October 24, 2012

Being Gentle to Myself

As I was getting ready this morning my to-do list raced through my head and before I could even apply deodorant was starting to give me sweaty pits. “OK, Josh is leaving for one last wedding. I have a freelance assignment I need to power through so I don’t get too nervous about being late with it. But the house desperately needs to be vacuumed and the bathrooms cleaned. I have two towel rings, a shelf, and a curtain that need to be hung. The play area is a mess. So is the living room. What am I making for dinner? And, holy heck, my back still hurts from whatever I did to it on Monday,” I dictated to myself. This is 7am.

I need more of this in my life. 

I tend to expect an awful lot of myself. I expect my house to be clean, my books to get read, my craft projects to get finished. I expect to parent effectively and discreetly. I expect myself to be an awesome friend at all times and a consummate hostess. I expect myself to be a loving and attentive wife. I expect to blog, so well and thoughtfully that I’ll become an Internet sensation. It’s quite the list of responsibilities to live up to.

Intellectually, I fully realize that I’m being completely ridiculous. But the impulse to expect things of myself is part of who I am. I’m sure that it’s part of the reason that my books are alphabetized by author (as well as my CDs and DVDs), why my recipes are separated by dividers in a binder, and why I got really good grades in school. On the flip side, it’s also why I have anxiety about meeting expectations and nervousness about how I come across to new people that I meet. This isn’t a part of my personality that I’ll ever do away with, and it’s not one that I would want to do away with. It’s a really big part of who I am.

That doesn’t mean that I have to let it rule me. I get to choose how much I boss myself around and how much I am gentle with myself.

So, thankfully, and after many years of gentle influence from my much more laid back husband, I took a deep breath this morning and decided to be gentle to myself today. I told my bossy self to prioritize. The only things on that list that has to happen today is working on my freelance and making dinner. I’m already ahead on my freelance and H is in school today, giving me some extra time to work, plus the evening. And there are lots of leftovers in the fridge for a stress-free, girls only dinner. What was I worried about?

As I grow older, I’m glad to see that I’m actually growing as a person as well. Another example: Last week I had a manic attack of kitchen productivity and decided to turn our leftover chicken into soup the same day I made a big batch of beef stew to freeze. This was a terrible idea. It meant that I was hot and cranky all afternoon on my feet in the kitchen and that I had to spend most of that time telling H things like, “Not right now, sweetie. Honey, Mommy’s cooking. In a little bit, ok? Maybe when Dad gets home.” At the time it felt vitally necessary to get all this done. Once H was in bed and I had collapsed on the sofa completely exhausted, I felt the guilt of having virtually ignored my beautiful toddler all afternoon. She only wanted to spend time with me, and I had spent a whole afternoon telling her she wasn’t as important as some food I was cooking.

How many of us have done this? Of course, there are absolutely times when I need to perform grown up tasks, and it’s absolutely good for her to learn how to play imaginatively by herself. But those two truths should never mean that I have to miss out on sharing this special time with her. I want her to tell me about how she’s going to the ball with Cinderella and that Belle and Aurora are visiting while she twirls around in her purple princess dress. I want her to listen to my heart and check my blood pressure with her doctor kit, staring very seriously into my eyes. I want to help her build crazy towers with blocks that she knocks over with glee. I want her to know that I’m there for her and that I’m a good person to talk to.

I decided not to spend the night castigating myself as a failure of a mother. I forgave myself and found a solution. The next day we had breakfast for dinner. It was a quick fix I didn’t have to start until after Dad got home for work, which meant I was able to devote myself to being present with H for a few hours before hand.

I don’t know where this ability to be gentle with myself is coming from, but I’m glad it’s here. (I strongly suspect that Josh actually being here and not flying has something to do with it.) It’s certainly an ability I plan to cultivate. I know that I’ll never get to a slacker place where I just don’t do anything. I will always have plans and lists. I will always want to execute everything right now. But I have a new tool to give myself perspective. And a little perspective, a little gentle love for myself, can go a long way toward creating a life that is both livable and productive.

October 20, 2012

Ready for Takeoff

It’s wedding season in the Holaday household. For some reason, there are four weddings in September and October that we are invited to. Three down and one still to go. (Thank goodness that H and I only attended two. Too much flying!) Seeing that we’ve spent a fair amount of time in airports recently, it occurred to me that one of the new mom questions I hear over and over is, “How do you fly with an infant?”

The first thing to realize is that babies don’t take up much room, but their stuff sure does. If you’re going somewhere for four days, you probably pack five, maybe six shirts for yourself, a couple of pairs of pants, and one pair of PJs. Not so for baby. You’ll probably end up with something like six to eight complete outfits in case of blowouts/spills, at least three pairs of PJs, plus burp cloths and baby’s favorite blanket. This doesn’t even include the monitor, noise machine, toiletries, toys, etc. Now you have one pile for yourself and an even bigger pile for baby!

You can ease some of the strain depending on who you’re visiting. We have two sets of out of town grandparents and the fact that they each have a sleeping space complete with linens and lots of bath supplies stocked at their houses helps a lot. If this isn’t the case for you, consider whether you’ll be able to wash while you’re there. That can vastly reduce the amount of stuff you have to bring.

Getting to the Gate:
Most airlines let you check strollers and car seats for free. This also means they don’t count as part of your quota for checked bags. Remember also that if you choose to purchase a seat for baby, then you get two extra checked bags and another carry on! (Not really worth the price of an extra ticket, but if you’re buying it anyway, take advantage.)

Again, some of the logistics depend on where you’re going. You can get a pretty decent grandparent, budget friendly car seat for under $75. We have one in Texas for when we go out to visit. This means we don’t have to tote our giant Britax into the terminal, giving us extra hands for the real luggage. Likewise, there’s an umbrella stroller in Texas. You might also be able to borrow these items from other family or friends with kids.

If you’re bound for someplace without such conveniences, remember that you can either check your baby stuff at baggage check or at the gate. This allows you to take the stroller all the way through the airport, which is a nice bonus if you have a connection.

When I traveled alone with a little one, I preferred to use a baby carrier and ditch the stroller as well. With a baby on my front and diaper stuff in a backpack on my back, I had my arms free. Not having a stroller also means that you can take escalators and stairs and not have to worry about hunting for hidden elevators or waiting for the handicap stall in the ladies room.

On the Plane:
Now that you are presumably safely seated, make sure that you’re diaper bag is fully stocked. I recommend packing at least the following:

  • Twice as many diapers as you think you’ll need
  • Lots of wipes
  • At least one complete outfit change for baby
  • An extra shirt for Mom and/or Dad (in case of projectile spit up)
  • Smell proof bags to store the dirty clothes
  • Lots of burp cloths
  • Several toys/books
  • A small blanket (because planes are always freezing cold!)
  • Squeezie pack foods for older babies (Like Ella’s or Plum Organic. They’re within the FAA size restriction for liquids, are re-sealable and don’t require spoons that can be thrown or lost. This is another case where you should pack twice as much as you think you need in case of delays.)

Keep in mind when you’re packing that delays do happen. Just this May it ended up taking us over 14 hours to get from Baltimore to San Antonio because of weather. While I’ve recently seen airport signs advertising baby products, those shops all close earlier than one might think convenient. It’s also still very hard to find baby food in airports, so make sure to bring your own.

I often hear new parents wondering if they should buy a seat for babies under two.  If it’s a domestic flight, I wouldn’t bother. Chances are the baby will want to be in your arms anyway. International travel is a whole different matter because of the shear length of the flight. While I hate to be the bearer of bad news, should a crash occur, it won’t matter if the baby is in your arms or in a car seat.

Staying Sane:
Traveling with a baby can be a daunting task, but it’s very doable if you plan ahead! When possible try to book flights that will take off near nap time. This might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s your best chance to get a nap in. Little babies sleep just about anywhere and the vibrations from the plane can be very soothing. Also, make sure to nurse or give a bottle or pacifier during the descent. This is when your ears need to pop and won’t do it on their own. Swallowing will help pop the baby’s ears. If you can’t do any of those things, my brother-in-law, who knows a thing or two about flying, recommends rubbing little circles right in front of the ears.

Most important, try to take it all with a grain of salt. Don’t worry about the people around you getting upset because your baby cries. Most of them have been there, and most of them will be kind to you. I’ve actually been very pleasantly surprised, especially when I’ve traveled alone, at how kind fellow travelers can be. If someone is so ill mannered as to give you a hard time, remember that you’ll never ever see that person again in your life (more than likely), so don’t take it to heart.

Happy travels!

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