Routines are another valuable resource in our toolkit. When our little one was approaching one year old, bedtime had become a nightmare. He would reach a point in the evening where he was cranky, but he was too wound up to fall asleep.
We started a routine inwhich we told him 40 minutes beforehand that he had 40 minutes till bedtime. At the same time, we would reduce the brightness of the living room. After 20 minutes, we would tell him that he had 20 minutes left which was equal to the amount of time that had passed since the last time we told him how long. Repeat at 10 and at 5 minutes remaining. Finally, at two minutes, we tell him he has 2 minutes till bedtime and he should do anything he needs to do before bed.
This system almost magically transformed bedtime from a miserable time for all to a natural and expected end of the day. We have had it in place for about four or five months now. It has worked so well that we now typically start at 20 minutes. Before we start the counter, we do things like diaper changes and anything else that we t(the parents) think needs to be done before bedtime. Then he can spend his 20 minutes however he prefers. We have also begun applying it to naps which are often a shorter tcountdown period such as 10 minutes.
With traveling at Christmas time to various family, we were unsure of how it would work in different setttings with exciting other events going on. It worked surprisingly well. With his usual routine in place, he readily adapted to changes in bedtime, changes in sleeping facilities, and all the excitement of the holidays. Even when I looked up and realized it was two or three hours past his usual bedtime, I started the counter at 10 minutes, and he was quite happy to play with his cousin a little longer and then curl up in a playpen in a dark room.
This is one example of how a routine can help smooth the challenges of toddlers both at home and while traveling. I would love to hear comments of how other parents have used routines to make life easier not just for themselves but also their children.
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Many of the blogs I read are listing their new year’s resolutions and encouraging their readers to make the same. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I have found that it does not work well for me to pick a date on which I will stop doing a bad habit or try to incorporate a good new habit.
My best results have come from making a change when I feel strongest about making a change. When I am feeling sorry for myself or disappointed, that is when I feel the strongest conviction that I want my life to be different. It usually also corresponds to feeling out of control and unable to change. However, it is the best time to concentrate that tiny amount of willpower and make one small change in the direction you want to go.
I will admit that I am not fond of going to the dentist. I really don’t like brushing my teeth. It felt pointless when I got a lecture at the dentist’s office and had to have cavities filled whether I brushed or not. Eventually, I hit a low point with an infected spot where I had bit my tongue. I decided then that I was already wasting time in front of the mirror each day on vanity. I basically offered myself a deal that if I wanted to continue primping in front of the mirror, I had to also brush my teeth. It has taken a few years and some backsliding, but my mouth is fairly healthy.
I did not promise to take better care of my teeth following the next appointment. I do not know how many times I made myself that promise and failed. I did not make a resolution to do better in the new year. I made a change, a small change, on the day I was feeling terrible. The key is to make a small change and go do it now.
It is the fifth of January and there are probably a lot of broken resolutions already. Now is the time to say you failed yesterday but that is okay because now you choose to succeed.
Today, while the kids are crying for supper and you’ve stubbed your toe, and the microwave blew up, stop for a moment and do something to take better care of yourself. Take a deep breath, bundle the kids up for a quick stroll down the block and back, or gather the kids and tell them a story. A healthy mom is a better mom for her kids, and you do not need to wait for New Year’s Day 2010 to make a resolution to make some time for yourself.
Happy New Year!
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Not much of a working mom this week. An upper respiratory infection has me dragging around the house. Yesterday I stayed home with my baby boy who was not nearly as sick as me. Today, I sent him to daycare and stayed home by myself and slept much of the day.
Unfortunately, there were things that had to be done today despite the way I felt. I called work and made some arrangements. Later I wrote an online grant application for my service club for Martin Luther King Jr Day events.
My husband brought my baby boy home for a visit at lunchtime, and that was the best hour of my day. I was definitely not up to spending the whole day with him, but I really enjoyed having him in my lap, jabbering all about something.
Dad also brought home pizza for supper, so I must recognize all the dads out there supporting working moms. At risk of embarassing him, my husband does all kinds of unexciting, but valuable things to support me. He helped me finish hanging a rack for the barbecue tools and brooms when I hit my finger with a hammer, and didn’t even laugh at me. He helps with getting all the bottles washed on a regular basis, he helps with laundry, he builds a really nice warm fire to get us through these cold winter days. In short, he is quietly supporting me all the time. I would not have made it this far without him.
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On Friday, I wrote down a list before I left work of 12 things I wanted to do over the weekend. I left the list behind at work by mistake. I only got three of the things done. On the other hand, I cleaned out the fridge, which was not on the list.
I live by my goals. Most of them are unwritten. They are fluid and adjust according to conditions. Waking up to snow Saturday morning changed the conditions, and what I got done changed accordingly.
Other goals are written, not always on a list, but they are recorded in conversations with family and friends, in emails, in personal documents. These goals are more fixed. They are what I work toward. I break them up into units. In order to meet the next step of the goal, I must complete certain things today or this week.
Both the unwritten and written goals are important. Having the flexibility to let go of the minor goals is necessary. I can’t get too caught up in not having completed 75% of my list. Some of them I will pick up during the week, and others may be delayed longer. The big goals I keep working toward, even when I miss steps along the way.
Committing to a goal, whether in writing or by communicating them to other people, makes the goal solid, real. I have a record of what I was working toward even when conditions make it hard to remember the original purpose. With the goal in mind, it is easier to make decisions on how to react to changing conditions. A goal provides a sense of purpose when time would otherwise be spent aimlessly. It focuses my mind so that I can accomplish more with limited resources of supplies and time.
I live by my goals. I set new goals every day for the minor things, the steps along the path to the large goals. This weekend, I will have a new list of things to do. Some of them may be the things that didn’t get done last weekend. Others will be repeats that must be done again, and the rest will be new goals that I see as necessary steps to accomplishing the things that are important to me.
To me, goals are another implement in my toolbox that allow me to construct the life I want for my family.
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The mothering instinct took my by surprise. I’m not saying that I expected motherhood to be all work and no joy. I expected to love my child and to well up with joy and pride at all his ‘firsts’. What took me by surprise was the strength of fury and fear that would instantly be available if I thought anything might happen to my little boy. Even reading about something that happened to another child wuld raise those feelings in me.
There are times when I want to wrap the boy up in my arms and hold him tight and protect him from all that goes wrong in the world. Naturally, he fights against this. He wants to explore and develop his skills. And that is right. I must let him go.
Rationally, I know that he must fall down a few times in order to learn how to walk and climb. I know that he must explore and learn the limits of his world – at what point will the box tip over when you lean out over the edge? Emotionally, it is very difficult to struggle through that protective mothering instinct and let him explore.
The mothering instinct drives me to try to catch him when he falls. It drives me to scoop him up and hold him tight when he does fall and hurt something. It drives me to mop the floor so he has somewhere clean to play. It also drives me to work and to make a difference in my little corner of the world.
I think working mothers have a strong drive to provide for their children and contribute their skills to society. I belong to a generation of women who believe that we can do it all. We need organization and tools and support, and we very much need that drive that inspires us and pushes us forward, and raises our eyes to the unwritten goals we are working to achieve.
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Working mothers probably include most mothers whether they are earning an income or not. My experience is with working outside the home for a salary, but I hope to offer tips and support and thoughtful discussion to all mothers and would-be mothers.
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