Mama + 2 Muchachos

Simple advice for parenting babies and other little ones

Month: September 2017

New Mom (and Dad) Chaos

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As one of my dear friends gets set to end maternity leave soon, I am going back to a reflection I wrote long ago.  I hope most moms and dads are easier on themselves than I once was. . . .

I remember being on maternity leave one of those days breastfeeding in front of the TV  and watching an interview with Soleil Moon Frye (moonfrye.com), the child actress from my youth who played Punky Brewster.  She wrote a book called Happy Chaos which came out right after my first baby (I have never read it however).  I clearly remember her saying, “Embrace the chaos,” and I really felt like she was crazy.  My life was totally different than before.  The life of this little creature was all in my hands and it made me feel out of control.  I used to be pretty much in control of my life and now it seemed I never would get it back.  How could I embrace the chaos? If I was not embracing the chaos, it was most lovingly embracing me.

If I was not embracing the chaos, it was most lovingly embracing me.

I felt so much love for my new baby, more love than I’d ever felt in my whole life (and still do).  I could spend hours just holding him, and because he could actually breastfeed for a whole hour at a time, I had to sit for hours holding him.  But I also still felt tied to doing things like making amazing food, being an attentive wife, getting ready to go back to work and keep up with all the things I was missing at work.

The thought of paying bills and hosting all the people who wanted to come over and visit my baby made me want to cry.  So I cried sometimes . . . sometimes a lot.   And even though I thought it was crazy, the phrase, “Embrace the chaos” stuck with me.  Obviously, not everything is chaos, but with children, I have learned to let go of some things.   I try to make it easier on myself which sometimes requires asking for help, something I am not always good at. 

Some things that have made my life easier:  pre-cooked bacon, take-out coupons, and ground coffee.  I used to buy the beans and grind them.  I loved the smell, but with breast pumping, washing bottles, measuring milk and packing it every day for daycare, the smallest time saving innovation feels like a lifesaver.   I’ve listed many of them on my Recommendations Page.  Keep in mind that I didn’t have to buy all of these things on my own . . . as you read on you will discover many of them were given to me by friends. 

Even the razors that have the soap already attached like Venus and Intuition became time savers.   

Another big help was the Beco Gemini Baby Carrier I used to own, but have now passed on to a dear colleague.  While reading up on baby carriers, I learned NOT to purchase one before the baby is born.  I took that advice to heart and test drove many options at our local baby store, the Little Seedling.  The people there were super helpful about finding the most comfortable carrier for me and my first born, which worked just as well for my second.  You have to make sure you can put it on by yourself for doing things like grocery shopping.  I also really enjoyed vacuuming with my oldest attached to me on the baby carrier.  If you go to sporting events, the baby carrier is also a must. 

By this time, I also have a Pinterest Board full of easier-to-make recipes for busy  moms and dads.  I remember the days of sitting the babies in the bouncy chair in the kitchen, playing music to them and singing while I cooked.  While I am working full time as a teacher, I also allow myself one day of take-out for the family per week.  Look for future posts about good take-out spots and coupons.

My other source of stress, the amount of people I felt I had to host with a new baby could not really be avoided.  People naturally want to see your baby, love babies, want to hold babies.  But don’t be afraid to ask them for help.  Many of my friends also reached out to me.  They brought me food.  They made food for me in my own kitchen.  My mom and sisters-in-law would come over, hold my  baby for hours while I did crazy things like sleep or try to make homemade ricotta lemon pancakes with blueberry syrup.  Sometimes they would clean for me. 

Honestly, I also felt overwhelmed with all the gifts and hand-me downs too.  My wonderful co-workers threw me a beautiful shower and after carrying everything into our tiny condo, I remember looking at the bags lined up on the floor and feeling completely exasperated.  How could I even use all this stuff?  One of the retired teachers filled about three large shopping bags with garage sale finds.  I got it all packed away in the nursery. 

A couple of months later, my friends Luis and Ingrid (another Mama + 2 Muchachos) gave me almost everything from their nursery:  Bassinet, bouncy chair, swing, clothes, towels, almost anything you could imagine filled the back of my dad’s truck.  I will never forget getting home, getting it out, and furiously organizing it all while my husband told me to relax.  It took most of the afternoon and evening, but that’s the  incredible nesting instinct.  As soon as I sat down to rest, I went into labor.  And I have used about 99% of the hand-me-downs and garage sale items.  They were such a big help!  So take them!  Take them all!  And don’t be exasperated or overwhelmed.  At least TRY not to be!  And when you are done with all the things you used for baby, lovingly pass them down to the next mama who needs help.

Morning and Evening Downtime

It’s time to pull back from writing about vacations since that time is coming to a close.  As the days are getting shorter and colder, my focus becomes dealing with change calmly.

“The Big Chair”

I wrote this a long time ago, but it seems pertinent with all the kids going back to school or going to school for the first time.  In the midst of all the chaos .  .  . a few quiet moments can bring peace.

And like every human being, today, I failed to follow my own advice. Thus, I experienced fit-throwing, rude behavior, apologizing, and that whole cycle over and over again this evening.  This was in part because I didn’t practice evening downtime.  Given the change in schedule with pre-school starting, this downtime is especially important for my youngest who needs a lot of hugs and reminders about what the new schedule is.  He just turned 4, and as he states, he doesn’t always “understand the rules.”  I think he means the new schedule.

I promised to write this post after going to my annual physical back in January.  My doctor is a “Mama + 2 Muchachas” and since we first met when I was pregnant with my first and she cared for me through both boys’ time in the womb, it is always fun to catch up with her once a year.  Since I am not carrying a lot of extra weight around like when she first met me, she is always surprised to see me, “looking good” as she says.  But we always note that we are both a little weary with all the working outside the home and still trying to be the best mom and professional possible.  Although her girls are older, she expressed how much they still need her (this is good) and how it is so hard to get home, make dinner, really pay attention to what they are trying to tell her about how their days went, and with the teenagers and pre-teens, really be aware of all the social media stuff they might be participating in.  She expressed that it was really hard to always be listening to her daughters when she gets home, still carrying the stress of work and trying to get a good meal on the table.

I shared her sentiments, the same stresses, but I also shared with her what alleviates it all just a little.  Downtime with my boys is a daily practice.  It stems out of two things — first, listening to my elder family members.  My cousin has 4 children and works full time and once told about how if she didn’t give each one 5 minutes of her time when they got home, she would get nothing done.  If you think of this, it is just 20 minutes.  Five minutes with each kid to hug, listen, cuddle, whatever they need in those five minutes.  Then she can get dinner ready.  So when I come home from work, my boys and I always do this as well.  I sit down with them on the couch, or the “big chair” as we call it — a recliner that is falling apart in our living room that for the time being, we can all fit on if the littlest sits on my lap.  Sometimes we will share a snack or watch a cartoon or just sit quietly enjoying each others’ company.  This lasts any where from 5 to 20 minutes depending on how hard our days were or how complicated the meal I am trying to prepare is.   

Just be calm.

Downtime always helps me feel calmer too.  Besides evening downtime stemming from the advice of my cousin, breastfeeding also helped initiate morning downtime.  Before work, I always tried to nurse the boys one more time before we were off to daycare.  Even after they were weaned, we continue this practice of sitting together, cuddling.  Since we need to get ready for the day, I actually time the morning downtime from the time we are all awake and sitting together.  It lasts five minutes.  It feels like heaven to be able to hug my little boys and feel their fuzzy hair brush against my chin.  They are growing.  I know this won’t last forever.  So I will take it as long as I can, as long as they need it.  The perfect, quiet together sort of way to start the day. 

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