Category Archives: Mother

Science proves becoming a parent sucks the happiness out of life

Someone recently told me I changed 5 years ago, for the worse. I wondered what could have happened that would have turned me into a horrible person, when it dawned on me- 5 years ago I had a kid!

The reality of parenthood, taken 30 seconds after the first, Thanksgiving 2012

The reality of parenthood, Thanksgiving 2012

That was the end of sleep/sleeping in/getting enough sleep, having nice things, cleaning only your own poo, leisurely meals, peaceful car trips, etc. The lack of sleep alone is enough to make people irritable and irrational, never mind the crying. I think most parents would agree that having a kid was a profound, and possibly irreversible, life change.

Et voila! Science proves it.

It turns out parenthood is worse than divorce, unemployment — even the death of a partner

Life has its ups and downs, but parenthood is supposed to be among the most joyous. At least that’s what the movies and Target ads tell us.

In reality, it turns out that having a child can have a pretty strong negative impact on a person’s happiness, according to a new study published in the journal Demography. In fact, on average, the effect of a new baby on a person’s life in the first year is devastatingly bad — worse than divorce, worse than unemployment and worse even than the death of a partner.– The Washington Post

Parenthood is, in its way, worse than getting divorced, losing your job, or the death of a partner. Read it and weep (or perhaps I should say keep weeping if you’re already there).

I can’t imagine being a single parent, or not having the choice whether or not to have a child. Even at the lowest points, at least Mac and I could fall back on, “We got ourselves into this mess.”

It may be a choice to procreate, the end result may be positive, and parents may not choose to change anything, but parenting is freakin’ hard. Especially that first one.

So, on behalf of parents everywhere, apologies that we couldn’t be sunshine and roses when sleep-deprived and devoid of free time. Sincere thanks for folks who tolerated us and supported us during that transition.

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Crisis

The image of 3 year old Aylan laying face down in the sand. It broke me. I saw my 3 year old son. I imagined the desperation of his parents to flee.

I watched the videos of families laying in the streets of numerous cities with nowhere to go. I wanted to climb through the screen, find a displaced family and bring them home with me. Keep them safe. Give them comfort. Instead, I immediately went online and looked for ways I could help.

I signed this petition urging the British government to act. I signed this petition urging the US government to act.

I made a donation to the UN Refugee Agency, and another to the Migrant Offshore Aid Station. I filled out the paperwork to ensure my employer matched my donations.

It did little to quiet my conscience. It did nothing to erase the image from my mind every time I looked at my own son.

This morning I saw this poem.

Mermaids by Hollie Poetry (Source)

Mermaids by Hollie Poetry (Source)

Just heartbreaking. See below for info on more ways you can help the migrant crisis in Europe.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/5-practical-ways-you-can-help-refugees-trying-to-find-safety-in-europe-10482902.html

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Reading

This morning Nemo woke me with this book in his hand, asking me to read it. He climbed in, snuggled up, and we read.

We usually reserve reading for bed time, but perhaps because I was out last night and wasn’t home for bed time, he thought this was a good make-up session.

I do love reading to my kids. The cuddling, the funny voices, the read-alongs to the books they’ve mostly memorized, love it all. Even after an ordeal to get them ready for bed, we can set aside our differences and enjoy a story together.

Later in the day I read this interesting article from the NY Times Well Blog about the benefits of reading on young minds:

The different levels of brain activation, he said, suggest that children who have more practice in developing those visual images, as they look at picture books and listen to stories, may develop skills that will help them make images and stories out of words later on…

Dr. Hutton speculated that the book may also be stimulating creativity in a way that cartoons and other screen-related entertainments may not.

“When we show them a video of a story, do we short circuit that process a little?” he asked. “Are we taking that job away from them? They’re not having to imagine the story; it’s just being fed to them.”

So enjoy reading to a kid! You get the quality time, the laughter, the snuggles, and they get all that and some brain development too.

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New Parenting Study Released

Friends have shared this on FB a lot, and I finally got around to reading it.  It’s short, funny, and worth a look.

“New Parenting Study Released” by Sarah Miller

A recent study has shown that if American parents read one more long-form think piece about parenting they will go fucking ape shit.

I have to say, as much as I post here about parenting studies, I don’t take many of them to heart.  Most of the studies really don’t even apply directly to how one should parent, they are merely spun by the media to imply that they do. My years of experience reading primary literature and my scientific training allow me to filter out all the noise and spin, and drill down to understand what the results mean for me and my kids.

I have friends on FB freaking out about BPA (to the point that one was ravaged with guilt for eating a bowl of canned soup while pregnant), vaccines, GMOs, etc.  It is to the point of ridiculousness.

I often have friends and family approach me for my ‘scientific opinion’ on something- ranging from biopsy results to whether or not the government and pharmaceutical companies have the cure for cancer and are conspiring to keep it from humanity.

When it comes to many studies (i.e. crying it out, BPA, GMOs, etc) I just say, “Don’t worry about it.”

There are bodies of work that allow scientists to come to a clear concensus- the safety and efficacy of vaccines, for example- but on a lot of other issues, there is no clear consensus.  The data aren’t there, the studies haven’t been done, conclusions cannot be drawn.

So, by and large my advice is, “Don’t worry about it.  Don’t kill yourself finding BPA-free everything, don’t bankrupt yourself buying GMO-free everything, don’t exhaust yourself getting up 1000 times a night, etc.”

We’re all gonna screw up our kids in one way or another, so just accept that fact and get on with your life.

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How young is too young for Broadway? Tips for seeing a show with your kid.

Since it’s actually Kids’ Night Out on Broadway this week (until March 2nd!) where you can get a free kids ticket when you buy an adult ticket, here’s my advice for taking your kid to a Broadway (or, really, any) show! (PS-  Click here for Kids’ Night Out events across the US.)

When I was 4 years old, my mom took me to my first Broadway show.  It was Annie.  I still have some memories of it- I can see the character of Annie on the stage in my mind’s eye.

annie-300x210

I loved it.  I remember getting the sound track to the movie in record form and playing it on my Fisher Price record player while dancing around my bedroom.  Even at 4yo, I could relate to It’s a Hard Knock Life.

So, when Annie came back on Broadway, my mom and I were both eager to take Mabel to see it.  She wasn’t even 3 years old (about a month shy).  It seemed a little silly to take a child so small to such an expensive show, but we didn’t want miss the chance to have her first Broadway experience be so much like mine.  So, my mom considered it a Christmas/Birthday present and we took her.

In advance of that, I picked up the DVD of the 80s movie and let Mabel watch it so she’d be familiar with the music and the plot (even though the movie deviates a bit).  I also borrowed the soundtrack of the movie from the library and ripped it so she could listen to the music (FYI- we now measure road trip distances traveled by how many times we’ve repeated the soundtrack- although Newsies! and Frozen soundtracks have also entered rotation).

She LOVED the movie and the music- particularly all the little kids singing and dancing.  She was super excited for the show.

We took her, she loved it.  Twenty minutes in, she did claim to have to use the bathroom (even though she’d gone right before we sat down), but it was a false alarm.  She was really thrilled.  She was mesmerized the whole time, although there was little squirming, because her eyes were glued to the stage.

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Just last month we took her to see Newsies. (Another movie I have fond memories of from my childhood!) I did the same thing,  having her watch the movie and be familiar with the plot and songs (even though it also deviates a bit).  It didn’t work out as well. She wasn’t as into it and got quite antsy during the show.  (It was distracting for me, but I hope the people a few rows back didn’t notice. Thankfully the seats in the row ahead of us and the two rows behind us were empty!).

Why didn’t it work out as well?  I think she just didn’t like the story as much, and the Broadway version did NOT have little boys in it. I joked to my mom, “Those are the most muscular, orphaned street urchins I’ve ever seen!” The actors were clearly much older than the kids in the movie were supposed to be.

newsies

I do think Mabel was too young for Newsies, and it was a waste of money.  I think she enjoyed it well enough, but she’d probably like it a lot more next year.  Thankfully the tickets were buy one/get one, so it wasn’t as expensive as it could have been.

[Overall, I was disappointed in it as well.  There were lines so cheesy that I rolled my eyes.  The plot was much more contrived, complete with love story.  The accents were all over the place (and I don’t mean the 5 boroughs).  Not to mention the changes to the plot, and the conversion of “Have to fear, Brooklyn’s here!” into a song that eliminated the line! It did not hold up to my 7th grade recollection of watching the movie obsessively.  That said, the dancing was AMAZING! And they did justice to Carrying the Banner, King of New York, The World Will Know, and Seize the Day.  I’m glad I saw it.]

So what would be my tips for taking a kid to a show?

1. Know your kid.  If your kid, at any age, cannot sit still and be well behaved for 2 hours, don’t waste your money and the money spent by the people around you.  I would have taken Mabel out of the theater if she distracted people around us.  People pay a lot of money for those tickets, they don’t need it ruined by an antsy kid.  Annie, for Mabel, was perfect at almost three years old.  Newsies for Mable at four years old was not great- during intermission I told her that if she didn’t sit still we’d have to leave, and I meant it. Thankfully she listened and was able to (mostly) sit still.

2.  Theaters have booster seats (basically cushions) for kids to sit on so they can actually see.  Mabel used a booster for Newsies.  For Annie she just sat on all our coats (which worked well because then we didn’t have to hold them).

3.  Minimize drinking (by your child, it might help you to imbibe) pre-show and visit the bathroom immediately before the show starts. However a meal or snack before the show is a good idea so you don’t have a cranky, hungry kid.

4. Show the child the movie version in advance, let them listen to the soundtrack.  There are lots of shows that are based on movies, and there are lots of shows that are revivals for which a movie version is available.  Check your local library or Amazon.  Seeing the movie helps kids understand what’s going on and be better able to follow along.  If deviations from the movie will irk your kid, make them aware of plot changes they should expect.

5.  Have water, tissues, etc with you so you don’t have to get up during the performance.  If your child needs them, bring ear plugs or ear muffs, sun glasses, etc.  (Newsies was loud to me.  Also it did have a scene where a newspaper photographer takes a photo- the old fashioned flash explosion startled Mabel, it was loud and bright.  There was another scene where the stage lights got really bright, so many in the audience had to cover their eyes with their hands. FYI!).  You can read reviews of the show in advance to see if it mentions stuff that might bother your kid.

6.  Pick a time that does not coincide with nap/bed time.  Matinees are great unless your kid normally naps at that hour.  If you can do a 7/7:30pm evening show, encourage your child to take a nap. (This didn’t work for Mabel and she was yawning during Newsies, but it did work for Annie).

7. If you are really worried about behavior, try a dry run of a local community theater show.  If your kid can’t sit still, at least you’ll only have spent $20 figuring it out.

8.  If your kid has sensory issues, hearing loss, special needs, a wheelchair, etc. check with the theater.  Look first to the website, don’t be bashful about calling the theater.  Lots of theaters have headphones for the hearing impaired, seating for wheelchairs, etc.  Some even offer special performances for kids with special needs so parents can relax too without worrying about the daggers being shot at them by cranky theater goers.  The Theatre Development Fund does a lot of great stuff to make theater accessible to everyone.  Check out this awesomeness!  For upcoming performances that are part of the TDF’s Autism Theatre Initiative click here.

9. Discuss expectations in advance.  Mabel recently danced in a feis.  While we were there watching other kids dance we spoke about being a good audience member- sitting still, paying attention, not talking, etc.  I reminded her of that when we saw Newsies.

10. Be prepared for (avoiding) additional expenses. Theaters make money however they can- that includes drinks in souvenir cups and snacks during intermission, all kinds of souvenirs, CDs, etc to purchase.  If you don’t intend to spend additional money, discuss it in advance. If the theater will be selling the CD/doll/T-shirt at an incredible mark-up and you’d like your kid to have it, purchase it elsewhere in advance.  Bring snacks and drinks in your purse (I’m not talking an Igloo cooler or a picnic basket, but a water bottle and granola bar).

So those are my suggestions.  Do you have anything to add?  How old were you when you saw your first musical or play?  Have you taken your kids yet?

If you’re a Broadway newbie, check out the Theatre Development Fund’s guide to Broadway! Also check out TDF’s Guide to Family Friendly Live Performances.

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An Open Letter to the Makers of Pedialyte and Jello from Parents Everywhere

Dear Makers of Pedialyte and Jello,

Who thought it was a good idea for things we feed sick kids to be brightly colored?

Orange, purple, red, green, why?!

Why not beige, white, cream, taupe?

It’s all well and good that it’s brightly colored on the way INTO the sick kid.

It’s all horrible and bad when it’s brightly colored and on the crib bumpers, carpet, stuffed animals, and wall.

There was so much puking going on in this house last week that we were choosing meals based on the color they would stain when they made a return appearance.  Hence, Jello and Pedialyte were not options!

Make me clear products that don’t stain and I’ll be your customer for life (or at least until my kids are old enough to clean up their own puke).  I might even buy stock in your company.  However, given the stomach bug going around my kid’s school, I’m buying stock in OxyClean and Febreeze.

Signed,

Mom in a household of four, three of which were stricken with gastroenteritis in the past week

PS- To the imbecile who designed the crib bumpers that came with the crib bedding set: What is heaven’s name made you think it was a good idea to have 1 MILLION ties to affix them to the crib?!  When they are covered in Domino’s pizza puke, it’s 1am, and you’re trying not to wake the sibling sleeping nearby while your husband bathes the toddler, a person can come *this close* to ripping them right off the freakin’ crib rails!

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Cursed pestilence

We have been ravaged by a stomach bug.  It was going around in the local public schools and quickly made it’s way, via siblings, to Mabel’s nursery school.

She was sick Wednesday and Thursday of last week.  Then Nemo was sick Sunday into Monday.  Note, by sick, I mean, threw up in their sleep and rolled around in it for some period of time before we noticed and had to spend an hour in the middle of the night cleaning the child, the bedding, and the beds themselves.  Perhaps it was punishment for poor parenting choices?  On Wednesday we’d let Mabel get mac n’ cheese on ‘kids eat free’ night at the local red sauce place.  On Sunday we’d let Nemo have Domino’s pizza since it was Superbowl Sunday.

This would have been craptastic on a normal week, however, this week was not supposed to be normal.  Mac had a freelance job to do on-site in NJ.  My company provides a lovely back-up care plan for employees through Br!ght Hor!zons.  The plan seems to consist of a website that lists local daycare centers you can request care from and a bank of operators who call you back and tell you that there is no space in the center you requested, but there is another center on the other side of the Hudson River or 45 miles north of your home (which is 45min in the wrong direction from work).  Alternatively, you could send your 1.5yo to the affiliated center nearby your work that has online reviews discussing how filthy the place is, how unhappy the staff is, and how they restrain children who won’t stay in time out.  None of those alternatives were tenable.

Thusly, we cobbled together childcare from a variety of friends and family so Mac could take the freelance job (households with two working parents who encounter this stuff routinely have my respect and sympathy).  Monday Nemo was to stay with a friend (and her kids) during the day, and Mabel was going to go home from school with another friend.  This solution for Monday flew out the window like Domino’s out of a toddler sometime around 1am.

To complicate things further, on top of the pestilence, there was snow.  We’d been up so much in the night Sunday into Monday, that when we did wake to lots of snow we pretty much gave up.  As it was I had a miserable cold, no sleep, 800 loads of pukey laundry, and a sick toddler.  Mac’s office was closed that day, so I took the day off to recuperate.

Tuesday I was scheduled to work from home (we couldn’t cobble together care for Tuesday and Friday).  I took Mabel to school, spent the morning finger painting with Nemo, and waiting for my dad to arrive in the afternoon so I could take Mabel to the Museum of Natural History for a class we’d signed up for.

Nemo enjoying being an only child for the morning.

Nemo enjoying being an only child for the morning.

Around noontime, it was clear to me that something was wrong with my own GI tract.  I didn’t want to miss out on the already-paid-for/no-refunds class, so I took some Pepto, grabbed some plastic bags (just in case), and headed out.  I made it through and back home, but just barely.

By the time we got home, I knew I too had the stomach bug.  I spent Tuesday night doing what one does when one has the stomach bug.  Thankfully, I’d only had a cup of chicken soup (and not free mac n’ cheese or Domino’s).  However, whilst I was out of commission Nemo spent the hours from 1am to 5am wide awake and refusing to sleep.  Additionally, Mabel woke up (she’d fallen asleep in the car on the way home and I’d just put her into bed in her clothes) screaming that she had to get washed up and put on her PJs.  I tried to help, but figured not puking on the carpet was help enough and retreated, leaving the hysteria to Mac.

Nemo finally settled down and Mac came to bed around 5am.  By 7:30 Mabel was up and raring to go (having forgotten about her 1am sh!t losing).  I crawled out of bed, turned on Doc McStuffins, and laid down on the couch.

A while later, Nemo was awake.  When I went to get him, I found he had again puked all over his bed and self. *Thankfully* it was only a frozen waffle.  However, I was so sick, all I did was take off his PJs, wipe him down with a baby wipe, change his diaper, put him in new clothes, carry him downstairs, and let him lay with me on the couch.

We remained in this state for an indeterminate period of time and Mac awoke to this site, at which point I notified him of the mess in the bedroom. Once that was cleaned up, we sat Nemo down for a light breakfast, at which point he projectile puked up all the water he’d drank that morning. More cleaning and laundry.

In addition to the pestilence, there was more snow- a lot of snow, highways closed, state of emergency declared snow.  So, at least my work was closed and I didn’t have to use more PTO to stay home sick.  However, Mac couldn’t get to NJ for work.

By the end of Wednesday, it had been several hours since anyone had puked, we counted our blessings, and went to bed.

Thursday Mac went to work, my mom came to watch Nemo, and I dropped Mabel at school.  I cautiously made my way to work, and actually made it through the day without embarrassing myself.

I arrived home thinking we’d finally made it through, that we were recovered!  Then Mac came home.

I’m home with the kids again today- none of us have puked since Wednesday- and Mac is at work, but feeling like crud.  I hope he’s just having sympathy symptoms.

It has been a hellacious week (this morning’s breakfast of champions was a Dunkin Donut in the car on the ride to preschool- mom of the year!).  I went into lab one day this whole week. I only managed a few hours of working from home.  It sucks using so much PTO for nothing.

I really hope this is the end of it. I haven’t been that sick in a long time.

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