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Category Archives: Dogs

You’re Doing a Great Job

Happy Dog Last night, while my husband was working late, I loaded my two kids into the double stroller, strapped leashes on the dogs and headed out for an evening walk.

It had been a long day. Nothing had gone as planned and by the time I got everyone out the door it was practically bedtime.

The trials of the day had taken their toll, fraying my nerves and eroding my patience. I felt leaned on and used up and just plain worn out.

So many days as a stay-at-home mom feel like yesterday did. Two young kids and two rowdy dogs provide a fair amount of chaos inside my home. Nothing’s ever clean enough, we’re never punctual enough, no one gets to bed early enough and my son could definitely use a few more baths throughout the week.

There are so many jobs to do as a stay-at-home mom that it’s hard to feel like I’m ever doing enough. There are days when I feel I’m doing great as a parent, but that’s usually when the dishes sit in the sink unwashed. And on the days when the house gets a good cleaning, dinner may get neglected. It’s not often I feel like I’m succeeding on all fronts.

So as I negotiated the heavy double stroller down our steep driveway, I exhaled a deep, long breath. Not your best day, I said to myself, letting it all go.

It takes some concentration to steer the kids with one hand while gripping two dog leashes with the other. Countless things can disrupt the careful balance: a toddler removing and hurling a shoe, a dog walking toward us, a loose hair tickling my face. But we found our rhythm and picked up the pace.

The breeze felt good against my skin and the sky was darkening just enough to provide glimpses of families inside their lamp-lit homes, preparing for the end of the day. Eventually, we passed a middle-aged couple out for an evening stroll. I saw them eye my cumbersome load and, instead of offering up the usual remark (“you’ve got your hands full!”), the woman nodded to me and said matter-of-factly, “You’re doing a great job.”

Just like that. You’re doing a great job.

I knew she was referring to my command of two dogs and two kids, but in that moment it felt bigger than that. I let her words wash over me; let them soak through my skin and into my core.

You’re doing a great job.

Before I became a stay-at-home mom, I thought this job was easy. I admit it: I did. The realities of this vocation blew my expectations away.

Raising children is physical, emotional, patience-testing work.

It can be painfully lonely. It can be demeaning. It can leave you aching at the end of the day, exhausted and wired at the same time. Some days, it can make a person wonder if she’s up to the task.

And yet, here was a total stranger, telling me I was doing a great job when, most days, I can’t say those words to myself.

It’s so hard to let go of the laundry that didn’t get done, the dinner that didn’t turn out as hoped, the tufts of dog hair that waft across the floor just after the vacuum’s been run. Every time I start to feel like I’m succeeding in this job, one of the dogs chews up a precious toy and throws it up in the middle of the night or my toddler reacts with total disinterest to a fun surprise I’ve planned.

You never know when something’s going to pop up out of nowhere to make you feel like a big, fat failure. Last night, the opposite happened.

This is the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. I don’t know that I’m always doing a great job, but maybe I ought to tell myself I am a little more often. In parenting, you’ve got to celebrate the successes and let go of the flops.

I’m doing a great job. (Now excuse me: I’m pretty sure there’s some dog vomit around here somewhere.)

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The Best Parenting Advice I’ve Received

Outside Playtime

Enjoying a little time out of the house

I know, I know: talking about the best parenting advice I’ve received is like talking about the best colonoscopy I’ve gotten. Who really likes getting parenting advice? Who is truly helped by the lady in line at the grocery store who helpfully informs you that your child shouldn’t be using a pacifier?

Yet, I’ve been given some parenting advice — some from friends, some from family members and some from perfect strangers — that’s really helped.

Here are some of the gems I’ve collected along the way:

1. Take Care of Yourself First

I know how this sounds, and I know how hard it is to do. When you hear that heart-wrenching cry, you levitate out of your chair like Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters and arrive at your baby’s crib with no memory of how you got there.

But it’s not a bad idea to take a moment for yourself before you run to your baby. I didn’t do a good job of taking care of myself when my son was very small. I remember rarely napping during the day and being hungry all the time.

First, I started having dizzy spells, which is scary when you have a baby in your arms most of the time. And then, my milk supply began to drop off rapidly. It scared the crap out of me, and I had an epiphany:

You can’t take care of this baby unless you take care of yourself first.

I started fixing myself a one-handed snack while holding my hungry son so I could feed myself while I was feeding him. I forced myself to nap a little more and drink more water, even if that meant I had to take the time to fill my glass while the baby cried. When you have a baby, taking care of yourself is a selfless — and necessary — act.

2. Leave the House Every Day

It was my second trip to the lactation center. Things weren’t going perfectly, and I was more than a little frustrated. And then, in walked an angel who gave me not one, but two indispensable pieces of advice, both of which I’ve included on this list:

Leave the house every day, even if it’s just to walk down the street.

She was so right. I’ll admit, some days, I only make it to the backyard of my house. But even just breathing a little fresh air seems to restore my sanity and makes everything seem a little easier.

3. It’s Not You, It’s Your Baby

Okay, not necessarily. But it could be. During my visit to the lactation center, I confided to the consultant that breastfeeding had been pretty challenging. And then, she said something that freed me from my guilt:

You know, it might not be you. It might be him.

That hit me like a brick on the head. I had never considered any scenario where my son was less than perfect! But acknowledging that she might be right about that allowed me to say, who cares if we’re not perfect at this?

So many things in parenting are a team effort, and just because you’re the parent doesn’t mean you have to take all the responsibility for any failure.

Although it got easier, breastfeeding was a challenge every single day until I finally weaned my son, and it was still worth it. And now, when I think back to our breastfeeding days, I don’t think of the struggles; I think of those early mornings when the sun streamed through the window and I sat in a comfy chair with my son. My heart aches a bit, and I long for those days gone by. (But only for a moment.)

4. Pull a Toy Switcheroo

I was in a toy store with my mom perusing birthday gift options for my son, and as we were ooo-ing and aww-ing over all the new toys, a shop worker generously offered this wonderful advice:

You don’t need to buy a bunch of toys — just put half your child’s toys in the closet, and then switch them out with the other half two weeks later.

So I tried it, and when I got the old toys out two weeks after having stashed them away, I was shocked. My son’s response was kind of like how I feel each time I rediscover Gouda cheese: It’s cheese that tastes like bacon! Why don’t I buy this ALL THE TIME?

In addition to my son showing renewed enthusiasm for his old toys, I was amazed to see how much he had progressed in two short weeks. Instead of banging his toy piano on the ground, he sat and pressed the keys one by one. Entertaining for him, rewarding for me and economical for all of us.

5. Don’t Wish Away Even the Tough Moments; They’ll be Gone Before You Know It

This piece of advice came from one of my most amazing mom friends. I’ve come back to her words so many times since my son was born, often in the midst of one of those “tough moments.” Every time I think of this, it calms me down and gives me the strength to shrug off whatever challenge I’m facing.

In just one short year, I’ve found my friend to be so, so right. So many moments, good and bad, are indeed gone before you know it. No matter how many people tell you the time will fly, you’re never prepared for just how true it is. The good stuff, the bad stuff: it’s all part of the wild ride. And in its own way, it’s all good stuff.

Yes, there were those nasty early diaper blowouts that you thought you’d never in a million years miss. And then you find one of your son’s tiny newborn diapers. You hold it close to your heart, remembering when he was so little and helpless and smelly and sweet.

There were those days when you had to change your baby’s outfit six times because he spit up heroically each time you wrangled him into new clothes. And then one day you pack away those tiny outfits that no longer fit. You long for the days when you dressed him in precious outfits that only a tiny baby wouldn’t look ridiculous wearing, and you find a few of your tears make their way into that plastic bin.

There were those 4 am wake up calls when your baby cried out for you, and you stumbled to his bedside, wishing you weren’t the only person able to feed him. And then he starts to not need you as much as he used to, and you long for the days when you were his everything.

So please, trust me. Don’t wish away the tough moments. Don’t long too much for the next stage or the next milestone. It will all come and go so fast. In the meantime, hold your baby close, breathe in the smell of his tiny head and relish in the moment — it will be gone soon enough.

He’s Back

To help limit Frankie’s movement, my husband and I have been taking Frankie to the bathroom in the unfenced front yard instead of making him go down several stairs to the back. The past two days have been pretty trouble-free: put on the leash, open the glass door, ease him down three steps, let him do his business and then shepherd him back inside.

Today, it went more like this:

  • Take leash off hook.
  • Make frantic attempt to contain Frankie, who, upon seeing leash, does bucking bronco routine around kitchen.
  • Grab collar of other dog, since both dogs have now decided it’s time to play.
  • Wrestle leash over Frankie’s nose and bear hug him to stop the prancing.
  • Burst outside through glass door, opened just in time to prevent major incident.
  • Take all three steps in one leap, while being dragged into front yard.
  • Step in last night’s dog poop.
  • Nearly fall while trying to remove poop from bottom of Ugg boot.
  • Attempt to pick up last night’s poop with flimsy plastic bag while Frankie whips around and starts game of tug, using his own leash as the rope.
  • Remove leash from Frankie’s mouth, only to have him take off across the yard to provide more poop to pick up.
  • Take off Ugg boot and hop to front door to deposit Frankie inside.
  • Hop back down to pick up this morning’s poop.
  • Look through glass door to see Frankie, leash in mouth, making frenzied circuit around house.

Apparently, he’s back.

We’ll have to monitor his movement for a few more days to be sure, but he certainly seems to be back to his mischievous, maddening, exuberant self.

Thanks for your prayers and words of support. I’ve been amazed by how universal it is to love a dog. There’s definitely something about their loyalty, their optimism, their big, human eyes that strikes a chord deep within us all.

A little while later, when I had finally gotten things settled back down after Frankie’s manic spree, I walked back to the nursery and came upon this scene:

Dog guarding baby

A few minutes later, it looked like this:

Dogs with baby

This is my life. And it’s a good one.

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