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Parenting Isn’t One-Size Fits All

Before my daughter was actually born, I had all sorts of ideas about what parenting choices I *thought* we would make. During my last month of pregnancy, I spent lots of time reading articles and blogs on Pinterest to prepare for our impending arrival. What I discovered is that there is a lot of information out there, and a lot of people with very strong opinions who feel there is only one right way to do things.

If you feed your baby purées, they’re going to develop bad eating habits. If you don’t breastfeed for at least a year, your child is doomed. If you co-sleep, you’re endangering your child. If you use disposable diapers, you’re destroying the environment. If you let your baby watch TV, you’re rotting their brain. If you let your baby nap in your arms, you’re spoiling them. The list goes on and on!

As I read up on all these things during those last few weeks of pregnancy, I was feeling a little overwhelmed. Like any new mom, I just wanted to give my sweet girl the best possible start! So I set my mind to a hundred different parenting choices. I would breastfeed for a year. We would try baby-led weaning and cloth diapers. We wouldn’t let our daughter set eyes on a TV or device. We would do all the “right” things. But then a funny thing happened. Our daughter was born and we tried all those things, and I quickly found that while some of them were right for us, some of them just didn’t fit for our family.

My daughter still naps in my arms all the time. I know that some people would say that I’ve spoiled her by always letting her nap in my arms. And I probably have, because now she doesn’t nap well if she’s not being held. But I wouldn’t trade those lazy Saturday morning naps for anything! For our family, this is what works!

We tried baby-led weaning, and it just didn’t work for my daughter. She would try to stuff too much food in her mouth when we gave her things that were stick-shaped, and she was always gagging and coughing, which obviously terrified me! If we gave her tiny little pieces of things, she couldn’t get them in her mouth, and would end up crying and frustrated. So we fed her purées for the first few months of her solid-food eating experience. Now that she can handle finger foods, she’s mostly self-feeding, but we used a combo of purées and self-feeding, because that’s what worked for our family.

Our daughter still sleeps in our bedroom, even at 9 months old. She transitioned out of her bassinet around 4 months, but I wasn’t at all ready to send my baby to sleep alone in her nursery across the hall. So my sweet husband disassembled the crib, moved it into our room, and re-assembled it. I love having our daughter in our room at night, especially through a rough sleep regression that saw us up 3-4 times a night for almost 2 months straight. It was nice to be able to grab her from the crib right beside me, nurse her back to sleep, and then put her back down without having to leave our room. Even my husband admits that he likes having us all hunkered down for the night together in our room. It’s a warm and fuzzy feeling having the whole family all snuggled into our room together. I know rooming-in for this long isn’t what’s right for everyone, but it’s what works for us!

I’ve learned that parenthood isn’t about doing what’s trendy, or what other people think is best. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting. Everyone (and I mean EVERYONE!) seems to have an opinion about your parenting choices, but at the end of the day, it’s really just about finding what works for your family!

Cold Coffee

This morning, I drank a cup of cold coffee. Not the fancy iced kind from Starbucks with whipped cream and chocolaty drizzle. Plain ol’ coffee pot coffee, left on the counter and forgotten for a bit too long.

It’s a routine I’m not unfamiliar with. In fact, most mornings I drink my coffee cold. Between the hustle and bustle at home, and the chaos of my morning at school before my kiddos arrive, it’s rare for me to find the time to chug down a cup of coffee before my attention is drawn elsewhere.

And as this thought dawned on me this morning as I drank my cold coffee on the living room floor, it occurred to me that motherhood is a cold cup of coffee.

Motherhood is forgetting yourself to put your child first. It’s listening to nursery rhymes on an endless loop in the car when you’d rather listen to the new Taylor Swift song. It’s cooking dinner and feeding the rest of your family before you get to eat yourself. It’s packing lunches with a baby on your hip because she just wants to be held. It’s waking up at the crack of dawn, and sacrificing prep time at work to pump milk for your baby. It’s repeatedly stacking up a tower of cups on the floor because your daughter loves to knock them down. It’s wiping your child’s snot on your own sleeve when you don’t have a tissue. It’s spit-up stained shirts, sleepless nights, and poopy diapers. It’s unpainted nails, because you’d rather snuggle your baby than take the time to paint them. It’s split-ends and grown-out highlights, because you’d rather spend the money on books, toys, or cute jammies for your child. It’s spending your Saturday in line at a crowded mall to get a picture with Santa or the Easter Bunny.

It’s a cold cup of coffee, set aside and forgotten, because you were too busy putting your child’s needs first. But you know what I’ve discovered? Cold coffee still tastes just as good.

Sure, hot coffee is delicious. But I’ll take my cold cup of coffee any day of the week.

A Letter to My Husband

Dear Husband,

This morning, the alarm clock rang all too soon. It was 5 AM, and I slowly dragged my sleepy self from the bed and started making my way toward the bathroom to get in the shower. My plans were halted by the soft fuss of our daughter. I paused, waiting to see if she’d go back to sleep, but of course on tired Thursday mornings like these, she never does. I made my way back to the crib and pulled our crying daughter into my arms.

“I have to get in the shower,” I whispered to you in the darkness, and you reached out sleepily, making a nest beside you in the bed, and pulled her into your arms. Moments later she was back asleep, and I crept out of the bedroom to get ready for work.

I returned a half an hour later to grab clothes from the closet, and in the faint glow of the morning sun, I saw you snuggled up with our daughter beside you. Both sleeping peacefully, the faintest traces of smiles on both of your faces. I didn’t linger too long – I didn’t want to wake you. But I stayed just long enough to soak up the moment, and appreciate the amazing father that you are.

I know that this parenting thing isn’t always easy, but I can’t imagine being on this journey with anyone else but you. I love watching you love our daughter. I love the way you can make her laugh like no one else can. When you plant sloppy kisses on her cheeks and whisper in her ears, she erupts into a deep belly-laughter that she doesn’t ever make for anyone else but you. I love listening to you talk to her after a long day at work, telling her, “I missed you so much today.” I love seeing you beam with pride whenever you lay eyes on her, because I know that our sweet little princess has you wrapped around her tiny finger. She has your heart, and that little girl is your whole world.

Dear husband, thank you for being the kind of father I always dreamed of for my children. We love and appreciate all that you do! ❤️

My Struggle with Dog-Mom Guilt

Before I was a mother to my baby, I was a dog mom. And not a passive kind of dog mom – a bumper sticker wielding, Westie coffee mug using, doggy daycare kind of dog mom.

We adopted our dog, Sawyer, right after my husband and I got our first apartment together. She was just a puppy at the time, and we trained her and raised her together. She was our “baby,” and in many ways, we made her the center of our world. She was undoubtedly a very spoiled pup, and she was used to getting lots of attention all the time.

All that changed the day we brought my daughter home from the hospital. Gone were the days of endless snuggles, dog park trips, and undivided attention. No longer was Sawyer the center of our world. This new creature – small, strange, and noisy – had come along and seemingly taken her place. I’m sure to Sawyer it felt as though we had forgotten all about her. Now our attention was divided, and Sawyer was getting the smallest little slice of that pie.

I noticed the change in our dog within a few days, and I felt so guilty. Our clingy pup, who previously followed us around the house constantly, now slunk off to the bedroom to nap by herself. She found dirt piles to roll in out in the yard. She snuck through a loose fence panel for a romp in the neighbor’s yard. She was so clearly acting out, begging for our attention, and it broke my heart. We tried to find little ways to give her special attention, but I knew that to Sawyer, it must have felt as if her whole world had been flipped upside down. I worried that things wouldn’t ever be the same again, and I was afraid that our dog would grow to resent my daughter for stealing away our attention. It was my first experience with mom guilt, and the feeling was so crushing!

It turns out, however, that those fears were unfounded. Now that my daughter is a little older and is crawling, playing, and active, Sawyer is more curious about her. Sawyer has always been protective of our daughter, but now she is intrigued by our daughter’s ability to interact with her. The baby will grab Sawyer’s collar and jingle her tags. She will stroke Sawyer’s fur, giggle at her, and crawl after her. I am beginning to see a friendship developing between them, and now that my daughter is eating (and dropping) solid foods, Sawyer has a whole new reason to love her! They still aren’t besties, and I know that won’t happen overnight. But I see the promise of a future where my baby and my fur baby will be friends, and I won’t have to feel as though two pieces of my heart are constantly battling one another.

All you mamas of more than one child, I can only imagine how you all must have felt when a new baby came along! Mom guilt is so real, and we all need to cut ourselves some slack! Did you experience mom guilt when a new baby came along? Share your experience in the comments below.

My Roomba Saved My Sanity

I will admit, I am a bit of a neat-freak. I love crawling into a freshly made bed, I savor the citrusy smell of freshly cleaned countertops, and I get a sense of satisfaction when I walk across our freshly-vacuumed living room floor.

Before my daughter was born, I probably spent a few hours a week cleaning our house. I would do a few little chores throughout the week, and spend a little more time on the weekends catching up on vacuuming, mopping, and dusting. I’ve never actually loved the act of cleaning itself, but a messy house gives me anxiety, and I always feel so much more at peace when the house is clean and orderly! So I sunk in the extra time to keep our house looking nice all the time.

Fast forward to the birth of my daughter, and suddenly my priorities had vastly changed. Given the choice, I’d much rather spend my time snuggled up on the couch with my baby, or crawling around with her on the living room floor, stacking blocks and playing peek-a-boo. I no longer had an abundance of free time to spend cleaning house, and I didn’t want to sacrifice my time with my daughter to clean.

My husband did his best to help with chores, but a neat freak like me is admittedly hard to please. Between our new-parent exhaustion and our limited free time, I still felt like things were just falling short in the cleaning department. The biggest frustration for me was our floors! We have a dog, a busy house, and the ever-changing Wisconsin weather working against us. We also have hardwood floors throughout our house, and nothing bothers me more than feeling grit under my bare feet when walking around the house!

One day, my husband suggested a Roomba. A family member had recently gotten one, and my husband thought it might be a good solution for us. We went back and forth on the idea for awhile and spent some time researching them online, trying to decide if it was worth the money. Eventually we decided to take the plunge, and one Saturday afternoon, my husband went out and bought us one.

I will admit, it’s not a perfect solution. Our Roomba (whom we named Wall-e) doesn’t clean quite as thoroughly as our trusty ol’ upright vacuum. It’s a little noisier than I had originally thought, and our dog still tries to bite Wall-e when he cleans near her food bowl. But despite all his flaws, our Roomba really has saved my sanity! We run it a few times a week to help pick up the day-to-day dirt and grit that gets tracked into the house, and I can go a few weeks between vacuuming sessions with the upright vacuum. We can send the Roomba around the house while we’re out running errands or eating dinner, and we don’t miss out on quality time with our daughter to vacuum the house.

It doesn’t solve all our problems, but it is a solution that helps ease some of my anxieties, and allows us to spend more time together as a family. It was a costly investment, but I can’t put a price tag on something that helps to give me back some extra time with my baby! Does it solve all the world’s problems? Definitely not. But it does make my life a little easier, and as a busy, working mom, that’s really all I can ask for!

How I’ve Stayed Positive Through These Sleepless Nights – And Why You Should Too!

I was blessed to have a baby who slept through the night from pretty early on. Even as a newborn, she only woke 1-2 times a night for a quick diaper change and nursing session. She gradually shifted to just one waking at night, and then around 2 months, when I was getting ready to head back to work, she started sleeping through the night. I almost felt like we cheated the system somehow. Babies weren’t supposed to sleep that well!

When I talked with other moms, I almost felt guilty. As I heard other mamas’ stories of hourly wakings throughout the night, I didn’t dare share about my baby sleeping the whole night through! I was so happy to be getting a good night’s sleep, but my heart went out to those tired moms who were up every hour throughout the night!

Now we’re 8 months in, and my how the tables have turned! My previously amazing nighttime sleeper is now up every few hours throughout the night, and I’m finally getting a taste of those sleepless nights that I was fortunate enough to miss out on in those first few months! It’s almost more painful now that I know how good those full nights of sleep once were, but I know I was fortunate to bank the extra sleep when my body was recovering from pregnancy and childbirth. Nevertheless, it’s been difficult to adjust to this new phase in my little one’s development. After numerous google searches and some time browsing Pinterest, it seemed we were dealing with the 8-month sleep regression. From my research, my little bug was simply going thought a lot of developmental changes which were likely affecting her sleep. However, after days turned to weeks, and those weeks have now stretched on for almost 2 months, I’ve begun to question whether this “regression” is really only a temporary state. My baby seems perfectly content with this new routine of waking every few hours, and banking lots of extra snuggles with mama. On a good night we can get by with only 3 quick nursing sessions throughout the night. On a bad night, we’re up 5 or 6 times. Either way, it means very fragmented sleep for me, and a bit of frustration as to why we’ve suddenly forgotten how to soothe ourself back to sleep at night.

I won’t lie and say that this new state of sleep deprivation has been easy. Nighttime is always difficult, because as you pull yourself out of bed in that barely-conscious state, it’s easy to feel frustrated, helpless, and defeated. During the day, I can grab an extra cup of coffee or snag a sweet treat to keep me going. But at nighttime, when it’s dark and quiet, and all you want is a few hours of peaceful sleep, it can all feel really overwhelming. On more than one occasion, I’ve shed a few tears in those dark hours of sleeplessness. As I laid in bed nursing my baby back to sleep, silently praying for just 3 solid hours of uninterrupted sleep, I’ve let out a few tears of helplessness and frustration.

But when morning comes, it much easier for me to gain some perspective. When I look into those big blue eyes, and hear her quietly coo, “mama,” as I pull her from her crib. When I’m reminded how lucky I am to have this sweet, precious daughter in my life. I get to love her, snuggle her, and comfort her when she’s sad or hurt or tired. I may be the one who suffers through these sleepless nights with her, but I’m also the one who gets to calm her tears when she cries for me at night. I’m the one she wants to soothe her back to sleep.

I’m constantly reminded of how quickly my baby is already growing up. I look back at her newborn photos with tears in my eyes, remembering those first moments with her as if they were just yesterday. I know all too well that she soon won’t even be a “baby” anymore. I know she won’t always need me to soothe her back to sleep when she wakes at night. These sleepless nights will end sometime soon, and she will sleep through the night just like she used to. And while the sleepless, nighttime Megan is excited for those nights of 8-hour stretches of uninterrupted sleep, the daytime Megan reminds me to soak up those extra snuggles now while my baby is still a “baby,” and while she still needs her mama to help wipe away her tears and soothe her back to sleep again.

Stay strong fellow sleepless mamas!

Why I Won’t Feel Guilty for “Spoiling” My Baby

I’ve heard the term a hundred times over since the birth of my daughter. Whether in blog posts, articles, or in the well-meaning advice from friends, family, and strangers, new moms are often warned of the supposed dangers of “spoiling” their babies. Babies do need to learn to sleep (and nap) independently, at least if us mamas want to maintain our sanity! But I quickly found that my favorite part about life as a new mom was simply just snuggling up with my sleeping baby! So rather than putting her down in her bassinet or transferring her to the bouncer, I let her sleep in my arms. Over the weeks, and then months, of my maternity leave, I slowly built this *bad* habit, one nap at a time. I snuggled my baby when I probably should have put her down to let her nap on her own.

Now my sweet girl is just over eight months old, and twice a day, she snuggles up in someone’s arms for a nap. She will also nap in her car seat if we’re on the go, and when she’s really tired, she will fall asleep just about anywhere. But for the most part, my “spoiled” girl prefers to nap in someone’s arms. Does it make it difficult to get things done around the house? Sure it does. Does it mean that I get little time to myself without having another little human curled up against me? Yes, it most certainly does. But do I feel guilty about “spoiling” my baby with all these extra snuggles? Absolutely not.

I know all too well that the day will come when my sweet little baby will no longer want to snuggle up with her mama. I know that some day in the not-too-distant future, my baby will no longer need me to help her fall asleep. I know that, although she’s still my baby for now, these days of endless snuggles are numbered. And while some people may say that I’m spoiling my daughter by letting her nap in my arms, I refuse to apologize for soaking up every last snuggle I can get!