How To Be a Happier Parent

Y’all, I consume Pinterest parenting articles like chips and queso. I inhale them. I eat them up. I keep hoping that one day the magic answer will be divined upon me and Jackie Kennedy will descend from the clouds and say, “You’ve reached maximum potential. Excellent job, momma.”

I’ve really been impacted by articles with tips to being a happier, more productive mom. I’ve got some thoughts on this so I’ll start with an overview of the generally accepted and continuously posted ideas and my thoughts, followed by suggestions of my own for reaching full Jackie Kennedy aura.

Get up before your kid. 

S.O.D. O.F.F. You must have children that sleep predictably, and through the night; kids who brush their own teeth and pour their own cereal. For me to get up earlier than my kids, I have to hire a fortune teller, because I never know when they’ll arrive in my bed.  I’d most often have to get up around 4:30, but sometimes 3 AM. Because I’m not bloody tired enough.

When my kids (that plural is important) take a nap, it is a glorious thing. I revel in it. When my kids sleep until 6 AM, I am grateful. Someday, when they are older, I might consider getting up before then. But right now, that idea is bollocks.

Stick to a schedule. 

I tried this one. It was wondrous. Then my toddler stopped taking daytime naps, and my meal planning, food prep, cleaning at nap time turned in to, “I’ll do it after they go to bed.” Turns out that getting two kids down for bedtime saps all of your energy, so I mostly only can recall a few words after getting my kids to tap out, which include “Where’s the wine?” I generally follow that with a face plant on the couch.

I look at that schedule on my fridge while herding my kids out the door and silently curse Productive Jennifer. Seriously, girl. You’re a git.

Make a to-do list. 

See my thoughts on a schedule. Also, my to-do list looks a lot like this: SLEEP. When it doesn’t look like this, it’s so overwhelming that I just think I’ll go back to work and hire a housekeeper. And a nanny. And a gardener. And a pool boy. (We don’t even have a pool.) I will just hire someone else to live my life. Which is the feeling that made me want to stay home to begin with. So, no.

Keep up on housework.

Is that like Keeping Up With the Kardashians? Because we don’t have cable. I mean, I let my pantry go a few months ago. Like, I open that door and Gozer comes out. It’s scary in there. After I dropped the pantry upkeep, I let the laundry room go too, and Cthulu moved in. I recently invited Darth Vader to summer in my kitchen. I don’t plan on every getting those rooms back. So, I write lists of the housework I need to catch up on, and then tape it to the fridge, so I can laugh at myself.

Parenting advice doesn’t always jive with my life. And it won’t always work with yours. Take it all with a well salted margarita.

Here are my true thoughts on ways to happiness:
HAPPIER PARENT

Play with your kids.

Kids don’t care if the house is a mess and the laundry all smells. They want you. They want you to laugh and play and dance. People tell you that this time is so fleeting, but that’s hardly descriptive enough. Their childhood is like a kiss in a relationship you know won’t last. Savor it; it will end. Your house will return to clean, someday. Play with your kids.

Share what you love with your children. 

I love knitting, but my boys like making squirrel nests out of my yarn. So I share knitting podcasts with my kids while we play. I share finished knitting projects with the boys, and usually they claim it all immediately, which I love. I ask Carl to help me pick patterns, and enjoy seeing his thought process and preferences. I’ll share adult music that gets us all dancing. When we start doing screen time together, I’ll share movies and video games my husband and I have enjoyed. Share the things you love with your kids.

Let other people watch your kids.

If you’re a SAHM, consider enrolling in a PDO, or joining a gym with childcare. Let other people work and play with your kids. The time away is good for you both. I’ll admit there have been plenty of days where the gym has saved us all from my exhausted wrath by giving me a space to work it out. Plus, there’s something magical about seeing your child through someone else’s eyes, and people who work with kids all the time may have input about developmental delays, or ways to manage particular behavior you hadn’t noticed or given up on.

Share your time with friends.

Finding people that “get you” may be a challenge. Find them. Laugh with them; vent with them. Get out of your house with them. We need human connection, even us introverts. Good friends who can commiserate or laugh with you, or bring you coffee after the longest nights make this parenting thing so much more.

Let go of perfection.

This may sound simple, but it’s not. My Type A vomits all over my house almost every time I walk inside. I’m learning to let that go. If a sink of dirty dishes means that my two year old and I were laughing over a puzzle, or watching ants in the backyard, it was worth it. If a sticky floor means that I snuggled an extra 20 minutes with my baby, it was worth it. Let go of the ideal home you see on Instagram; those posts are snippets of a life. No one lives their life in snippets. Clean, crisp, and perfectly poised doesn’t have to be you everyday.

 

Practice self-care when they nap. 

Some people like to tell you to nap when your kids nap. I love this, I think it’s smart. But, more broadly, you should care for yourself. Sometimes that means a nap, sometimes it means a Netflix binge, or reading. Or writing your blog. But, crikey, don’t spend it cleaning. Unless that feels like self-care.

Be kind to yourself.

You are enough. Your family is enough. This does not last forever. Snuggle in, and enjoy this short kiss of a moment. You’ll be too exhausted to remember all the dirt and mess in a few years anyway.

 

 

 

 

Dear Registry Building Parents,

Guess what? There will be a day when you emerge from the black hole of Babies R’ Us victorious.

It probably won’t be today. But someday.

Welcome to the newest time suck of your life: the baby registry. You may feel the need to read every review of every item you are the least bit interested on Amazon, compare it to Babies R’Us, followed by a quick browse of Target reviews. But you don’t have to do that. You, and your baby, and your ten thousand pounds of tissue paper and gifts will make it through to the light side.

I promise.

I’ve only had two kids, so you may not consider my list of items comprehensive, but I’m about to give you the bare necessities of life with baby. Ready?

I mean, if this is your first kid, of course you’re not ready. You won’t ever be ready. Read this anyway.

DUH ITEMS: 

Car seat.

Crib/sleeping arrangement

Stroller.

Diapers and wipes. (This can be as simple or as complicated as you choose, and I’ll go in to that later. But, you’ll need them.)

Ok, now that you can leave the hospital and have a place to lay that infant down, even though she will never actually sleep, we can begin.1ESSENTIALS FOR THE FIRST SIX MONTHS:

  1. You need a baby carrier. If you ever want to take a walk, or pick up around the house, or leave the house, or if your baby has colic, or if you have an older child and need to be on the go, you need a baby carrier. Baby wearing saved me when Jack was born. I could keep up with Carl, and keep Jack close to my heart. You need a baby carrier.
    1. When baby lacks head control, consider a wrap. Choices in this abound. I had a Moby which, although great for my winter baby, made us all a hot, hot, hot mess with my summer child. Consider something made from a breathable cotton or linen, or a ring sling.
    2. I love my soft structure carrier (SSC). I have a Tula, which comes in baby (15 – 45 lbs) and toddler sizes (25 – 60 lbs). The baby size also has an infant insert (required for infants 7-15 lbs), which solves all your problems. Target now carries several well known SSC brands, such as Ergo, Lillebaby, and Tula. The price tag will only slightly shock you, but when you use it every day for 1 to 3 years, it’s worth it. It’s basically a car seat for your body.  SSCs are ergonomically developed for you, which means that your back will thank you.
  2.  You need a place to put baby in quick moments: bouncy chair, or swing, or play mat. My boys outgrew their swing after 3 months (my kids are monster babies), but I know swings for bigger babies (that will last you longer) exist. Consider a portable one, for ease of storage and ability to move to different rooms easily as you adjust to life with baby in your house.
  3. If you plan to travel with baby, a Pack n’ Play (PNP) is essential. In fact, I consider this an absolute necessity. It’s a super safe place to put baby, and it adapts as your child grows. Our particular PNP has a changing table and infant sleeper that converts to a bassinet, followed by the playard option. I didn’t think I would use this, but it has been invaluable.  If you have space (and a nice baby shower or three), I truly recommend asking for a crib, bassinet, and Pack N’ Play. If you’re considering co-sleeping, you might look at one of the co-sleeper baskets as well.
  4. We actually don’t use a changing table and pad at all (much to Brandon’s chagrin, since he spent weeks building a changing table/bookshelf for the boys). Instead I use a grab and go changing pad, which you can put on your bed, or couch, or floor. I love this, because it can be easily wiped down, and your toddler doesn’t rip it open and eat the stuffing out of it the way they might an actual changing pad. (I’m not saying we’ve experienced such a thing, but…it could happen.)
  5. If you plan to nurse, look in to nursing pillows. We received a Boppy for Carl that we used to death. Literally, the stuffing was coming out in several places due to my washing it so much. Jack got a new one. There are multiple types of nursing pillows, so you might consider requesting more than one kind. Plus, it never hurts to have these for a couple different rooms in your house or at least one for each story. (You do not want to be searching for your only Boppy at 2 in the morning with a squalling newborn. Promise.)
  6. A few burp cloths will be essential. Carl threw up ALL THE TIME. Like, for real, spewing lava.  But I can count on one hand how often Jack spit up. It’s also good to have random towels, receiving blankets, and burp cloths all around the house. because you never know what fluids might be headed your way. Aden & Anais make a burp cloth that converts to a bib for when your child starts eating purees/solids, and you will want multifunction. Because baby crap will have taken over your life.
  7. Swaddling saved us at night.  I love the Aden and Anais swaddling blankets, but am also a huge fan of sleep sack swaddles. We have several with velcro tabs, which are so much less frustrating to reattach in the middle of the night.
  8. Lots of wash cloths and a few bath towels specific to babies.
  9. If the thought of washing your baby in your kitchen sink makes you nauseous (like me), you’ll want a tub of some sort.
  10. And when baby starts teething (around 6 months, but sometimes sooner), I found a food grade, BPA-free teething necklace or bracelet to be invaluable. You might feel silly about the bulk, but you will likely be unable to wear any other jewelry for baby’s first year, so find something cute.
  11. Baby Medicine:
    1. Saline nose drops
    2. We’ve always used a bulb syringe, but (if I ever did this again) I’ve heard that the NoseFrida is ah-maz-ing-a for snotty noses. Just seeing the bulb syringe from a distance makes Jack poop his pants.
    3. Infant Tylenol, and Infant Ibuprofen (for when baby is a bit older)
    4. Thermometer. I am forever grateful that we have a temporal thermometer, so I can check temps when baby is sleeping without disrupting them.
    5. In case your kid gets cradle cap (again, and again, and again) you need a soft baby brush and some oil. I prefer cocoa butter oil, but any baby oil will do.
    6. Nail clippers, although, honestly, whether you clip their nails or not, they still have wolverine claws at all times.
    7. Cool mist humidifier. Cause SNOT happens almost as much as poop.
  12. Nursing (I could write about nursing for weeks on end, but this is just a registry) requires a few items:
    1. Pump: If you plan to breastfeed and work, you need a double electric pump. Wait to buy bottles until you have purchased your pump, because you want them to work together. Wait to purchase a ton of bottles until you know that that brand of bottle will also work for your baby.
    2. Even if you do not plan to nurse, or you will be home with baby around the clock, consider a hand held pump. Engorgement is a bitch, and hand expressing is a nightmare. Plus, you might want to leave the house at some point, and your babysitter will need some boob juice.
    3. Nursing bras, for both day and night.
    4. Cotton or bamboo nursing pads. Because your boobs now leak.
    5. Let’s be real, for the first six weeks, everything leaks. Plan accordingly.

And so it begins. 

P.S. Baby items procreate like bunnies. So, good luck with that.

PPS. For things that you want, but aren’t gifted to you, buy used from local consignment shops, or search Craigslist. Babies grow so quickly that some items are barely used, but the affordability is (obviously) better at a second hand store.

Dear Cloth Diapering Newbie On A Budget,

Budget Friendly CD

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about my preferences for cloth diapering, which caused me to go through my entire stash and add up my total cloth diapering costs. Looking at my expenses in cloth diapering really made me consider things I would change with the knowledge I’ve gained in the last year and a half, as well as cheaper ways to create a complete stash for my two kids. Certainly, I have spent a fair amount of money on some very fancy diapers that, actually, were totally unnecessary, but all that searching has given me a lot of valuable information on what does work.

These are the adjustments that I would make now. (I am including the price of a new diaper as well as gently used prices which I list in italics, if a major retailer sells the item in that condition.)

Daytime Cloth Diapering Stash

  • 24 small Cloth-eez prefolds [$29 per dozen]
  • 12 large Cloth-eez prefolds [$40 per dozen]
  • 4 size 1 Thirsties Duo Wrap, in Aplix hook and loop [$12.75/$10.25 ea]
  • 6 size 2 Thirsties Duo Wrap, in Aplix hook and loop [12.75/10.25 ea]
  • 1 size 1 Snappi [$3.95]
  • 8-10 Kawaii One Size pocket diapers (to use outside the home) [$9.95/$8.50]

Nighttime Diapering Stash

  • 3 large Cloth-eez fitted diaper [$10.95 ea]
  • 3 medium Cloth-eez fitted diaper [$9.50 ea]
  • 5 Thirsties Duo hemp/cotton prefolds [$7.95 ea]
  • 3-5 medium fleece soakers [$7 ea]
  • 3-5 large fleece soakers [$9 ea]
  • 3-5 extra large fleece soakers [$10.50 ea]
  • 3 Green Mountain Diapers night stay-dry doubler [$8.50 ea]
  • 5 Kawaii Goodnight Heavy Wetter pocket diapers for toddler overnight/naptime diapering [$7.75 ea]

I averaged my actual stash cost at about $750, but with these adjustments I could be cloth diapering two children for just under $500. That may seem like quite a large number up front, but you can spread out the cost over several months, making it a manageable sum. If you don’t have to work hard at convincing loved ones of your cloth diapering intention, you may receive quite a few of these items as gifts as well. And, if you’re cloth diapering one child, you won’t even need all of those items for the first year. So, $400 in the first year. Max.

Buy yourself a well deserved margarita for saving so much. Unless you’re pregnant, in which case, go buy some chocolate.

If you are willing to bargain hunt, the price can drop even lower. Here are some of my suggestions for cloth diapering as cheaply as possible with quality items:

  1. Join a local Buy/Sell/Trade Cloth Diapering Group on Facebook. I like local because you can touch, feel, check and smell diapers before purchasing.
  2. Visit or call local baby consignment stores to see if they have any CDs in stock.
  3. Buy fleece soakers, rather than wool on Etsy. If you’re handy, and you’re looking for something to do before baby arrives, make your own. These can be thrown in with your regular wash, making them a super easy alternative to wool. Even if your child wears disposables, particularly at night, a fleece cover will help control leakage. (Because everything leaks.)
  4. Visit major websites frequently for sales. Items may be marked down tremendously following the release of new and updated versions of diapers. In fact, I’ve purchased all of my pocket diapers during transitions like this for about 10% off the regular price.
  5. Several major websites with trial programs also sell Gently Used versions of all the trial diapers. These typically remain in excellent condition and are, in all actuality, only slightly used. Plus, most of these companies have a return policy if you’re not satisfied.
  6. Find friends who are ready to de-stash and make an offer on the lot. They’ll be so grateful to have the entire thing off their hands.
  7. Sell or consign your diapers when you are done to keep costs down in the long run.