Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

Mastering the work and family balancing act

Working from home with children

Balancing work and family can be difficult. Even for those of us who work from home (like me!), the balance is still precarious. Colleen Stewart, a mom of two, has some ideas for how to make that balance a bit easier when you work from home. Stewart, creator of Playdate Fitness, shares some of her best tips with us in this special guest post.

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Working from home can be the ideal way to balance your family and career. No more long hours commuting, after-hours meetings or missing work on those days when school is out of session.

But that doesn’t mean your at-home work office is an easy-peasy alternative, either. Small children don’t always make the easiest coworkers. However, working from home is still the better of the two circumstances. So let’s look at how to make it a more ideal work situation for you. 

Getting some help

Getting some help with your children in-house is probably the most ideal solution to help with balancing work and family. A spouse who works different hours or has a job with more time flexibility time-wise is one solution, though not the most doable. Hiring a sitter who can stay with your child for some or all of the hours you’re working can be the best answer to your situation. Sites like Care.com can make it easier to find help near you. Most of the candidates have gone through background checks and are open to working flexible hours and days. 

Creating a safe space for your child

If your child is an infant, then you at least have the luxury of long nap times. And baby monitors are getting more revolutionary every year. They’re available at every price point and offer a wide array of features, including night vision, two-way audio or wearable baby monitors that monitor baby’s heartrate, oxygen, sleep patterns and more. 

Pack-and-play yards can give your little one a safe place to play near you. Pack-and-plays are also easy to move from room to room. If your little one needs a larger crawling space, consider using a baby gate in a room that has been thoroughly baby-proofed. It’s critical, of course, to ensure all hazards have been moved out of harm’s way, like electrical cords and wires, trash cans and sharp edges. 

Recycle toys every few days to keep your child interested. And although you don’t want to keep the television on all day, for those times you need your child to be engaged and quiet while you’re busy on a call, if you do some research you can find some really good programs for children of all ages.

Other ways to keep your toddler occupied include learning toys that captivate a child’s attention for a while. When looking at toys like play kitchens or building blocks, look at online reviews to check for safety recommendations, types of materials and price to ensure you purchase safe, nontoxic toys your toddler will enjoy.

Using your time wisely

You don’t have to necessarily dress for success, but you don’t want to spend your workday in sweat clothes either. For instance, since you’re not pressured into having a different outfit every day, you can take that blouse, blazer and pant combo and mix and match them. And although you don’t have to wear heels to your home office, having nice ballet flats instead of house shoes can make you feel more professional. 

Prepare meals ahead of time on your weekends and thaw them for dinner or lunches. You’ll find yourself eating healthier that way, too. Even breakfast can be healthy and quick by preparing fruit and veggie smoothies. Oatmeal is quick, easy and, as long as it’s not loaded with sugar, healthy. It’s lots faster to prepare than bacon, eggs and biscuits. 

Considering a career boost

This time when you’re home and raising your child can also be the ideal time for you to make a career change. Whatever career move you’re considering, having a business degree can let you hit the ground running by learning key business concepts and skills. Online degrees allow you to choose a bachelor’s business degree in accounting, business, communications or management. And you can also receive a certificate to match your particular career goal. Some online programs can be completed in as little as five weeks.

Making time for family time 

Make a childcare schedule just as you do for any of your business tasks, too. Harvard Business Review suggests keeping a calendar for your childcare time, like the hours after they first wake up and before they go to bed for the evening. Write in the activity you’ll do together, like feeding the ducks at the park, baking cookies or reading bedtime stories. You and they will both find the rhythm of the day that way, and your child will be more patient when you’re busy with work, knowing they have their own special time with you, too. 

You can make this work-from-home opportunity both productive for your career and an ideal way to spend more time with your children as long as you make a plan, get help when possible, have the right home environment and even use the time to create your future with online classes. Balancing work and family really can be a way for you to have it all. 

About the guest author:

Colleen Stewart loves giving her two kids a healthy example to live by. Her passion for community and wellness inspired her and her husband to team up with their neighbors and create a playgroup that allows the adults and their kiddos to squeeze in a workout a few times a week. She created Playdate Fitness to help inspire other mamas and papas to prioritize their well-being and set a healthy foundation for their little ones in the process.

Connecting with other moms who are balancing work and family is also helpful. Be sure to check out the Moms with Grace private Facebook group to connect with moms like you!

Moms with Grace private Facebook group

How to start a new business as a new mom

Ideas for mompreneurs to get started while welcoming a baby

I’m excited to share this blog post about how to start a new business as a new parent. Charlotte Walker of HomeSafetyHub.com has some great insights for mompreneurs to get started in a business or side hustle. Charlotte herself has been passionate about safety her whole life and enjoys writing about topics related to homes and home life.

When you make the decision to start or grow your family, you have so many exciting milestones to look forward to. At the same time, though, it can be a period of overwhelming responsibilities. To meet your evolving financial goals, you might come to the decision to start a new business. While doing so can make this period of your life even more turbulent, it is a challenge worth undertaking for the sake of your family’s well-being. By keeping a few helpful tips in mind along the way, you can lay a strong foundation of support that will help keep your new child happy and healthy for years to come.

How to start a new business as a new mom Pinterest image 1

Start with a great business plan

You can reduce the stress you place on yourself during this hectic time by having an actionable business plan that removes some of the uncertainty from the situation. A well-written plan outlines the goal of your business, as well as the processes you will follow to attain that goal and the funding options available to you.

Your business plan should also describe the structure you will choose for your enterprise. For example, you might decide to establish a limited liability company or LLC to protect yourself from potential litigation issues and excessive tax obligations.

Develop Marketing Strategies

In outlining a successful marketing plan as you start a new business, consider both long and short term goals, analyze current market trends, set a budget and define a target audience. You’ll want to identify what platforms you will use to reach potential customers and develop an argument that creates conversions by emphasizing the value of your product or service.

Content marketing entails creating and sharing meaningful content that resonates with the target audience of that business. With a well-thought-out strategy, an effective content marketing program can generate more leads and establish trust with potential customers while helping a new business develop its brand image. Content creation is essential when you start a new business.

Prioritize Work-Life Balance

Mental health experts claim that as many as one in four Americans feel the stresses of a poor work-life balance. The ability to strike this balance should be a given, not a luxury. As a parent welcoming a new baby, finding that work-life balance is a necessity for ensuring your family gets the attention they need.

The best way to find a healthy balance is by building out a schedule or routine that accounts for all of your responsibilities while also being sustainable for your own wellness. As another idea, consider setting up a space for your new baby close to your home office so you can respond quickly when parental action is required.

Invest in Comfortable Clothing

New moms need comfortable clothing that can easily transition from a busy day of running their new business, to feeding a baby and then to some much-needed rest and relaxation. Finding clothing that is both stylish and supportive isn’t always easy, but with the right combination of items it is definitely possible! Look for relaxed fits like ultra-soft T-shirts, tunic tops, easy pants, and drapey yoga sets that provide plenty of air ventilation and don’t cling in any areas.

Save Time With Efficient Business Practices

Using the best tools and methods available will help you cut down on your daily workload, giving you more time to spend with your family. Premium accounting software and other examples of cutting-edge tech may seem like unnecessary investments at first, but the amount of time and money you can save in the long run can make these solutions absolutely necessary.

Another way to save yourself some precious time is by implementing a thorough document management system. This is especially important if you need to share files with clients, employees or collaborators. Keep in mind that PDFs are often the preferred file format. A PDF converter will allow you to streamline your filing and recordkeeping by converting files that are in different formats.

Find Help When You Need It

If you find yourself in a situation where you simply cannot give your young children the attention they deserve, it may be time to seek outside help. Hiring a reputable babysitter or childcare service can give you peace of mind in knowing your child is safe and cared for at all times.

There are few things as fulfilling as starting a business or becoming a parent. Experiencing both at the same time can be uniquely challenging but also unparalleled in creating a sense of accomplishment. Write a business and marketing plan, purchase some comfortable clothing, prioritize work-life balance, learn about efficient business practices and find childcare help to become a successful mompreneur.

Looking for more resources to start a new business as a mom? Join me this year at the Monetizing Mompreneurs Summit!

Monetizing Mompreneurs Summit information for 2023

Why breastfeeding in private works best for me

How privately breastfeeding my children is the right choice for us

I wrote these words originally back in April of 2013 when my youngest was a couple of months old and my oldest was 3. This is part of my story of breastfeeding and what worked best for my children and me.

Sometimes I read something that really irks me. This was the case last week when I came across a link to an article titled “If you don’t support breastfeeding in public, you don’t support breastfeeding” on Huffington Post. It made me roll my eyes. And it made my blood pressure rise a notch or two.  Let me explain.

First, I’m proud that nursing is working for my son and me. I had to exclusively pump milk for my now 3-year-old and that left me with many mixed emotions. Forming a working nursing relationship with my son has been precious to me, even during the times when I’m exhausted and seriously doubting my decision to nurse. (I’d wager every nursing mother has had those moments and powered through them.)

Why breastfeeding in private works best for me

However, I don’t feel like I have to nurse my son in front of everyone to be proud that nursing is working for us. It’s our own private journey we’ve taken together. Sure, at home I nurse him in front of my 3-year-old and my husband. I’ve nursed discreetly a couple of times in front of my mom, but that’s where I draw the line. If anyone else is at our house I go to another room with the door closed.

The main reason I breastfeed in private has to do with myself.

Here’s the important message why: I do this for my own comfort. My OWN comfort. I think my extended family would be supportive should I stay near them and nurse my son. However, I’m not comfortable that way, even with a nursing cover. For now, at just over two months in, I find the nursing cover almost creates more trouble than help. I still need to see him and what he’s doing. I would be too uncomfortable to nurse sans cover in front of others for my own modesty reasons and just plain comfort. (Just so you know, my own modesty includes not showing my breasts, cleavage or even bare belly.) And so, my boy and I head off on our own during feeding times.

Not everyone needs to be part of my breastfeeding journey.

Second, random strangers are not invited to be part of my breastfeeding experience. I long ago had to get over the judging looks I’d sometimes get in public when I gave my daughter a bottle. At first I wanted to scream at those people that I was giving her breastmilk. I wanted to scream even louder that they should mind their own business and just be happy I’m feeding my child. Please know that I have no problem with formula-feeding moms. We all do what is best for our babies. Keeping them fed is most important no matter how we do it. I worked through those feelings last time and I refuse to let them they creep up this time. My choice is to either nurse in the car, which I’ve done a couple of times, or to pump and take milk with me.

And I know that pumping and taking a bottle gets some moms in a tizzy. They decry the torture of the breast pump. As someone who has logged hours upon hours upon hours upon hours hooked to a breast pump, I can say I’ve never found it torturous. In fact, the pump has been kinder to me than my baby. It never turns its head away while still attached to me. It never gets mad and bites down. My breast pump just stays attached and keeps a steady rhythm.

They also decry supply issues. These are the same kind of women who would say that you can’t build and maintain a milk supply with a breast pump. They irritated me last time around, too. I have the proof that’s possible since my daughter got breast milk from me via a pump and bottle for her entire first year and just beyond. Yes. It can be done.

I know that right now my milk supply isn’t completely established, so I have to be careful. Supply is established at 12 weeks; I’ll hit 10 weeks tomorrow. I know these things even more so based on my previous experience. Because of that, I’m careful about pumping and making sure that if I miss a feeding from the tap with my little man that I’m pumping enough around that feeding time so my supply doesn’t suffer.

Just last week, for example, my husband and I had a chance to go to dinner and a movie. I took my pump along with the car adapter. We parked behind the movie theater so I could pump before we went in since my son was getting a bottle at home from my mom. This time around I’ve pumped extra milk to have a bit of a stash built up. So I’d daresay that pumping has actually helped me build and increase my supply in conjunction with nursing. And it gives me a bit of a cushion to know I have milk for my son in case something happens and we need it in a pinch.

My baby drinks faster from a bottle.

The other benefit to giving my son a bottle is that feeding him goes faster. He takes a bottle in 10 minutes. With nursing, he takes twice that or more by taking at least 10 minutes per side. Having 20 minutes to sit anywhere in public is often a challenge. So, I’m more comfortable with a bottle. Thus far he’s had a bottle at church, two restaurants and two doctor’s appointments. He’s not minded. He’s had a chance to actually get his fill before we had to switch activities, and I’ve pumped within an hour at most of each of these bottles. We’re both happier.

Most importantly, this makes me most comfortable and at ease so it benefits my baby the most. We’re both more relaxed.  I know how I’d feel nursing in public. The thought of it makes me feel antsy. That’s never a good feeling to associate with nursing. And it’s sure not helpful to my son who picks up on my emotions and reacts to them.

I don’t owe it to society to breastfeed in public. It’s not going to further advance breastfeeding. I only owe it to my baby to make sure he’s fed. And I will choose to do that in a way that feels most comfortable to me.

Breastfeeding in public doesn’t change anyone’s mind.

To say that I don’t support breastfeeding because I don’t nurse in public is offensive and downright incorrect. I have proven that I support breastfeeding by tying myself to a pump for a year to make sure my daughter got breastmilk. I have proven it by allowing my son to latch on and use my breasts for sustenance when, quite frankly, sometimes I’d rather be doing something else — like sleeping. It’s not about me, though. It’s about my children getting breastmilk. I’m happy to provide that for them.

What I support most is feeding babies however works best and is most comfortable for them and their mommies. For some that’s with formula. For some it’s with pumped milk through a bottle. Others nurse directly at the breast. Still others use a combination of methods. For me, I am most comfortable giving a bottle in public or going to the car. If a nursing mama is comfortable nursing in public, she should go for it. I don’t have an issue with anyone else nursing in public. I just know that it’s not for me and I don’t feel I should be chastised for that.

And I am not keeping nursing on the back burner by not nursing in public. Seeing me nurse in the middle of the mall is not going to change anyone’s mind about breastfeeding just as seeing political posts on my Facebook News Feed is not going to change my mind about my own political views. I don’t owe it to society to nurse in public. It’s not going to further advance breastfeeding. I only owe it to my baby to make sure he’s fed. And I will choose to do that in a way that feels most comfortable to me.

Finding myself again after having a baby

Motherhood changes everything, even your identity

I originally wrote these words in May of 2013 when my son was 4 months old and my daughter was 3 years old. Having a baby changes everything and finding myself again after having a baby was challenging. Even now that my kids are 9 and 12, I still have trouble with loses my unique identity in the busyness of motherhood.

When my daughter was born 3-1/2 years ago, I remember once the fog lifted a bit, I wondered when or if I’d ever feel like myself again. In a way, I mourned the Stacey I once was. I didn’t know if I’d ever feel anything like her again. I was both OK with that and sad about that. But I had to wonder whether if finding myself again would ever happen.

I remember the first day I returned to my home office to work for a couple of hours while my mom watched my baby girl. Even though my breast pump came with me and I did a pumping session whilst typing away, I felt for those couple of hours like the me I used to be and it was glorious. 

During her lifetime, I’ve found a way to sort of balance it all out. I’ve gotten breaks and chances to be a journalist. I’ve gotten breaks and chances to be a wife. And I’ve gotten breaks and chances to be more than a mom. Because, if all of us moms are honest, sometimes we need to be someone other than mommy. Sometimes we need to be more than a kleenex, jungle gym, dairy cow, bottom wiper, clothes changer, laundry doer and food maker. Sometimes we need to be a woman. We need moments to just be silent. And we need to have a moment to think in peace.

Losing myself again with a second baby

I knew I’d deal with these feelings again when I had a second baby. And I have. I love my son just as completely as I love my daughter, even when he’s being high maintenance as he sometimes is. I love him even now when he’s kicking me in the arm while I’m trying to type this blog post as my daughter is distracted working on a bracelet (and never you mind that they’re both still in their pajamas and it’s almost 11 a.m.). I’m now getting just enough sleep and have been in this mom-of-a-baby phase long enough that I’ve started on the journey of finding myself again. Or trying to.

Last week I had a chance to be in the car by myself for a few minutes while my children were at my parents’ house before our birthday celebration. It was just a few minutes. I realized I could not only listen to the music of my choosing but I could turn it up. I could sing along at the top of my lungs and not have to try and have an ongoing conversation with a constantly chatting 3-year-old. For those few minutes I realized that I was still me. And I also realized the old, old Stacey is gone. I am now Mom Stacey. Somehow I’m OK with it.

Finding myself in a new way

Though being a mom drains me sometimes. Though it sucks my energy and occasionally makes me want to run away screaming, it also makes me who I am now. And it makes me happy. I’d be lying if I told you I was happy every single moment of motherhood. I’m not. But at my very core, being a mother is now who I am.

Being with my children can also re-energize me. Looking at their faces and meeting their needs sometimes keeps me going and moving on days when I otherwise would want to just crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head. When I act strong and calm for them when I’m frustrated, I actually feel stronger and calmer. It turns out that if you fake it long enough, it rubs off on you. I want them to see me smile. So, I keep smiling even when I don’t feel like it. And I end up being happier in the end. It could have to do with their sweet smiles back at me.

This time around, I know there is no going back. I’ll never be the Stacey I was before having children. Being a mom changes you forever. And I will forever be their mother, no matter what. This time around I’m not longing for that old Stacey. I do still sometimes crave alone time. I do still need time alone with my husband. But, I also realize that when we are all together I feel the happiest and most complete. This is my family. We’re continuing the journey my husband and I started when we got married.

Just as I adjusted to the title and role of wife, I have now adjusted to the title and role of mother. It is my identity. It won’t ever be my complete identity, but it’s a big part of me. Right now Mommy is 95 percent of who I am and what I do. But there’s still 5 percent reserved for just Stacey. That percentage will wax and wane in the years to come, I’m sure. I’m sure I’ll have times of finding myself all over again. That’s how life works. For now, I’m fully embracing my role as mother. Now it makes me who I am.

Raising boys: Why I let my son play with dolls

Raising boys and girls shouldn’t be totally different

I first wrote this post back in 2014 when my son was 1-1/2. Now he’s 9 and no longer plays with dolls. But as the youngest child with only a big sister, dolls were around when he was a toddler. And he played with them. I don’t regret it for a moment. Raising boys and girls shouldn’t always be different. It’s OK for boys to play with dolls. This post explains why.

My son has a new obsession that began last week: a baby doll nearly as big as he is dressed in a pink floral outfit sporting a tiny pacifier dangling from a white ribbon attached to her clothes. This is his first real toy obsession. He’s certainly played with, thrown around and chewed on plenty of toys in his short lifetime, but he’s not had one that he constantly wanted until this baby doll. She was a Christmas gift for his big sister last year. Fortunately, his big sister isn’t obsessed with this doll and doesn’t mind sharing.

As I’ve watched him cart that doll all through our house and into the car and weep for her when we take her away at bedtime or mealtime, I’ve smiled. I mean, he’s just so cute the way he hugs her and pats her. He’s learning to be gentle. He’s learning to take care of her. I see him mimicking some of the things my husband and I do to take care of him. And I’m not going to put a stop to it.

The teaching power of toys

I have no issue with my son playing with a doll and one that is so very feminine at that. I’m not a raging feminist myself. I see the differences between men and women, boys and girls. I appreciate those differences and try to celebrate them. My husband and I have different strengths and different ways of thinking. Together it works quite nicely for our family.

I tend to be more gentle with our children; he turns them upside down and tickle them. (He’s also gentle and loving with them as well.) We’re different and it works. The kids love both. I love both kissing their heads as we snuggle and hearing their laughter as they play with dad. I celebrate that my son already works differently than my daughter, both because of his personality and because of his gender. He is more physical; she is more verbal. Raising boys and girls is different in some ways, but not so much in others.

When it comes to toys, I don’t have much preference in what they want to play with. My daughter plays with superheroes, Ninja Turtles and cars. She also plays with princesses, baby dolls and Barbies. It’s up to her what she picks. I feel the same with my son. He loves helping his sister cook in the play kitchen (though he’s not super great at following her instructions, yet, much to her chagrin). And he loves playing with baby dolls. He carries them, he pats their backs and he is gentle with them like he isn’t with other toys. This one baby doll in particular has become his favorite. He also plays with cars, balls and blocks.

Toys are just toys, but they are also something more. They are what my children first use to develop and learn about the world around them. I make sure they have appropriate toys (as in their toys are safe), but otherwise, I’m hands off. I want them to be free to explore and to learn. For instance, I want my son to have a chance to explore his more gentle side in taking care of a baby doll as well as explore his more aggressive side in splashing the water in the bathtub as hard as he can.

Raising boys for the future

I very much want and plan to raise a strong, confident man. I also want to raise a man with a good heart who has compassion. He won’t learn that if I only let him play with “boy” toys. He can’t explore gentle play if I forbid him from playing with his sister’s dolls. Neither can my daughter learn to assert herself if I teach her only to be gentle. I want her to be gentle and caring, but I also want her to be confident in herself and be aggressive when she needs to in order to fulfill her life’s purpose. She can’t explore those aspects by only playing with dolls.

I’m not a fan of labeling toys as gender specific. I’ve long balked at that idea. I don’t think my son will be less of a man because he spent a few weeks as a toddler lugging around a pink baby doll. In fact, I think he’ll be a better man for having had the opportunity to do so. He’ll be a better father one of these days if he knows how to be gentle and loving.

30 Toddler activities at home

Low-key toddler activities for when you need a break

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I wrote this post about toddler activities at home back in 2012 when I was pregnant with my second child, feeling miserable and figuring out how to best entertain my toddler. Some of these activities we still enjoy and use even now! These low-key toddler activities will help you stay sane and maybe even allow you a bit of downtime.

My kiddo has lots of energy. She has a lot more energy than I do. This is especially true when I’m not feeling well or didn’t get enough sleep or whatever. I totally admit there are times when letting her watch an extra episode of Doc McStuffins, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Jake and the Neverland Pirates is easier because I’m tired or have things to do.

I’m not a fan of that. I don’t have a problem with her watching some age-appropriate television. She’s learned many things, in fact, but I certainly don’t want to just park her in front of the television on days I’m not feeling well. 

Combining that thought with my love for lists and I decided to make a list for myself of low-key activities that don’t require much energy from me, would be fun for her, would maybe be educational for her and would be a great way to spend time together. I had a few ideas. Then I turned to some mom friends online and got some even better ideas. These ladies are seriously creative and smart. 

These low-key toddler activities at home are perfect for times when you’re exhausted or sick or you can’t go outside and play. The best part is most are cheap or free and none of them require much more from mom than to sit or lie down. (I’ve included links for products to show you some of our favorites, but you can easily work with what you have!)

Low-key toddler activities at home

1. Coloring with crayons and coloring book pages. Check out this 13-piece set from Crayola that has crayons and 12 toddler coloring books. Or you can print free coloring pages from a variety of web sites.

2. Coloring with Color Wonder markers. I love these because your kiddos get to use markers without possibly making a mess. The markers only mark on the special Color Wonder paper. Clearly this was invented by the parent of a toddler! This Nursery Rhyme Color Wonder set is a great starting place.

3. Blowing bubbles. We do bubbles outside together with a bubble machine, but I also blow bubbles inside for her.

4. Playing dollhouse. If you don’t have a dollhouse, then find another kind of pretend play with toys like Fisher-Price Little People, stuffed animals or whatever you have around.

5. Playing with busy bags. If you aren’t familiar with busy bags and you have a toddler, you need to be! These are awesome and portable ideas to keeps toddlers entertained and learning. I’ve done two exchanges of busy bags with other moms and they are some of my kiddo’s favorite things to play with. Go to Pinterest and search for “toddler busy bags” for all sorts of great ideas. Even as a non-crafty mom, I found quite a few that would work!

6. Doing puzzles. We’ve found our favorite puzzles at the Dollar Tree. Right now 24-piece puzzles work best for my kiddo.

7. Having a pretend picnic. Spread out a blanket, invite stuffed animals and chow down on pretend food (plastic or imaginary).

8. Playing with a baking sheet and magnets. Before vacation, I read that a baking sheet with magnets is good car entertainment. My kiddo loved playing with it more once we got there. I have magnets saved back specifically for the baking sheet. An added bonus of using alphabet and number magnets is it’s teaching her as well. Animal magnets are also fun for her. (Look for magnets with a full magnetic backing instead of small magnetics attached to avoid a potential choking hazard.)

9. Reading books. We love reading books together. Not only is reading to my daughter good for her brain and language development, it’s also great snuggle time! (Don’t miss this list of more than 100 children’s books worth reading!)

10. Playing with Princess Dominoes. Any dominoes work. We happen to have the Disney Princess ones. Sometimes we match up the princesses in a row like a domino game and every so often, we use them like building blocks.

Available in wildlife (shown), dinosaur, outer space and unicorn

11. Playing with Play-Doh. Play-Doh can be a bit messy, but if you are sitting with your kiddo and playing that helps keep the mess down. I also use Glad Press-n-Seal on the table (tape it down if it doesn’t stick well) for my kiddo to play on. It makes for easier clean up. Whether you use a Play-Doh set or just dough, it’s a fun activity that lets you sit down.

12. Building things with Legos or other building blocks. Right now this means making towers or rudimentary shapes; we’re not building fancy Lego models of any sort.

13. Drawing on her magnetic drawing board. Surprisingly, my daughter is impressed with my stick figures when she asks me to draw things like our family. I also use the magnetic drawing board to show her what her name looks like. She’ll often ask me to write other names. She now knows the first two letters of her name as a result. Of course, she also draws on it herself.

14. Cutting paper with safety scissors. I just bought some safety scissors for the kiddo along with a pad of construction paper. She’s not super great at cutting just yet, but she loved the idea of it. We laid on the living room floor for a good 45 minutes alternating between cutting the construction paper and drawing on it.

15. Playing under a blanket. Sometimes I sit on the floor and put a blanket over our heads. This tickles my toddler. It’s like we have our own clubhouse. Sometimes it turns into peek-a-boo, and sometimes we just play under there. She loves it. It tickles her even more when the dog joins us under the blanket.

Even more low-key toddler activities at home

16. Fill a dishpan with dry beans and give the kiddo cupcake pans, spoons, measuring cups, plastic Easter eggs, etc., to move the beans around. It’s not totally clean (you will have some beans on the floor), but it’s not bad and will keep the kiddo entertained for a while.

17. Playing with stickers. Buy some stickers, peel off the sticky part that surrounds the stickers (to make them easier for little fingers to remove) and give the kiddo a sheet of paper. Just keep an eye on your toddler to make sure the stickers go on the paper and not themselves, their baby brother or all over your house!

18. Playing with baby dolls. Pretend play is always a good thing. If you don’t have baby dolls or if you have a boy, then find something else similar to play with that you can take care of together. Playing house/real life is a great toddler activity!

19. Having a tea party. You don’t even have to serve real beverages or snacks (though you totally can). Just sit together and pretend to have a tea party or snack time.

20. Brushing the dog. The kiddo does like to help with this. The dog isn’t quite as sure, but he loves the treat she gives him afterward!

21. Painting finger or toenails. My kiddo isn’t allowed to have paint on her fingernails until she totally stops putting her thumb in her mouth (feel free to judge me), but I’m thinking of trying her toenails this summer.

22. Playing “beauty parlor.” Let the kiddo brush your hair, put clips in it, etc. You can do funny hairstyles for her, put makeup on her, etc. (My curly hair is a bit nervous about the potential tangles on this one, but I already do this a bit.)

23. Make sun prints. Use sunscreen to paint on a piece of dark colored construction paper, then put in the sun to dry for a few hours. The sunscreen will keep the paper from fading, but the areas without sunscreen will fade.

24. Playing nap for mommy. The kiddo came up with this game on her own a month or so ago. Now a couple of times a week she will pretend to tuck me in, give me a doll or stuffed animal to sleep with and want me to be quiet. She tells me to let her know if I need anything, so I have to pretend to need drinks of water every so often. It’s a pretty nice gig that she actually enjoys!

25. Playing doctor with a doctor’s kit. This happens all the time around here. If your toddler isn’t into doctor’s kits, you might let him/her watch an episode or two of Doc McStuffins. Sitting for a checkup is pretty easy, even when you’re not feeling well. My daughter also loves for us to hold her toys while she examines them.

26. Playing with tools. A friend lets her kids bring in a ride-on toy then they turn it upside down and sit on the floor with their play tools pretending to fix it. Pretty much any relatively large toy could use some sort of repair with a play toolkit! Plus many toddler toolkits come with things to work on as well.

27. Playing with paper or magnet dress-up dolls. Paper dolls can be a bit more fragile, so use your best judgment for them. We love magnetic dress-up dolls!

28. Playing with Mr. Potato Head. Sometimes a classic is a classic for a reason. Mr. and/or Mrs. Potato Head are fun toddler activities!

29. Playing with puppets. Whether you have hand puppets or finger puppets, you can have fun with them. We don’t get fancy or carried away with puppets. We just sit together and have our puppets interact with each other. Easy and fun!

30. Playing with a reusable sticker pad. The great thing about reusable sticker pads is that sticker fun continues for more than a few minutes. And you don’t have to worry about stickers getting put other places that are hard to remove.

Bonus tips for playing at home with toddlers

Consider heading to a local teacher supply store or learning tools store for great ideas. For example, a friend of mine found some awesome wipe-off boards and books with dry-erase crayons

And, finally, just change the scenery and play in different rooms in the house. One of my kiddo’s favorite places to play is our long bedroom hallway. Sometimes we go there to play and shake up our routine so we aren’t always playing in the living room.

A message for my oldest before she becomes a big sister

What I want my daughter to know before her brother is born

I originally wrote these words two weeks before my son was born in January of 2013. I was preparing to become a mother of two. And I also tried to prepare my daughter for becoming a big sister. While we have grown and changed throughout these years, the message here remains the same.

As I get closer and closer to having our baby boy, I’ve been thinking about the things I want my daughter to know. I know that becoming a big sister will forever change her life. Because I am the youngest of two, I will never completely know her station in a family. I’ve never been an oldest sibling. I know my own older brother wasn’t too excited to have to share our parents with me when I was born, but I like to think he came around eventually.

Right now, my daughter is excited. She talks about the things she will teach Baby Brother. When my parents and in-laws were here painting his nursery just over a week ago, she sat at the kitchen table and painted him pictures to hang on his wall. With every stroke of her paintbrush, she talked about how he would love them. And he will one day. We will hang them on the wall in the midst of the superhero art we’ve chosen as the nursery theme.

However, she still doesn’t really know what’s coming. We’ve tried to prepare her as much as possible by explaining that Baby Brother will be small to start with and not able to play with her. We’ve explained that he might cry a lot, because that’s the only way babies can communicate (or “investigate” as she sometimes mistakenly says). I’ve even mentioned to her that he might wake mommy up a lot a night, so I might be more tired after he’s born. I’ve talked with her a little bit about nursing so she’s not utterly shocked or anything. 

But, I can’t explain to her what having a newborn in the house is like. I can’t really explain to her what it’s like to go from an only child to a sibling because I’ve never done it. I was born a sibling. So was my husband.

I am incredibly excited to have this new member of our family. At the same time, I know it will be an adjustment for my daughter (and us!). I’ve been praying about it. And I’ve been thinking about what I want her to know before he’s born and she becomes a big sister. There are things I tell her, but there are other things that she just isn’t old enough to understand, yet. Some things I want her to know I will just have to show her and go without saying because she’s still only a 3-year-old.

I will always love you.

I want my daughter to know that no matter what, I will always love her. My heart is big enough to love two children. I have loved my husband for so long and love him so completely. I can’t imagine life without him. When our daughter was born, my heart grew to include a deep love for her that is complete and so strong it takes my breath away. Already my heart has grown to love this child along with my daughter. A mother’s heart has plenty of room for love.  I never want my daughter to question that. I want her to always feel my love.

Having a sibling is cool.

I want my daughter to know that having a sibling is cool. My brother and I aren’t super close, but he’s my brother. He’s the one other person in this world who grew up with the exact same parents I did. We’ve been through challenges together throughout the years. We’ve learned how to work together to help our family through crisis as adults like we did back in 2005 when my dad had an accident and his life dangled precariously in the balance for weeks. 

I want my daughter to know that her brother will be her brother for life. And she’ll always be his big sister. My prayer is that the two of them are close and have a good friendship and relationship. I want her to know that even when she has times he drives her crazy (and vice versa!) that at the end of the day, they will still have each other and the love of a sibling.

Being a big sister is an important job.

I want my daughter to know that she will be a role model. One thing I know as a younger sibling is how much we look up to our older siblings. I looked up to my brother and my cousin who was like another older brother for years. Her Baby Brother will do the same. It’s a cool responsibility to be a role model. She’ll be a good big sister with her compassionate heart and sensitive spirit. I’m excited to see how she rocks her big sister journey.

You don’t have to be a little mama.

I want my daughter to know that she’s a good helper, but she doesn’t have to be a little mother. She only has to be a big sister. My daughter loves to help around the house. With any task we’re working on, she’ll ask if we need help and try to help however she can. There have been many times I’ve carried the laundry basket lower through the house so she can hang on to one end and help me with it. She loves helping unload the dishwasher. Yesterday she wanted to help wipe down Baby Brother’s crib, so I armed her with a baby wipe and she had a great time. She just loves to help.

I will love for her to help and feel included with the baby, but I never want her to think she is responsible for him. First and foremost she is a little girl and I want her to enjoy being a little girl for as long as she can.

Life can be good, even when it’s difficult.

I want my daughter to know that even when life doesn’t seem fair, it’s still good. I know there will be struggles coming our way with who’s getting the most attention. Newborns are needy. They aren’t one bit understanding. Honestly, 3-year-olds aren’t super different in that department. There will be times she won’t think it’s fair for me to be doing something with the baby when she’d rather I was playing with her. I know that will happen. It can’t be avoided. 

But I want her to know life is still good. I want her to come to understand that if she gives me a few minutes to take care of Baby Brother then I will have more time to peacefully play with her later. And when he gets older and does things like knock over the blocks she’s building or tears a page in her favorite book, I pray she’ll have compassion and understanding with him.

You will always be my baby girl.

I want my daughter to know that she will always be my baby girl. I tell her this often. She agrees that even though she’s a big girl now, she’s OK with still being my baby girl. But, she doesn’t really know what I mean. What I mean is that no matter how big she gets, I’ll never forget the first time I saw her after she was born. I’ll never forget looking deep into her eyes during middle-of-the-night feedings and wondering about the person she’d become. I’ll never forget snuggling close with her at all stages of her life thus far. Of course, I’ll never forget her first steps or her first words. I’ll never forget her own language she created for a while before she could really talk. 

There are so many things that I’ll always remember every time I look at her. She is my precious girl. And just because I will have another baby with whom to experience so many of these things doesn’t make the times I shared with her any less precious.

Change is coming around these parts. It will be good, and it will bring challenges. My daughter continues to have lessons to learn as she navigates life and my son will be coming right behind her. Their dad and I have a big responsibility in raising them together. We’ve all got messages we need to hear from one another loud and clear, even when they come through actions. After all, that’s what being a family is all about.

Looking for more content about baby and toddler days? Don’t miss these posts!

Parenting toddlers

Toddlers are tiny bullies!

The following post I wrote back in 2014 when I was in the midst of parenting a toddler. If you are currently or ever have parented toddlers, I’m guessing you’ll relate!

I love my children. They are awesome. OK, now that I’ve cleared that up, let me continue with my premise that toddlers are tiny bullies. My daughter, at 4-1/2, is past this phase, but my son at 16 months is just getting into the thick of it. And, oh my, is he ever in the thick of it! I know my daughter did many of the things her brother is now doing, but he’s also different from her in many ways and pushes the limits of pushing the limits.

Toddlers are adorable and sweet. They really are, but they do resemble bullies in some ways. As such parenting toddlers can push you to your limits — and beyond!

1. Bullies and toddlers are food thieves.

While bullies may steal your lunch money, toddlers just steal your lunch — or breakfast or dinner or snack or anything you think you’re going to eat without sharing. It doesn’t matter if my son has the exact same food on his tray as I do on my plate; he still thinks my food is way better and I must share it. If I don’t, he protests.  

Just last week when he was off schedule and I was eating lunch while he wasn’t eating, I paid him off in the oyster crackers I was having alongside my salad just so that I could eat without him screaming at me the whole time.

2. Bullies and toddlers are physically abusive.

I’ve never been hit by a bully, but I’ve been hit plenty of times by my kids. I’ve been head butted and smacked. My nose has been pinched and my lips pulled and contorted.  We won’t even discuss the internal organ squishing I endured while they were in my belly.

3. Bullies and toddlers think only of themselves.  

It’s true. My son is a sweet boy, but he wants what he wants whether it’s hard on anyone else. If he wants to stand on the back of my legs while I’m kneeling at his sister’s bed reading her a story, then he will. He won’t consider whether that might not be comfortable for me. If he wants a cuddle in the middle of the night, he won’t consider that maybe I was trying to sleep.

4. Bullies and toddlers can make you question your self worth.  

I know we’re not supposed to take toddler actions personally. I don’t always, but there are times I’m tired and weary when question if I even know how to be a mother. They wear you down!

5. Bullies and toddlers are unpredictable.  

You never know what you’re going to get. One day when I go get my son out of his crib, he can hardly wait for me to pick him up. The next day, he wants to stay in his crib for a few minutes and teasingly play with me. And let’s not get started on food. One day grilled cheese is like manna from heaven that he can’t shove in his mouth fast enough. The next day it’s the most disgusting food he’s even seen or tasted, and woe to the person who puts it on his tray.

6. Bullies and toddlers can hold you hostage.  

OK. I don’t know if bullies actually do this, but toddlers sure do! When my son isn’t feeling well in some way, he doesn’t want to go to sleep alone in his room. I have sat on the floor, laid on the floor and slept on the floor.  I’ve been his hostage knowing that if I leave the room even to go to the bathroom across the hall that he will erupt in wails.

7. Bullies and toddlers have no regard for your personal space.  

My son does not understand that anyone has a personal bubble. He steps on my toes while I’m making dinner without a care in the world. He plops in my lap with no regard just as I was starting to get up to go to the bathroom. At any given time, he crawls all over me. He delights in putting toys down the front of my shirt. Personal space for me? No way. Instead, I’m his personal, portable playground.

8. Bullies and toddlers are possessive.

Everything that’s mine is his. If it’s his sister’s it’s his. Everything that’s his is his. And, of course, everything that is my husband’s is his. Just yesterday he was lugging around his big sister’s backpack while she was trying to put things in it. It ended in a battle of wills between the two of them with one yelling for him to let go and him just yelling that someone was trying to take what he felt strongly was his. I won’t even begin to explain how he also is sure everything in the trashcan is his. That’s an ongoing battle around here.

9. Bullies and toddlers are loud.  

I don’t think any of the bullies I knew as a child were ever described as the quiet kid in the corner. (Nope, that would have been me!) Toddlers are the same. My son pays no mind to where we are, what we are doing or even who might still be asleep as his hollers and carries on whether he’s making happy noises or distressed ones. He gets quiet when we’re out to dinner or in public oftentimes because he’s too busy observing everything. People remark about his quietness from time to time. I want to tell them how they’re being fooled. I usually just smile. The boy is not quiet.

10. Bullies and toddlers want their way and get mad when they don’t get it.

If the dog is sitting beside me on the futon in his room, then the dog must be moved. This can best be managed with force. If I’m in the middle of making dinner and he comes to the kitchen holding a book up for me to read to him, then he’s going to be loudly (see number nine) angry when I don’t comply. When I remove him from gathering contraband from the trash or standing on the end table for the 10th time, he turns into a spaghetti noodle and flails about protesting on the floor.

Parenting toddlers has its pros as well

All that said, bullies and toddlers do have their differences as well. Toddlers can be quite lovable, entertaining and funny. I’m pretty sure if this wasn’t the case then humans would have died out long ago. Because there are just as many times that he comes to my lap for a cuddle or gives me his huge, sparse-toothed smile that melts my heart. There are many times I see him love on his sister, his dog or my husband and I burst with pride and love.  

This toddler/bully stage still has some time to go. My son is learning how to interact with his world. My husband and I are teaching him. We’re teaching his super sensitive big sister to not give in to him all the time because he’s upset or crying. And we’re getting there. We made it through toddlerhood once before. I’m sure we’ll survive this final time. Pretty sure. Mostly sure…

20 Lessons from having a second baby

What I learned in the year after having a second baby

I originally wrote this in January of 2014 when my son turned 1 and my daughter was 4. The year after having a second baby was a difficult for me with lots of challenges, but having my son was the best. And it’s hard for me to believe those some little ones are now 8 and 11!

My baby boy turns 1 today. Cliche as it may be, I must say that time really does fly. I mean, I feel like I seriously just found out I was pregnant. And now here we are celebrating one year. It’s been quite a year. Along the way, as always, I’ve been learning and learning. I’ve learnt about being a mom to two. I know moms with more than two children, and I commend them. But, here’s what I’ve learned this past year as a mom to two.

1. Being a mom of two is both harder and easier than I thought it would be.  

I remember when my daughter was born. The shift and adjustment to being a mom was so incredibly challenging and earth-shattering in some ways. I was as ready to be a mom as I could be. I was excited to be a mom, but actually being a mom and being responsible for this tiny, oh-so-needy person was certainly life-altering.  

However, I didn’t have to go through that when I had my son. I was already in mom mode. So, that was easier. The harder part I’m not sure was completely unexpected because I knew I’d have more work as a mom. The hardest part to me at the moment is how different my children are and how much my son is already challenging me.

2. Sometimes even I don’t put on makeup.  

I’m a makeup girl. I’m a do-my-hair girl. I have the whole shebang down to a less than 10-minute process to put on my makeup and style my hair. But, especially in the early days when my son wasn’t sleeping, even I went sans makeup. I seldom left the house. I didn’t put on makeup for a while.  

This was true for most jewelry as well. I’ve had my ears pierced since I was 18 months old. I got my second hole pierced when I was 14. For the first time ever, I had trouble with my earring holes starting to grow back over and had to work through that. Good grief!

3. It is OK for my daughter to be entertained by Disney Junior sometimes.  

In the early days, I’m not sure I could have survived without it some days. There were times I got two hours of sleep at night in the recliner before my daughter was up for her day. I let her watch an extra show (or sometimes two or three!) just so I could actually get a bit of sleep while the baby was sleeping.

4. My support team is invaluable.  

Having a second baby has made me appreciate my parents and in-laws even more. I’ve asked them for advice. I’ve accepted and asked for their help. My mother-in-law has cleaned my bathroom. My mom has done my laundry. They’ve both made us food. Granted, some of their help had to come after my surgery, but so many other times throughout this year (and always!), my parents and in-laws were there to encourage us, help us and babysit for us. It really does take a village and I’m so blessed by my village.

5. The biggest challenge to my marriage has been having kids.  

My husband and I have been together for almost 20 years. We were high school sweethearts whose relationship started with long conversations on the phone. We’ve been married for 14 years. Becoming parents has challenged us personally and relationally as well. For the first time we have to make more of an effort and be more intentional about finding time to really connect and listen to one another. We’ve had to rework our ways to communicate because we often get interrupted by little people who need things. Adding a second child added to these challenges.

6. My husband really is a good man.  

I’ve said this numerous times, but over and over I fall in love with him and appreciate him more and more. He’s settled into being a dad so very well. He’s great at it. My husband is quick to jump in and do things with the kids. He works hard to support us financially. The guy tries hard to make my life easier and do things to help me. He takes out the trash without complaining. He does gross things that I appreciate him doing (like cleaning ridiculous amounts of my hair out of the drain and dealing with plumbing issues) and can’t imagine having to deal with. Most importantly, he loves God, he loves me and he loves our babies.

7. My heart is big enough to love both of my children so completely and fully.  

Sometimes I am sure my heart will burst into a million pieces. Seeing my children interact with and love on one another and/or my husband makes it expand even more. Even just watching my son learning how to play with our dog makes me tear up sometimes. It’s almost ridiculous, but I make no apologies.

8. Time goes even faster when you’re busy with two children.  

My daughter being 4 seems like an impossibility. While her first year went by fast, my son’s has somehow gone even faster. Life is busier this time around and it just flies by. I try hard to suck it all in and appreciate all the good moments when they happen.

9. I can take both children places on my own.  

In this truth, I also have way more physical strength than I ever knew I had. We have a lot of stuff that goes with us and there’s a baby to carry and sometimes a preschooler to hang onto. Even though I’m now outnumbered in taking them places on my own, I can do it without too much trouble.

10. My children are very different and that’s OK.  

My son has had different challenges from my daughter. She struggled with eating as a newborn, but slept like a champ. He ate just fine, but felt sleep (especially at night) was optional. I figured some things would be the same for them like having the baby sleep in his Pack-and-Play bassinet in our room for the first three months or so just like his sister did. Instead, I spent three months sleeping with him on the couch so he could be propped up on his Boppy.

I hoped he would be as easy to discipline as my daughter. She is like me. Even as a baby we could just tell her no in a stern voice and she’d stop what she was doing. We do the same with my son and he looks at us, smiles then continues right on having a pool party in the dog’s water bowl. They are different. As we get to know each of them better we can better help them learn how to navigate life and learn right from wrong.

11. It’s OK to do things differently for my kids.

In my head, I want always, always, always to be fair. I want things to be the same for both children, but that’s just not reality. We had professional newborn photos taken of my son and didn’t of my daughter. I almost felt bad about it, but then I realized with just one baby I was able to do my own photo shoots easier. With two, that was more of a challenge. I don’t love him any more or her any less. It just worked that way.  

She didn’t have pizza until after she was 1. He had some a couple of weeks before his first birthday. She has had a bedtime of 8 p.m. since she was about 9 months old. He still goes to bed at 9 p.m., because it’s easier for them to be on different bedtimes and gives us a chance to have some time with just him.

12. I have to cut myself some slack.  

I need to continually remind myself of this lesson. I am still learning daily to give myself a break and remind myself that I really am doing the best I can. Being a mom to two is hard work. It’s busy work. It’s so very much. I can’t do it all. I just can’t. There will always be something left undone. I just have to make sure that the important things are done. The other stuff will fall into place.

13. My lap is big enough for two children.  

Even now that they’re both bigger, there’s still room for both of them in my lap at one time. It makes my heart happy.

14. I am a better mom to my son because of my daughter.  

I used to tease my parents that they learned the hard lessons with my older brother. He loved to push the limits as much as he could. They learned from their parenting of him, I think. However, it’s 100 percent true and it’s not a bad thing. I remember even just figuring out the best way to bathe a baby and feeling, quite frankly, a bit intimidated by it when my daughter was a baby.  

With my son, I was an old pro. I had no qualms. I am better at this mom thing because I’ve had more practice. Also, I have more perspective. I knew the newborn days really wouldn’t last forever. I knew that it would eventually get a bit easier and more fun.  

Right now as I’m struggling with a baby boy who is getting into everything, I’m reminding myself that he won’t be this way forever and will eventually learn what no means (and that my husband and I are going to need a lot of patience to get through our battles of will with this child!).

15. Having a second baby is good. Being a mom of two is very good.  

I can’t imagine life without my two children. They are so much a part of me and my life and who I am right now. They consume me. Sometimes that’s incredibly overwhelming and exhausting. Sometimes I’m just plain worn out and drained from having two little people who need so much so often.

But, it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s good! I would never be happy without them in my life now that I have them. They are perfect, frustrating, loving, demanding and hilarious all at once. My children make me laugh, they make me cry, they make me frustrated and they make me love. They keep me from getting too self-involved. Right now there’s not a huge amount of time for Stacey, but there will be again one day. And I’m sure I’ll somehow miss these days when I’m so consumed with being mom.

16. Sometimes the squeakiest wheel really does get the grease.  

Before my son was born, I read advice from other parents of two. Some parents said if you have to pick between meeting the needs of a baby and an older child, go with the older child first because he/she will remember this moment. I have done that sometimes, but other times I haven’t. It’s not always feasible. Sometimes I work like the ER at the hospital and prioritize who needs the most help first. And every so often it’s the kid who is squeaky the loudest.

17. I can survive sick children.  

Before having my son, my daughter was hardly ever sick. She’s been a healthy kid. After he was born, he had a few issues here and there. Some were accidents, like when he was a newborn and raked a fingernail down his eyeball on a Friday evening.  

But, many things started popping up when my daughter started preschool last fall. Like all parents of school-aged kids can tell you, there are so many germs that go around with school. For three months one or both of my children was sick. My husband and I were sick. And, since part of that time included my surgery recovery and our parents were here helping, our parents were sick. It was tough. It stunk. But we all survived. And I know now how to help a baby through a cold more than I did before because I hadn’t dealt with all that much.

18. I have to learn to let go of my to-do list sometimes.  

Yes, I need to get things done around the house. Yes, I need to do some work. However, I’m learning that with two children who are unpredictable in their needs and require me to be flexible, sometimes I just need to let go of my to-do list and do what I see needs done at the moment. I need to not chastise myself. When I get too focused on my to-do list, I just get irritated that I can’t get it done and turn into Grumpy Mom. Nobody likes Grumpy Mom, not even Grumpy mom herself.

19. I can breastfeed.  

I debated as to whether this was a lesson I learned by having a second baby and decided it most definitely is. The first time around, I had unexpected trouble with breastfeeding (thanks to my kiddo’s issues). I didn’t know how hard it would be. I learned that. And I learned what it meant to exclusively pump breastmilk for a year.  

When I had my son, I learned that some babies are just better at nursing and he was one of them. I still daily think about missing that relationship that had to end a couple of months early thanks to health complications on my behalf, but I know I can do it. I did it for nine months. And it worked even while managing a preschooler at the same time.

20. My absolute biggest lesson is I can do it.  

I have learned this year that I can be a mom to two children and manage just fine.  Of course there are bumps along the way.  Of course nothing is perfect.  Of course I make mistakes, but I’m doing it. I’m living this life.  My children are surviving having me as their mother and they’re both pretty happy kids.  I really can do it!

20 Lessons from life with a newborn

Life with a newborn is exhausting, challenging and rewarding

I wrote this back in 2013 when I was just starting to feel a bit human again after having our second baby. I’ve done some slight editing, but left it mostly the same. I share for new mamas who are overwhelmed and exhausted. I promise you will survive this phase! The 12-week-old baby is new a thriving 8-year-old boy and his big sister is now 11.

Just when you think you know everything as a mother, things change around and you realize that you don’t know nearly as much as you thought you did to begin with. Having a second baby has reminded me of this. My son is days away from being 12 weeks old. He’s not much like his big sister who is 3-1/2. I’ve learned a few lessons from life with a newborn. I’ve also been reminded of some lessons I learned last time around.

So, I decided to compile a list. It’s far from comprehensive, but it’s a few things that have been floating around in my mind and my life these last nearly 12 weeks.

1. Not all babies are the same. 

I can’t say this enough. I knew this in my head, but having a second baby really taught me this lesson. My daughter loved the bouncy seat; my son doesn’t like it. The swing didn’t interest my daughter; my son loves it. My daughter couldn’t sleep when someone was holding her. Sometimes my son will only sleep when someone is holding him.

2. Just when you think you couldn’t possible be any more exhausted, you realize you can. 

I’ve had plenty of times when I thought if I were any more exhausted I’d be dead. And then the baby spent the night crying and I got only two hours of sleep before preschooler was up and ready for the day to start. Turns out I was wrong. I could be more exhausted.

3. Dealing with reflux in a baby stinks. 

My daughter had other issues, but reflux wasn’t a problem for her. My son has mild reflux and it stinks. I feel a huge compassion for parents who have babies with more severe reflux.

4. Babies require patience. 

Lots and lots and lots of patience. I try to remind myself of this when I want to scream things like, “Stop crying and nurse already!” Or “Go to sleep!” So instead I do things like make shushing noises and sing lullabies. And when I can’t manage that, I just shut my trap.

5. Going anywhere takes a lot of effort. 

Going anywhere on time feels like a major undertaking. I travel with lots of stuff in tow, even with a second baby. While I’d like to say I’ve downsized from the first time around, the truth is I haven’t. In fact, my diaper bag now includes items for my 3-year-old as well. When she was a baby, I didn’t carry coloring books and portable toilet seats with us. 

Getting all of us ready to get out the door to go anywhere is a major undertaking and major accomplishment. If we get there on time, I’m pretty sure I deserve some sort of award.

6. Not sleeping in your bed for three months can really wear on you. 

While my daughter had her own issues in figuring out how to use her tongue to suck, she was a good sleeper. She slept first in her pack-and-play in our room and then in her crib in her room starting at 3 months. 

My son, thanks first to extra congestion after his delivery and then to his reflux, is not a good sleeper. He just starting sleeping in his crib and he’s not sleeping in there nearly as long as he was sleeping in the Boppy on the couch beside me. We’ll get there, I hope, because sleeping in a recliner is far from as comfortable as my bed.

7. Baby cuddles are sweet and should be enjoyed for no other reason than just to cuddle. 

I had trouble getting cuddle time with my daughter. Like I said she wouldn’t fall asleep in our arms. I also had to put her down quite a bit so I could pump milk for her. 

This time around in life with a newborn, I get lots more cuddles because our little dude is cuddly and because I’m nursing him. I really enjoy the snuggles. I just have to remember to cuddle sometimes just because baby cuddles are good for the soul and not just because I’m trying to get him to sleep or feed him.

8. Babies create lots of laundry. 

This is not different this time around. I had lots of laundry last time; I have lots of laundry this time. Before I had kids I always figured the laundry was for the baby. I’ve since realized that my laundry also increases when I get covered in spit-up and diaper blowouts. Fun stuff… 

(And let’s not pretend that I change my shirt every single time I get a teeny bit of spit-up on me, especially if I’m not leaving the house any time soon!)

9. Showers taken when other responsible adults are around are like mini spa days. 

I love my Saturday morning hot shower when my husband is home and making sure that the kiddos are fine. For 20 glorious minutes, I enjoy warm water cascading over me and nobody talking to me, crying for me or needing me to do something. It’s divine.

10. Trips anywhere alone are like mini vacations. 

This includes grocery shopping and doctor’s visits.  I’ve been disappointed when my doctor or dentist got me in fast enough that I didn’t have time to sit in the waiting room and read my book. Times have changed.

11. Toothless baby smiles make your heart melt — even when it’s 2 a.m. and you’ve not been asleep since 7 a.m. the day before.

It’s hard to stay mad, upset or any other negative emotion when you’re getting a toothless baby smile.

12. You can come up with all sorts of systems for how things work best.

For example, we learned pretty quickly that this little dude needs to be held more to go to sleep. My husband tests when our son is ready to be laid down by lifting his arm and seeing if it stays completely limp when he gently drops it. My test in the middle of the night has sometimes been when the sniffing from my exhausted tear-fest no longer makes him jump. Whatever works.

13. You are desperate to hear from other mothers of newborns. 

I have a small network of moms I enjoy talking with who have kiddos the same age as mine. We talk about shots, exhaustion, bottle size, diaper brands and all the stuff that comes in life with a newborn (and older kiddos). It helps me to know I’m not alone in my worries and frustrations.

14. On the flip side, unwanted advice from non-parents or those who haven’t had a baby for decades does not go over well. 

It’s a great way to annoy a new mom. And, honestly, we get tired of hearing how much we should enjoy these days because they go so fast. Having a 3-1/2-year-old, I’ve already learned this lesson a bit. 

However, there are most definitely parts of life with a newborn that I don’t enjoy and won’t miss. There are way more parts I do enjoy and will miss, but I don’t enjoy every single moment and can get tired of the suggestion that I should.

15. Hormones and exhaustion can combine in negative ways. 

I don’t mean to be grumpy, weepy or irritable. It just happens. And for that I’m sorry.

16. Mommy brain is real. 

We fully intend to remember what we were talking about or supposed to be doing and then we just don’t. This happens from being exhausted by life with a newborn and from being interrupted so frequently.

17. Babies smell good. 

I feel like I knew this before, but I almost forgot it. I think of Frank Barone, the grandpa on the old TV show “Everybody Loves Raymond.” He’d come in and smell his grandchildren’s heads and claim to be taking in their youth. I get that. Sometimes I smell my son’s head and just try to suck in that smell. He won’t smell like a new baby forever. It’s a special smell.

18. Mommy guilt is real. 

This isn’t something I had to learn anew. It’s something I’ve had from the moment I became a mom and I continue to struggle with it. I worry that I’m not doing enough for either child at any given time. I worry that I’m not making the baby do tummy time enough or playing enough games with preschooler. I worry if I leave them with their grandparents for a few hours to do something like see a movie with my husband that I shouldn’t be leaving them at all. I am good at mommy guilt.

19. Diaper changing time is sometimes the highlight of my day. 

Some of my favorite times with my daughter were on the changing table. She’d baby talk to me. She’d smile at me and look into my eyes. My son is the same way. Sometimes, in fact, we’ve been in the middle of really rough nights when his reflux is acting up and I’ll go to change his diaper and he’ll settle down and “talk” to me and smile at me. The changing table is sort of a magical place with my babies.

20. The rewards of life with a newborn are worth it. 

Just when I think I can’t possibly have the energy to go on another moment or just when I am so incredibly ready to give up, I look down at my baby’s precious little face and remember he depends on me so very completely for everything right now. He needs me. I’m irreplaceable to him (and to his big sister). 

And I love them both so completely. That love gives me the extra energy I need to press on and take care of their needs. (Some prayer for strength goes a long way, too!) Getting rewarded with baby smiles and coos makes my heart swoon and re-energizes me enough to keep going. 

It’s motherhood: long hours, crummy pay and tremendous rewards.

Looking for more on life with babies? Don’t miss these posts!