Monday, October 22, 2007

Always a Mom

My husband and I went away for the weekend—the first time, I think, since before the twins were born almost four years ago! Actually, I was combining business with pleasure. We went down to Key Largo for the Florida Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs’ annual meeting so I could sell some books to the conference attendees. (Note the beautiful view from our hotel balcony.) We decided to recruit my parents to baby-sit so we could get a little break from the kids. So, happy as I was to get a well-needed rest, why did I think about the kids all weekend? The twins had minor colds when we left, so I worried about whether they were feeling better. My oldest son was going out with a friend, so I hoped he’d make it home safely. My other teenage son went to a friend’s house, so I wondered what they were up to. Were the twins behaving? Were the older boys getting their homework done? Why couldn’t I just quit being a mom for a few days?

I had a “cancer scare” recently. Fortunately, everything turned out to be fine, but during those dark days when I thought my days were numbered, all I kept thinking was that I wanted to try to “hang in there” until my kids were grown so they wouldn’t be traumatized by their mother’s death at a young age! I didn’t give a thought (or at least not much) to what I would be going through; my number-one concern was whether the kids would be cared for if I became ill or passed away.

Even though I’ve been out of the house for many years, my own mother still can’t quit mothering me. When she visits, she washes my clothes, sweeps my floor, and even rearranges my silverware drawer (which I redo once she leaves). Of course, it drives me a little batty considering I’m old enough to take care of myself, but at the same time, I understand. Totally. I’m sure I’ll be the same way when my boys are all grown. I’ll be getting food for their cupboards and shirts for their backs, and slipping them cash for a little treat. I inherited the “mommy gene,” and it’s a very dominant one!

Hopefully, my husband and I will be able to arrange a few more long weekends away without the kids in the next few years. When the twins are tackling each other for the tenth time in a day, and the older boys are giving me flak for suggesting they help clean house, I’m sure I’ll get that yearning for a little “alone time” once again. And I’ll enjoy it immensely—but part of me will always remain with my boys. My mother’s heart just refuses to leave home.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Putting My Foot in My Mouth

In July 2006, Parenting Plus magazine published an article I wrote called “Curbing My Tongue: How I Learned to Quit Putting My Foot in My Mouth.” The article addressed the danger of blurting out insensitive remarks or opinions, and provided tips on how to keep a tighter rein on our tongues. So, of all people, you would think I’d know better than to make a tactless remark to someone. No such luck.

After church last Sunday, my twins and I joined a group of other parents and children on the playground. We were watching our kids run around the playground equipment, and one of the mothers remarked about her little boy, “I’m trying to figure out where he got all that energy!” Noticing the beautiful blond curls on the tiny tot, and the dark straight hair on both his parents, I laughingly replied, “I’m trying to figure out where he got those gorgeous curls!” Silence. By the crestfallen look on the mother’s face, I had said the “wrong thing.” I knew the child wasn’t adopted because the mother had mentioned her pregnancy to me previously, but in thinking about it later, I realized that maybe the child was a product of a donated egg or sperm (or both), which would explain the inherited blond curls. Or perhaps he was biologically related to both parents, but they just got sick and tired of everyone inferring that the child wasn’t theirs! Of course, I tried to cover my tracks and commented several times on how beautiful the child is, which the mother graciously smiled and accepted. But I felt like a real heel when I got in the car to go home. I remembered how badly I felt after I gave birth to my twins and, several weeks later, a man asked me when they were due! I hated the thought that I had made that mother feel as badly as I felt that day.

So, to spare some of you from making the same faux pas, I’m going to summarize here the tips that were in my original article. And then I’m going to go back and read them over again and again until I commit them to memory!

1. Practice listening instead of speaking. I’ve learned that if I’m really listening to what others are saying and not jumping in with my own version of the story, I offend a lot less people. These days, I don’t jump in with my own feelings unless an honest opinion is truly solicited. When I speak, I encourage the other person to continue the conversation by asking questions: “How do you feel about that?” “What did you do?” “Are you happy with your decision?” I’ve found that my foot is a lot drier these days when I use this tactic.

2. Balance the benefits of speaking out against the potential harm. Next time you’re tempted to express an opinion, ask yourself, Am I really going to help someone by giving my viewpoint, or am I just eager to contribute to the conversation by showcasing my own feelings? If the words from your mouth will give no wisdom or understanding to the listener, then don’t offer them.

3. Use your “gift of gab” for good. Nowadays, when I’m about to express an opinion, I remind myself that my “loose lips” can be used for a better purpose: to make people feel good about themselves. Instead of telling my friends what I don’t like, I think about what I do. I may not care for my friend’s new couch, but I do care for her—and I can let her know honestly that her choice of wallpaper is outstanding. Expressing positive thoughts makes you a better friend.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Helping the Father-to-Be Understand Pregnancy

I’m sure you’ve seen those “pregnancy bellies” that are supposed to give men a taste of what it’s really like to be pregnant. Chances are, however, that your husband wouldn’t be caught dead wearing one! So, if you still think your husband needs to get a clue about what you’re going through, and could use a few gentle nudges about how to pamper you while you’re pregnant, then I suggest you buy him the book, A Labor with Love by Leon Scott Baxter.

The book is subtitled “A Dad-to-Be’s Guide to Romance During Pregnancy,” but the author makes it clear that romance doesn’t include merely sex. As he advises husbands, “Rub her shoulders. Wash the dishes. Clean up after dinner. You’re providing. Talk to the bulge in her belly. Tell her how much you love her and the baby. You’re showing signs of protecting. And, that’s romance during pregnancy. When she feels provided for, you are meeting her emotional needs, allowing her to reduce her levels of stress and to feel loved.”

A Labor with Love is chock-full of valuable information and lists for the expectant dad, such as “9 ways to tell her she’s beautiful,” “10 ways to enjoy quality time with mom-to-be,” and “10 ways to ease her load.” It then provides very specific “week-by-week romance suggestions” so there’s something that every man will feel comfortable initiating. Baxter acknowledges that men often have difficulty with romance, whether their wife is pregnant or not, but when they are able to drop their preconceived notions about what constitutes romance for a woman, they’ll find it’s not as difficult as they think. A husband might be surprised to learn that just spending some time alone with his wife or giving her an impromptu massage will make her happy! And that is especially true when a woman is pregnant and feeling stressed by her surging hormones, having a hard time sleeping, etc.

If you’re pregnant, give a copy of A Labor with Love to your husband. (If you need to trade sex or an uninterrupted football game viewing to get him to read it, then do it!) And this book is not just for first-time daddies . . . it even describes how subsequent pregnancies will differ from the first. Visit Amazon or to read more and order. This book also makes a great shower gift for expectant couples.