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How Stay at Home Moms Manage Family & Self

I love my kids, I do. In fact, I chose to work from home, and continue to to do so in order to be there for my kids as they grow up. But biggest truth about being a ‘Stay At Home Mom’ (SAHM) is that it is challenging.

And that is the truth for many moms today.

It can be lonely and society seems to have a lot of misconceptions about what a mother who spends time with her children at home should be doing with her time. If you’d asked me at this time, last year, if I enjoyed being home with my little children, I would have politely smiled and laughed.

This ‘Stay At Home Mom’ Gig Is Hard

Can we take a minute here to talk about moms as a whole, before I talk more about the challenges of being at home with small kids. I’ve been on all sides of the fence – I’ve worked outside the home, gone to school full time, worked at home, and I can honestly say that it’s all hard.

Everything we do as moms is scrutinized by society as a whole. Kids can derail a whole planned day because they have their own little personalities and you know, as frustrating as it is, that’s okay. It happens to all of us.

I’ve quoted my undergrad professor more times now than anyone else, but I’m going to say this to you – whether you work at home, work outside of the home, or the momming gig is your job – “Life is what happens between plans.”

Now that I got that out of the way, let’s talk about challenges that are unique to parents, who stay at home with their small children.

 

Staying At Home is Lonely

 

At first, it may be nice to be away from everyone. But eventually either the crying or being in same messy bun for the nth day in a row, or the incessant talking about the infinite nuances of Blippi are going to get to you. You’re going to long for adult interaction. You’re going to want to put on a cute outfit and get out.

Around this time last year, after watching the mayor lose her chicken for the hundredth time, I decided it was time to get out. I needed to talk to someone whose main interests weren’t what Cutie Marks each pony had!

Coincidentally, it also happened to be Girl Scouts cookie season, and I was a proud parent of a newly-minted cookie boss. Cookie booths became something I looked forward to because it meant I got to talk to an adult, who I wasn’t married to or writing content for.

You Have All the Time in the World Yet No Time at All

Again, this is one of those things where you suddenly have these long expanses of time where nothing is scheduled, especially if children are young and you don’t have them in any activities. This is a double-edged sword.

I went from being extremely busy with appointments and meetings and deadlines to busy in a very different way – and it was really hard to adjust to. When you don’t have an outside world imposing a schedule on you, it’s very easy to lose track of hours – even days.

Granted, I wear a lot of hats, so I still have lists and deadlines of things I need to do for various people and projects. But even working from home, it’s all-to-easy to lose track of everything and get caught in the busy trap.

I find that when I feel like I’m in the busy trap it’s because I’ve let go of routines and schedules. Even when you’re staying at home and managing the household, it’s important to have a schedule.

Expectations Multiply

I’m not a great housekeeper. If there is anything else to do, I’d rather do that than deal with picking up toys and dusting baseboards.

Maybe if I weren’t trying to work full-time from home, while also keeping small people from burning a house down and making sure they’re fed and educated and cared for, I wouldn’t feel as pressured in this arena. But when people hear that a parent is a ‘Stay at Home Mom’ with kids, for some reason they also hear that there’s a full-time housekeeper in the home.

I feel even more pressure now to “do it all” myself and not outsource than I did when I was working outside the home.

I have a hard truth for you: Even if you stay at home, and you’re not trying to help bring in extra money in some way, shape, or form, nobody can do it all. You’re going to have to pick what’s important to you and focus on that.

In our home, there are 5-6 people living in it at any given time (as we have a college student who is home only during summer and for breaks). Despite the fact that my husband takes an equal share of the housework…the blame, when anyone feels that our house is a mess, gets put on me and it’s maddening.

So What Does One Do?

In addition to the tips above, get out of the house to volunteer or do things with others as much as you can, keep a schedule and routine, and pick the hills you want to die on.

In terms of priorities – there two big things you can do to overcome most of the other challenges you will face as a stay at home parent.

1. Make Self-Care a Priority

Yeah, I know you know this. You’ve heard the cliche example of putting your mask on before anyone else’s, but I promise you, it’s important. As a ‘Stay at Home Mom’, I got so caught up in taking care of everyone else and their needs and the house and my home business last year that I hit a wall at 100 miles an hour and slid down cartoon style.

I was still wearing maternity clothes and my youngest was going to be 2 in a few months. My hair was dry, breaking off, and a poof. Think Princess Diaries poof but with 5 different shades in there.

We all have to be a little selfish sometimes as uncomfortable as that may make us. If we do not, then we get spread too thin. T

here’s a reason my 2020 words of the year are “focus, prioritize, finish.” I was saying “yes” to far more projects than I was able to finish. Part of the reason for that wasn’t lack of time – it was lack of emotional energy. I was 100% drained because I was giving everyone else my energy and keeping little for myself.

It’s okay to go to sleep early and leave your husband in charge of the kids. It’s okay to decide “I hate cleaning, so I’m going to see what we can do about getting a housekeeper.”

It’s okay to have a sitter a couple times a week so you can go to the gym. I don’t care what you need to do to feel good and happy and like your bucket is filled – DO IT!

stay at home mom life

2. Stop Letting Others Dictate Your Self-Worth

There’s a constant battle between a ‘Stay at Home Mom’ and moms who work outside of the home. Compound that with in-laws, friends, Facebook people, various blog posts, etc.

And then on a particularly hard day where the toddler covered herself from head to toe in shredded wheat while you were in the bathroom, the preschooler destroyed the coloring books and spread torn paper everywhere, and the kindergartner flung herself on the floor screaming because someone changed the order her ponies were sitting in, you wind up in the closet in tears with a box of Thin Mints feeling like Worst Mom of the Year.

You know what?

It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to cry with your child because she’s too afraid to use a public restroom. It’s okay to wish you could go on vacation for a week because you’ve got two kids who won’t stop fighting with each other. It’s even okay to go and hide for a minute and gather yourself. It’s okay that you didn’t finish the laundry today because your kids were just out of control and the only thing you could do was make sure they ate, didn’t kill each other, and that there would be dinner.

It doesn’t matter that you stay home.

Did I mention this ‘Stay At Home Mom’ gig is hard?
I love it, but it’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

You can read our article about how Working Mothers Balance Life and Home here …

How Working Mothers Balance Work and Family

 

Parenting Tips for Parents with Large Age Gaps Between Kids

Parenting Tips for Parents with Large Age Gaps Between Kids

When I thought about how I wanted my family to be, when I was younger, I never thought I’d have a 15-year gap between my oldest and second children. My children are 20, 5, 3, and 2. While I love how things shaped up (it took me a while to meet someone I wanted to settle down with and have more kids with), having a large gap between kids has presented a bit of a challenge. My big kid has a completely different set of needs than my younger kids do, and because the younger kids need a lot more hands-on from mom, as much as I hate to admit it, my older kid can get lost in the shuffle of everyday life.

While my 20 year old is crushing it at college now, there’s still a good bit of balancing that goes on to keep family life running smoothly – and to make sure no one is left out. Without further ado, here are things I found that work well for parenting when there’s a large age gap.

Set aside time to focus on the older child(ren).

I can’t stress enough how much I cherished the time last summer with my oldest. We went on a daily walk/run for all of July and August. That provided my son with an opportunity to have his mom all to himself for the duration of the outing, without interruptions from younger siblings. This meant he could talk about all the things that were bothering him, important to him, etc. It was great.

We also take him out to dinner – just him – at least a few times while he’s home in the fall and winter. It’s not really possible to do that during the summer due, but we do that whenever we can – and it’s really nice to have that time.

Don’t make your older child your designated babysitter.

I know. I’m guilty of this from time to time, but last summer we compensated him for the time he spent watching his siblings. It’s really easy to get caught up in the convenience of having a child old enough to babysit at home. Be sure that you’re not relegating your child to this role.

parenting tips for parents with large age gaps between kids

Be aware that even with big gaps between kids, sibling rivalries can exist.

Growing up, there were 14 years between my older brother and myself. He grew up in a different household, so he always felt like my younger brother and I were the “real family” and he was an outsider. It’s so important, especially if there is a new relationship involved, to protect your child from feeling “cast aside” in favor of younger siblings. I was actually pretty shocked when my big kid was picking on his younger sister and taking her toys – who knew you had to worry about a teenager snagging a toddler’s toys?

Let your older child be a big sibling and mentor to your younger child.

In fact, encourage a mentor ship role. Life is hard, and your older child has navigated a big part of it. Let him or her give your younger child tips – whether it’s on avoiding getting in trouble with mom & dad or it’s sharing the best ways to learn to ride a bike. The magic of this is that it will foster closeness between siblings – even when one sibling is out of the house already.

Maintain a sense of flexibility.

Kids, particularly the 5 and under crowd, bring a certain amount of chaos into the picture. Have a backup plan for family activities, and try to plan them when best for the energy levels, hunger levels, and moods of the younger child(ren). You won’t regret it.

Support your older child’s activities and interests.

This may mean hiring a sitter for the evening. Show up to games, meets, plays, recitals, etc. It’s worth it. Again, the last thing that as a parent I ever wanted to do was to have my oldest feel he’d been replaced by his younger siblings. It isn’t always possible for us to get up to his college to see him perform, but in high school, we made sure to go to every home game or meet and every play he was involved in.

Do you have children with a large age gap? Share your experiences in the comments. Read more about raising children here.

 

The Danger in Over Scheduling Kids - How Much is Too Much?

The Danger in Over Scheduling Kids – How Much is Too Much?

Zoo class. Dance class. Scouts. Science hour at the museum. Soccer. Basketball. Karate. Gymnastics. Violin. Art class. There are so many different activities for kids to participate in. It’s easy to be tempted to sign an eager kid up for every opportunity you come across – but is it good to do so? Are we in danger of over-scheduling our kids?

The Feast of Opportunity

I home school, so the temptation to take advantage of every activity offering my kids the opportunity to be around other kids is strong. After all,One of the nice things about homeschooling is freeing the kids up to participate in a variety of activities. But even for those who don’t homeschool, there is a plethora of after school activities available to choose from. But how do you know when enough is enough? Is there too much of a good thing?

It feels like kids today have more options than ever before. Most museums and zoos offer a wide variety of classes. There’s in home and out of home instruction. If you live in a college town, the university offers a variety of opportunities for kids. Schools have before and after school programs as well as a selection of clubs from which to choose. There are community center classes and studio classes. Some places even offer foreign language instruction to children. That doesn’t even include Girl Scouts and Scouts, 4-H, youth groups, and other community opportunities existing for kids.

Time Management

Commitments add up pretty quickly. While it may feel like an hour here, and an hour there, kids still have to get to their activities. Not only does over-scheduling children have a negative effect on kids, but it can have a big negative effect on family life as a whole. Carting kids around from activity to activity means that someone is in the car an awful lot, leading to a more sedentary lifestyle. The likelihood of picking up food from a drive through goes up when kids are over-scheduled, and parents’ don’t get much downtime for themselves.

It’s important to factor in the time it takes to get to and from activities into one’s schedule before committing to another activity.

Signs a Child is Over-Scheduled

If a child is losing interest in activities that he or she once enjoyed, it could be the case that he or she is over-scheduled and stressed. Sometimes, it’s harder for kids than it is for adults to speak up about their needs for downtime – especially because our kids want us to be happy. If your child has no interest in previous things he or she enjoyed, it may be time to cut back on some activities.

Burnout isn’t the only sign a child is over-scheduled. If a child doesn’t have time for a social life or sitting and vegetating in front of a television set for an hour or two, it’s going to be more difficult for that child to learn how to just be. It’s actually good for kids to be bored once in a while or sit and watch the paint on the wall. Not only can this lead to creative spurts, but it can also help your child recharge so that he or she is processing what was learned through a day.

Frequent complaints about stomach aches, headaches, or other physical discomfort can be a sign that your child is experiencing the physical side effects of stress.

Another sign a child is overschedules is an increase in the number of mood swings or in the frequency of grumpy moods and tantrums. Kids who don’t get enough time to just sit or have open-ended play are also likely to have a difficult time calming for sleep and getting restful sleep. Some activities could cut into times that would otherwise be used for napping or sleeping at night. Remember, kids still need a lot of sleep.

A final sign a child is over-scheduled is that the child starts to do poorly in school. Learning needs a certain amount of intellectual energy. If a child isn’t having regular downtime and time free from scheduled commitments, then burnout is a real threat, and just like with adults, it can bleed over into every area of life.

How to Prevent Over-Scheduling

It’s okay if your child doesn’t take every opportunity that comes his or her way. In fact, learning how to say “no” to things is an important part of growing up and choosing the path that one will follow. Offering choices – gymnastics or Scouts, youth group or art class, can help your child start to prioritize what he or she wants to focus on in non-academic time.

Let your child choose his or her activities. Sure, for the preschool set, it’s fine to sign a child up for an activity or two to test the waters, but older kids have preferences. Be willing to listen to your child’s feedback. If soccer isn’t working out, it’s okay for your child to not continue it next season – and if over-scheduling isn’t a concern, allow your child to drop it after the commitment to the current season is finished.

Make a master schedule of all  the things your child is committed to already. Be sure to include meal times, self care, sleep, time for homework, and time for schoolwork (if you’re homeschooling) on the schedule. Add in all of the activities your child is already committed to on the schedule. How much free time is left? When will your child have friends over? When will he or she have unstructured time to play?

Learning how to manage a balanced schedule that leaves time for all of life’s activities is an important skill to have – but it’s very important to ensure that the schedule has time for downtime and time for self-care – even for kids.

What will you do to help ensure your child isn’t overbooked?

 

Involving Kids of All Ages in Thanksgiving Preparation

Involving Kids of All Ages in Thanksgiving Preparation

As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to make a huge deal out of the holidays. Thanksgiving is no different in our house. I start planning for it months ahead by perusing recipe books and magazines, making notes about favorite recipes from years past, and putting together a plan. One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving, though, is pulling together everyone in the family to work together toward a common goal – making an amazing and delicious meal.

That means that we involve our kids in Thanksgiving prep – in age-appropriate ways. Here are some tips for involving kids of different ages in this annual holiday.

The Smallest Kids

We’ve always either had an open kitchen or a large enough kitchen to set up a high chair in the kitchen itself near the food prep area. Even though children under 18 months old can’t do a lot of the actual prep work, I still like to include them if they’re old enough to be sitting up in a high chair. It’s fun for them to bang wooden spoons on the high chair tray, play with some homemade playdough, and taste some of the ingredients (chopped up apple, anyone?) It makes it nice, because from the littlest ages, my kids are used to being part of the festivities.

Toddlers

Toddlers (18 months – 3) make great stirrers, and many are capable of helping to help measure and pour ingredients into a mixing bowl. You can also have them tear lettuce for salads. I try to pick one or two recipes that my toddler can be fully involved with helping. I stress the importance of good kitchen hygiene (wash your hands, please), but this helps develop a good sense of self-confidence when that salad they helped with makes it onto the plate. I also like making salad dressing in a shaker bottle and allow the toddler to shake the salad dressing.

It’s also fun to have a couple of projects on hand that toddlers can do to help decorate the Thanksgiving table. The dollar store and Target’s Dollar Spot are great resources for this. Foam stickers are great for this age as they work the fine motor skills. Coloring pages, stickers, and other simple arts and crafts projects will help keep toddlers busy while you’re doing the things they can’t help with.

Preschoolers

Preschoolers (3-5) are a fun group. They really want to help, but they often want to help with the things that they can’t quite do. For this age, it’s great to put them to work on things they can do – like putting together sauce ingredients, measuring and adding ingredients to recipes, stirring things, tearing lettuce, cutting anything that can be cut with a butter knife, pushing buttons on appliances, etc. My soon-to-be-five year old loves to help with all of these things, and she does a good job of listening to directions, keeping her hands clean, and being safe.

Good activities include making place cards for guests (tracing names if they’re not yet writing), making crafted decorations, and helping to clean up toys from around the house. Preschoolers will also enjoy helping to set the table (the silverware, napkins, and placemats – leave the crystal and china to older children and/or adults).

For familiar products and produce, preschoolers can begin to help with the Thanksgiving shopping at the store (with supervision). It can be a lot of fun for them to pick out the right apples for the pie and to grab the acorn squash that’s at their reaching level.

School-Age Kids

Here are when things get fun. Once a child can read, he or she can (supervised) put together a dish of his or her own. My oldest has always made the deviled eggs for Thanksgiving and Easter, for as long as I can remember. Let your child choose an easy-to make with minimal help from mom or dad dish, and be in charge of that dish.

School age kids can also help cut and prep ingredients, given that they are tall enough to reach the surface they are cutting on without a stool or sitting on knees on a chair. You can use a kids’ table for this. You just don’t want your child to lose balance and fall backwards with a knife in his or her hands. Pre-teens can help to stir items on the stove – again, with the caveat that they do not need a step or chair to do so. Baking pies is a great activity for this age.

These children can also set the table in its entirety, and help to decorate the tablescape.

As children learn to read, you can assign them to get ingredients at the store that are at their arm level. You can even give older tweens (10, 11, 12) their own list to be responsible for at the store.

Teenagers

I put my teenager in charge of several items every year. By this age, they should know their way around the kitchen, be able to read and modify recipes, and know and understand all basic kitchen chores. Let your teenager choose a few recipes and then be in charge of researching them and adding the ingredients to their own shopping list, and then having them grab their items at the store. You get points for giving them a budget to work with, as this is an important life skill.

Because I have kids with a wide age-discrepancy, my oldest in the past has made his own recipes, helped with other recipes and things like washing dishes between making different things, and supervised younger siblings as they carried out their roles.

Making it a Fun Holiday

The best part of Thanksgiving is the tradition of togetherness that surrounds the holiday. Allowing children to be involved with the prep for any holiday makes for a nice tradition in and of itself. Be sure to allow for extra time if you’re involving small hands – that will help to give you more patience, and make sure the experience is a positive one for everyone.

I Never Thought I Would Get Preclampsia And Then I Did

I Never Thought I Would Get Preclampsia And Then I Did

When I got pregnant with my fourth child, I had no idea that preeclampsia was a risk. I had no history of it, my family had no history of it. Other than some blood pressure spikes, likely caused by stress, in my second and third pregnancies, I’ve never had high blood pressure.

All of my pregnancies have been low-risk (although due to age and my husband’s family history of cardiovascular health, my last three were classified as high-risk until the 20 week scans showed that all was well.)

The easiest pregnancy ever…

When I got pregnant with Ladybug, I kept forgetting I was pregnant. This was welcome, because with my boys, I had horrible sciatica, and with my year old, I had terrible morning sickness for the entire pregnancy. I also suffered from paralyzing anxiety and depression while pregnant. In fact, with Ladybug I didn’t even have the debilitating fatigue I’d had with my 2 year old. I felt energetic, happy, and pretty amazing, well into the pregnancy. I even was losing weight while pregnant due to healthy eating and being able to continue being active.

Then, things changed.

I got a nasty version of the flu, and it turned into pneumonia. I was really sick. I was probably hospital sick, but I’m stubborn. When I saw my OBGYN, she was a bit taken aback that I hadn’t gone to the hospital. Her words, “If you think you might need to go to the hospital, Ronda, you should pro

My oldest and I, after his theater awards ceremony, a week before I was induced.

bably go to the hospital.” I was due in late May, I got sick in mid-March.

I didn’t really recover. I continued to feel awful. Each appointment, I was suddenly putting on a lot of weight. I wasn’t thin by any means, but I’d made it down to 275 when I got sick. When I was induced, about 6 weeks later, I was up to 354lbs. We’ll get to the induction in a minute.

I had no energy. I constantly felt zapped. It was still really hard to breathe. Just walking from the couch to fridge, about 20 feet, would wind me. I couldn’t keep up with my other kids. I skipped out on some of my oldest’s events, because I had no energy. I sent his grandparents instead to take photos. Then, one morning, I woke up, and I was really swollen. When I say really swollen, I mean, really really swollen. I felt horrible. I had an appointment with my OBGYN that afternoon.

The fight for a diagnosis

I had no history of preeclampsia. My OBGYN wasn’t even collecting urine samples, because she was that confident that it wasn’t an issue. That day, I actually wound up not seeing my OBGYN, but her nurse practitioner. She saw me, and asked if I’d been eating a lot of salt. “No.” She took my blood pressure. It was 135/84, extremely high for me, but still within the range they considered normal. I pushed the issue.

The swelling wasn’t going down with rest. It wasn’t going down with putting my feet up. I’d gained a lot of weight over the past 5 weeks, and I felt terrible. I was out of breath. No, it wasn’t just baby pushing on my lungs. It was different from other pregnancies. Something just didn’t feel right. So, she agreed to check my urine. She told me if I didn’t hear anything, that I was fine. That was a Thursday.

The long weekend

I kept feeling worse. I was supposed to go see my oldest’s awards ceremony. I had no idea he was receiving any awards, so I sent my in-laws instead.  He was due to graduate high school in a few days. I kept checking the portal to see if my lab results had come back. I hadn’t heard anything.

At my oldest’s graduation with my husband and youngest son.

I went shopping with my husband to prepare for my son’s graduation party and for my sister to come into town to visit and see the graduation. I kept feeling worse. It felt like I was getting the flu all over again, and my face and hands were now swollen. I knew something was wrong. I was feeling extremely emotional over it. But, I hadn’t heard back, and the results showed they were in (I just couldn’t view them), so I figured everything was fine and I was just coming down with a fresh bout of crud.

Monday and Graduation

Monday, 20 minutes before my OBGYN’s office was to close, I got the call. “You had protein in your urine. Come into the clinic, and we’ll do a blood draw.” By the time I got the message and called back, they were packing up and told me to come in, first thing in the morning. I was scared. I had a friend who’d had preeclampsia, so I knew it wasn’t good. I showed up in the morning, the morning my oldest was going to be graduating. I was terrified I wouldn’t get to see him graduate. I was feeling icky by then, and had seen a flash of light while showering. They took my blood pressure. It was 150/93. My OBGYN wanted me to go in right away to be induced.

I asked whether it would be safe to see my kiddo graduate.

I then went through a bunch of tests to make sure Ladybug was okay. Once my OBGYN was convinced that baby was safe, she told me to go home, rest, and head to the hospital either if I had a headache or right after graduation got out. I played it down, though, as I didn’t want anyone worrying about me.

The induction

The headache started in the middle of graduation. By the time I got out, and we got to the hospital, I was feeling terrible. The induction began. It was rough. I wasn’t allowed to move around, I was asked to stay on my back by the nurse. I was in tears. Laying on my back, pregnant, at 354 lbs was excruciating. My blood pressure was 210/105. I promised myself that if I made it through the induction and birth process that I would do everything I could to begin running again.

I was happy when my nurse changed and the new nurse let me guide her. I opted for no pain medication. I bounced on an exercise ball. I made my sister, who came thinking she’d see a graduation and wound up also seeing a birth, and my husband laugh. I stayed calm. My blood pressure returned to almost normal. 19 hours later, Ladybug was in my arms. I’d had the worst headache the entire labor, but it dissipated after food. At 36 weeks, my gal didn’t need any NICU time, and she was born at 6lbs 10oz and 19.5 inches long, making her the smallest of all my children.

Ladybug is a healthy 16 month old

The aftermath

Everything returned to normal after birth. I was healthy, Ladybug was healthy. She’s now a very healthy 16 month old. It was probably pretty stupid of me to go to graduation knowing what a risk it was, but seeing my big kid graduate was something I just really needed to do. He’d worked so hard during high school. I was discharged a day after Ladybug was born (I’ve since learned that this is not typical in cases where preeclampsia was a factor). Not long after returning home, I went through a terrible bout with anxiety and depression from the trauma of really processing it all. I went through physical therapy, and yes, I’ve started running again. I have my first half marathon later this month.

What you need to know about preeclampsia

While preeclampsia is most common in first pregnancies or first pregnancies with a new partner and subsequent pregnancies where there’s a history of it, it can happen in subsequent pregnancies where there is no history of its occurance. My pregnancy with Ladybug was actually my fifth, as my second pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 8 weeks gestation. I had no history of high blood pressure or complications with pregnancy. Here are some of the risk factors, though an actual cause isn’t known. It is known that having pneumonia or the flu while pregnant greatly increases the risk of occurrence:

  •  Age – being older when pregnant can increase risk (I was 39).
  •  Obesity – I was overweight
  • Nutritional deficiencies – I was still breastfeeding my younger son for half of the pregnancy; I consistently forgot to take my prenatal vitamin
  • Pre-existing conditions – things like diabetes, thyroid disorders, lupus, etc can increase one’s risk
  • Genetics – there seems to be a hereditary component.
  • Other things that go wrong – here’s a list from the Preeclampsia Foundation on other things that can contribute to the risk.

Symptoms:

  • No symptoms, there is just no symptom that presents because many people don’t feel their blood pressure increasing. I did, because my blood pressure is normally around 95/65, so I was pretty uncomfortable.
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Proteinuria – Make sure you get your urine checked at every appointment. They could have caught this earlier in me, had we not gotten complacent.
  • Swelling
  • Headache
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Abdominal or shoulder pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Changes in vision
  • Hyperreflexia (when your reflexes are extraordinarily strong)
  • Shortness of breath & anxiety

If you are more than 20 weeks pregnant, and you have any of these symptoms, it’s best to bring it up with your healthcare provider ASAP. It could be nothing, but it could be something. Preeclampsia can be deadly for both mother and fetus if left untreated. If you have severe swelling, vision changes, and a headache, don’t waste time – head into the labor and delivery department.

When Did Being a Mom Become a Competitive Sport?

When Did Being a Mom Become a Competitive Sport?

Competitive momming is a problem, a big problem. It feels as though we’ve lost our villages, especially when everyone on social media seems to be playing the one-upsmanship game.The thing is, competitive parenting isn’t new, it’s just that we see it a lot more.

Feeling as though life is a competition can lead to some pretty bad problems with depression, especially for new moms.  Here are some ways to deal with it when it comes up – whether in person or online.

Ask yourself if the person is actually trying to compete.

Sometimes, what we take as competition really isn’t. A mom may be socially awkward and may be trying to relate to you. Others may be trying to share something that they’re excited about, but it’s not translating that way on social media, or the delivery is off.

Sometimes, too, when we feel someone’s trying to compete, it’s really more about ourselves. We might feel that we’re lacking in some way or another and misread the intent as snarky. It’s important to try to see through what’s being said to what’s being intended.

Ask yourself why the person might be trying to compete

Might the individual in question be experiencing feelings of self-consciousness or guilt him or herself? This can cause people to be more competitive than they ordinarily would be. For example, a mom who is feeling guilty about having her child in day care because her family is trying to shame her for working or who is self-conscious because she’s a stay-at-home mom and getting flack about not working may come off as more snarky than she intends to if she’s put on the defensive.

If you feel that the person may be acting in a competitive way from a place of vulnerability, validate his or her claim, then complement the person on something that she’s doing well.

Don’t feed the troll

Sometimes, you’ll find yourself in a situation where a parent is one-upping others or maybe you. Joey did great on his spelling test, so Debbie feels the need to comment that her Chandler got skipped a grade ahead, and Alison states that her Gina is homeschooled and working at an 8th grade level at age 7.

Don’t give into the impulse to pile on. Yes, maybe Alex just got another belt level in karate, but does it need to be said? Instead, go back to the original focus, Joey, and tell his mom to congratulate him on the good work he’s done.

The pile of stuff competition

I see this every holiday season, and it’s something that personally makes me nuts. A parent either posts about not giving kids a bunch of toys, or sticking to 4 gifts, or posts a photo of an overstuffed Easter basket or overflowing Christmas tree. People pile onto the original poster and attempt to shame the person into doing things their way.

No matter how bad you might want to, don’t add to it. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter if you’re an extreme giver or a four gifter or you do no gifts at all but experiences and others do differently. What does matter is that what your tradition is makes you and your family happy.

Watch your own urge to compete

It’s natural to want to show off your child, but remember, your child’s achievements belong to him or her, not you. It’s one thing to share those achievements, it’s another to brag about them.

Before you comment on someone else’s post or announcement with a competitive bend, ask yourself if you’re really adding something to the conversation. It may be better to instead congratulate the person and save your own announcement for another time.

What have you done to reduce competition?

What actions have you used to reduce competition when you’ve seen it? Have you found something that works well to de-escalate the situation? Share in the comments.

When did Parenting Become a Competitive Sport? Parenting Competition needs to be avoided

  Freelance writer and entrepreneur Ronda Bowen has been publishing articles on a variety of topics including parRonda Bowen Raising World Children – Where Cultures Meet Parentingenting and education for the past decade after leaving a graduate program in philosophy. She has four children ranging in age from 6 months to 19 years old. She believes that it is vital to raise children to be globally aware and to have empathy for others. Current projects include two blogs, political website, fundraising for an international non-profit organization, and a handmade business.

How I Became a Homeschooling Mom

How I Became a Homeschooling Mom

Like many things I’ve found myself doing as a parent (attachment parenting, learning about the Suzuki method, figuring out how to adapt myself to a child who needs a rigid schedule, etc.), I never set out thinking, “Gosh, I think homeschooling will be my parenting method.”

In fact, when my oldest was born, I had visions of first day of school photos in a photo album, school pictures on a wall, and time spent doing homework at the kitchen table.

I did not imagine giant social studies projects strewn about the living room, piles of learning resources everywhere, and amassing a large collection of STEM toys and science kits that would be additional enrichment for reading books about robot construction, watching Bill Nye the Science Guy, and following an experiment-based science learning model. However, that’s how things turned out.


I Was Homeschooled

I had a rough time in school. I was poked fun of a lot. I was a very bright, gifted, kid, but I had trouble sustaining motivation and I had a lot of trouble with feeling anxious.

My mom was a big fan of talk shows back in the 1980s and 1990s. One of her favorite of those shows was People Are Talking. One of the episodes featured a homeschooling family, and that was all the fodder my mom needed to consider it as an option.

After a tumultuous time in 8th grade, I was pulled out of the public school and put into an umbrella school for the purposes of being homeschooled as an 8th grader.

To make the long story short, I went back to public school for 9th-the start of 11th grade when I was pulled out again. After taking the California High School Proficiency Exam a few weeks before my 17th birthday, I graduated early and started junior college.

I Never Wanted to Homeschool My Own Child

My younger brother was also homeschooled. Instead of being advanced and bored in school, he had been put into special education, and was bored. My mom pulled him out as well, and then fought every day with him to get him to do his work. He’d already developed a hatred for learning and one of those nasty limiting beliefs that it was something he couldn’t do. I know that now.

As a young 20 year old pregnant for the first time, I did not.

I saw the struggle, knew my own (I kept working ahead, and because I was working with an umbrella school, they wanted to slow me down so I would remain at the grade level for my age, particularly since they’d already skipped me a grade), and wanted no part of that sort of relationship with my kid. I was dead-set on never homeschooling.

Why do moms homeschool? How does one become a homeschooling mom | Parenting | homeschooling

So Much for “Never”

As my oldest progressed through the public school system, I became increasingly bothered, but the boiling point came in 2nd grade. He was eight years old. He was becoming increasingly depressed and despondent. His reasons for feeling this way involved both the fact that he was being pulled out of his class several times a day for other services and because he was being badly bullied by other kids.

With this fuel, I went to meet with the principal. The school he was at had a no bullying policy. The principal proceeded to tell me that my kid was “making himself a target for bullying.”

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

There I was, working on a Ph.D., a year out from starting my dissertation, when I couldn’t deal with the public school system anymore. I’d already been reading a book,

The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise.

I’d purchased the first level of their history program and Core Knowledge’s What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know, What Your First Grader Needs to Know, and What Your Second Grader Needs to Know. I was already doing “afterschooling.”

I looked up the homeschooling laws for Michigan, and filed the paperwork to homeschool as a private school. I got my curriculum, and I withdrew him from school. I started homeschooling him using the classical method, and it was really successful.

Since Then…

Since then, a lot has changed. I homeschooled my oldest through seventh grade. Because of health issues, he returned to public school in 8th grade. We weren’t a fan of the charter school we tried out, but we did like his junior high – I was really nervous about putting him back into public school in junior high because middle school tends to be rough.

He did really well there, and then we had him in high school. He did well, but I wasn’t as happy as I could have been with the high school experience he received. Based on a lot of the things that happened in high school, my husband and I decided that we would homeschool our younger children – preschool through high school – following the classical method.

Not for Everyone

Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, but it works really well for our family. I work from home, so I’m able to put in the work needed to be successful with homeschooling the kids. We’re lucky to have a really great library available to us, so that we’re able to get books to supplement our lesson plans.

We also have a lot of local museums, and our local rec center, and they are all great resources for enrichment courses for our kids. We have a lot of fun, many of the days of the week.

Have you considered homeschooling? What do you think about the concept, if you haven’t yet? 

Freelance writer and entrepreneur Ronda Bowen has been publishing articles on a variety of topics including parRonda Bowen Raising World Children - Where Cultures Meet Parentingenting and education for the past decade after leaving a graduate program in philosophy. She has four children ranging in age from 6 months to 19 years old. She believes that it is vital to raise children to be globally aware and to have empathy for others. Current projects include two blogs, political website, fundraising for an international non-profit organization, and a handmade business.

 

Why I "Go Big" for Birthdays and the Holidays!

Why I “Go Big” for Birthdays and the Holidays!

 “You do too much.” , my mother-in-law said to me in our kitchen about how much I do for the holiday celebrations. I know she meant it in love, and I admit it. I sometimes not only make a big deal about holidays and birthdays, but sometimes I go overboard in celebrating these festive occasions.

But before anyone jumps on me for advocating consumerism, let me assure you, that “going big” in this sense doesn’t necessarily refer to spending a lot of money and resources on such days. Instead, what I mean is that I go out of my way to ensure that these days are special – and memorable – for my kids, and that I create a sense of family, roots, and tradition centering around the calendar year and the changing of the seasons so that life has an ebb and flow to it from an early age.

Traditions Make Family Memories

The things I remember most from childhood aren’t the day-to-day happenings. Sure, there are bits and pieces from my childhood day-to-day that I remember. But what I really remember is the times when things were different – Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, April Fool’s Day, my birthday.

Each of these holidays came with a set of traditions our family would follow – putting up the fake tree, getting baskets filled by the Easter bunny, seeing fireworks, having an over-the-top feast, making doily hearts.

These little things, the traditions surrounding the various holidays and birthday celebrations – these are the things that shared family memories are made of. Think about it for a moment. What are the things that you remember from your childhood? Go ahead and take a moment to make a list. If you like, share your favorite memories in the comments section.

Going Big Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive

We’re lucky to live in a city, now, that has a lot of free and low-cost festivities around all the holidays. I keep an eye on the newspaper and the various local blogs that cover such events, and I make a list of the things I think we would all enjoy as a family.

Then, I discuss the events with my husband and we put some of these on the calendar. For Christmas, things like going to the Mayor’s tree lighting, looking at Christmas lights in neighborhoods, and heading to a Christmas Eve service don’t cost a thing. For holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, it’s always fun to head to the community parade.

Make Service a Priority

Every year at Christmas, we participate in a few community service projects – The Angel Card Project, Salvation Army’s Angel Tree, and Toys For Tots. We also donate to the local food bank and do other things to help others in our community and nation. We actually try to do this year-round, but we have certain things we do at the holidays every year. For the Angel Tree, we select a child in need around the age of each of our children, then have each child pick out the gift for that child. For Toys for Tots, we do a similar thing.

Make it About the Celebration, Not the Gifts

We do have gifts at Christmas and birthdays, but it’s not about the gifts. It’s about togetherness and the celebration. Some years there are a few gifts, some years there are many gifts. What’s consistent, though, is the festive air surrounding the holiday or birthday – the decorations, complete with ornaments that have been passed through our families and that we grew up with. I get excited thinking about how the decorations I put out now will be looked forward to by my kids in the years to come.

When we put out the Halloween decorations or we deck out the mantle for Easter, my kids will feel not only the changing seasons, but the changing tides of daily life.

Throw in Holidays from Other Cultures

It’s so important to me that we raise children who are worldly and who are sensitive to other cultures, thus, I think it’s important to celebrate such holidays – even better if I have a friend who invites us into his or her home for such a celebration! What better way to learn about other people’s religions than to spend time with their own beautiful traditions?

Go Big Because Childhood Is Short

I hold my napping 6 month old in my arms as I type this article, knowing that soon she will be 7 months…and then before I know it, we’ll be celebrating her first birthday. I am weeks away from having a 2 year old and a 4 year old. My 19 year old is already off at college. It goes so fast. By creating big celebrations and traditions, it helps to create that sense of belonging long after my children grow up.

My oldest mentioned that he got to have pumpkin chili on Halloween at a professor’s house, and it reminded him of home. I still remember the time from Halloween through New Years as the happiest time of the year in my house as I grew up. These are still my favorite holidays. I can’t think of them without feeling warm and nostalgic for home.

What kinds of traditions do you have in your home? Do you “go big” for holidays?

Why I " Go Big " For The Holidays and Birthdays | Raising World Children | Parenting | Family | Traditions | Christmas | Holidays

 

  Freelance writer and entrepreneur Ronda Bowen has been publishing articles on a variety of topics including parenting and education for the past decade after leaving a graduate program in philosophy. She has four children ranging in age from 6 months to 19 years old. She believes that it is vital to raise children to be globally aware and to have empathy for others. Current projects include two blogs, political website, fundraising for an international non-profit organization, and a handmade business.
When My Oldest Moved to College

When My Oldest Moved to College

I sat there, going over my list again. I wanted to be absolutely sure my oldest, Mr. 19, would have everything he needed for college. I’d been preparing myself for this moment since before he could walk or talk, knowing that children are only children for so long and that eventually even the littlest of birdies would leave the nest. It’s funny, because when he was six, he used to curl up in the Papasan chair I kept in my office with his Beanie Baby collection, and tweet at me while I worked on papers for classes. He called the chair his nest, and his stuffed animals his “birdies.”

And here we were, thirteen years later, long past the time when it’s acceptable for a child to want to snuggle, with him with his head on my shoulder and me sharing blankly ahead. It had all gone so fast! How did it go so fast? How did 19 years just fly by? I half-joked, “You could always go to college here.” We both laughed and then he headed upstairs for one more sleep as a full-time resident of our home. We’d packed as much as we would be able to safely fit into the van for this trip, and it would be a long drive with me navigating for my husband the next day.

Just the Two of Us

For the longest time, I was a single mom. We had each other’s backs. I would let him stay up late and play board games on a Friday night. We’d go and check out the local bowling alley together when we got too bored around the house. I’d drag him along to a coffee shop where I’d meet friends to study or I’d head for a change of venue to write. It felt like it was the two of us against the world, and I had my lists. Oh, I had my lists.

Lists of books to read, lists of things to teach before he went off to college and out into the world, lists of must-have childhood experiences, lists of places to go, lists, lists, lists. When I pulled him out of public school in second grade to homeschool him, the lists multiplied. I had lists of subjects and lists of topics within those subjects, I had lists of field trips, and I had lists of college requirements.

And Dad Makes Three

When I met my husband, I had no idea that he’d be my husband. We quickly became friends. It was my general practice to not introduce people I dated to my oldest. I had no intentions of dating my now-husband, so he quickly became part of the circle. And we quickly fell in love. When we moved in together, my husband asked my son how he felt about him becoming his stepdad. My son responded, “That’s great! But lose the step. You’ll just be my dad.”

And so it went. He gained a dad; my husband gained a son, and we continued our board game adventures, now adding three-player games into the mix.

A Few Siblings and a Lot of College Prep

My oldest returned to public school in 8th grade, and quickly made it clear that he had big dreams of going off to college. I’d been preparing him for it since he was little, so it was no surprise to me. He fell in love with a small school in Iowa upon receiving a brochure from them advertising their school when he was a freshman. It’s funny, but that’s exactly the one place, other than the local university, where he applied, and not only did he get in, he got in with scholarships. Senior year became about me wrapping my mind, more and more, around the fact that my tiny sweet baby had now grown into a young man and soon he would be off, making his own life for himself.

What it's like when kids go to college | Raising World Children | Parenting | family | Empty Nest

And Then it Hit… Like a Horseshoe to the Face

I was preparing myself all summer. He had his first real part-time job at the grocery store. He was very busy. We tried to play as many board games as possible, watch movies together, have him spend as much time as possible with his three new younger siblings.  We had shopping for dorm essentials on the calendar, and then it happened – we got a call that he’d been accepted into a special program that would have him leaving for college a week earlier than what we’d planned.

I may have fallen apart just a little bit. Instead of getting to spend time with him as had been planned, I now had to say goodbye a week earlier – and we wouldn’t get to see any of the welcome to college events that the school had planned.

It felt like someone had thrown a horseshoe directly to my face. The moment I’d been preparing myself for for 19 years was coming earlier than expected and in a different way than expected, and as anyone who knows me knows, I don’t do well with the unexpected.

We drove to his school, had a tantrum-filled dinner as his send-off, and though some may disagree, we opened a bottle of wine and let him have a glass. He was embarking upon a new journey (and I wanted him to know what a little bit of alcohol felt like in his body in a controlled environment before peer pressure and college parties kicked in). We got his much-needed dorm room supplies, and helped him move his belongings in. We hugged. He walked to the dorms and we pulled out of the parking lot – with me in tears. I would be missing his birthday for the first time ever.

The Hot Mess Phase

I had planned all sorts of things when we got home – starting my 3 1/2 year old’s pre-kindergarten work, lots of fun toddler activities, sewing projects and blog tours. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t sew. I couldn’t teach. I could just sit and stare and maintain. It didn’t help that I was also fighting off postpartum depression from the birth of my now 6-month old. I didn’t show up for my self-imposed runs in preparation for the 5k I’d signed up for. I didn’t write other than to keep my paying clients satisfied with my work. I didn’t tend to the house or laundry. I cried. I cried a lot.

Nothing in the 19 years of being a mom prepared me for the depth of grief mixed with pride and excitement that I would feel when my child launched for college. Of course I was happy for him – here he was – he’d done it; he’d made it. But I was completely taken aback by the sadness I felt knowing that my oldest – the one I’d done a lot of growing up with – was now an adult and although he’d come home for holidays and perhaps summers, he was out on his own.

Pulling It All Together

I continued like this, putting together care packages, counting down the days until Thanksgiving break, when we had the chance to go visit him for parent’s weekend. We went up. We got to meet his girlfriend and his roommate. We got to see that he was happy and doing well and navigating this whole adulting thing pretty well.

I felt less sad and broken on the drive home after. He was doing well with his debate team, doing well with theater stuff, doing well. He wasn’t being all work and no play – one of my biggest fears for him. He was getting out and being social with his classmates. I was able to relax. I was able to come home and do more and start to get back to where I was at the beginning of August.

Know that if you’re child is heading off, it will be a change. Things still don’t feel right. I struggled with Halloween and decorating for it this year. It was hard to feel like I wanted to do my usual go-all-out for the holiday thing that I do, but we still had fun. Know that you’re not alone. A lot of people feel this way when it comes to adapting to the change.

I still get out an extra plate and bowl for him if I’m tired and serving dinner – because I’m on autopilot, and for 19 years I also worried about making sure he ate and was well. I couldn’t be prouder of him. I also couldn’t be counting down the minutes until Thanksgiving break more excitedly.

Have you had to say bye to your little one all grown up? What was it like for you?

 

 

Freelance writer and entrepreneur Ronda Bowen has been publishing articles on a variety of topics including parenting and education for the past decade after leaving a graduate program in philosophy. She has four children ranging in age from 6 months to 19 years old. She believes that it is vital to raise children to be globally aware and to have empathy for others. Current projects include two blogs, political website, fundraising for an international non-profit organization, and a handmade business.