This morning my little girl is getting on a school bus and going to the pumpkin patch on a class trip. I feel like crying.
I wanted to go with her. The school said, no parent volunteers.
I wanted to keep her home. My husband said, let her go!
I'm not sure I'm ready for my kiddo to grow up. To have experiences—without me!
I think I want her to stay my baby just a little big longer.
But this is all part of the parenting journey (or so they say).
First it's a class trip. Then day camp in the summer and JK in the fall. Before I know it she'll be going over to her friends' houses without me, and walking to school by herself. Inevitably, she'll grow up, weather I'm ready for her to, or not.
It's all just a bit hard to swallow.
How do you let your kid grow up without getting in her way? How do you hide your apprehension so she can go out into the world and be brave, and confident, and full of wonder—without mommy holding her back?
I'm reminded of an interview I did last year with Dr. Michael Thompson, a psychologist and best-selling author of Homesick and Happy: How Time Away From Parents Can Help A Child Grow. Back then we were talking about overnight camp, but I think his advice is exactly what I need today.
"Modern parents think their presence always adds value to their kids lives...But, this is not the case. You can not give your child independence. You can only open the door and let your child walk out and have an experience on his or her own."
So here I go. I'm opening the door.
I'm not getting in my car and following that big yellow school bus all the way to the pumpkin patch (though, trust me, I've thought about it). I'm not insisting that I be allowed to accompany my child on this trip.
I'm letting her go. I'm letting her grow.
I'm letting her spread her little wings.
And, all I can do is pray that she's always safe and happy...even when I'm not by her side.
Now someone pass me the wine—quick!
My eldest daughter transitioned from breast milk to formula when she was around six months old. At the time, we were paranoid, first-time parents and wanted to do whatever it took to ensure the bottles were sterile before they touched her lips. But we didn't have any fancy gadgets or tools, so we found a method that worked well for us. We'd boil a big pot of water on the stove, throw the bottles in, let them boil, then carefully remove them and fill with formula.
It was working just fine until one fateful night when we learned just how dangerous our system really was. We were cleaning up from a dinner party and as we finished washing the dishes we put the bottles on the stove to boil. We both went upstairs to bed. At 3 a.m. I was awoken by the ear piercing sound of the smoke detector.
Thankfully, our element is one that automatically shuts off when it senses something has been on it for a long time. Or, what waited for us in the kitchen may have been a lot worse...
I bolted out of bed, grabbed our baby from her crib, and headed straight for the front door. The kitchen was full of smoke.
It burned my lungs and stung my eyes.
My husband ran to the stove, shut it off, and threw the pot filled with smoking, melting bottles outside. Thank God we hadn't started a fire...
Thankfully, a few hours later we'd managed to air out the house and put the baby back to sleep.
I was totally shaken up. And, obviously, we had to ditch that bottle-cleaning method! (By that time, our daughter was nearly one, so we switched to soap and hot water, then made the transition to the Playtex Straw Trainer Cup—which is so much easier to clean!)
Now that baby number two is starting to take one bottle of formula almost every day, it's time to figure out a better bottle-cleaning solution—one that won't burn our house down and isn't overly complicated.
If there's one thing that drives me crazy...it's dirty dishes left in the sink! Plus, there's nothing worse than realizing baby is hungry and racing around trying to sterilize a bottle and prepare it before she starts to freak out. From all the research I've done, it seems these six tips will make bottle cleaning much easier—and safer!
This is certainly the easiest cleaning method. A good bottle brush like the Playtex SmartBrush will ensure you reach into the bottle and clean it well. A detachable nipple brush lets you clean inside the nipple where the bacteria can hide. I really like having a separate brush for my bottles so I'm not transferring germs from my dish sponge. Our preference is to use a natural, unscented soap to clean bottles. I've decided that even if I'm going to sterilize my daughter's bottles, I'll use this brush with hot water and soap first, to clean out the formula residue.
For first-time parents and those, like us, who just want to know their bottles are super clean, the SmartSteam Microwave Sterilizer is a really good option. Since I'm not using my microwave much these days for food, I figure cleaning bottles is a fine way to put it to use. Make sure your microwave is large enough to hold this sterilizer; its size allows it to clean up to six bottles and 12 nipples in one shot. According to the Playtex Mommyville site, this sterilizer kills 99.9% of germs in two minutes. You simply place the bottles in the holder, put water in to the 'fill line', close it all up and microwave for two minutes. Give it a few minutes to cool off, open, and voila—clean bottles!
Because, it seems, we go through more dishes than the average family of four should, I'm running the dishwasher about as often as I'm running the laundry machine—which seems to be every day. The SmartSpace Dishwasher Basket allows you to place small items like nipples, vents, valves, and straws. You just pop this basket into the top rack of the dishwasher and fill it up. It will hold up to 12 nipples—which is great when baby is taking multiple bottles a day. Run the dishwasher on a hot cycle with steam dry for best results.
This is a modified version of how we used to do things. Instead of leaving a pot of hot water boiling on the stove (bad idea!) you can boil water in the kettle, turn it off, then pour the hot water over your bottles and nipples (better idea!). Place the bottle parts in a big bowl (this works well with the parts from a breast pump too) and cover with boiling water. Let stand for two to five minutes before removing. I like to do this after washing with soap and a bottle brush. To me, it seems like a good way to guarantee all of the bacteria has been killed off.
Before putting all of your bottles, nipples, and valves away, you'll want to ensure they're dry. The SmartSpace Drying Rack is the perfect solution. It comes with little pads that can be placed under the rack to keep your countertops dry. It separates into pieces, which makes it easy to store, and it holds everything from bottles and nipples to sippy cups, pacifiers, and even the bottle brush. Pop all of your clean bottles and parts on the rack, let them air dry, then put them away.
Finally, find a clean, dry place to store all of the bottle parts so they stay clean until they are ready to be used. I've finally re-organized my pantry (the truth is, we actually bought a second pantry to make room for all the baby/toddler stuff!) so I now have space for everything. I have all the nipples in a plastic container, all of the extra bottle parts in another container, and all of the bottles lined up on paper towel.
Lately, we've been using the Playtex Nurser with Drop-Ins Liners bottles. Our daughter happily takes this bottle and switches back and forth between breast and bottle with no problem at all. With these, you don't really have to worry about sterilizing the bottles because the Drop-Ins are sterile and disposable. We simply clean the bottle parts with soap, hot water, and the SmartBrush. Then, I sterilize the nipples with boiling water from the kettle.
There are so many choices that the best combination is really up to you. The key is to have clean bottles and nipples ready when baby gets hungry.
And, of course, to not have your sink ever look like this!
There are so many babies being born all around me. I'm thrilled to share the journey of motherhood with some of my closest friends. But, the more babies that are born, the more I'm seeing moms in the throes of those very exciting, yet totally intense days right after baby is brought home. And, the more I'm realizing how unprepared most new moms are for what they're about to experience.
No one tells you…
When baby is born, your life will probably be turned upside-down in the most unimaginable way possible. There will be days when you won’t know what hit you. You’ll feel more love than you ever thought possible for this tiny, squishy, sleepy being who poops, pees, spits up, and cries…all the time. You’ll feel joy, so intense your heart wants to burst, and the very next moment, you’ll find yourself weeping, hot, messy tears, for no reason at all. You’ll celebrate things like eating breakfast before lunchtime and finding two seconds to shower before the day is over.
As soon as you sit down to feed baby, you’ll remember that your phone, or the glass of water you actually remembered to pour is now completely inaccessible to you. You’ll spend way too much time strategizing how to get up ever so quietly as to not wake the sleeping baby. And you’ll wish, on a daily basis, you had at least three hands.
You’ll marvel at the strength of your own body, that it was able to carry and nurture this baby for nine months before launching it forth into the world in such an unbelievably painful, yet truly magical way. But you may also come to resent that same body—for feeling so achy, so out of sorts, so swollen, and stretched out, and out of shape. You’ll wonder where your old body is, and if it will ever show its face again. You may see milk spilling out of your swollen breasts and feel more like a cow than a human. Or perhaps you’ll find your milk supply insufficient, and you’ll engage in every trick and tactic imaginable to bring in your milk with enough force to quell your hungry baby’s sobs.
You’ll read way too many books, and blog posts, and message boards on baby’s first year. You’ll Google every hiccup, every rash, every cry—desperate to understand what’s actually going on. How can something so small be so complicated?
There will be moments, when you’re alone with your baby, and for whatever reason, whatever you do, she just won’t stop crying. You’ll feel more helpless than you’ve ever felt in your life. You’re a problem solver. You’re educated. You can lead a team or run your own business—why can’t you get this tiny thing to stop crying.
And, you’ll make the mistake of glancing over at the laundry pile that’s now so high you can’t even see the washing machine. Or the dishes that just might be growing mould in your sink. You’ll catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and remember the days when washing and drying your hair was a necessity, not a novelty. And, those bags under your eyes...don't even get me started.
You’ll feel helpless and frustrated and exhausted. And you may, for just a moment, entertain the thought that you’re a bad mom.
That you can’t do this. You’re not cut out for the job. You’ll wonder what you were thinking. Were you really ready? Are you selfless enough to give up everything for this child? Are you strong enough to survive all those sleepless nights, those explosive poops, those missed meals, those anxious calls to the doctor? Are you capable enough to make decisions for this baby now...and forever? You’ll feel completely overwhelmed. You’ll feel totally alone.
And you’ll convince yourself that you’re the ONLY mom who is feeling this way. You won’t want to admit it to your friends, because they obviously couldn’t possibly be feeling so bad. You’re so lucky to have this beautiful, healthy, darling baby. You have no reason to feel so sad, so resentful, so stressed out. You’ll feel guilty for feeling the way you feel. And, when someone calls or texts to check in on you—you’ll force yourself to say: “Everything is great. We’re doing well. My baby is wonderful.”
But, I need to tell you…it’s okay to feel crazy, and moody, and sad. It’s okay to feel like your life has been turned upside down. It’s okay to admit that you don’t love every moment of the new mom experience. That sometimes you wish you could just go to work, or go out with friends, or get in the car and drive without worrying baby might wake up hungry before you’re home. These feelings are normal.
No matter how bad you feel. No matter how tired, how anxious, how frustrated. If you love your baby with your whole heart, unconditionally. If you commit to doing the very best you can—no matter what. If you give yourself the time and patience you need to heal, and grow stronger, and get used to this new situation. If you love your body and nurture it with good food, rest, and self care. If you talk about how you’re feeling, admit that things are tough and that sometimes you have doubts. If you do all these things…then you can never, ever say that you’re a bad mom.
So relax, try to make the best of this crazy, chaotic, and intensely joyful stage of motherhood. Go easy on yourself. Because, before you know it, you’ll turn around and your baby will be 3 going on 15. And she’ll say something like: “Mama, I heard you crying. I never want you to cry.” And, you’ll begin sobbing all over again. Because no matter how hard it is, how unfair it sometimes seems, how much you’ve given up, how much you’ve scarified, how tired you are...
Holding a child in your arms and knowing that she’s yours—is the most incredible feeling in the world. And, knowing she loves you more than anyone ever has or ever will...makes it all worthwhile.
And, I've heard it gets worse when they're teenagers, so there's always that to look forward to!