Do you remember those first holidays you celebrated with your partner before you had a baby? Valentine’s Day dates with romantic dinners & alone time. When holidays like St. Patrick’s Day was about getting green beer and not leprechauns and pots of gold. Christmas was about finding your partner that perfect gift and celebrating as a couple.
The holidays change for us as we grow up. Some of the magic slowly leaves and is replaced with an easier adult way of celebrating holidays. Then you have a baby and you have to find your way back to the magic and try to reignite your inner child. With that magic also comes a whole new load of responsibilities. When it comes to celebrating the holidays they are no longer about you and your spouse. You can’t just decide to skip them when you don’t feel like celebrating. It is now your responsibility to create memories for your child. It’s on you to instill in them the magic and traditions that make these times so special.
My Holiday Foundation
My parents divorced when I was very young and remarried very soon after so this always meant that I had a ton of family and lots of holiday celebrations. This was especially true on my mom’s side of the family. Holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving & Christmas were always a huge deal. I remember always having special holiday outfits, special traditions, & celebrating with family gatherings.
During Easter I always remember having to wear my special outfit to church that my grandma almost always picked out and I usually disliked. We would then go back to whichever family member that was selected to host and have a huge family meal. The food kept coming for hours and was followed by Easter egg hunt after Easter egg hunt.
Thanksgiving always started with the Macy’s Day Parade. My mom was always up at the crack of dawn, starting food even though she had been prepping for days. We then would have what we call dinner at lunchtime and second dinner hours later because there was always so much food. The rest of the day was spent enjoying one another, playing games, and complaining about how full we were as we took another bite.
Christmas was always especially memorable. Being from divorced parents, it meant I got two Christmases. They were always spent doing things like seeing the parade of lights, driving around and looking at Christmas light displays, baking, singing carols, & reciting our favorite Christmas movies because we knew them by heart. We had our traditions of Christmas Eve Mass, opening an early Christmas Eve present, and of course big family dinner with lots of food.
New Baby, New Traditions
I knew the minute I had my daughter that I wanted to give her all the same memories that I enjoyed growing up, as well as create our own family traditions. I wanted to share with her the one thing we celebrated most during these holidays – Family, and the love we share for one another. This became a little hard her first year because she was so little and born in the middle of a pandemic. It meant that as a family, we didn’t have the option to have the big gatherings that we’ve had in the past. It meant that my husband and I had to do the best we could to start out her traditions as happy as we could.
The first holiday that we actually celebrated with my daughter was Thanksgiving. This one was a bit of a challenge because this is the one holiday that I have always spent with my family. I have never spent it without them and it made me sad. I knew though that we had to make the most of this day for our daughter. We started the day how I’ve always started the day on Thanksgiving – watching the Macy’s Day Parade. After the parade, we hung out for that day at home while our food cooked. It was just our small little family so we didn’t cook a whole Turkey and kept our menu very small. We still got semi dressed up and took pictures with our daughter commemorating our first Thanksgiving. She was beyond adorable with her cute little turkey onesie and tutu. We then enjoyed our dinner and dessert and spent the rest of the evening enjoying our time together.
Christmas was our next big holiday. I never waste any time preparing for Christmas, as it is my most favorite time of the year, so the weekend after Thanksgiving we set up our tree and began the Christmas season. We showed our daughter all the decorations and even picked out special ornaments to commemorate our first year together. We took fun photos of her by the tree as well as the obligatory, corny photos of mom and dad holding the baby by the tree. The one thing we knew she would love was the lights. I wanted to continue the tradition with her that I always spent time doing as a child. So on a very cold and icy night, we packed into the car and drove around town looking at various light displays, ending our night at an epic light display complete with music that you could tune into from your car. We also knew how much she loved music so Christmas carols were a no brainer. I would play them often and find her often rocking back and forth and dancing to the songs. We of course as first time parents, and feeling a little bit of COVID parent guilt went overboard when it came to Christmas presents. Knowing that it would be a lot for her to process in one day, we did what we call the 12 Days of Christmas. She got to open a present every day, up until Christmas for 12 days. This Started with the smallest gift and ended with the biggest. On Christmas morning, she woke up to find a ball pit and tent in the living room as well as one last present to open. We spent the rest of the day prepping our Christmas dinner and binging on Christmas movies. Even though we somehow ruined our ham and turned it into mush, it was still a good day. The one thing I will always remember is how the night ended. I remember so clearly watching my daughter under Christmas lights, fixated on the Polar Express with her cute Christmas pajamas, knowing that this was the beginning of so many Christmases to come.
Although COVID affected our daughter’s first holidays. What was important was the time that we got to spend as our little family, just the three of us. That’s what made those first few holidays magical for us. I do look forward to introducing my daughter to our bigger family gatherings and traditions. I look forward to fostering her innocence with stories of the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. Most important though, I will continue to instill with her the love that we all share around those times and the traditions that make those times so special.
From my family to yours I hope you have a very Happy Holiday season!
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Of all the baggage that motherhood came with, “mom guilt” has to be the worst. As moms we endure the weight of the world on our shoulders. We are always trying to make sure that our children grow up healthy, happy, and safe. Now this sounds simple and basic enough, right? I mean it should be. That is until that stupid little voice in our head gets going.
I never expected to feel like I am never doing enough as a mom as I do some days. I mean don’t get me wrong there are days that I am down-right winning at the mom game. But so many days I beat myself up for falling short and experience some form of mom guilt daily.
Even before I became a mom, I knew I wanted to be that mom that was home with her kids playing, doing activities, and crafts. I wanted to have the perfect looking house with all the home cooked meals. You can all laugh with me right now. The naïve, childless version of myself did not know what I was in for. In turn this picture I painted for myself has been my kryptonite. “How can I do it all and be it all?” Is the question I ask myself constantly.
The days when I get it right are the days I am most fulfilled and guilt free. But those days happen once or twice a week if I am lucky. I could clean the entire house and feel so good that it’s clean but feel terrible as a mom because I did not do enough with my kid that day. The balancing act to keep the guilt at bay is endless.
Mom voice guilt
We all know we love our kids to the moon and back. We love them in that borderline unhealthy, want to kiss them and squeeze them until they push us away kind of love. Most days that overwhelming feeling of love is all we have for them. That is until our dearest child decides to be on a roll of misbehaving all day. While we still feel love, our love guides us to take care of the bad behaviors, so we raise well-behaved children. My daughter tests this one regularly by trying to do something she knows she’s not supposed to do all the while smiling at me (to be honest her devious wit is going to be the death of me one of these days). During these times, sometimes the only thing I can do to get her attention and to stop the behavior is to use my mom voice. Almost immediately I am shrouded in guilt that tugs on every last piece of my heart for even having to use my mom voice with her. God, forbid she starts crying because that feeds my guilt more, and breaks my heart in two. I know it is the right thing to do but damn, the guilt sometimes is overwhelming.
Mom shame guilt
This one is every mom’s worst enemy at some point or another. It’s everywhere and we all tend to do it to one another whether we intend to or not. You can find mom shaming in groups online. A mom can simply share something about her child in a group. Next thing you know there are 10 other moms jumping in to say how they would have done it differently, or they can’t believe that she does it that way. It can even be present in our very own circles. While most times it is unintentional it can come with something as simple as a question like: “Why don’t you breastfeed? Breastmilk is better than formula for the baby.” I have felt this a lot with Covid because my husband and myself have chosen to limit the things my daughter does. I get a lot of opposition from other mothers I know who think that I am harming my daughter’s development by not allowing her to interact with others all the time. While they don’t intend to be hurtful these opinions tend to come off shameful and I have experienced a lot of guilt over this. We even tend to shame ourselves sometimes by comparing ourselves to other mothers and what they do for their kids and where we fall short. A lot of times we don’t know the full story of what goes on behind closed doors with these moms. Most times we only see the Instagram stories or the portions of their lives they let us see, but not their true lives. The mom shaming can lead us to feel guilty about the things we do for our kids. Mom shaming is a not so classy thing we do to one another. It ultimately adds onto another mom’s current load of mom guilt that could otherwise be lightened with a little bit of empathy toward one another.
Covid mom guilt
This one is a tough one and I find myself struggling with it the most. My daughter was born at the beginning of a pandemic and needless to say there were a lot of things that she missed out on, and we were not able to do with her for so long. My husband and I have felt so frustrated that our daughter couldn’t have come when things were more normal.
With vaccinations under our belt, and everything beginning to open this summer we took our daughter on a lot of outings and treat days. We wanted to provide our daughter with all the experiences she missed out on. We have even found ourselves overcompensating with gifts. Even though she is so little, and hopefully will not remember it, it does not change the fact that we hoped for more. We can’t help but have the sadness and guilt that she deserved to be born into a time where she could have more experiences and more interactions with people than she’s gotten up to this point.
Overcoming mom guilt
In a perfect world, it would be great to say that we should let go of all the things that make us feel guilty as mom’s and embrace the imperfection. Some days the mom guilt beats me down and I do let it get the best of me. While I don’t think I will ever overcome the mom guilt, I also know that it comes from a place of wanting the best for my daughter. In a way the guilt gives me drive, pushing me to be a better mom all the time. The guilt guides me to set a different example for my daughter. To teach her to have confidence in all that she does, to be understanding of other people, and be one fierce woman.
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When I announced I was pregnant I was inundated with everyone’s helpful and not so helpful advice. The seasoned parents shared there stories, tips, and what I thought to be anecdotal advice. No one ever expressed how much time I would spend not only worrying about my daughter’s safety, but implementing it as well. The worrying started when I was pregnant and has been a continuous part of motherhood. I was about to experience the mischievously inquisitive mind of a toddler on the loose.
For the longest time it seemed as though my daughter was not going to start crawling. She was very content to sit and sometimes roll around on her blanket on the floor. Myself and my husband had gotten comfortable with her inability to go anywhere. We had prepared ourselves early for baby proofing by purchasing item we would need . Some part of us was still holding on to the last bit of our home that we had left, before being regulated with locks and gates that would become our new normal. It took a matter of a few days for her to go from rocking on her knees to zooming around the house on all fours. For my daughter this meant doing it at high speed to because she does not seem to know how to do anything gradually. A short two months later she was walking and by the time she was one she could run.
Babyproofing: What did not work.
Soon enough our daughter started crawling. We knew we had to protect her from sharp edges on furniture and even corners. I spent quite a bit of time spent researching all different types of products. We came across a sticky protective edging that can cover the long edges of furniture. This product did not work for us. Even though it was strong enough to rip the finish of my entertainment center, it proved no match for my 8-month-old and her need to not only take things apart, but chew on them as well. She, yet, found it very useful to chew on. We ended up lining the base of the entertainment center with pillows to prevent her from hurting herself.
The next item that did not work were the cheap translucent outlet covers. They were too easy for my daughter to pull out of the wall and try to put back it the wall. They were more dangerous than safe in our case. Instead, we used some higher quality covers that we got in a baby proofing kit. They only require a little plastic key or significant amount of effort to be removed. The last item that did not work for us was the little foam pieces shaped like a “C” that are meant to be placed on the inner part of your door frame to prevent the door from smashing your littles fingers. These did not work for two reasons: 1.) you must take them on and off when you want to shut the door 2.) taking them off tends to lead to forgetting to put them back on which means they turned into toys for my daughter. She still has one of these foam pieces in her toy bin that she plays with, so at least one of us got something out of it.
Babyproofing: The things that worked.
As soon as our not so graceful daughter started crawling around, we knew we had to protect her from the corners of the wall. The pillow trick mentioned above might have worked but I would not have had enough pillows. So, upon some more research I found some great pre-cut wall corner protectors. These have been great because they are thick to cushion a blow if she falls into them, and are strong enough to defeat my little mischievous girl who likes to disassemble and chew on things.
My absolute favorite product I found was the outlet cover with attached power strip. From the minute my daughter could start grabbing for them, she was OBSESSED with cords. With that obsession came unplugging said cords and trying to plug them in. We tried to hide the chords and the outlets they plugged into but we were not always able to. There was a particular outlet in her room where this was an issue. We found ourselves locking her out of her room except to sleep because she would always try to play with these cords. This outlet cover was our saving grace. It plugs in like a flat panel and comes with adhesive to adhere it to wall. It also has varying sized extension cord lengths. With the extension cord it was long enough that I was able to hide the cords behind a dresser. My daughter is no longer able to continue her potentially shocking behavior.
Everyone knows your life is supposed to change when you have a child. I did not want the appearance of the home I had before having a child to be completely altered though. When choosing some of these products I selected them not only for there safety, but how they looked esthetically. There are so many options out there now to choose safety items that are not as loud and go with your home.
The next thing I took into consideration was ease of use and practicality. I did not want to struggle to bypass these safety features more than my daughter. When it came to practicality, I had to decide if some of the safety products were to over the top. I decided that I would have to teach my daughter safe ways to engage with some things. For example, we chose not to lock the toilet. We started trying elimination communication at 9 1/2 mos. so early on she was used to the potty. Additionally, I did not want to be fumbling with a lock on the toilet in the middle of the night. We use the rule that the bathroom door stays shut unless we are there to supervise.
It has been an adjustment and a learning curve to have all these products in my home. It has been 100% worth it though to keep my daughter safe. I have even found myself getting used to them just as quick as it took my daughter to become mobile and now they are our new normal.
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Shortly after having my daughter, I made the decision to be a stay-at-home mom. Now, there were several things that contributed to this decision. The biggest being the fact that I had my daughter right at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and believed the best way to keep her safe was to be home with her. There were other contributing factors like my job where before I left, I had some seniority and felt like a part of the team. However, upon my return from maternity leave it was if I had never been a part of the team and my seniority was dissolved during my 13 weeks of maternity leave. You layered that with the struggle to pump with a demanding job and I felt as though I was going to have to make the choice between my job and continuing to breast feed. Childcare was another contributing factor. We had childcare figured out before I was even pregnant, but because the household had someone working as an essential employee in the medical field, we could not continue to risk potential exposure to my daughter. We could not afford outside childcare and knew the right choice was for me to stay home.
Just like that, Stay-At-Home mom (SAHM) became my new title. I am blessed to be able to be home with my daughter and watch her grow but I think there is so much about the SAHM world that can be underappreciated and so much harder than it seems from the outside. I feel like the SAHM title gained another layer of difficulty when Covid hit. When I heard the term “Stay-at-home mom” before I had my daughter, I envisioned a woman that was home all day with her kids doing fun activities, having fun playdates, doing some cooking and cleaning, but also having some time to herself. I can honestly say that I thought for sure that being a SAHM was easier than working before I became a mom. A big part of the problem is until you are a mom and are actually in the thick of it , appreciating the hard work that goes into being a stay-at-home mom is difficult. This is the thing, when you decide to stay home the vision you have in your head for how thing are going to be and how they really are , are vastly different. So of course, I went into this naively thinking that it would not only solve the previously mentioned factors but would also give me more time to get things done and it would all be easier. I mean it did solve the problems we were facing but I was now working for my daughter- this was a whole new level of employment for me.
The year 2020 was deemed “the year that everyone stayed home” and that could not be any truer for moms. This meant no play dates, no activities like story time at the library, no coffee dates with other moms while your kids play, or just going wherever we wanted without restrictions or worries. This for me meant I rarely left my house at all except for weekly grocery pickups and occasional visits to my mom’s. I had all these ideas during my pregnancy about all the thing I would do with my daughter, and just like, I was not going to be able to do them. This left me feeling like I had been robbed of the experiences. I never imagined I would feel as isolated as I did, especially as a new mom. Granted covid made it worse but even now I feel it. Most days a majority of my conversations are had with a one-year-old. While she is cute, her incoherent babbling doesn’t add a lot to conversation; It becomes very easy to get stuck in your own head talking to yourself. I find myself jumping at the opportunity to have an adult conversation when I get the chance. I honestly think this can be the hardest part about being a SAHM not having anyone one to talk to or relate to throughout the day, especially when you are having a tough day.
In general, when you work outside the home you get to come home and be away from your job until the next workday. When you are a SAHM this does not happen. My coworker is still here at 5 o’clock – I never leave work. I have made this choice to be home with my daughter, but it can be difficult to have to always “be on” and in mommy mode. I don’t get to go out into the career world and switch modes into whatever profession for 8 hours and be my own person. I am my daughter’s world 24/7. I love being there for my daughter but there are days when the fussiness and neediness can make you want to clock out of being a mom for even just an hour.
I recently decided to start working on top of staying home with my daughter. For whatever reason I have convinced myself that it would be good for me, and it would be a great example to show my daughter what a rockstar her mom was. Staying home with her, doing activities, cooking all her meals, and working. It has been great because it has given me a purpose other than being a mommy. A lot of SAHM make the same decision and many more moms had to work from home when covid hit. Remote work became the go to and the ultimate test to every mother’s sanity who had to do it. I personally love the flexibility to work from home on my own time. However, trying to work while being a SAHM is strenuous. I am going to give a shout out to all you moms that do 8+ hour workdays at home, while trying to manage your kids at the same time. YOU ROCK!!!…and you deserve a raise. I literally do not know how I would do it. I have had to figure out how to do my work when and where I can. You know the old saying “when your baby sleeps, you sleep”? Well, when my baby sleeps, I work. I find it next to impossible and the most pointless activity to try to work when my daughter is in the same room. She has no problem contently playing alone until I pull out my laptop to work and suddenly, she is drawn in as if my laptop was calling her name. If it’s not that it is the literal CONSTANT interruptions that make it impossible to maintain a train of thought that lasts more than 5 minutes. Essentially, when you work on top of being a SAHM it’s like having 2 jobs at once and it is a struggle over who to give attention to. If you give your child attention you are not working hard enough and if you give your work all the attention you feel like you are neglecting your child. It’s a scenario where neither one wins 100% of the time.
Being a Stay-at-Home mom is not an all-inclusive vacation spent eating bon-bons on the couch with endless free time. It is making memories in the chaos, juggling more than you ever thought possible, and trying to maintain your identity while being a mom 24/7. It’s getting to enjoy every single moment with your kid while wanting to hide in your closet and have peace for two minutes. Mainly it is finding our strength as women and realizing just how much we are capable of. It is income free hard work and now that I am in it, I appreciate it so much more.
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With a wave like flick of my daughter’s wrist and the “eh” noise in the tone I know so well I know it is time for milk. We have taught my daughter the sign for milk, but in her frantic hangry baby state of mind it has become this super urgent wave instead of the squeezing motion that she has been taught for milk. Sometimes the wave and the “eh” are followed by a pull at the shirt and sometimes even a direct chomp on my chest with her lovely little teeth. Our once calm breastfeeding relationship is now a full-on Olympic sport complete with acrobatic poses of all sorts and a gold medal to mommy if I make it out of each feeding without having a nipple ripped off.
While I know how lucky I am to have made it past the year mark of breastfeeding, I can’t help but long for those earlier days. Now, I am not going to say our early days of breastfeeding weren’t without there challenges like engorgement, cracked nipples, positioning, and adjusting to the demand it placed on my time and my body. I miss my calm little newborn though some days. I miss the way she snuggled into my chest nursing so sweet and calm and eventually dozing off where I would snuggle her for hours- I suppose a part of me just misses how little and dependent she was.
Before I became a mom, I never would have imagined myself breastfeeding and once I did, I never would have thought I would make it this far. I have always been the type to be prepared, but this has been a journey that I could not fully prepare for. I can honestly understand why some mothers choose not to or are not able to continue for whatever reason. Breastfeeding is a full-time responsibility added onto the responsibility of raising a kid(s), taking care of a household, and in most instances working a job. Somedays it is flat-out exhausting and will leave you “touched out”. I remember in the early days I felt so much pressure because I knew my daughter depended on me for ALL of her nourishment. This meant I had to maintain my supply and had to be mindful of what I was consuming. I quickly realized that although I had given birth and thought that I had my body back, my body was still not mine. It was crazy that before I was a mom my breasts were considered a sexual object that must be hidden. But now? All modesty is out the window. I mean, I don’t know I will ever see them as a sexual entity for the remainder of my breastfeeding time, if ever again. They have taken on such a different and profound purpose that only I was able to provide my daughter and to me that is so special. This is just one of the many ways that breastfeeding changes a woman. We go from being our own people to essentially being owned by this little person- and with good cause.
Can we just touch on all the nursing clothes out there? Nursing bras can be a pain. I was a bigger chested woman before I had my daughter and proceeded to get larger after I had her. Over a year into our breastfeeding relationship and I still cannot find a bra that fits, supports, and is accessible all at the same time. Not that it really matters we spend so much time hooking and unhooking, adjusting, adding padding and so on. Let’s be honest, it is so much easier to ditch the bra all together, especially if you are home. I eventually gave up on all the nursing clothes as well. They all were given and “A+” for accessibility but did nothing overall to flatter my body or not feel like I was wearing and awkward number of layers. Maybe I just never found the right nursing clothes, but this has been one of my biggest peeves about nursing.
Anymore, as eventful as our breastfeeding relationship dynamic is it has just became normal to me. I just sit on the floor in my living room and instinctively lift my shirt, and if I am wearing one, I unhook my poorly supportive nursing bra and prepare for attack. We have gone beyond being able to nurse off one side each feeding, a full-on meltdown will ensue if both breasts are not free for her consumption. So, I sit there, no modesty left as the acrobatic feeding ensues. Sometimes she will turn her head to see her favorite show nearly yanking my nipples off with every turn while others she will turn upside down as she climbs me like a jungle gym. Some days its crazy to me to think that the same little baby that cracked my nipples because her latch was not right, can now put on a three-ring circus act all while maintaining a proper latch. In all honesty, I am so use to it all that I don’t even notice it until my husband or my mom who visits comments on the show that my daughter puts on while breastfeeding. Its almost became like a badge of honor to breastfeed through all the craziness.
As crazy as our daily breast-feeding sessions are, I absolutely love our first thing in the morning session. This is the session that makes the crazy day sessions worth it and makes me hold on to our breastfeeding relationship tightly. It is rough to try to peel my eyes open when I hear my daughter awake on the monitor, but it is made easier when I get to start the favorite part of our day. I go into her bedroom that is adjacent from mine with the same routine. She shows me where her paci and wubby are and then hands me her lovey and whatever animal she has in the crib. We then head back to my bed where we snuggle and side nurse. This may sound all pretty basic, but it is our one special time throughout the day. It’s the one time of day that neither of us are distracted by the many distractions that surround us. We can just snuggle, and I can talk to her and just really be in the moment with my baby girl. I can just cherish this precious, fleeting time with her.
Breastfeeding has had its lows and times where I absolutely considered throwing in the towel. The highs though have made every low worth it. I have been so blessed to have maintained this relationship with my daughter and know the day we end this journey will be bittersweet.
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