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Work and life and kids, oh my! Tip #4

Ok, I never said balancing work and life and kids was easy.  You’ll have to cut me some slack for taking this long to post my fourth tip on how to do it!  Sometimes life takes over and it seems there isn’t a moment left in the day to brush your own hair, let alone write a blog post.  But here it goes …

If you’ve been following along, you would know that I’ve covered the first three tips on balancing career with motherhood in previous posts.  Without the right job and situation, you will never find the peace of mind and balance you are looking for (see Tip #1).  Once you find the perfect job for you, you absolutely must have the right childcare in place, and as I’ve made pretty clear, I would suggest that you find a nanny to help you out those first 3 years at a minimum (see Tip #2).  And, lastly, even if you don’t have a nanny to give you an extra hand, find some other form of help so that you aren’t coming home from work to a house full of housework waiting for you (Tip #3).

So that brings me to my next tip.    And listen carefully to this one because it has taken me 8 years to figure it out on my own.  There is no such thing as a perfect mom.  No matter how hard we try to be supermoms, climbing the corporate ladder while maintaining a perfect house and never missing a school event or soccer game, it’s just not possible.  And frankly, it’s just not necessary.  Sometimes you just have to let it go.

When my oldest began his school-aged years and entered public school for the first time in 1st grade, I wanted to be there for him.  Somehow I had an image in my mind of the “perfect mom” – the one who volunteers at the school and shows up for every school event.  I signed up to be “room mom” for his class because I am a supermom and I could do it all.  I attended class events and organized each one of his class parties (and those of you who know me personally know I tend to go a bit overboard with party planning).  While time consuming and sometimes stressful, it was fun and it was nice to be able to be there for him in that way.

When my second started Kindergarten this year, it finally dawned on me that there is simply no way that I would be able to repeat that kind of volunteer work for each of them, and definitely not for all three when my third starts in a few years.  I’ve had to let it go.

This year, I am not room mom for either of them.  I don’t organize parties and volunteer at every single field trip.  Another mom, who I am extremely grateful for, does the job for the class.  But I still attend and help out at most parties and I volunteer at plenty of field trips, and what I have realized is that, to my kids, just being there makes their eyes light up.  Whether I am the one who planned the party, or just showed up for the fun, they beam with happiness and pride when I walk through the classroom door.

The key to finding your own personal definition of success it deciding what your priorities are.  I went to a talk recently on work/life balance and the very wise speaker spoke of a notion she called “non-negotiables” and I absolutely agreed with her on every level.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach to balancing work and parenthood.  You need to decide, for yourself, what your priorities are and what your non-negotiables are.  Being at my daughter’s first piano recital is a non-negotiable for me.  Waiting for them at the bus stop once a week is a non-negotiable.  Having a perfectly maintained and spotless home?  That one I can let go.  Becoming the next VP and working the insane hours that go along with that job?  I can hold off on that (at least until my kids are older :-)).

Tip #4 is simple.  Focus on what is important to you.  Figure out what your non-negotiables are and don’t budge on those.  Don’t try to do it all.  It won’t work anyway.

In the wise words of Elsa the snow-queen from Disney’s Frozen:

Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone

 

Save – Give – Spend

I posted a while back with some tips on teaching young kids about money (click here if you missed that one and want to catch up!).  Now that two of my kids are a bit older, I am noticing the need for a bit more education.  Both are suddenly interested in earning money (stay tuned for a post on chores and allowances and whether chores should be tied to allowance), and in being able to buy their own things.  They also tend to receive cash from family for birthdays and other occasions and when I noticed my 5-year-old daughter’s ability to spend all her money and then some in five minutes in the American Girl store, I realized it is time to teach a bit of financial responsibility!

Enter this week’s DIY project:  the Save-Give-Spend jars.

One thing I am forever grateful to my parents for is teaching us that credit cards are not to be abused.  If you want to buy something, you only charge it to your credit card if you are sure you can pay that credit card off in full when the bill comes.  If you can’t afford it, you save up until you can.  To help my kids with this concept, I want them to understand how much things cost and to save their money until they can afford something they want.  I also want them to get in the habit of paying themselves first.  It’s hard for kids to save, of course, so I am starting them off young by enforcing that they always save 10% of any money they receive or earn towards a larger purchase.  Hopefully this will become a lifelong habit!

I also want them to be good citizens of the world, and to give to charity and help others less fortunate than they are.  For now, we are starting off with a minimum requirement of 5% that gets set aside for donation.  At the end of each month, the kids get to choose which charity they would like to donate to.  They can choose to donate to a cause they believe in, like helping sick children or maybe by donating toys to a local event.  The idea is that they get to choose where their money goes and that they understand how it is helping others.

The remaining money goes into their “spend” account.  This money can be used whenever they want, or saved up for a future purchase.

I wanted the kids to be able to see and keep track of how much money they have in each of their “accounts” and found various products on Amazon and other sites with the Save/Give/Spend principle in mind, but didn’t quite find anything that really matched what I was looking for.  Then I came across these adorable free printables on Good Gravy Designs that were perfect.  Just print and cut and attach to some mason jars and voila!

Here’s the finished product:

savespendgive

 Who says financial responsibility can’t start at age 5?

No one puts my babies in a corner

My daughter is the organized one.  She’s the one who loves to go out.  She is the one who will talk your ear off, once she gets to know you.

My son is the social one.  You can throw him into a group of people he doesn’t know, and he will end up with a friend, guaranteed.  He is also my difficult one.  The one who knows what he wants, and goes after it until he gets it.

It’s so easy to label our kids, and put them in roles, even without meaning to.  When I need someone to change batteries in a toy for Maya, my youngest, I ask Adam because he’s the one who just knows how to fix stuff.  When I need someone to keep me company, I ask Hana because she is the one who always jumps at the chance.

I just finished an awesome book on sibling rivalry, called Siblings Without Rivarly:  How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.  In fact it was so good, I read it twice back-to-back.  Although my kids have a great relationship part of the time, they also know how to bicker like pros and it was time to stop the bickering.  Depending on their moods, the day can either be awesome, or it can be a living nightmare.  There are days they play together all day long, they take turns, they give each other hugs, and they help each other when one is having trouble or gets hurt and I pat myself on the back all day for clearly being the best mom in the world.  Then there are the other days.  The ones where they argue from morning until night, where they fight over everything, they deliberately push each other’s buttons all day long, and I am sure there couldn’t be a worse set of parents who obviously don’t know a thing about how to raise kids.

One of the many useful things the authors talk about is how important it is that we do not trap our kids in roles.  Yes, my daughter is organized, but she should be allowed to be a kid, to make mistakes, and not to be organized 24-7.  And by referring to her or treating her as the “organized one, ” my son gets the message that he is the messy one.  I may not mean in that way, but he hears it that way loud and clear.  My son is social.  There is no denying that.  But in treating him and expecting him to be the social one, my daughter gets the subtle message that she is not.  Instead of freeing her to be the best she can be, I will have trapped her into a lifetime of being the one who isn’t social.

When you label your kids or put them in roles, so much can go wrong.  Even when labeled in a positive light, the organized one, the social one, the clean one, the friendly one, the labeled child can suffer by feeling like they constantly have to live up to the expectation.  The sibling of that child ends up feeling like they must not be as good as their brother or sister, and not only do they assume they don’t have the same skills, but they will also likely end up resenting their sibling for it.  And when labeled in a negative light, the difficult one, the messy one, the rude one, the child believes that they really must be that way and play the part.  And of course, they resent the sibling who is not being labeled that way.  It’s a no-win situation that leads to bad feelings, and more fighting, between the siblings.

Now that I am aware of this, I am making a conscious effort not to trap the kids in their roles.  This morning I resisted the urge to ask Adam to help his baby sister and instead asked Hana to put batteries in Maya’s toy.  She looked surprised, but immediately jumped up and rose to the challenge.  With her new sense of confidence, she can become another one who just knows how to fix stuff, instead of assuming that is not one of her capabilities.  Next time I need to do some spring cleaning, I will ask Adam to help me figure out how to best organize the space.  Yes, they may each have their natural tendencies and skills, but I will not corner them.  The sky’s the limit.  Because as Patrick Swayze said, “no one puts Baby in a corner.”

 

Work and life and kids, oh my! Tip #3

I figure I have made you all wait long enough for tip # 3 on balancing work and motherhood.  And since I know you have been holding your breath since my last post on this topic, here you go.

But first, a recap.

Tip #1 is you simply have to get the right job.  There are jobs out there that won’t allow you to easily balance work with motherhood, or just won’t let you do it in a way that is satisfying to you.  But I maintain that there are also jobs out there that will allow you to feel fulfilled in your career, without having to give up your goals of being the best mom you can be.  Go out there and find the job that fills your day with excitement and passion and challenges your brain and stimulates your mind, but go home at a decent hour to be with your kids, and to really spend quality time with them.

Once that’s in place, Tip #2 is to find the right childcare, and more specifically, to get a nanny if at all possible.  The convenience of having a nanny (assuming you find the right one) is priceless.  I cannot stress this enough.  The hardest year of my parenting life thus far was the one year that I did not have a nanny.  Getting kids up and out the door, the morning drop-off, the lunches that need to be packed, the breakfast dishes that are still out on the table when you get home from work, the laundry that piles up all week long until your kids are out of clean underwear, the sink that is overflowing with dirty dishes, and the pickup on your way home when you know you haven’t even figured out dinner yet are just too much.  Having a nanny means that you can strike all of that from your daily list of To-Dos.  Your day becomes more like this:  get older kids off to school, go to work, come home and bond with the kids, sleep.  Better, right?

This brings me to Tip #3, which isn’t that far off from Tip #2.  If you choose not to hire a nanny, or can’t find or afford one, find some other form of help.  Tip # 3 is simple:  don’t try to do it all.  There are other ways to get help around the house.  Find a neighbor with a highschooler who wants to earn some extra cash and have that person help you out each evening after work as a mother’s helper.  Their job could be to help you with the kids, but more importantly is to get housework done so YOU can spend time with the kids.  Have her fold laundry, pack lunches, unload the dishwasher, change the kid’s sheets, and anything else on your list that fills your evenings.  You’d be amazed at how little it costs to get a young student to help you out.  And, since you would be home as well, you can relax your requirements on what you may normally look for in a nanny or babysitter that you would leave your kids with entirely.

If you don’t have anyone in the neighborhood who wants the role, don’t give up!  Craig’s List is an easy and free resource and you can easily post an ad for a mother’s helper.  Care.com is another great choice for a small fee. I even asked around at my kids’ preschool just before I had my third baby and one of the assistant teacher’s jumped at the chance.  For the first 6 months of my baby’s life, she drove my older kids home from school each day (lifesaver when you have a fussy newborn!), and did housework for me for a few hours each evening.  Dishes, laundry, sheets, snacks, packing lunches, general tidying up, all done.

The point is, get help.  You need it and you deserve it.  You will appreciate the time you gain and the stress you lose when someone else is doing the grunt work.  Your kids will appreciate the time they gain with you, with nothing else on your mind other than having a fun-filled evening.  Win-win!

 

The Say-It-Once Mission

I was at a park the other day with my kids and witnessed an all-too-familiar scene between a mom and her son who was standing at the top of a play structure:

Mom:  “It’s time to go.  Can you come down please?”
Boy:  (ignores and keeps playing)
Mom, a minute later:  “It’s time to go.  Come down now”
Boy:  “No, I am still playing.”
Mom, another minute later:  “Come down from there!  I am not kidding.  We need to go.”
Boy:  (still playing)

This went on for another few minutes until she managed to get him down.  I am not judging this poor mom at all.  I think we can probably all relate to the extreme skill kids have to ignore our requests for as long as possible.  And for those of us who are lucky to have a strong-willed child, we often witness this scene numerous times a day.  I certainly have been there.

There are many tips on getting kids to listen.  I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite books is How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk.  If you haven’t read it yet, get started right this minute.  If there is one book you ever read on parenting, that is the one.  It is filled with techniques that work from giving choices to phrasing your requests in a way that encourage compliance to speaking in a way that encourages your older children to actually talk to you.

One of the tips discussed in that book, and in several other sources including Love and Logic, is to say things once.  Say it once, and immediately follow with a consequence if your child does not comply.  The more you repeat yourself without consequence, the more you are teaching your child that they don’t need to listen.  You are actually encouraging the behavior you don’t want.  Your requests are a mere suggestion.

So here’s how it works.  You state your request politely and clearly, and you only say it once.  Make sure you child actually heard you and isn’t so focused on a task or the TV that they didn’t even hear the request.  If you aren’t sure if they heard, you can ask them to rephrase it for you.  Not in a “didn’t you hear what I just said?!” way, but more of a “Can you repeat what my instruction was?”  Once you are sure they heard, wait a few seconds.  If the request is not complied with, it’s time to take an action.  The quicker the better, or the child may not connect the consequence to the action that led to it.

One of the keys to getting this technique right and getting your kids to learn to listen the first time is to choose appropriate consequences.  The consequence should be logical and related to the behavior.  So, if your child doesn’t listen when you ask him to turn off the TV and come to dinner, you could turn it off yourself and tell him that he won’t be allowed to watch TV for the rest of the night.  If your toddler is banging on the table with a toy and does it again after you have clearly stated your request to stop, you simply take away the toy.  Not after the third or fourth offense.  After the first.  The more you do this and the more consistent you are, the more they will realize that you mean business.

The consequence should also fit the crime.  If your child doesn’t turn the TV off to come to dinner, it would hardly be appropriate to take the TV away for a year.  A day or two would probably do.  If your child doesn’t come home when you ask, grounding for a month may be a bit excessive after the first offense.  So think about the behavior, and choose a consequence that is both logical and reasonable.

I know this is easier said than done.  Sometimes it seems like the ONLY way to get my kids to listen is if I say it ten thousand times, each one a bit louder than the last.  But clearly, that is not how I want every request of the day to go.  So I am on a mission.  The Say-It-Once Mission has officially begun.  Who’s with me?

 

 

Work and life and kids, oh my! Tip #2

Ready for tip #2?

Last week I started a series of blog posts on balancing career with motherhood.  If you missed it, you’ll want to go back to Tip #1 on finding the right job that will allow you to grow at work without sacrificing your relationship with your kids in the process.  Hopefully you will find the job that makes Monday mornings something you look forward to, and that still allows you to come home to spend quality time with you kids.  If you have young children who aren’t yet in school, the obvious question becomes where exactly are the kids while you’re off kicking ass with a little girl power at work?

Never underestimate the importance of quality childcare. It is the only way you will be able to head off to work each day with peace of mind and a clear conscience. A few months back I blogged with a series of steps on how to find a nanny.  The other choice is finding a great daycare that you will be comfortable with and where your child will feel safe and loved while you are at work.  But how do you decide if you should hire a nanny or go the daycare route?  There is no right or wrong answer here.  It is a personal decision that each of us has to make based on our own circumstances.  But since I have gone through both, I can say from experience that there are pros and cons to each.  Here are the things I noticed:

Nanny Daycare

Pros

Child gets quality, 1:1 attention

Child is in the comfort of their own home, napping in their own bed,   etc.

Nanny will often do housework while child is nappingFewer germs = fewer sicknesses

Childcare is not an issue if the child gets sick

No dragging the kid out of bed each morning to get them off to daycare

Less work for you (no lunches to pack, bags to prepare, etc.)

Flexibility in start and finish times depending on work needs

Control over daily activities:    you decide how your child will spend their day

Can be quite a bit less costly

Always available:  a daycare doesn’t call in sick

Child gets used to a school setting earlier

More social interaction means learning social skills like sharing and taking turns earlier (although this one doesn’t seem to matter as much with 2nd  and 3rd children who already get this at home)

Checks and Balances:  there are more eyes on your child’s care and safety

 

 

Cons

More expensive than daycare if you have only one child

There is no one supervising your nanny directly

Paying nanny taxes is ridiculously painful

There is nothing stopping a nanny from just not showing up one day,   leaving you in a childcare emergency

Nannies get sick, and you will need alternative childcare on those days

More germs = more sicknesses

No 1:1 attention for your child

Added burden for you to get your child up and out the door each morning before work

If your child is sick, you will need to figure out alternative childcare or stay home

No additional help with housework or picking up older siblings from school

Can become very costly if you have more than one child in daycare at the same time

Inflexible hours – you have to be there by closing time, period.

Whatever you decide, the key is having childcare you trust and feel comfortable with. Having a career just won’t feel right without 100% peace of mind that your child is in good hands while you’re at work.

But that brings me to tip #2: If you can afford it, hire a nanny.

I can say from experience having tried both the nanny option and the daycare option that having a nanny makes life 100 times easier. Maybe more. If cost is not a huge factor and you have at least one child under age three, having a nanny is worth every penny and then some.

Most nannies are willing to help out with household duties in addition to childcare duties. Imagine a life where not only is your child comfortable, loved, and well taken care of while you are at work, but you almost never have to do laundry, the dishes are done and the house is clean when you get home. If you have older kids as well, you don’t have to worry about afterschool care or packing lunches or preparing snacks. You don’t have to worry about the chaos of getting kids up and ready in the morning or the stress of the evening pick-up. 

The key to handling the cons on the nanny list is finding one you can trust. But once you have done that, the personalized care and the convenience for you is priceless. You can come home from work to do exactly what you want to do: spend quality time with your precious kids who you haven’t seen all day.

 

Work and life and kids, oh my! Tip #1

The question I get asked most frequently by friends and colleagues is “how are you handling work and life with three kids??”  Well, I don’t pretend to have it all figured out.  There are things I wish I could do better or have more time for.  I get stressed out now and then just like the next person.  But I have learned a few things over the past 7 years through the additions of three beautiful kids into my life and I have reached a sort of equilibrium in balancing work with the rest of life.

So here I am passing all my words of wisdom onto other working moms out there who are struggling to find balance.  This is for all the working moms who just had their first baby and are back at work and trying to figure out if they really can do both.  This is for all the moms who have been doing it for years, but are exhausted and wondering if it’s really worth it.  And it’s for all the moms who know they want to have a career and still be there for their kids.

Before I fill you in on all my secrets, there is one thing I must say.  My kids are my top priority.  Everything else is a distant second.  I love my job.  I love having a career and advancing and growing.  I am extremely ambitious and competitive and want to continue to climb the ladder.  But I am not aiming to be the next CEO.  My kids will always be my top priority.  If I felt for a minute like they weren’t getting what they needed, weren’t in good care, or if my relationship or ability to spend quality time with them was suffering, I would leave work in an instant.

Since I have lots to say on this topic, I’ve decided to do it in installments.  Ready for Tip #1? (drum roll, please)

Decide what’s important and find the job that’s right for you.

The first step is deciding what your goals are, both at work and at home.  If you are aiming to be the next CEO and you are willing to do whatever it takes to get there, then go for it!  But if you really want to be there for your kids, and you’re not willing to come home after they go to bed each night, then you have to find the job that will allow you to be successful at work as well as at home.  If your job requires you to work long hours and you are not happy about the effect it is having on you or your kids, then that is not the right situation for you.  Find an environment where you can grow in your career, where you can feel fulfilled each day at work, but where you don’t have to sacrifice quality time with your kids in the process.  Find an environment where the team values work/life balance, where the quality of your work speaks for itself, and where 60-hour work weeks are the exception, not the rule.

There are plenty of companies out there where you can be successful at work and still have a life outside of work.  There are even teams within large companies that may be better suited for you than other teams within the same company.  The first step to successfully balancing work with motherhood is understanding your own goals and priorities, and finding the job that allows you to achieve them. When that’s in place, you’ll be ready for Tip #2.  Stay tuned …

Doing less to get more: growing responsible kids

It’s so easy to do things for our kids.  Especially if you have little ones like I do, we can tie their shoes so much faster than they can, pour their cereal without making a mess, pick out clothes that actually match, and wipe up messes without making an even bigger mess.  We are in a hurry, getting them off to school or daycare, getting ourselves ready for work, sending them off to afterschool activities, and just getting caught up in the daily grind.  Waiting ten minutes for them to buckle themselves in to their car seat when we’re already late can be downright painful.

I once read something that has stayed with me ever since.  “Never do for your child what they can do for themselves.”  Of course there are things they absolutely DO need help with, and we should definitely help them with those.  Don’t get me wrong, you have to help your 1-year old tie her shoes and your 5-year old isn’t gonna make herself a cheese omelet for breakfast.  I am not saying you should let them helplessly struggle with things they just can’t do or, worse, leave them to do things that are dangerous.  You need to be age-appropriate.  But there are so many things our kids CAN do for themselves or to chip in around the house, and its easy to jump in and do it for them because we’re faster, or better, or just plain used to doing it.

Kids love accomplishing things on their own.  I am sure we have all seen that look of pride when they master a new skill for the first time.  It not only boosts their confidence and self-esteem, but helps them grow into responsible teenagers and adults.  Who wouldn’t want that?  Do you really want your 15-year old still relying on you to do things they can do on their own?

I recently read a book called Have a New Kid by Friday, in which the author talks about another related concept that I am also putting into action.  Sometimes reality is the best teacher.  By not jumping in and doing everything for our kids, they learn the natural consequences of their own actions.  Perhaps rather than arguing with your child to get their homework done, you can just let him experience the consequence the next day at school when his teacher makes him stay inside during recess to finish the assignment.  Instead of nagging repeatedly for your child to eat their breakfast before school, just say it once and let her experience the hunger that morning at school.  I am sure it won’t happen again after that.

So my advice of the day: think about all the things you do for your child and stop doing the things your child is capable of doing on their own.  Give them lots and lots of opportunities to try new things, to learn, and to grow into responsible adults.  I am now letting my 7-year old prepare the French toast sticks he and his sister often eat for breakfast.  He knows how to work the microwave, so why not?  For some reason I was picking his clothes out for school each night before bed out of habit, but I have passed that responsibility on to him (which he loves doing!).   My 5-year old daughter is now pouring her own orange juice, and although she may spill now and then, she also knows she should get a paper towel and wipe it up.

Since this will probably be new to them and they may have gotten used to you doing everything for them, you may get some resistance at first.  That’s where the second tip comes in.  Let reality be the teacher.   My son is certainly capable of making sure his backpack is ready for the school day with his snack, his lunch and his other school supplies.  I am passing the baton to him to make sure all of that is ready each morning.  If he resists, I won’t jump in and rescue him.  Reality will be his teacher.

And a parting thought … another one of these things I read somewhere that has always stuck with me.  Young kids love to help.  Two-year olds jump at the chance to help with the dishes or sweep up messes.  Even my 1-year old loves to grab a sponge and help me wipe down the tables (at least the ones that are within her reach).  And because we can do it faster and better than they can, it’s easy to just do it ourselves and turn down their offer to “help.”  But if you turn them down repeatedly when they’re young, do you think they will keep offering when they are teenagers and you really do want the help?

It’s simple really.  By doing less, you will get more out of your kids.  Well, that’s the theory anyway.  I’ll keep you posted!

 

Heartbroken.

My heart is broken.

I have never before been so deeply affected by a world event as I have been by the horrible tragedy that unfolded in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday.  Like the rest of the world, I was shocked when I heard the news.  That shock quickly turned into a deep sadness as the details of the story began to emerge.  I cried for those beautiful children, and for their families.  The more I found out about what had actually happened, the deeper the sadness went.  I couldn’t think about anything else.  It felt wrong to go about my day as if nothing had happened.  In fact, it still feels that way to me.  Although I knew the world was as shocked and as sad as I was, I was also angry that people seemed to be continuing on with parties at work that had been previously planned, with get togethers with friends, and although many people were posting on Facebook about this tragedy, there were just as many posts about all the other trivial details of our lives.

As the day continued on and the weekend began, my sadness increased.  The more I learned about what happened, the deeper the sadness got.  I was (and still am) walking around with a very heavy heart.  I am trying very hard not to show this sadness to my young kids who know nothing about this tragedy, but when they are not around it is easy to get overwhelmed and the tears come quickly.  I cry for those beautiful kids who lost their lives way too early.  I cry for how they must have felt in those final moments.  I cry for the families who started out the day just like they would any other day, who may have shooed their kids out the door that morning as so many of us do to get them to school on time.  I cry because those families went home that day, only one person was missing.  I picture that house, with their beloved child’s clothes probably still left on the floor, or whose breakfast bowl was still sitting on the table.  I cry for the siblings who don’t understand what happened or why they will never see their brother or sister again.  I cry for those who survived, but who will never be the same again.  I cry and cry.

I wondered to myself why this story is affecting me in such a deep way.  Unfortunately there are tragedies that occur every day, there are children that lose their lives in accidents, from disease, or as children of war.  But this one feels different.  This one has devastated me to my core.  And the more I watch and learn about the tragedy in Newtown, the more I realize why.

It is because I am Jack Pinto’s mother.  I am Emilie Parker’s mother.  I am Noah Pozner’s mother.  When I look into their eyes, I see my son.  A first grader, just like they were, with his whole life ahead of him.  When I look at Emilie or Jessica, I see my daughter.  A kindergartener next year who loves her cowgirl boots – maybe the same kind of boots Jessica wanted for Christmas.  I see my son and his classmates in the faces of all those lost on Friday, sitting in class with nothing but optimism and spirit and soul.

I don’t know how to deal with this tragedy.  I don’t know what my tiny little voice can do.  I am reading up on gun control, on white house petitions, on mental health issues.  I even argued with my husband about video game violence and emailed my son’s school principal to talk about our school’s security.  I don’t know who or what to blame this on and I know I am not alone in the despair.  I will continue to read up on these issues, to see if there is some way my tiny voice can do something to avoid this from ever happening again, but I know that will be a long process with many more voices than my own.

In the meantime, I will do the only thing I know I can do.  I will honor every child that died that day through my own children.  I have always felt that there is no job more important that parenting, no topic that I am more passionate about, nothing I enjoy more than spending time with my kids.  This doesn’t change that.  But it has brought me an increased gratitude for even the mundane everyday details of life.  Morning mayhem, boring Sunday afternoons, even the many challenging moments in which we discipline our children over and over again.  I am grateful for all of it.  My mission in life will be to make my kids feel loved, safe and secure each and every day.  I will never again walk out the door without saying “I love you” and I will hug them just a little tighter each night before bed.

To the families in Newtown:  my heart is with you.  There is nothing I can say to ease you through this unimaginable time.  Nothing I can do to bring your precious child back into your arms.  Just know that you are not alone.  My heart has broken with yours.

 

On the fence about having another?

I spent about a year and a half trying to decide if we should go for number 3 or not.  And since I tend to overthink things, I analyzed the pros and cons countless times.  I already had a boy and a girl so that argument was out.  My son and daughter had a great relationship and I was worried about tampering with that.  We were finally out of the diaper years and could actually go to a restaurant and eat without a fussy baby screaming in their highchair and we could actually travel without a stroller or a carseat.  And most importantly, we could sleep through the night … uninterrupted.

But that nagging feeling lingered in the back of my mind.  The family didn’t feel complete.  I didn’t feel like I was “done.”  I had room in my life for another.

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect.  When I found out I was pregnant with my third child, I had a strange mix of emotions.  Extreme happiness, followed by all kinds of anxiety.  Could I possibly love this one as much as I love my other kids?  What if it’s a girl and my daughter gets jealous?  What if she doesn’t feel special anymore?  What if it’s a boy and she never knows what having a sister feels like?  What if it’s a girl and my son feels left out?  And what if, no matter what it turned out to be, it changed the awesome relationship between my son and my daughter and the dynamics of our family?  All these thoughts, and more, went through my head for the entire 9 months.

And since I had nine months to overanalyze, I had it all figured out.  It would be best if it was a boy.  That way my daughter wouldn’t suffer from middle child syndrome.  She would always feel special because she would be our one and only girl.  My son would be fine too since he is the oldest and the oldest always gets lots of perks anyway.  And the youngest would be the baby of the family.  All three would have their special place.

Well that may have all made perfect sense, but you just can’t plan everything.  It turned out to be a girl.  And guess what, we all LOVE her.  My son, who had his heart set on a brother, cried for 10 minutes when he found out it was a girl.  But then he got over it and he is in love with her too.  He can’t wait to see her when she wakes up in the morning and comes running through the door after school to see if she is awake.  My daughter loves having a baby sister.  She loves seeing her wearing her old clothes and asks everyday if she can hold her.

What I know now is that they each have their special place in the family, no matter what gender they are.  My son is my only boy.  My sweet boy who will always have a special place as my firstborn.  My 1st daughter will always be my baby girl.  I will never forget the sheer joy my husband and I felt when the doctor yelled “it’s a girl!” in the delivery room.  She’s my princess, and always will be.  And our baby … what can I say?  She’s precious.  She eased right into the family like she was always a part of it.  I look back on the last 6 years and wonder how she wasn’t part of all those memories.

Of course we are right back to the sleepless nights, we are always the loud family with the fussy baby in the restaurant highchair, and we have to travel with a stroller, a car seat and a very full diaper bag.  But it’s all worth it.

I love having three.  All the things I worried about mean nothing now when I watch the three of them together.  Yes of course the family dynamic changed … it changed for the better!  We have become a party of five, and I can’t imagine it any other way.  I am enjoying each and every day of this new adventure.  Watching the three kids play together, like they have their own little private party anywhere we go, is just plain awesome.

So I say, if you’re on the fence about having another, stop thinking about it and go for it!  If you are still thinking about it and still trying to decide, then your heart is trying to tell you something.  No amount of thinking will change that.  Boy, girl, whatever it ends up being … it will be the perfect addition to your family.