We are winding down our “Happy, Healthy & Loved. Stop the Mommy Wars!” series today. It has been so wonderful to share this project with each of you! After posting Part I and Part II, we have loved all of the public and private comments and thoughts you have shared. Thank you for joining with us in an effort to humanize motherhood and promote empathy and compassion for one another. We hope you enjoy our final installment today. So, we now present Happy, Healthy & Loved. Stop the Mommy Wars Part III:
“6 Weeks Maternity Leave and Back Part Time for 12 More Weeks” – Chelse
I feel very privileged as a working woman because of the generous maternity leave my place of employment offers. I will forever be grateful to my supervisor at the time and my same place of employment for this. In a way, I was allowed to create my own maternity leave plan because I had not accessed much of my sick leave over 6 years of employment. Time home with our new infant was a dream come true but much harder than I had anticipated it would be. I took a full 6 weeks at home with my husband and our son after he was born. My husband has summers off and this time was complete bliss for our little family. We had few visitors and were able to soak in life as new parents. Once that 6 weeks was up, I went back to work on a part time basis, heavily accessing my sick leave bank. (Although I loved getting back into the swing of things at work, it was terribly difficult for me to leave our son.) This fully paid leave may not have been ideal for my employees or employer at the time, but was a perfect balance for me to re-integrate into work life after being away. It helped me be a good employee by making things easier on me. As a new mommy, it was so much better knowing that I was only leaving the baby for half a day. I was able to take full advantage of this half time schedule until “Christmas break” time, giving me almost 6 months of full or part-time leave. This allowed me to have serious bonding time with our son and lead to a nice balance when I went back full time after the new year. Baby A was able to slowly get used to his early childhood learning center and I was able to ease into leaving him for long periods of time. I also believe this supported my success in being a nursing, working mommy. Returning full time was so much easier after 12 weeks of part time leave on top of my initial 6 week maternity leave.
“12 Weeks Maternity Leave” – Kerstin
I was so, so lucky that, although we’re a little shy of 50 employees which is the national requirement limit, my company still supports the Family Medical Leave Act. So, I chose to take 12 weeks off with my new baby. While we don’t technically have maternity pay, our company does a good job of finding ways to supplement or replace the income our employees would lose during this time. In my experience, I took two weeks of sick time, which I acquire and bank each month, and then my short term disability (yes, pregnancy is still apparently considered a disability but I didn’t complain about it in this instance) pay kicked in. This covered two thirds of my salary for an additional six weeks. Our company allows fellow employees to donate sick time to other employees who need it for various reasons like maternity or long term illness. My coworkers were amazing and their donations supplemented a nice chunk of my pay while I was on leave. It was wonderful to have nearly all of my maternity leave covered and combined these things alleviated stress and worry related to our finances.
Since I am the only one in my position at my company, I did have to prepare in advance of maternity leave to make it as easy as possible on a couple of colleagues who would be executing my responsibilities. I left very organized files, emails, and information as well as took care of many tasks in advance. The importance of family friendly businesses is becoming an issue near and dear to my heart as I hear more and more families talk about their experiences. Spoiler Alert: you may hear me talk more about this issue over the coming months.
“No Fast Food” – Chelse
For baby A’s entire first year of life, he exclusively nursed and then only ate the most unprocessed food we could possibly feed him. We even made some of his baby food in a Vitamix high performance blender and stuck to natural ingredients with other food options. His daytime care providers honored all of our feeding wishes and it was relatively easy to stick to these desires. He was never allowed to eat fast food; food with high fructose corn syrup; or food with excessive salt or sugar. Soda was (and still is) a major no-no, as well. Now that he is older, and because we aren’t the only ones influencing him or feeding him, we have had to give way in some instances to processed food and the above mentioned “never list.” For example, his daytime care providers are not able to accommodate toddler food exceptions with 18 children in his older class as they were able to with 8 in his infant class. He has also developed his own wants and food preferences. He will ask to consume the same things he observes other people eating. So, even though we now do our very best to keep him “clean eating” there are times when we allow eating out (even though we try to stick with veggies, proteins, and fruits), sugary snacks, or other processed food. This is honestly something I thought I would never, ever do as a mom. Here I am though, sharing that my son is still alive and healthy even though he eats “junk food” from time to time.
“Fast Food in Moderation” – Kerstin
In our daily lives, my husband and I try to live by an “all things in moderation” motto. Our opinion is, life is short so why not try things and have experiences that you enjoy…just do, try, and have them in moderation. So, occasionally, N gets fast good and junk food. We definitely limit it but we allow it and often use it only as a special treat. We were much stricter with his diet during his first year and the first “dessert” he ever received was his birthday cake when he turned one.
“Early Childhood Learning Center” – Chelse
You’ll remember from reading Rough & Tumble Play that we adore our daytime childcare facility. Baby A entered his early childhood learning center on a part time basis when he was 6 weeks old. Because it is located on the same campus as the building where I work, there were many advantages which included ease of continued nursing while reintegrating into work life. Having him that close also made my transition back to work much easier. It took no time to engage in lunch dates, “I miss you today” visits, quick medication administrations, and emergency access. Additionally, he has learned things at the center that he never would have learned at home. Even though we are educated and doting parents, we are not true experts on infant and toddler education. We wouldn’t have known to sit him at a table for art projects at six months of age nor would we have been able to help him articulate his toddler feelings if it weren’t for the teachers at his school. (We have learned a great deal from the center.) They strongly believe in “educaring” and allowing children to learn through play. Plus, they have the perfect facility and supplies for him to do so. He is safe, loved, and well cared for in the center with adoring adults; a healthy menu; NAYCE accreditation; and endless educational materials. He also has an extensive vocabulary and strong social skills which I attribute to his incredible teachers and the way they teach and help children interact appropriately with their peers.
“In Home Daycare and Preschool” – Kerstin
My mom started and ran an incredibly successful in-home daycare and preschool while I was in high school. She began accepting children at age two. One thing I really remembered was how much the little kids learned from the older kids and vice versa. The younger kids quickly imitated the older kids and they learned fine motor skills, colors, numbers, and so much more by being integrated. The older children learned how to be helpful and have patience with the youngsters. When we began looking for a daycare, in-home daycare/preschools really felt right to us. Then we found one that had actually painted murals and pictures on the walls of her home, was overflowing positive energy and love, and somehow, although there had never been any contact between the two programs, had so many similarities to my mom’s program that I couldn’t believe it. I knew this was where we were supposed to be. So, we signed up for the giant waiting list when I was just three months pregnant and eight months after N was born, we were finally able to attend.
“Redirection” – Chelse
In conjunction with the early childhood learning center our son attends, we use redirection as a teaching and reminding tool. Redirection is a concept where we use our calm words to say things like “hands off, please” if we’d like him to stop touching something. If he doesn’t listen to the directive the first time, we repeat ourselves or use a physical redirection with our words the second time. An example of this may be physically holding his hands and taking them off of the object he shouldn’t be touching. This is also an effective behavior modification method that keeps us from using punitive discipline such as spanking or screaming. We tell him what we’d like him to do instead of what we don’t want him to do. I can’t pretend that the constant reminding and redirecting isn’t exhausting at times but it is extremely rewarding. We spend much time, energy & effort using this method and our son seems to be learning quickly. It keeps us from constantly saying “no” (although we do use this word) and makes us think about what we are asking him and why. It has also helped us with his “rough and tumble” nature, which I discussed in Rough & Tumble Play , by helping redirect his touch to be soft or gentle with others. We are then able to reserve raising our voices and using “no!” or “stop!” for situations that may be truly dangerous to him or someone else. Our words seem to have more clout and meaning in those times of “emergency” which is wonderful. This method doesn’t work 100% of the time, but I have yet to find one that does with a busy, learning toddler!
“Time Out and Explanation” – Kerstin
Mostly, we discipline so that we raise a decent human being. We want N to know there are consequences for bad behavior. We want him to know there are certain expectations we and others have and will have for him throughout his life. When N crosses a boundary, such as hitting (which seems to be his main offense these days), we sit him in a consistent spot if possible and give him a one minute time out (this will jump to two minutes when he turns two). The time starts over if he is screaming or tries to get up. Depending on the situation, one of us may sit with him to calm him down or assure him, and sometimes we have to stand close to make sure he stays put. When it is over, the discipliner gets down eye level and explains why his choice was wrong. I’m not always sure he understands this but I figure, eventually, he will. Then we always give him a hug and tell him we love him. I think it is good to remind him that we don’t approve of the action but we still love him in spite of it. We have found this method to be very successful for us. He gets a break and a moment to detach from the situation, seems to be learning that there is consequence for bad behavior, and, most often, only needs to be put in time out once for a particular action. BONUS – in times of extreme frustration for Seano or I, it also gives us a break to cool our guns before we discuss the issue with him.
In The End
Here we write, from a place of love and acceptance, as the moms of two happy, healthy and loved little boys. So, the next time you’d like to scoff at another woman for her choices or judge a mom whose life you’ve only caught a glimpse of…take a moment. Try to remember that you are not walking in her shoes nor do you fully understand the circumstances of her journey. Trust that she is being the best mom she can be at that moment with the tools she has. The same as you…and us. The bottom line is that regardless of the choices we made or those that were made for us, these boys are happy, healthy and loved! Each mom and family will make different choices based on their needs and preferences and that is okay, as long as the outcome is happy, healthy and loved. We hope this post helped to show that there is more than one right way to do things. If all of our choices as parents were black and white, there would most certainly already be a book that we would all read and follow. The reason there are thousands and thousands of parenting books is because there isn’t one right way and not the same thing works for every situation, child or family. Our world has made an industry out of the most ambiguous and disputable topic. But, we are all so desperate to be the best parents we can be, that we support it. Maybe what we really need to do is give ourselves and each other more credit. So, in our least preachy voices, we want to encourage you to be confident in the decisions you are making and to support, not judge, your mommy counterparts and trust that their decisions are right for them. Happy parenting!