Category Archives: Guest Posts

New Motherhood: Now and Then

Did you feel lonely when you had a newborn?

Were you ever thrown off by the challenge of adjusting to life with a baby and the reality of how different it actually was than you’d imagine?

Ever cry on a total stranger?

If you’ve nodded your head in agreement to any (or all) of the above questions, today’s post is most definitely for you. The answer for me – for all of the above – is a resounding YES.

In fact, with the above subject matter, I am thrilled to continue the amazing series of guest posts we’ve had here on Wired Momma. Jessica Smock, DC area mom and blogger behind School of Smock, is the writer of today’s guest post. I discovered Jessica’s blog not long ago because she contributed to another favorite site, The Broad Side. I immediately liked her and have really enjoyed keeping up with her since then.

True confession: I actually emailed her and asked her for a guest post and was thrilled when she agreed and then shared what sort of post she’d send…..one about motherhood and friendship. This is a topic that always resonates with me and I know resonates with so many of you based on the response I received from a piece I wrote last summer about making friends as an adult. Jessica actually ended up weaving in another one of my favorite concepts – this idea of what we THOUGHT motherhood and parenthood would be before we had children and then what happens when we actually discover REALITY.

So with that, I turn the pages of WM over to Jessica:

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Jessica and her adorable son

Jessica and her adorable son

I’ve been interested in new motherhood for way, way longer than I have been interested in having a child of my own.

When I was a senior in college, I wrote my honors thesis for my sociology major at Wesleyan about the transition to first-time motherhood.  At the time it was a somewhat random topic.   I was – and still am – a feminist.  The issues that I was – and still am – passionate about related to gender and women’s issues.  My adviser had this idea that she wanted to pursue herself, but didn’t have time, to study first-time parents before and after they had their first baby.  So that’s what I did.  For an entire year.  I drove all around Connecticut, interviewing women from Lamaze class as well as their husbands before their babies were born and afterwards.  I was 22, and I mostly didn’t like babies much.  In the back of my mind, I viewed them as an impediment to everything that women could potentially accomplishment:  equality in the workforce, in politics, in household labor.

And, as a 22 year old in 1996, here’s what I learned about new motherhood (and, yes, I dressed it up over hundreds of pages in social psychology talk, feminist theory, and sociological literature):

1.  New moms get really sad.  Nearly every one of the new moms in my study cried during the interviews.  They were moody basket cases, and they frightened me.  I didn’t know too much about postpartum depression, but I remember asking my adviser if I should get help for some of these very sad women.  (She told me that the “baby blues” were normal in early parenthood and that I was not qualified to make medical diagnoses about my study participants.)

2.  New moms end up parenting very differently than what their pre-baby intentions were.  I heard long conversations before the babies were born about “family beds,” “breastfeeding is my biggest goals,” “we’re going to be equal as parents and co-parent.”  Motherhood was very different than what they had anticipated.

3.  New moms get really angry at their husbands.  Much of my interviews with moms were about complaints about what their husbands were or were not doing with the baby.  They seemed resentful that their husbands’ entire identities hadn’t been changed as much as theirs.

4.  New moms light up around their babies.  During my interviews I remember how much these women stared at their babies, almost incomprehensively.  Did that really come out of me? Their faces melted like butter when they gazed in their eyes, and even if the midst of their tears, they would light up and smile at their babies.

5.  New moms get really, really lonely.  My conversations with these moms went on forever.  I could barely tear myself out the door.  (I often got anxious because I knew that I had to transcribe all these pages of interviews.) They were desperate to talk to someone about the changes in their lives.

Now it’s a long time later.  I’m a new-ish mom myself.  My son is a toddler.  It’s 2013, not the mid-1990s.  I’ve had an entire career unrelated mostly to new motherhood (education policy).  Parenthood has changed in a lot of ways, but motherhood is very much the same in many others.  None of the women in my study had the internet.  There were no blogs, no social media.  No reality shows, no cell phones.

Is motherhood harder or easier today?  With each year, the standards for parenting increase.  We wonder if we should be Helicopter parents, free range parents, Tiger Moms, attachment parents… We live a global economy where competition for jobs and for success is fiercer than ever.  Motherhood, much more so than when I talked to new moms, is a full contact, rigorous sport.  (Even the cover of Time magazine asks us now:  Are You Mom Enough?)

I want to find out how motherhood is changing, and I want to learn how new mothers’ lives change once they become mothers.  My blogging collaborator Stephanie Sprenger (from Mommy, For Real) and I have started a new project called The HerStories Project:  Finding Support, Staying Sane, and Reinventing Yourself During Early Motherhood.  We’re asking women through our survey to tell us about their experiences during new motherhood.  We’re also asking experts in many areas – psychology, sociology, support groups, sleep training – to contribute to our project with interviews and posts.

Reading my thesis again nearly decades later, I’m amazed at how much I got right – and wrong – about new motherhood.  I was right that it is difficult, life-changing, and powerful.  But I was wrong not to ask more about how these women coped.  Did they rely on friends?  Family?  Books?  How did they make sense of their new lives?

Now I want to continue the project that I started way back when being the mother of a son was unimaginable.  Now it’s everything.  How did that happen?

Jessica Smock is a doctoral candidate in educational policy at Boston University who will receive her doctorate in May 2013.  When not reading academic research, she writes at her blog, School of Smock, and collects stories of motherhood and women’s friendship at The HerStories Project.

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Thank you to Jessica!! I loved the visual of her driving around interviewing all those new moms. Not to mention the accuracy of her conclusions before she experienced it herself. I hope you’ll check out Jessica’s new site, The HerStories Project and take her survey. It actually made me feel ancient because when I was a new mom, in 2005, social media didn’t have the role in our lives that it does today – I wasn’t even on Facebook – so thanks for making me feel old, Jessica!!!!

As always, if you’d like to contribute a guest post, email me at wiredmomma@me.com. And be sure to hit “Like” on the Wired Momma Facebook page – it’s actually one of my favorite places to go to feel community and like we’re all in it together.

Summer’s Around the Corner….Helping You Plan

We are less than two months out from summer break – insane, right?  With that in mind, to help you get your creative juices flowing in how best to schedule some fun activities during the dog days of summer, today I bring you a guest post from Amy Suski, local blogger and co-founder of DCMetroMom. The thing is, Amy didn’t just start a blog, she’s gone on to do something many bloggers dream of: publish a book. Amy teamed up with her other DCMetroMom partner, Claudine, and the fabulous Micaela Williamson, formerly of SuperNOVA Mommy fame, to publish Kid Trips: Northern Virginia Edition. Their book came out earlier this spring and has received tremendous press attention and praise from local parents. And all for good reason. These women are the trifecta of DC-area based kid activity knowledge, not to mention business savvy, social media savvy entrepreneurs who are providing all of us an excellent resource to make our lives easier and more fun. I’m proud to turn the pages of WM over to them today, in Amy’s voice, and introduce you to their book and what you might find in it. With that, I give you Amy:

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Book-CoverIn my twenties, I lived and breathed city life in the District: working on K Street, shopping boutiques, going to the theatre, strolling the art galleries, biking along the Potomac, and dining at trendy restaurants every chance I got.  But while I was busy streaming into the city for work and play, NoVA was sneaking up on me as a happening place to be.

Over the last decade, Northern Virginia has really come into its own and can boast much more than proximity to D.C.  While preserving its historic old towns, gardens, and parklands, Northern Virginia has forged ahead to create its own identity as a terrific family destination all its own with super-fun seasonal events (Spring Egg Hunts, Summer County Fairs, Fall Pumpkin Patches, Winter Festivals), family-friendly performance venues, nature centers, oodles of indoor play-spaces, innovative playgrounds, art studios, interactive museums, farms, and so much more.

With so many new things happening in NoVA I wished for a guide to steer my family on its travels.  Although there were a lot of big name family travel guides for D.C., I couldn’t find a comparable book dedicated to NoVA.  So, after years of living in and exploring the area, I teamed up with Claudine Kurp (co-founder of DCMetroMom.com) and Micaela Williamson, a.k.a., Super NoVA Mommy, to create a guide especially for families living in or visiting NoVA.   Between the three of us we’ve pretty much dragged, chased, and strolled all seven of our kids across the entire area.  As local bloggers we’ve also had unique opportunities to visit and review many terrific activities and performance venues so we feel like we have an insider’s track on helping families find the best that NoVA has to offer.

There are so many reasons to explore NoVA and we hope our new book will help guide families along the way.  Just a few of my personal favorites featured in the book:

+ Carousel and playground at Clemyjontri Park in McLean

+ Tot-rock concerts at Jammin Java in Vienna

+ Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods at Wolf Trap Performing Arts Center in Vienna

+ Museum, farm, and gardens at the Mount Vernon Estate

+ Artist studios at Old Town Alexandria’s Torpedo Factor Art Center

+ Art programs for Children at the Greater Reston Arts Center

+ Children’s garden at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria

+ Farm fun at Frying Pan Farm Park and Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum

+ Sprayground parks in Arlington

+ Miniature Train at Burke Lake Park

+ Leesburg Animal Park

+ Marine Corps Museum in Quantico

+ Hiking at Great Falls

+ Super Science Saturdays at Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum in Chantilly

+ National Battlefield Park and Historic Train Depot in Manassas

For hundreds more local attractions, “Top Picks,” “Insider Tips,” seasonal events, and parenting resources get your copy of Kid Trips: Northern Virginia Edition through Amazon or as an ebook on Kindle, Nook or Smashwords (coming to iBooks soon).  To sign-up for monthly newsletters, updates, and blogs visit www.gotrips.com.

About the author:  Amy Suski and her husband are parents to two sons, a daughter, and a rambunctious boxer dog.  Before motherhood Amy worked in Washington, D.C. as an attorney and is now writing, editing, and volunteering.  She is co-founder of DCMetroMom.com and co-author of Kid Trips: Northern Virginia Edition.

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Thank you so much Amy for contributing today! I hope everyone will consider supporting these local moms, their book can be purchased for $8.99 on Amazon and it’s well worth it to give yourself a whole host of ideas for lazy summer days! You can also find these lovely ladies on Facebook.

As always, I hope you’ll “Like” the Wired Momma Facebook page and if you’d like to contribute a guest post, please email me at wiredmomma@me.com.

I Am Not the Babysitter

I am thrilled that we are hitting our stride here on WM with the guest posts. So far we’ve had two very different voices come forward with some great topics. Today’s guest post hails from a friend, a local blogger and someone I’m lucky to have met through the internet, through WM book club and I adore keeping up with her blog. Nicole Dash, writer behind Tiny Steps Mommy, mother to four and owner of her own business addresses some very real, very important issues – ones that do not stoke the mommy wars because what she’s writing about is something I believe men and women are guilty of – but it’s one I’ve noticed along the way as well.

a working mother with a baby speaking mobile phoneBefore we get started, let’s play a game. When you see someone walking into preschool – and this someone is a dad or a mom – but they are dressed totally down. Do you:

1. Assume they are a stay-at-home parent

2. Assume they work from home

3. Think about how you’re late for work and it must be nice to be strolling in late, in yoga pants, with an empty house at home

4. None of the above

Be honest. And maybe, your answer depends on the day. For me – it would depend on the day – and how late I am. But I’m not going to pretend like I haven’t sized people up and speculated. And trust me, I know this speculation is about ME and my decisions and honestly – nothing about them.

I’ve worked full-time in a demanding job along K Street, I’ve had a nanny, I’ve stopped working full-time and been “nothing but” a stay-at-home mom, and now I run my own consulting company, sometimes I work full-time, sometimes I work part-time- but I work out of my house – so the majority of people who see me during the day assume I am a “SAHM.” My point – we are a society that needs labels and defaults on assumptions. It’s how we assess situations, evaluate the other person standing next to us and move on. This doesn’t mean it is all laced with judgement or evil. It just means we do this. Do not pretend like you don’t.

Some of us are comfortable in our decisions, proud of the choices we’ve made and just don’t get defensive or reactionary when assumptions are made – flawed or not.

Some of us are riddled with doubt and second guess our decisions every day – whether it be about working or staying home, or summer camp options, or whether we have our kid signed up for not enough or too many activities – it doesn’t have to be a big thing – it’s just something we are evaluating and second guessing and wondering about.

Some of us are confident in our decisions but every once in a while, get sick of the assumptions. Some days   – that is me. Some days, I show up to the bus stop late, I am in shitty yoga pants with unwashed hair and I look a mess but I have clients breathing down my neck and deadlines to meet and more kids to get off to another school and a leaking basement – and then someone in professional clothes makes a passing comment that implies I’m “just a SAHM” (read: therefore I have really nothing to do) and I’ll stew all day. Other days I couldn’t give a rat’s ass. But that’s the point – we are all complicated beings that default on assumptions but often just don’t like it.

And THAT friends – is why I really like the post Nicole is bringing to us today. She’s pretty much had it. And she raises some excellent points on the implied value we place on the importance of tending to children all day long. In part, she’s taking on the patronizing “Oh, I don’t know how you do it” (read: I am pretty much to good for that work). And more importantly, how we value and define work.

See what you think, weigh in on the assumptions we make, tell me if you really don’t make any or maybe sometimes you do. Let’s talk. This isn’t a fight. I think it’s real and Nicole is giving it a voice.  And with that, I hand it over to Nicole, of Tiny Steps Mommy.

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How would you feel if you dedicated your heart, soul and energy into a profession that gets little-to-no respect? How would you feel knowing that there are people who look down on you because of a lack of understanding, a lack of caring, or a sense that what you do is beneath them? How would you feel if you spent the bulk of your time thinking about the well-being of others only to be treated poorly?

As a home-based child care provider, I have felt this sting more than once. I speak for myself, but I know many other child care providers, nannies, and even teachers who know exactly what I’m talking about. I care for and teach children for a living. There is nothing more important than our children, yet the people entrusted with this task are often not given their due respect.

When people ask what I do for a living and I say I run a daycare from my home, there are many assumptions made. Here are a few I have had to correct more than once.

  1. I simply added a couple of kids to my brood for extra cash.
  2. I change diapers and deal with crying kids all day long.
  3. I have no other options.
  4. I have the patience of a saint.
  5. I am a babysitter.
  6. I can keep my house sparkling because I’m home all day.
  7. It is brainless work that anyone can do.
  8. It’s easy and good money.
  9. I sit on my butt and watch children play all day long (while keeping up with soap operas).
  10. I have given up on having a “real” career.

I could go on, but I won’t. I know a lot of the assumptions made are probably meant to be harmless and are born out of ignorance, but I find many of them offensive. Interestingly there are stark similarities between some of the things on this list with what some SAHM cite as stereotypes about what it means to stay home with your children.

I have to ask why?

Does it lessen the guilt of depending on someone else to care for your children if you believe the “job” can be done by anyone? Do you believe that staying home or working from home is the “easy” way to do things? Does it make you feel superior? Does the fact that we don’t wear expensive suits or wear designer shoes in make us less important?

For many child care providers, caring for children is more than a job. It is a calling and a career. There are absolutely bad providers who only do it for the money, but you can find bad lawyers and doctors guilty of the same thing.

Yes, I change diapers. Yes, I have patience (at times). Yes, I am used to crying children. Yes, I watch children play, but more importantly I watch children flourish and discover and learn and grow.

I am not the babysitter.

I am a teacher, I am a marketing manager, I am a negotiator,  I am a contract writer, I am an accountant, I am an HR professional, I am a boss, I am a cook, I am a tax professional, I am a chief operating officer, I am a nutritionist, I am a nurse, I am a kisser of boo boos, I am a comforter in chief, I am a librarian, I am a princess on Mondays and a Superhero on Fridays, I am a counselor, I am a music teacher, I am a puppeteer, I am the eyes and ears of parents, I am a student,  I am a referee, I am a child advocate, I am a party planner, I am a professional organizer and I am a witness to all things awesome about the secret society of children.

I am a child care provider and I love what I do because of all the reasons I can’t explain. Oh and I do not have time to catch up on soap operas and my house is far from sparkling because I am too busy working hard at my career, so you can work hard at yours.

Nicole Dash is a writer, blogger and child care business owner who lives in the suburbs outside Washington, DC with her husband and four children. Nicole writes about family, life, parenting and caring for children on her heartfelt blog Tiny Steps Mommy.

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Thank you Nicole! I hope others weigh in here or on the WM Facebook page! If you’d like to send me a guest post, email me at wiredmomma@me.com. Be sure to also check out  Nicole’s blog Facebook page.

Yoga Moms Are Perfect & Other New Mom Myths

Continuing my ongoing call for contributors, today I bring you an excellent post from local blogger and mom Danielle Veith. You can follow Danielle’s blog at Crazy Like A Mom. What I like about her post today is she touches on some issues that will probably hit home with many of us – especially that loneliness and inevitable insecurity that comes with being a new mom. Read on and be sure to keep up with Danielle also on Facebook. With that, I turn it over to Danielle:

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A while ago, I met a first-time mom who had a few-week-old infant and really deep postpartum depression. She was really struggling and felt totally alone. Our conversation, one I’ve had with lots of other moms in one form or another, went something like this:

 

Danielle’s adorable kiddo’s doing their best downward dogs

Me:  “You should try to go to a postnatal yoga class and meet other moms with babies of the same age.”

Other Mom: “But I’m so intimidated by all those perfect yoga moms.”

Me: “But if you go to class, then you’re one of those perfect yoga moms.”

Other Mom: “But I won’t feel perfect.”

Me: “What makes you think they do?”

 

There is so much insecurity, doubt and just general lack of confidence involved in being a new mom. Other moms always seem to be doing better than we are. More pulled-together, more easy-going, more on top of things with babies who sleep better, nurse better, cry less.

 

Everyone has their own version of a group of moms who are “perfect.” For that mom, it was Yoga Moms.

 

Breaking News: I happen to have it on good authority that yoga moms aren’t actually perfect and happy all the time with babies who are perfect and happy all the time.

 

How do I know? When my daughter was eight-weeks old, I started taking a yoga class for new moms where the babies hung out on the floor while we tried out down dog in our new mom bodies. The instructor encouraged us to have lunch together after class, which we did—nearly every week for months. Almost five years later, nine of us are still friends. We have moms nights out, playdates with the kids, family gatherings, our kids take classes together and we support each other when we need it.

 

When I met these women, I didn’t even think we had anything in common—we come from different backgrounds, different education levels, different ages, races, incomes. Some of us went back to work quickly, others are still at-home moms. Most of us nursed, some bottle-fed. Some cried-it-out, others co-slept. From what we hear about the Mommy Wars raging everywhere, you’d think we would have been at each other’s throats or at least slinging passive-aggressive arrows at each other’s heartfelt parenting choices.

 

Maybe we just got really lucky, but we did have two things in common—we all told the truth and we laughed a lot. We talked about all the hard stuff, and (Imagine this!) it turned out that we were all going through the same struggles. It was such a relief to know that we weren’t going crazy, screwing up, failing our kids. We weren’t the only one who didn’t fit back into our pre-pregnancy clothes, whose boobs leaked in public, who hid in the bathroom and cried.

 

Recently, another mom was talking about a group of moms she met when her first kid was born. She called them “Bethesda moms” and thought they all seemed so perfect—perfect hair and they always looked cute with cute babies in cute outfits. She looked at them and felt alone, not pulled together and happy and perfect, and she never bonded with them. So, I asked her, “Did you ever tell any of them how you were feeling?” Well, no, she hadn’t. She was sure they weren’t feeling how she was feeling and she tried to hide it. “How do you know they weren’t feeling the same way and wishing they had someone to talk to, too?”

 

Sometimes “fake it til you make it” will help you as a parent. You can’t fall apart all the time and no one wants to be around someone who’s always negative. But I think our generation of moms wants to talk about what being a mom is really like. We owe it to other moms and to ourselves to tell each other the truth.

 

It’s the only way we’ll find out that we’re not alone.

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Thank you Danielle!!! If you’d like to contribute to my blog, feel free to email me at wiredmomma@me.com and of course, keep up with the fun by hitting “Like” on the WM FB page, where the chatter and insights is always interesting and fun!