Redefining “vacation” (when you have kids)

I’m on “vacation” right now. I put the word in quotes because, well, it doesn’t exactly feel like vacation.

Sure, we’re staying in a family friend’s lovely condo (for free!) in North Carolina,  steps from a gorgeous pool and a 30-minute drive to the beach.  How lucky are we?

But with a 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son along, this week has been a lot more work than relaxation. Starting with the two-day road trip to get here, during which my son cried and coughed most of the way. Oh, and hotels? Two-year-olds don’t seem to “get” the concept, period. I got maybe
two hours of sleep that night.

In between naps, stopping to pee, retrieving endless snacks and drinks (kids don’t seem to get the concept of “meals,” either), beach trauma, pool trauma, carseat discomfort – you name it – we’re happy to get even an hour a day of true R&R during our vacation.

But, the kids are having fun.  My daughter invented the sport of “wave jumping” in the ocean (with help from Mom or Dad) and is quite proud of herself. My son has decided swimming is the best thing ever, even if he has no fear of drowning or clue about how to actually stay afloat.

From packing and traveling to settling in and returning home, I can’t help but wonder: Is going on vacation really worth it? And when do I get a vacation to recover from this one?

Today’s author is Susan Wenner-Jackson of WMAG.

Post-Birth Stress and New Moms

You’ve survived nine months, have a beautiful baby in your arms
and can’t stop crying. If you’re feeling depleted, you’re not alone.
Motherhood is profoundly fulfilling but can be the most stressful and
demanding activity you’ll have.

The media tends to ignore the challenges faced and instead gives out
chirpy advice. Worse yet, it tends to make moms feel like it’s
their fault they’re run down.

Practicing self-care should be more than just a mantra. I called for
self-care to be a revolution. Perhaps there is a happy medium that’s

Self-care is more meaningful than “chirpy advice.” Since we can’t add more hours to our day (who’d really want to) new parents should create a regimen of self-care that works for their family. Not every piece of advice is going to work for everyone.

Consider these solutions:
• Delegate household responsibilities
• Consider “outsourcing” household responsibilities
• “Plan” your life by calendaring and making solid choices
• Get rid of what doesn’t work in your daily lives
• Go for quality not quantity and relax
• Mandate “breaks” for yourself and really take them
• Reduce stress by exercising

Choose what sounds good and put it into action.

Today’s guest author is Mollee Bauer, founder of which gives moms the tools they need to empower themselves, feel safe and get advice on how to take care of, pamper, and check-in with themselves. These tools help them conquer their challenges. We welcome you to join us!

Surviving PPD: The Princess Who Saved Herself

This past weekend, I participated in a training for Mother to Mother, our free volunteer phone support program for pregnant and post-birth moms in Missouri.  One conversation which stood out for me was how surviving postpartum depression (PPD) can help us become stronger and more confident.  Not that anyone would willingly choose this, but sometimes it chooses us. 

Experiencing mild depression after my first baby, took me by surprise.  After completing my doctoral degree, getting my psychology license, and seeing 30 clients a week, I thought I could handle anything.  Certainly, motherhood couldn’t be more challenging.  How wrong I was!   

As a new mom I doubted myself about many things, including if I’d made the biggest mistake of my life.  I felt incompetent, inadequate and that I wasn’t “good enough” to be the mom my daughter deserved.   I thought sleep, self-care and sex were permanently gone.  On bad days I was convinced life as I knew it was over and I’d be trapped in motherhood hell forever. 

But gradually, the landscape changed.  Surviving the ups, downs and uncertainties of new motherhood, I emerged feeling stronger and self-assured.  More capable of meeting life’s changes.  Empowered with renewed strength and confidence.

For all moms, including those with PPD,  listen now to “The Princess Who Saved Herself.  It is a reminder and affirmation that while others may help us through  challenging and stressful times, making our way through the darkness is ultimately what saves us.

Motherhood is Hard Work So Cut Yourself Some Slack!

The media creates images of perfect mothers such as June Cleaver and Claire Huxtabel. TV moms look perfect, have spotless homes, and great relationships. Magazine covers portray moms holding beautiful babies, breastpumps and briefcases who are perfectly made up.  From such images women define their “shoulds” and “musts”creating unattainable standards of perfection and judging themselves for not keeping up.

The truth is that motherhood is hard work. As women become mothers and face the accompanying stressors and challenges, they often internalize their  inability to cope flawlessly as personal failings.  Add sleepless nights and fussy babies and it’s not hard to see why mothers lose confidence. When the idealized view of one’s self and motherhood collides with reality, they criticize themselves rather than recognizing how well they are doing given the endless expenditure of physical, emotional and mental energy that goes into caring for children.  Pretty amazing!

Nuclear families encourage isolation, especially in the early days postpartum. Experienced mothers rarely discuss hardships inherent in mothering.  No one wants to admit they felt less than adequate, irritable, anxious or depressed maneuvering new motherhood while this is true.  Although the internet provides some connection, many moms lack the  face-to-face support needed to see that everyone faces challenges and make mistakes.  Supporting themselves and each other by acknowledging that motherhood is hard work and that perfection must be tempered by reality  is what’s needed.

So, starting today cut yourself and the moms around you some slack.  You’ve earned it.  You deserve it!

Jamie Bodily is founder and director of ParentsCount which provides birth and postpartum doula services, childbirth education and counseling

Advice From a Reformed Conflict Avoider

I tend to avoid the hard stuff in relationships. If an issue is painful or difficult to address, I find a way around it. I don’t like conflict, and being the typical busy working mom, I can justify putting off “special talks” with loved ones because I don’t have time.

Sound familiar? If you’re a time-crunched, conflict avoider like me, take a moment and ask yourself, ” Is this really working?”   Because, it sure as hell wasn’t  for me.   I was so resentful of my husband’s lack of help around the house and with the kids, yet I didn’t want to discuss it (other than the offhand snarky comment). Too much risk of bringing up painful issues. Too hard to figure out workable solutions.

Until the day I thought I was going to lose it. Then came the break-down-bawling fest (me) and the deer-in-the-headlights, what-did-I-do? look (him). When we finally talked—putting all our cards on the table—we were able to address the underlying issues and find ways to deal with them. It also led to more such talks, solutions and frequent check-ins with each other. I can’t say our marriage is perfect, but things are much better between us now.

Real Mom Susan

Your most valued relationships deserve the time and energy to make things right. Give yourself and your loved one the gift of an open, honest discussion and  you’ll  both feel better.

Today’s author is Susan Wenner Jackson, cofounder of Working Moms Against Guilt.

Scheduling Self-Care

I spent 2010 in a new-mom fog, topped off with postpartum depression. It seemed the day my son was born, I forgot how to care for myself as I learned to care for him. Now that I’m recovered from PPD and the shock of new parenthood, this year I’m refocusing on myself.

In 2011, I plan to spend less time on laundry and dusting and more time taking a bubble bath and reading a book.  Less time overscheduled, angry, and worried and more time playing, giggling, and snuggling.

But how can this be accomplished without neglecting my obligations? I hear so many mothers ask themselves and each other this.  Ironically, I feel the answer is  scheduling—relax, it’s the good kind! Grab your calendar and pick one date each week to devote 2 hours (or a whole evening if you can) to doing something JUST FOR YOU. I’m not talking about an hour online replying to emails! I mean a shopping trip for a new (maybe impractical) pair of shoes or a solo trip to the local coffeehouse with your favorite novel or best friend. If you have children,

Real Mom James with Jax

the minute you have your dates selected for the month, grab your phone and plan your childcare for the entire month. Trust me, this will keep you accountable!

Simple enough, right?  To nurture others, you must first nurture yourself.

Today’s author is James of James & Jax, a blog about discovering her new self after becoming a mom.

Holiday Inspiration from St.Louis Kids Magazine

“Set realistic expectations.” So easy to say, so hard to do! Especially at the holidays, when our day-to-day lifestyle is condensed to its essence by the stresses and time constraints of this busy season.

If we tend to bite off more than we can chew throughout the rest of the year, we may set our sights on a “perfect” holiday with 12 dozen different home-baked cookies, the best light display on the block, perfect gifts for the kids, and a holiday party that outshines them all.

It makes me tired just typing it.

One of the things I love about the St. Louis Kids Magazine blog, SmartParenting, is that our bloggers are honest about their pursuit of perfection – and the limitations that get in the way. We may not have the perfect body for those sexy jeans. The unkindness of strangers may sting our pride at a fast-food restaurant. We may entertain our kids in front of the TV more than we should, or let them skip homework when we can’t deal with the inevitable fight. We’re human.

Real woman Amy of St. Louis Kids Magazine

Our team is also quick to give credit to those who go beyond “realistic expectations.” The parents who adopt four siblings. The divorced mom who starts her own business. The teacher who recognizes a child’s greatness.

Reading about those transcendent folks gives us hope that one day we too may rise above our “realistic expectations.” But meanwhile, we’re in good company if we only bake (or buy!) one kind of cookies.
-Thanks to Amy De La Hunt, St.Louis Kids Magazine , today’s contributor!

Gratitude to You

I know that gratitude was yesterday’s tip, but I feel it’s the one I need to practice today.  I am thankful to each of you for pursuing this journey with us, and hopefully continuing on.  Ann and I have gained from your comments and participation, and perhaps without knowing it, you have deepened our commitment to LIVING Self-Care for ourselves and our loved ones.

It’s been humbling to see that although we KNOW how important it is to practice daily, we stumbled and regained our footing several times.  And honestly, that’s how life is.  “We fall and get up, fall and get up, fall and get up again.”  Thanks to all of you for being there when we fell with your comments and experiences which inspired us to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and carry on.

Please stay with us as we make LIVING Self-Care a reality in your lives and ours.  Together, we can support and encourage each other, one moment, one day at a time.

Thanks again.  Warmly, Diane and Ann