Archive for March, 2010

The Dark Side

In case you haven’t heard, even Darth Vadar was a parent. Now, it’s a matter of fact that he had some power issues, but who’s to say that having kids didn’t help push him closer to the Dark Side.

No one tells you that the intense love you have for your newborn can also reveal emotions that are hard to believe possible… and not the nice ones. Everyone is different of course (and, yes,  babies communicate through crying)  but a screaming inconsolable baby can deliver even the strongest souls into a place they’d rather not be. Anger, frustration – even rage – can occur when the perfect storm of lack of sleep, lack of experience and piercing screams come together. And, to make it worse,  very few people want to talk about it. But you’re all probably familiar with those classes and brochures that talk about “the dangers of shaking your baby…” Of course we’re all simply astounded to even contemplate the notion, but there’s a reason they all mention it.

The best advice we can think of for new parents starting out is to have a plan to give yourself a break. Babies don’t care if you put them down, safely, and go outside/away. It won’t break some deep bond between you and your child. There is nothing wrong – repeat it to yourself again and again if you have to – with admitting that you are at the end of your rope for the moment. 5 minutes of time somewhere where you can’t hear the crying is a balm, and you’ll be surprised how, after a bit of practice, it becomes so obvious in its simplicity. And you never know… your baby may just fall asleep while you’re out there.

Have you ever been to “that place” as a parent? If so, what did you learn that you could pass on to those about to venture there? Did you have any problems recognizing the feelings, or was it your significant other that went there? Is the thought of putting down your crying baby just unfathomable? Please share and let those new parents know that they’re not alone.

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If someone were to tell you that a coffee mug would change your life, would you believe it? Witness my lifesaver:

The seemingly high-priced Nissan Tea Tumbler, about $30 retail. At 11 ounces, it’s a little smaller than I’d like. And I don’t even drink tea, so the tea strainer thingie is a throw-away. And yet.

Like a good phone headset and the complete season of Arrested Development on DVD, this coffee mug, for me, was key to my survival during the newborn months with my first child. With this sturdy silver bullet I avoided the usual parental sacrifice of never again having hot coffee. I could set this baby down for ten minutes or two hours, and my americano was still piping hot. I could throw it in my diaper bag or stroller, upside down even, and never spill a drop. This seemingly small thing made me feel more human. I still adore it.

If you are expecting, or know someone who is, consider giving a parent present rather than a baby present. And please share what new parent item was essential to you!

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Sunday, as all the world knows, was the US-Canada gold medal hockey game. My husband is Canadian and a diehard hockey fan, as all true Canadians are. He’s also a super-involved dad and our Sundays are usually family time, but come on. I sent him to a bar where he could watch the game without kids climbing on him, asking for this and that, or loudly requesting that he change the channel to Dragon Tales. And I did it happily (well, mostly), knowing my turn will be next.

We all tell our kids to do it, but first-time parents can be really, really bad at taking turns–and by this I mean handing off the baby now and again in order to have some kid-free time without guilt. Maybe it’s hormonal, maybe it’s primal, but brand-new parents can feel an inherent need to be present in their baby’s life every possible moment (okay, maybe this is more common in moms). After all, what if her first giggle is the day you stay home from the park? What if he needs you while you’re getting your hair cut? And isn’t it selfish to read a magazine on the couch while your partner does the bedtime routine? Of course, besides your own feelings on letting go, the other issue is your partner, and whether you feel supported in your time away. Taking turns doesn’t work if you feel you have to watch the clock and/or grovel to prevent a looming relationship meltdown when you return to parenting duty.

Repeat after us: TAKE TURNS. Second-time parents have learned that the best thing about having only one child is that you and your partner get to do this. If you choose to have another baby, it will be a 1:1 parent-child ratio (or you’ll be outnumbered by your kids!) from that moment on. Embrace your chance now to enjoy the guilt-free handoff. Learn this lesson early, in babyhood, and you’ll find your way to a healthier family balance going forward.

Tell us:

How have you and your partner learned take turns?

Have any relationship issues arisen from taking time away from the baby or kids?

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