Saturday, February 23, 2008

Taking Time for Me

I can always tell when I haven’t had enough “me time” because I start getting a little resentful. The other day, my husband took off to go to the gym, both my teenagers made plans of their own, and nobody bothered to ask if, perhaps, I might have needed to get a few things done, too. It’s always assumed that “Mom” will care for the twins and hold things together while everyone else does what they want or need to do. I have to ask if someone can “babysit” the twins if I have an errand to run, while the rest of the family does what they want, assuming I’ll take care of them. So, it’s no wonder that I sometimes start feeling a little sorry for myself. It’s not that I don’t love being with the twins and taking care of my family, but it’s just the fact that nobody thinks about my needs first. I always seem to be working my schedule around everyone else’s, but nobody considers mine before making their plans. Have you ever felt this way?

As I said, when I start feeling this way, it’s a sign that I need to take time for me. I used to feel selfish about this, but I’ve learned that doing what I want to do sometimes is actually a gift to my family. As the saying goes, “When Mom’s not happy, nobody’s happy.” And, thus, this time to do what I please makes me a happier—and less resentful—mother.

Most days, whenever the boys are at school, I jump on the computer and begin writing. I’m usually working nonstop until it’s time to pick up the twins from preschool, and then I work at least another hour after their bedtime. Needless to say, I’ve missed a lot of movies, days at the beach, and walks through the mall. But I’ve recently decided to take a few hours off every Friday to do something I enjoy—and not feel guilty about it. Friday’s a particularly good day to do this because I know that the weekend will need all my energy as the boys are out of school and we carry out our weekend plans.

The past few weeks, I’ve spent my Fridays watching the Jane Austen movies that have been playing on PBS every Sunday evening. I TiVo them, and wait to watch them on Friday when I can watch them uninterrupted by family demands. It’s my own little guilty pleasure as I immerse myself in the romantic sagas of a bygone era. Afterward, I feel refreshed and satisfied, ready to tackle “mommyhood” again! I intend to keep my Friday “fun days” even after I run out of Jane Austen movies. I’m sure I’ll think of something else to do!

I encourage every mother to take some time for herself. Do what you enjoy, whether it’s going to the movies, getting a manicure, shopping, going for a walk or even taking a nap! Most importantly, don’t feel the least bit guilty about it, even if there’s laundry to be done, bills to be paid, and a business to run. Know that your needs are just as important as everyone else’s, and you’ll be better able to handle the challenges of life when you take care of yourself first. Go ahead . . . put “me time” on your calendar now!

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Eye Spy a Pair of Glasses

I got my first pair of glasses (and contact lenses) when I was about fifteen. My vision was just poor enough that I was having trouble seeing the blackboard. (Incidentally, my know-it-all fifteen-year-old informs me that the use of the word “blackboard” is outdated. Teachers now use a white board or a “smart board.”) Both my teenagers squeezed past fifteen without needing specs, but last month my eighteen-year-old told me that the writing on the board was starting to blur. To my dismay, he hadn’t escaped my genes! Still, he’s fortunate. The doctor said he’s only a little nearsighted and could probably still pass a driver’s test without glasses. Nonetheless, he wrote him a prescription for glasses that he can use when needed.

I thought that vision problems were relatively rare in the younger years, but the National Eye Institute says that up to 15 percent of preschoolers may have some sort of eye condition. Normally, your pediatrician will screen for eye problems at your well-child visits and will be able to tell you if you need to take your little one to an ophthalmologist. An article in the September 2007 issue of Parents magazine says that the three most common eye conditions in childhood are (1) refractive disorders, which consist of nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, (2) amblyopia or “lazy eye,” and (3) strabismus, which is an eye misalignment. These conditions are easier to treat if they’re caught early. My teenager was able to visit a regular ophthalmologist, but if you’re advised to take a younger child to an eye doctor, I’d recommend that you go to a pediatric specialist who will be experienced in working with little kids.

I remember being very self-conscious about wearing my glasses as a teen, but today’s kids seem to take it much more in stride (along with braces). I can’t wait to see what my son looks like in his new glasses! Even so, he’s not taking any chance of looking too “bookish.” He wants his girlfriend to help him pick out his glasses instead of me. I suppose I could play the old “I pay for them, I pick them out” card, but as he’ll be more willing to wear them if his girlfriend thinks he looks cool, I’ll swallow my hurt feelings and step aside. As CFO of the house, however, I’ll still reserve the right to veto them if they are too extreme. With my son's current “rock star” long hair, perhaps some sophisticated glasses will give him a more professional look as he heads off to college in the fall!

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Having Children Can Be Good for a Marriage

Married couples often find that the first year of parenthood is the hardest, whether dealing with a first baby, a second, or a third. Your “together time” is diminished, your sex life is put on the back burner, your own needs may go unmet for quite a while, you’re cranky due to lack of sleep . . . need I go on? The fact is, having children can be very stressful on a marriage! But it can also be a time of great discovery as you learn more about your partner than ever before. Seeing your spouse through the lens of parenthood can give you a whole new appreciation for each other. By focusing on the following “positives” of having children, you may find after getting through the initial adjustment period that your marriage is better than ever!

You’ll Realize the Fulfillment of a Dream: Nothing is more bonding than sharing a dream. When athletic teams share the dream of going to the playoffs, they bond together as never before to pursue that dream. The same holds true for married couples. When you mutually choose each other to become the other parent to your children; when you save money, buy a house, and make plans so you can have a family; when you talk about what to name your children and the family traditions you hope to share with them—these are incredible togetherness experiences. A shared dream gives a marriage purpose and meaning. It unites the two of you in a powerful way.

You’ll Establish a Bond That Will Forever Link You Together: The dream doesn’t stop with the goal just to have children. Married couples continue to bond through the goal of continuing to give their children the best life possible. You work together as a couple to ensure that the family you’ve created thrives and prospers. Having children—and wanting them to grow up healthy and happy—is a goal that will unite you for the rest of your lives. No matter what directions your lives may take or how much your interests might diverge, you will always share the special bond of sharing a child and making her your highest priority.

A Baby Will Take Your Relationship to a Whole New Level of Commitment: Once you have a family, you’re more motivated than ever to make your relationship work. There’s so much more at stake—not just your own happiness, but that of your children as well. When problems arise, parents don’t throw in the towel so easily. Even troubled couples or those that don’t plan to marry are now bonded together for the welfare of the baby. The consequences are greater if things don’t work out, and so they go the extra mile to get through the rough spots. They are no longer just committed to each other, but to their family. It’s not as easy to walk away when troubles arise.

A Baby Makes a Family: What do you share with your partner that you share with nobody else? Your children. You are the only two people in the world who have the joy of being these children’s parents—together. You are a family unit. You are their mommy and daddy—the two people they want to be with more than anyone else in the world. You are united in this very important role. No longer are you just a couple; you are now a family. And as Dr. Joyce Brothers has wisely said, “When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses.”

So, when your marriage hits those rocky patches brought on by the stresses and strains of parenthood, just remember that it took the two of you to create this very special child—visible proof that you have an incredible bond that’s worth preserving!

Adapted from Oh, Baby! 7 Ways a Baby Will Change Your Life the First Year ©2006 by Bettie B. Youngs, Ph.D., Ed.D., Susan M. Heim, and Jennifer L. Youngs.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

My Demolition Darlings

My four-year-old twins are masters of destruction. Ever since they were babies, they’ve delighted in seeing how much of their plates can end up on the floor, figured out how many tosses it takes to smash a race car, and reveled in how quickly they could remove every single item from their drawers and closets. All this time, I figured my kids were just, well, pigs, but the February 2008 issue of Wondertime magazine has convinced me otherwise. In fact, my children are budding geniuses!

In the article, “Why Do Babies Drop Stuff?” by Jennifer Eyre White, I’m told “that babies dump their food (and sippy cups, and toys) from high places not just because they want to watch you aerobicize or to feed the family dog,” but because they’re learning the principles of gravity, as well as cause and effect! When babies are about a year old, they especially delight in dropping things from their high-chair trays because they’ve figured out that various objects land differently. For instance, a banana might fall with a “splat,” while a sippy cup might bounce. And, all this time, I thought my kids were just playing “Let’s Get Mommy to Clean Up Another Mess!”

In that same issue, Jennifer King Lindley explains in “Simply Smashing” that kids love to smash a tower of blocks because they are “building visual and spatial skills and figuring out how the world works.” Like me, the author initially tried to stem her child’s destructive antics by yelling “No!” or encouraging gentle play. However, this never seemed to work, and rarely does with my children either. Why? They’re not being malicious, just curious. They can’t help themselves! In Lindley’s research, she learned that “preschoolers are fascinated with testing their own power . . . and destroying things would seem a dramatic demonstration of it.”

Of course, I’m not saying that it’s okay to let our kids destroy the house, dent the car, break windows or smash plates. But, knowing the reasons behind their bent for destruction, we can help them find more harmless ways to explore their world. Let them throw water balloons outside, throw rocks in the pond, and take apart old toys (all under adult supervision, of course). Your little demolition expert just may be the next great inventor or scientist some day!

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