Friday, August 10, 2012

Kids and Marriage

I don't know if I was the only one to be shocked how things change once you have kids. All I know is that I had this impression that being married was awesome (which it is), we got along great, so throw some kids in the mix and its the same with extra little people running around. WRONG! Let me start by giving some insight into my marriage.

I have a wonderful marriage. I am married to an amazing man that supports my dreams, that would do anything and wants to do anything for me, and is just as passionate about us as I am. Obviously, when we first got married, we had some arguments on money, how to save/spend and whose stuff goes and whose stays. I am sure you all had these arguments. Once we figured out where we stood, we combined our methods and things worked out. Now, 3 1/2 years later, all that seems to be working out. We are on the same page and agree on almost everything. We were living near Austin the first 2 years of our marriage and we had a blast. We would go see movies anytime we wanted, go on dates every Friday night...yes, my amazing husband, got dressed up with me and we went out every Friday night...we spent extra money on things we wanted to, and we had no real worries.

Then fast foward a year or so, we moved to Dallas. We were 7 months pregnant at the time and our world was about to change! This little bundle of joy, born on Valentine's day 2011, came into our lives and all of the sudden things were different. Most for great reasons, some not so great. For one, the stay at home gig kind of kicked in and I felt like he got to get away from the screaming baby and I was stuck with the screaming baby (he didn't really scream that often). He came home and still needed to decompress before getting into "daddy duties" and I was ready for a break. Add all those miscommunication, misunderstandings up and then throw in the fact that we were living with his parents. We didn't exactly want to fight because we were opposed to that in front of our son and his parents, but we weren't jiving like before. Feelings got pushed down, hurt got swirled around, and my new mommy emotions were off the chart crazy. So lets just the record...most, not all, but most of the problems came from me being nutty. Then we move out and we get into our brand new built home. Its beautiful, we have our own room where we can actually fit things, we have our own bed back and we got our life back. One problem, we had been living in a very different life that we no longer knew how to jive as well anymore. Don't get me wrong, we still laughed, we still were madly in love with each other, we just didn't know how to show it or tell each other how we were feeling as easily as before simply because WE, were no longer the priority; our son was. We no longer took the time to express our concerns because we had no time. When were we going to? In the middle of the night when we had 2 hours before his next feeding? Once he got home from working a new job where he was getting his own practice on its feet, he was ready to just sit still for a minute. He didn't want to hear how I felt abandoned all day or whatever was going through my crazy head then. Then once we had dinner and chilled for an hour or so, it was time to get the baby down. Then we had 2 hours to ourselves before bed and another feeding and I really didn't want to ruin that by arguing and neither did he, so naturally, feelings got shoved down.

Fast forward another year, here we are. We have successfully gotten back on track. It didn't take this long, no, it only took a couple weeks (LONG weeks ;) ), but things are amazing again. This is what changes though: what was once your priority (your husband) is now your baby (especially at such a young age), what was once a "free" life is now consumed by a baby's schedule, and you are left with almost a disconnect with your husband because you don't really have time to stay connected as much. We would still go out, but those converstaions were filled with the baby and work. Who were we now that we were parents? What changed within us? Did we know? We should have and then we should have talked about it...which we eventually did. Everything changes. As stated before, most is amazing and great, but you change and your husband changes. Though both of those are good in and of themselves, if you are not communicating how you have changed to the other, than how are we supposed to know? We were going about life as if we were our "single" selves, but needed to talk about how our "parent" selves had taken over and we were different people.

This is what I have learned so far:

That my husband really is and needs to be the priority. Our kids are important and they NEED us, but we are not giving them the best life they can have (which is what every parent wants) if we are not taking care of our marriage. My kids come second. Yes there are moments when our kids need us immediately, or are hungry and need to be fed, are hurt or need attention, and my kids get all this as it comes up. But my husband gets the rest of my time and is more important in the end. If we work out, our kids emotional and mental ways of looking at marriage and being parents one day will be healthy.

We need date nights. My kid can survive one night without me. I did not think this was possible the first 6 months, but they can. And when we are out, we try not to talk about work or the kids. Thats for dinner times at home.

We need vacation alone. My kids can survive a week with grandma after about 6 months and be just fine. I was not so sure of that the first trip we went away. Our son was 11 months old and we left for 10 days. I was a nervous wreck until I saw the beaches of Jamaica and looked at the person standing next to me whom I missed, my best friend, my husband.

My husband needs attention too. I may not be able to give it to him as soon as he walks in the door if our kid is still awake, but as soon as he goes to bed, my husband gets my attention.

We eat dinner as many times as possible a week together, with no electronics on. This gives us time to reconnect.

We need to still do things that we think our fun. You are never too old to go to a concert. I say that, and then the last rock concert we went to, we decided we needed ear plugs at the next one. You are never too old to stand in line for a popular movie that just came out. And the kids can stay with Grandma or a babysitter can come over and everything will be ok. Like I said, my husband is my priority.

I embraced being a stay at home mom. I took pride in it and started remembering that this is what I wanted. I remembered that this is a blessing not a curse and I looked at the positive sides of it. This does not mean that my son and I don't have bad days, but it does mean, that during those bad days, I remember that I would rather be here than at work. I took pride in my home and taking care of my family. Now, my husband leaving his socks everywhere is not that big of a deal, because I enjoy taking care of him and picking up my house. Before, I was going crazy because I figured he thought I was his maid. I am a huge fan of I Love Lucy and the 50's. I know we don't live a TV show life, especially from the 1950's, but I want to and I remember that Lucy Ricardo and Laura Petrie didn't complain. They were loving, caring, giving wives and I strive to be that too.

Respect him and he will cherish me. Just respect his opinion about the kids, the house even if you know your system works. I struggle with this. I try to remember that he is an equal parent and partner and his opinions need to matter because he is a priority and he needs to feel and be respected.

Recently I started reading a couple books to help things continue to grow. My marriage is great, but I am reading these books because I want to tend to my marriage and make sure that it continues to be great. So here are my suggestions on books that are excellent and doing a lot for me right now.

1. Capture His Heart by Lysa TerKeurst. This book talks about how to be a Godly wife and make the most of your marriage. It describes what men need to feel secure and respected and how we can give them that. Its been amazing so far. There is another book that is for him called Capture Her Heart by the same author. I am loving this book so much that I asked my husband to read this one and his response was, "Sure!" That surprised me, but he said that the little things that I am doing for him as a result of my book has made an impact on him, so he is willing to read this book for me.

2. Babyproofing Your Marriage by Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O'Neill and Julia Stone. I am only part way through this book but it gives great insight to being a parent and how life changes. It relates to me a lot, though I feel like I am blessed that my husband and I have such great understanding for each other and communication skills that we worked through a lot of this before it got too bad. Some of their situations are already bitter and resentful, but they give great advice.

3. My So-Called Life as a Proverbs 31 Wife by Sara Horn. I have not read this book yet, but its next in line. If you haven't read Proverbs 31, go read it. I strive to live up to the woman described in the Bible. I try to read it every day and I am constantly praying that God give me this kind of spirit and generosity for my family. I can't wait to start this book.

4. Men are Like Waffles Women are Like Spaghetti by Bill and Pam Farrel. I have not read this book either, but its on my list. This book explains the difference between men and women. How we think, act and react to things. I don't know about you, but men are strange and they think we're strange. We could all benefit more to understand where are husbands are coming from before we react in a negative way. Truth is, most of the time, both husbands and wives have the best of intentions that are taken the wrong way because of how we are so different. I want to know my husband more. I want to know how he operates so I can assist in his actions and reactions instead of scolding them.

I have learned so much about me as a person since our son was born. I am strong, independent, efficient, smart, wise, a good mom and a good wife. I still have lots to learn though. I want a 50 year wedding anniversary. Thats our goal. I am constantly reminding myslef of Proverbs 31, remembering that my husband's opinions matter and remembering that he has needs too that I need to make sure I prioritize. In turn, all the things that I worried about and needed from him, fall into place. He cherishes me and wants to give me time to myself to be pampered or shop, he calls me and asks me if he can bring me anything on his way home from work (like chocolate cake), he offers to let me sleep in on weekends, he buys me cute, fun random things just because he is thinking about me. We do not have the perfect marriage and I am not a perfect mom. I work hard at being a wife and a mom (no one said it would always be easy), I learned what was important and how to prioritize, and as a result I am blessed beyond belief with a very healthy, happy marriage and a growing family that is excelling. I hope that anyone and everyone who reads this, can strive to have the same.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

One Happy Boy

We have a very happy boy. He is always smiling, and he is only unhappy when he is hungry and we are not feeding him fast enough. Or, he is tired and we are in a situation where his bed isn't readily available. The rest of the time, he is adaptable to almost all events we go to; he tags along like a pro when we run errands; he is patient; and he is agreeable. How do we keep him so easy going? Well it started at the beginning.

I put him on a schedule at about 6 weeks, and I was very strict about making sure he was always comfortable. It wasn't always easy for mommy and daddy, and it sure was inconvenient to us sometimes. It made him comfortable and happy, and during those first few months that was super important. I did, however, try to take him out as much as possible. I got him used to grocery shopping and running errands, so that it would become a familiar thing for him. Then once he knew his schedule and things ran pretty smoothly around here, we could adapt small changes here and there, and he would just go with the flow. I worked first and foremost with his schedule, and in turn, he worked with ours. If we could keep him happy and let him nap or get the rest he needed before we went out and about, then he worked with us. We took him to movies, on our dinner dates, and so forth. With those events, we usually timed his nap well. We would cater to him all morning, give him lunch, then go to a movie and he would sleep through the whole thing. I would put him in my Moby and he was snug and happy. (Moby is a wrap to hold your baby to you.

Then around 6 months, his schedule changed again. He started sleeping in his own bed. (Prior to this he was in a sling rocker thing next to our bed.  And remember, we were still living with my husband's parents.) He took two naps a day and was on a pretty regular feeding schedule. He was no longer breast feeding because we had issues with latching. More on our birth story and breast feeding in a different post. So, he was eating solids and drinking formula from a bottle before every nap and bedtime. At around a year, he went down to one nap a day. So here we are nap, bedtime around 7-7:30, no more bottles...and here are my personal rules to keeping a happy boy while I still enjoy getting out and about.

1. I only take him out after he naps and/or eats. His naps vary. Sometimes, he's not tired until the afternoon. Sometimes, he's tired by 10a. So its a toss up as to when he naps. Now, if we are doing something fun that morning, then he is interested enough to stay awake until the afternoon. If he is awake and things are going great that morning, we go grocery shopping. If we are having a bad morning where he is just cranky, then we don't go until either after he eats lunch or after he naps. Keep in mind we play it all by ear, but I read his moods and in turn, he works with me.

2. I always have a snack in the baby bag. Even if he has just eaten lunch, I have a "treat" for him, if he gets fussy. This is probably not the best idea for many reasons. For one, some parents would say I am teaching him to eat while he shops. One might say, I am teaching him, if he gets fussy, he gets a reward. This works for me. So let me say this...if he is antsy, but still being sweet and smiling here and there, then I give him the cookie or whatever. If he is flat out being demanding, disagreeable and so forth, then he gets a "no sir", I talk to him about his behavior and we move on. If it doesn't improve, we leave. Which leads me to #3.

3. If he's being a brat, we leave. There is nothing that is more important than me and my child communicating well and being on the same page. If we are not on the same page, these errands can wait. We will go to the car and talk. If he screams at me there, we go home. If he calms down and listens, we try again.

4. I always treat my 17 month old (almost 18 month old) like he can understand me. I do not pretend anymore that this sweet little dumpling does not understand the things I am saying when he is upset. If he can understand me when he is happy, then he can understand me when he is not. We talk about why we are at the grocery store, why we need food, why we need to know math to get the best deals, etc. I also let him know I understand him. If he's upset, I let him know I get it. I tell him I know he's upset and I try to engage him as to why. "Are you hungry?" "Would you rather be playing?" Then I let him know, that I will give him a snack when we get home (remember, if he is being disagreeable, he doesn't get that "treat" in my bag) or we will play blocks (his favorite) when we get home. Or if its a lost cause, I say "Ok, I get it. Lets go home and we'll do this later." Next time we go, he is a champ because I listened to my toddler and how he felt, even if he can't talk yet. It may be that he really only understands my tone of voice and body language. But, by talking to him as if he understands all the words, we're communicating.

5. Apps. Oh the fun of an iPhone. I swear, my kid knows my phone better than me. Fisher Price has some great apps. They are free, and they don't go dormant. If he hasn't touched it in a minute or two, then the app will talk to him to try to reengage him. Brilliant! He loves them and there are like 7-8 different ones ranging from songs, to counting to animal sounds. He only gets to play with the iPhone when we are out. At home and in the car, it's mommy's phone and he has to ask permission to use it. My phone does NOT belong to him and I try to teach him that daily.

6. Lastly, we have "off" days. If the week or weekend was hectic, then we always have an "off" day. At least once or twice a week, we stay home. We don't go anywhere. I let him nap when he wants to, twice even sometimes. I let him eat or snack when he wants to and we play whatever he wants to. I try to reward him for his awesome behavior while he was being dragged around all weekend doing mommy and daddy stuff, by letting him just have a day to make all the decisions (in moderation) and feel important. Then the next day, we go out again, sometimes to run errands and sometimes to go do something fun. We do swim a lot, go to the library, go eat with daddy at work, etc.

The main point to this blog, is that I had to make some mistakes and struggle to figure out how to have a life, get things done and have a happy kid all at once. I don't always succeed, hence #3, we leave. I will say this, I have only walked out of a store once. I believe this is is because the other rules work well and my son and I communicate well. I try to read my kiddo too. I don't make him do things because I want to, I ask my child to help me find the colors at the grocery store and look for animals on packages while I get my things done. Now, when it comes to him going to bed on time, yes, he does what I say, because it's what's best for him. Parents, I think, have to find a fine line between making their kid do something because they know whats best and working with their kid to adapt to running errands and doing things that don't have to be done at that minute, but can be done.

I am not saying that I have it all figured out. Please understand that we are learning from each other daily. What interests him today may not tomorrow. I am always having to find new ways to adapt to him so that he can adapt to me and my lifestyle. I am able to go have lunch with friends and go to the mall, all with a happy, agreeable baby. Then, we go do something fun for him, like the park. Lastly, as rule #6 says, we then have an off day. All this combined makes for a great kid who is so wonderful. I hope that baby #2 will be just as easy going because we try to tune into her. Until next time...

This was our little one at 7 months. Our pumpkin.