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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Life with a highly active, ever evolving, and what seems like CONSTANTLY teething 15-month-old can be an adventure to say the least. This leaves me more often than not trying to figure out how to find a balance. As moms we just seem to be hardwired to think that we must do it all, be it all, and have it all together ALL the time! Those thoughts alone are destructive as they constantly pick at our self-worth as a mother and a woman – and even more so to someone like me that has a desire for perfection. I seem to be mentally incapable of doing anything half-assed in my standard and if I try to it will nag at me until I rectify it and motherhood lately is no exception.
This balancing act for me began with Covid-19. I was about 34 weeks pregnant with my daughter when the first confirmed case hit the news. We gave birth to our daughter 6 weeks later at the beginning of lockdowns. As scary as this was for us in some ways it made it easier. We did not have to balance so much day-to-day life with our newborn. I was on maternity leave, my husband’s work schedule was modified, and the outside world was shut down. As my daughter grew, I struggled a bit with trying to balance motherhood and doing so without the village of family and friends that covid took from us. Eventually, due to circumstances beyond our control I left my job and became a stay-at-home mom. Although it was not the main contributing factor to me leaving my job, I did think I would be able to balance things better if I did not have to work too. I mean do not get me wrong some things definitely came easier like planning appointments and getting our daughter on a schedule. However, flash forward almost a year later and I still have struggles.
I have always wanted to hold my own financially in my relationship not because I had to but because I wanted to. It makes me feel more equal within the relationship and like I am helping to provide for our family. When I quit my job, I gave up a decent position, income, benefits, and all the outside professional socialization that came with it. I knew at the time that mentally I was not in the job anymore as so many moms experience when they go back to work after having their babies, and with covid I just had a stronger urge to be home with her and keep her safe. However, I really grappled with the change for a few months. It was extremely hard for me, and sometimes still is, to not be contributing financially the way I was and to let my husband take on all the financial responsibilities. It was hard for me not to feel inadequate even while I was my daughter’s 24/7 provider. It began to pull at me more, while at the same time, several women close to me were being so successful embarking on new careers. The new balancing act became figuring out how to remain home with my daughter but also find a way to contribute to my family financially in a way that would make my daughter proud years down the road. Now that I am employed as an Administrator for NayaCare and have mostly put to rest my feelings of inadequacy as I am able to contribute to my family & am incredibly lucky that my employment is arranged in a way that I can still be present for my daughter and bring in some income.
As my daughter has grown this balancing act has always been a struggle. I want to kick butt being a full time stay at home super mom, while somehow bringing home income and being myself as a woman and not just a mother- all while making my daughter proud of me as a mother and a woman. I find myself wanting to be the mom who does special activities daily with her child every day and makes all my daughters’ meals. I feel like I have to because I am the stay-at-home mom who has “more time” and should be doing those things. I also want to somehow be full time employed and do this while doing the daily activities and providing 3 homemade meals a day. I crave wanting to have that one quiet hour to myself with nothing to do except whatever I want to do (even though I know I will miss my little one the whole time). However, as I am sure you all can relate there are not enough hours in the day to meet this standard for myself. I find myself often upset because I feel like I have fallen short somewhere. It seems hard most days to succeed at making sure I have fulfilled my obligations as a wife and a mother, but also my obligations to myself. I find myself resentful toward my husband , who all though he may be having the same struggles, either doesn’t appear to have them or does not hold himself to the same intense standards that never allow one to feel like they have it all together. I even look at the “other moms” to see how they are performing as mothers, wives, and individual women. It is easy while making these observations to suddenly feel like I am falling short in some area. It’s easy to be on the outside looking in and think that these “other moms” have it so together… while in fact maybe they are constantly trying to balance the scale and hanging on by a thread somedays too.
I am slowly learning that balance is slowing down to enjoy all the moments and milestones with my daughter even though the housewife part of me knows there are dishes that need to be done. Sometimes work does have to be done while I give my daughter that extra screen time or even after she goes to bed. The balance is saying “ I cannot make another meal homemade today. Who wants boxed macaroni and cheese?” and that’s okay. It’s saying I am still a woman, though somedays non-existent, who has goals and wants my child to be proud of me…it just may take me time to get there. The balance for me lately has been trying to give myself the grace to not meet every single standard I set for myself and to not only enjoy all the moments I have with my daughter but to be in the moment with her. All the while trying so hard to remember and accept that tomorrow is another day to be perfectly imperfect.
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