‘What do new mothers do all day?’

by Anne Rust

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A new mother looked at me recently during a conversation we were having about sleep deprivation during the beginning of baby’s life.

As a postpartum advisor and doula, I talk to a lot of new mamas.

But I hear all the time from women in the midst of transition to motherhood who are struggling to get their little ones to sleep and to respond to the demands of infant life.

This mama looked at me in desperation and asked, “So do you just not get anything done then??”

Mamas, I want to tell you the truth.

And here it is: You will not get anything done when you are home with a baby.

And anyone who told you otherwise is not being very forthcoming (or perhaps they just have a lousy memory).

You might get yourself fed.

You might get yourself dressed (then again, you might not).

You might take a walk (it makes baby happy).

You might have a short phone conversation or start a load of laundry, neither of which you will finish.

This is your new mom normal.

So what are you doing all day?

Not much that can be measured, really.

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Four Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Ignore or Punish Toddler Tantrums

by Sarah Ockwell-Smith Parenting Author

JILL TINDALL VIA GETTY IMAGES

Popular parenting wisdom advises dealing with toddler tantrums in one of two ways. Ignore the ‘attention seeking behaviour’ and reward the toddler when they are good, or discipline the toddler by punishing them through exclusion. The naughty step and time out are commonplace in millions of homes around the world. Do they really work though? Child psychology and neuroscience says otherwise. Here are four reasons why you may want to reconsider your response the next time your toddler has a tantrum.

1. Toddlers can’t help tantruming.
Toddlers tantrum for one simple reason, their brains are not like adults. The immature connections in their brain don’t afford them the same emotion control as us. Our sophisticated brains allow us to control our impulses, act in a way that we know to be socially acceptable and calm our emotions before we become violent or out of control. Toddlers physically can’t do this. When they tantrum they are not being naughty or manipulative, they’re just being toddlers struggling with big feelings, poor communication skills and even poorer emotion regulation skills. To us it may seem ridiculous to tantrum over the colour of a cup or the shape sandwiches are cut into, but to a toddler these things are as important as paying our rent or our mortgage is to us. Just because it’s not ‘big stuff’ to us, it doesn’t mean it isn’t to the toddler.

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The Complex Lives of Babies

Complex Babies

by EMILY DERUY

The idea that new babies are empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge of the world around them doesn’t sound unreasonable. With their unfocused eyes and wrinkly skin, tiny humans sometimes look more like amoebas than complex beings.

Yet scientists have built a body of evidence, particularly over the last three decades, that suggests this is patently untrue. “When kids are born, they’re already little scientists exploring the world,” said the filmmaker Estela Renner via a video conference from Brazil before a recent screening of her new documentary The Beginning of Life (streaming on Netflix) at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

That’s something Renner, a Brazilian mother of three, discovered as she spoke with early-childhood experts and parents in nine countries around the world about the impact a child’s environment in the first few years of life has on not only her physical development, but her cognitive, social, and emotional development, too. “I didn’t know that kids were not blank slates,” she said. “It changed the way I look at babies.” If more people recognized that fact, the way communities and policymakers think about and invest in the early years of life might be different.

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10 Things to Say Instead of ‘Stop Crying’

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10 Things to Say Instead of 'Stop Crying'

As a parent, you deal with a LOT of feelings on a daily basis. Right? And sometimes, it can all get to be just a little bit much! When you’ve had what seems like hours of multiple people crying at you, the temptation to make it stop is high!

We’ve all said it, or at least thought it. ‘Stop crying! Just stop!’

Or maybe you heard it as a child?

“Don’t be silly”

“Shh, everyone is looking at you”

“Stop that noise, right now!”

“Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!”

But what if I told you that every time you dismiss or minimise your child’s feelings, you actually make your job harder. You very rarely succeed at making them stop anyway, and it’s more likely that they will need more support from you in the future rather than less. If you don’t hear the message they are trying to send you, the messenger just gets louder and louder until you do. Children are looking for empathy and understanding. If they don’t get it, they’ll keep trying.

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Motherhood Is the Loneliest Thing Ever

PHOTOGRAPH BY TWENTY20

When I became a mother, just like that, I surrendered any and all solitude and privacy I’d previously enjoyed. The quiet had been my muse, my companion, my center. Even the loneliness in that solitude was somehow comforting and familiar. If I learned anything as an introverted only child, it was how to be alone, still and with my thoughts. I can keep myself entertained and happy for quite some time without help from anyone else. If I only leave the house once a week, I don’t get restless. I am content.

So for me to be lonely, well, that’s saying something.

Of course, I love being home with my children. I am so sad when we are apart, so I try to be with them as much as I can. I know full well the day will come, too soon, when they realize it’s not cool to snuggle on the couch with Mom, and poof. Those days will be gone. There will be a last time they ask me to hold them. There will be a last butterfly kiss. I do so enjoy their company, but it turns out that I need more.

Somehow, singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” saying “Don’t touch that!” seven kazillion times and answering the question “Why?” all day doesn’t quite fulfill my need (as minimal as it may be) for mental stimulation and friendship. I long for the closeness I felt in childhood friendships—friendships long gone and so foreign now. And after watching those bonds fray and finally break, I hesitate to pursue new ones. I’m afraid to need friendship, but it doesn’t change the fact that I do.

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Ten Habits to Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Child

sirtravelalot/Shutterstock
Source: sirtravelalot/Shutterstock

“I can’t believe how things with my daughter have turned around since I started focusing on connection.” — Zoe

We all crave those close moments with our children that melt our hearts. Connection is as essential to us as it is to our children. When our relationship is strong, it’s also sweet, so we receive as much as we give. That’s what makes parenting worth all the sacrifices.

That connection is also the only reason children willingly follow our rules. Kids who feel strongly connected to their parents want to cooperate, if they can. They’ll still act like kids, which means their emotions will sometimes overwhelm their still-growing prefrontal cortex. But when they trust us to understand and to be on their side, they’re motivated to follow our lead.

Researchers remind us that we need five positive interactions to each negative interaction to keep a relationship healthy. And since we spend so much time guiding — a.k.a. correcting, reminding, scolding, criticizing, nagging, and yelling — it’s important to make sure that we spend five times as much time in positive connection.

But we’re only human. There are days when all we can do is meet our children’s most basic needs. Some days it’s nothing short of heroic simply to feed them, bathe them, keep an encouraging tone, and get them to sleep at a reasonable hour — just so we can do it all over again tomorrow.

So given that parenting is the toughest job we have — and that we often do it in our spare time, after being separated all day — the only way to keep a strong bond with our children is to build in daily habits of connection. Here are 10 that don’t add time to your day, but do add connection — and could change your life.

1. Aim for 12 hugs (or physical connections) every day.

As family therapist Virginia Satir famously said, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” 

Snuggle your child first thing in the morning for a few minutes, and last thing at night. Hug when you say goodbye, when you’re re-united, and often in between. Tousle hair, pat backs, rub shoulders. Make eye contact and smile, which is a different kind of touch. If your tween or teen rebuffs your advances when she first walks in the door, realize that with older kids you have to ease into the connection. Get her settled with a cool drink, and chat as you give a foot rub. (Seem like going above and beyond? It’s a foolproof way to hear what happened in her life today. You’ll find yourself glad, many times, if you prioritize that.)

2. Play.

Laughter and rough-housing keep you connected with your child by stimulating endorphins and oxytocin in both of you. Making laughter a daily habit also gives your child a chance to laugh out the anxieties and upsets that otherwise make him feel disconnected — and more likely to act out. And play helps kids want to cooperate. Which is likely to work better?: “Come eat your breakfast now!” or “Little Gorilla, it’s time for breakfast — Look, you have bugs and bananas on your oatmeal!”

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