made as a parent?