I’m not a super mom. I’m not an average mom. I’m just a mom.

I’m been really hard on myself as a mom. Since my little babe is now a year old, I guess I can’t really call myself a new mom. I feel like I should have my shit together. I should have a routine. I should know what I’m doing. And, obviously, I should have lost all the baby weight and be fit and trim, 100% back to normal, with a clean house. Oh and I should also have a “suck it up and handle it” attitude (at least that’s what all those Instagram memes tell me).

But I don’t. I’m still heavy with the weight I gained during pregnancy. I’m still struggling with postpartum depression, baby blues, or just flat out depression—whatever you want to call it these days. My house is pretty clean…sometimes. Some days I’m a rock star and I feel like a pro at this motherhood thing. Some days, like today, I want to crawl back into bed and sleep like Rip Van Winkle for the foreseeable future (would you mind handling the diaper changes for me?).

7-18-17 Just a mom cover

I still struggle with my new identity. Mother versus woman. “Unemployed” versus working my ass off 24/7 to be recognized by no one because being a stay at home mom isn’t considered a “real” job. Fat versus fit. Super mom versus average mom.

But why do we have to be one or the other? What makes one mom “super” while another is just “average”? Is it the amount of activities she takes her kid to? Is it how many decorations or how well-themed a birthday party is? Is it the number of dust bunnies in the corners of her house? Homemade meals vs. frozen? Go get ‘em attitude? Why does it have to be one or the other, why can’t I just be… “mom”?

I suppose it all comes down to the “super mom” stereotypes we create in our heads. I have to be this kind of mom to be really great. I can’t have bad days or let anyone see me struggle. Why can’t I be like that mom who has it all together (and looks great too)? At least, this is the kind of thing I tell myself daily. I’m embarrassed to say “I’m depressed.” I’m ashamed to admit “I’m struggling.” I don’t want to utter “I need help.” But I have these kinds of days mixed in with my supermom days. And I don’t think there should be anything wrong with that. Even the most seemingly put together mom has her kryptonite. No one has their shit together 100% of the time. There’s a hole in that [damn] giant golden inflatable goose raft at the pool somewhere, and I’m watching from the side as it sinks slowly the more use it gets.

There should be nothing wrong with admitting that we have a weak spot and be able to put the repair patch on. I want to be able to say to myself that this is the kind of mom that I am, this is what I am able to do, and I’m giving it all I’ve got. I don’t want to identify as any one kind of mom—tiger, helicopter, crunchy, or otherwise. I want to just be Mom.

What you need for an airplane ride with baby… and what you don’t.

Recently we traveled with our infant, and it was quite a scene. I made sure to pack all the baby gear essential for travel, but I also wanted to be sure that I included everything I would need for our day in the airport and on the airplane. I stayed true to my travel motto: “It’s better to have it and not use it than be without.” We checked our luggage and the car seat, so I prepared a carry-on bag for each of the parents.

How to pack carry-on bags for traveling with an infant

This is what Bag 1 included:

  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • More diapers
  • Changing pad
  • Outfit change
  • Warm layer (long sleeve shirt)
  • Plane toys
  • Favorite teether (and teether strap)

Baby Banana Infant Training Toothbrush and Teether, Yellow

Baby Banana Infant Training Toothbrush and Teether, Yellow

  • Book
  • Antibacterial wipes
  • Cheerios
  • Empty sippy cup
  • Sealed jar of pureed meat
  • Squeezy pouch of pureed fruit
  • Hair ties
  • Wallet
  • Cell phone

This is what Bag 2 included:

  • Back up toys in case he got bored with the first bag of toys
  • Snacks for mom and dad
  • Extra shirts for mom and dad in case of unexpected baby blowout/spit up
  • Phone charges
  • Diapers
  • Tablet loaded with apps like keyboard, finger paint, and other touch games for baby’s entertainment
  • Water bottle (purchased at airport)

I am probably leaving some things out. Needless to say, we were packed to brim with what I had deemed as baby essentials. We also had the baby carrier, Boppy nursing pillow, and stroller bag shoved in the bottom of the stroller.

Here is what we actually used in the airport:

  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Changing pad
  • Favorite teether
  • Cheerios
  • Empty sippy cup
  • Sealed jar of pureed meat
  • Squeezy pouch of pureed fruit
  • Wallet
  • Cell phone

Here is what we actually used on the plane:

  • Anti-bacterial wipes

Seeing a trend here? Yes I, the notorious over-packer, had over-packed  for our plane ride. Thus, my advice to you is to pare down what you think you need to what you actually need. The airport provides so much stimulation for kids you probably won’t need toys. Walking around or just letting baby peer at all the new people will be enough entertainment. Once you are on the plane, the photo instructional card will provide a lot entertainment for tiny hands, and he probably won’t be interested in anything else.

Suggestions for successfully boarding and living through a flight with a baby

  • Take advantage of the early boarding for passengers with small children. It gives you the needed extra time to get everyone on board and also drop off your stroller on the jet way.
  • Shut the air vents. Unless the plane is very warm, you don’t want germy, recycled air blowing right onto your baby’s face.
  • Take the time to wipe everything down. My friend uses Wet Ones anti-bacterial wipes when she travels, but I could only find some all-natural wipes at the store last minute that claimed to kill viruses too. Apparently they worked, none of us got sick going to or coming from our destination.

WET ONES Antibacterial Hand Wipes, Fresh Scent 40 ea (Pack of 3)

WET ONES Antibacterial Hand Wipes, Fresh Scent 40 ea (Pack of 3)

  • Put all magazines and puke bags somewhere out of baby’s reach. Don’t forget to wipe down your new best friend: the picture instruction card.
  • Don’t count on being able to get to your bag under your seat. With a bouncing baby on our laps and ever shrinking knee space, neither of us could reach our bags. Put anything you might need within easy reach ahead of time.
  • Have a bottle, sippy cup, or boob available for take off and landing. These are the times that pressure changes can hurt little ears, and the sucking motion helps to pop ear drums to relieve pressure.
  • If there is no turbulence and baby is fussy, try walking the aisle with him or standing in the back.

#1 Rule for infant travel…

Don’t. Be. Self. Conscious.

I know this is really hard when you have a crying baby and you are sweating while desperately trying every toy or flapping every magazine at your disposal. Sometimes the day just won’t go well and travel will suck. And that’s okay. Most passengers are either parents themselves who understand, or will just put on head phones, and no one will give you a second thought. The person most upset will be you, so try to not even get to that point. It will soon be a distant memory, and baby will (eventually) take a nap and you’ll be able to start fresh again.

The second best rule is that you can always buy what you don’t have, so don’t worry about it. As long as you have enough diapers, wipes, and food for the day, you’re good to go.

Happy travels, mama!

 

 

 

 

 

*This post contains affiliate links. What the hell does that mean? It means that if you buy anything I mention, I get a few cents for my effort. It costs you nothing additional, but helps me out. I own everything I mentioned and would never recommend some piece of garbage to you. Promise. Happy shopping!

Booking travel and traveling essentials for a baby

We recently traveled with our little guy and it was…. interesting. In short, he is not the best traveler. The first leg of the trip was by plane, the next leg was an hour in the car. T hates being confined, so trying to keep him on our laps and then in a car seat when he was exhausted from missing a nap during travel was the epitome of meltdown mode. Needless to say I really needed a stiff drink when we arrived at our destination.

I also learned a lot from the experience. Things to do the same–and differently– are listed here so you don’t make the same mistakes I did. Of course as the old saying goes: “Babies will be babies,” or something like that, so there is only so much that you can actually prepare for. Some of it you just have to do it and get through it. You’ll survive, your kid will survive, and your sanity? I still can’t account for mine. I will say that the process is worth the destination. Don’t let traveling with a baby scare you away from a much needed vacation (and I know you really need one.)

Booking travel

If you have a young infant, it doesn’t really matter what time you book a flight. Odds are that they will sleep through it anyway. I take that back, if your baby has colic, definitely don’t book it when you know your baby will be all tears all the time. Our doctor suggested avoiding travel at the beginning due to illness exposure, so make sure to check with your pediatrician well before booking or planning any travel. The last thing you want is the little to get sick.

We decided to book our flight in the afternoon during second nap time. We figured that at least T would get a solid first nap and be somewhat tired for the plane and would zonk out. Great theory, unless your flight is delayed an hour and you are left with an overly tired baby that is bouncing around the cabin, yelling for freedom. Lesson: It’s a good theory, but know that things might not work out the way you hoped. I still believe in travel during nap if possible is the way to go; most infants should be soothed by the plane’s engine droning.

Picking a seat

Because I am still breastfeeding, we decided to select the window and middle seat so that I could have some privacy while nursing and hopefully keep T away from the noisy drink cart while he [theoretically] slept. Older, more self aware infant? Book the aisle seat so you can have mom or dad walk baby in the aisle. Good distraction, and you might need it. If you are dual feeding/feeding only with a bottle, for the love of God bring those, too. It is a lot easier than breastfeeding in a tight and very public space, and can also be used for comforting during a car ride. The sucking during nursing or bottle feeding also helps pop little ears to relieve pressure during air travel.

What about buying baby a seat? It is the recommended safety standard, but most airlines allow infants under one year to be on a parent’s lap. On one of our flights, we lucked out and were the only two in a row of 3 seats, and I can say that if you have the bucks to buy a seat every time, DO IT. It was helpful to have the extra space and for one of us to be able to reach for a bag under the seat. On a full flight there ain’t no way you are getting anything under that seat.

Travel gear

For an infant, I prefer to check car seat and luggage as soon as we arrive. It’s less to carry and worry about, and you will need every bit of hand and space available to handle a baby in the airport. I always worry about our car seat getting beat up by rough handling, so I was thrilled to find this padded car seat bag. I even neurotically put bubble wrap between the sides of the bag and seat, just in case. The seat made it unscathed.

J.L. Childress Ultimate Backpack Padded Car Seat Travel Bag, Black

I prefer to travel with a stroller so that I can put my bag underneath in the basket. One of my mom friends prefers to baby carry through the airport and during the flight. Whatever is easier for you and keeps baby happy is the best thing to do. Smaller babies might do better being carried, but older infants like mine want more freedom and prefer to see what is going on. If you choose a stroller, get something light and compact. I have the Kolcraft Cloud stroller, which is lightweight and comes with a great sun hood PLUS snack tray across the front. There is also a pouch underneath. While not the cheapest umbrella stroller, its sturdy and has a few extra features I’m willing to put in a few dollars for.

Kolcraft Cloud Plus Lightweight Stroller with 5-Point Safety System and Multi-Positon Reclining Seat, Slate

Kolcraft Cloud Plus Lightweight Stroller with 5-Point Safety System and Multi-Positon Reclining Seat, Slate

Don’t forget a stroller bag; you will need to collapse the stroller and gate check it when you board the plane. You will get it back plane side when you land at your destination.

Zohzo Stroller Travel Bag for Standard or Double / Dual Strollers

Zohzo Stroller Travel Bag for Standard or Double / Dual Strollers

For a baby carrier, I swear by my Lillebaby. Yes I know, it is very expensive. Mine has stood up to multiple washings, travel, hiking, and every day use. It is also sturdy to support my baby much better than the cloth only carriers (and I have 3 varieties of those I use around the house).

Lillebaby The Complete Airflow 360° Ergonomic Six-Position Baby & Child Carrier, Silver

I am hoping that this information helps you plan your vacation. Remember, you don’t really go on vacation, you just parent in another locale. Check back soon, I’m working on posts about how to pack for traveling with baby and how to survive a plane ride with an infant. The joys of parenthood!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*This post contains affiliate links. What the hell does that mean? It means that if you buy anything I mention, I get a few cents for my effort. It costs you nothing additional, but helps me out. I own everything I mentioned and would never recommend some piece of garbage to you. Promise. Happy shopping!

I matter to him.

“Maybe I just need to go back to work,” I said to my husband with a shrug. My sentence didn’t come out as a statement; the words fell into each other in a long sigh, like stale breath exhaled after being held too long. It was yet another conversation about tightening the budget, something we’ve done constantly since we decided that I would give being a stay at home a chance. I had never really realized how much we’d been spending, until I had given each dollar a careful examination before setting it free into the world. In truth, it was more than our budget. It went a lot deeper than that for me. It was a suggestion imploring to be closed, denied, and followed up with reassurance that I was doing the right thing by staying home.

I’ve always been insecure. Well, maybe not always, but since arriving at the age of breasts, periods, and bullying, my self-confidence was always at low tide. Today, I’m responsible 24/7 for our offspring, someone we waited and longed for, but suddenly made me insecure and depressed with his arrival.

The first months were easy. I never slept, instead running on love, joy, and adrenaline. I was all too happy to lose myself completely in motherhood. But now I constantly wonder if I made the right choice. Was it the right thing to stay at home? Can I even handle this? Am I doing a good job? Is he eating enough vegetables? How do you feed an infant vegetables, anyway, when most of them are choking hazards and he now refuses to eat purees?

Maybe I am looking for validation, something that makes me feel like I am doing something worthwhile, some physical evidence of my efforts well spent. The extra cash wouldn’t hurt either. In truth, maybe I am just looking to run away. It seems easier to sit at a desk all day than deal with a highly demanding baby: tantrums, nap time refusals, and poopy diapers are just the tip of the postpartum iceberg. Maybe, just maybe, my inner critic is right. “You can’t do this,” she often tells me, “you’re not good enough.” Whether it’s motherhood, my blog, or my choice to nap instead of doing something productive, she is always there to remind me of my inadequacies.

As I stand in the playroom, I half watch him play independently and half scroll through Twitter, jealously eyeing all the mothers who seem to have it all: happy kids, a self-made career, and most importantly, they seem to have showered that day. Unexpectedly, he looks up at me. I almost missed it, lost in the rabbit hole of social media. He looks me right in the eyes and a huge grin lights up his face. I find myself genuinely grin back at him. We hold each other’s gaze for a minute, and he turns back to his toys. The exchange didn’t last long, but it filled my heart to the brim.

Using no words he told me everything I needed to hear. I am a good mom. I am doing a good job. He is happy and loved. I might not matter anymore to my old coworkers. I might not matter to the blogosphere. My opinions might not count to anyone but our family. But my son doesn’t care. With no words he told me the one thing I needed to hear most, and that is that I matter to him.

Changing the expectations of my motherhood

“Damn that’s fucked up,” I thought as I looked in the mirror.

I leaned in closer examining the red splotches and dots on my face that seemed to have cropped up overnight. Probably another shift in hormones, I speculate.

I’ve been thinking that thought, or something similar to it, a lot lately about my body. I escaped stretch marks in my first pregnancy, but my body is still permanently changed. It’s not just the weight; my boobs are different from almost a year of nursing. My hips are wider. Butt bigger. Cellulite spread.

I leaned back, away from my reflection. I really wanted to sleep while the baby was sleeping, but I told myself I should be getting things done around the house. Writing on my blog. Doing something useful. Then I caught myself.

I caught myself getting wrapped up in expectations. Whose expectations? I’m not sure.

​Mine? Society’s? Mine via society’s? I keep placing these demands on myself instead of just being present and taking care of me the way I need to.

By six months postpartum (or so), people really expect you to have your shit together. Like suddenly when the sun rises on the 182nd​ day you are suddenly able to sleep all night, exercise, eat right, lose weight, take a shower, and put on make-up,​ all while having a sparkling clean house and looking well put together in your pre-pregnancy clothes. For some mothers, this might be a reality. They are able to find their groove and regain control of their lives. For others—like me—it isn’t. The baby was still up every two hours. Sleep deprivation was taking its toll, and I looked and felt more like a walking zombie every day. It was also causing depression. Some days it took everything I had to just get through the day; forget adding in the fitness and healthy eating part.

It took me 11 months. Eleven sleep deprived months. These days, finally, he is sleeping at night. The fog is starting to lift. I feel less depressed on more days. I still sleep during the day when he naps, subconsciously feeding the sleepy girl that demands more to compensate for the hours she’s lost. Eleven months of a challenging baby and here I am feeling guilty. I feel guilty when I choose to sleep. I feel guilty when I don’t want to go for a walk. I feel guilty when I’m too damn tired and un-showered to leave the house. Why? Because I’m letting someone else’s expectations dictate how I should be acting as a mom, instead of acting out of self-care for the mother that I am.

I keep reading blogs that emphasize self-care. “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” everyone keeps saying. Well I must be living in the fucking Sahara desert then,​because that cup has been bone dry for years. In other words, I’m really bad at self-care. I constantly put others first, putting all needs above my own. Having a baby just made it worse, particularly since he’s a demanding one.

I see what I am supposed to be. I see photo after photo on my Instagram feed of these stay at home moms in white, bright houses where nothing is out of place. They are showered and look lean and healthy. Their kids looked bathed and happy. “I’m always so happy,” they say, “I just love motherhood so much that I never have a bad day.” Bull. Shit.

Look, I can’t judge you. And I won’t. If that is really your life, then God bless you,​boo,​because you are the epitome of optimism and I’m jealous. But I’m guessing for a lot of those photos, the moms have set up help, a heaping pile of laundry outside of the frame, and that was their first shower all week. These images, along with these expectations that live up somewhere next to the iCloud in the sky, set mothers up for failure. How can I possibly attain such perfection while raising a perfectly polite and sane human being at the same time? And I’m supposed to have more?!

Listen, mama, I’ll tell you the truth. Lean in close (but not too close because I didn’t put on makeup). I’ve got two words for you: 1) Fuck 2) It. Fuck it. Yes FUCK IT. And not in the giving up hope because it’s pointless kind of way, oh no sister. ​I’m saying FUCK IT because you ARE already doing great, you ARE already enough, you ARE a great mom. Don’t put those expectations on yourself. Be the mom you need to be, and it will be exactly the kind of mom your kids need.

Yes it would be nice to get this extra weight off. It would be nice to not eat so much and be hungry all the time because of the calorie deficit created by feeding another living person from my own body. But I have been breastfeeding for almost an entire year and that is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. I’m [slowly] working on getting back into shape, but I will get there. And the dishes and laundry can wait. Rolling around with my son on the floor is more important than any demand of you should be that society is whispering in my ear.

My son doesn’t care that I’m fat. He doesn’t care that my hair is dirty. He doesn’t care that I didn’t clean the kitchen. He doesn’t care that my house isn’t Instagram worthy. That gappy, toothy grin tells me that I’m doing it right, and that is enough for me.

 

The quiet mornings of motherhood

“Ahhhh maaaaa maaaa”

His call is early today. My ears and heart stir before my eyes and body do. I automatically check my phone: 5:53. Too early, but he’s not one of those alarm clocks you get to hit snooze on.

I go to him, offer a breast, which he takes happily. We rock, and rock, and rock, but his mind is already awake and his body follows. In the quiet morning of motherhood the sun is just peeking up over the horizon. Some birds are awake and singing, but most are still huddled in their warm nests. I’m jealous, thinking of my warm bed, as I pull on another layer in my chilly house.

I split up the scrambled eggs from the pan. Like everything, they, too, are now common property between us. His tiny fat fingers selectively pick up piece after piece, shoving them delightedly in his little mouth.

I stir the pureed ham in with his oatmeal, repulsed at texture and smell. We eat in silence, but stare at each other contentedly. I think about how much the story of my life has changed in the past ten months, as he sneezes ham droplets in my direction.

In my old chapters, I never would have been up to greet the sun, or share my food, or indiscriminately wipe poopy butts. Before, I only focused on myself and what was next for me. Motherhood as a funny way of rewriting your entire world in an instant. It also has a way of making your life suddenly perfect.

The morning is getting brighter and louder as the birds exchange greetings. I notice a spew ham drop in my hair and wipe it out. My breakfast companion has moved onto Cheerios, but I can’t seem to move on to the next phase with him. I want to keep him like this; so perfect, in this perfect moment forever.

In the quiet mornings of motherhood is where my new story begins.

As the sun sets on my final days of breastfeeding…

The play date was going lovely. The sun shone so brightly upon us in our grassy seating that it seemed like something from a movie. The cows mooed happily in the background, screaming children in field trip groups covered the spans like ants on a picnic blanket. Even the odor of the farm wasn’t offensive enough to cut our trip short.

It’s almost funny in a way that babies so close in age can be so drastically different. What a transformation a few weeks or a month makes in a developing infant. Still, I think our dates are more for the moms than for the babes. It gives us a chance to talk to adults and get out of the house, although we constantly interrupt our sentences to stop wandering hands from pulling hair or to redirect grass-grabbing fingers to toys.  Whenever we ask questions we inevitably have a different answer, thus reinforcing in my mind the 100 different ways to raise a child. They seem to be turning out all right, though.

5-5-17 As the sun sets on my days of breastfeeding cover

T abruptly begins to pull at my shirt. His face forages against my chest like a bear after honey. I look around, suddenly feeling very exposed. Adults and children wander freely around us, and I lament again that T won’t take a bottle on occasions such as these. “Well,” I announce, somewhat to hide my distress, “looks like I’m breastfeeding in public!” The other moms barely glance my way, busy with their own curious foragers.

I hear a loud chugging and turn to see a tractor pulling a wagon full of people. “Maybe I’ll wait for them to go by, at least,” I say out loud to no one in particular with a lopsided and halfhearted grin. I do my best to settle T on my lap, and hunch over him to bring myself close enough for him to latch. I unsnap the side of my bra like a pro, and finagle a nipple out while leaving my shirt in place to cover myself as modestly as possible. I hope no one really notices.

The feeding seems to go on forever. I’m painfully aware of how close people pass to us, imaging some kid saying, “Mommy, mommy, look a boobie!” I’m probably more embarrassed than anyone else is at the moment. The other mom chimes in with a joke, much to my reprieve, about how no one could possibly be upset about my situation, given that the cows are being suckled or pumped just over yonder. The irony is not lost on me. I do feel like a dairy cow right now; a constant source of nutrients on demand, my fenced pasture made of imaginary ties that never truly let me leave T for more than a few hours before being called back again.

I sigh, and T decides he’s had enough and rolls away. I deftly pull down my shirt, lest an offensive nipple see the light of day in public. Once again composed, I think about how one day I’ll miss breastfeeding and the bond that it holds for me and my son. He won’t need me in the same way ever again, another stabbing reminder of how fast he’s growing up.

At each feeding now I try harder to cement the memory into place. How perfectly messy his hair is, those beautiful wandering eyes, those inquisitive fingers grabbing onto my face. I marvel at how I could have ever made such a perfect little being.

Yes one day I might miss my sore nipples, too, because that all comes with the territory of the most intimate connection that is breastfeeding. My sweet boy is growing up fast. I don’t think I’ll mind feeding him for now, just a few more times.