Alpha Mom » Amalah http://alphamom.com parenting and pregnancy opinions and information Wed, 25 Mar 2015 13:22:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 It’s Not a Mood Swing: Depression During Pregnancy http://alphamom.com/pregnancy/health-safety/depression-during-pregnancy-its-not-a-mood-swing/ http://alphamom.com/pregnancy/health-safety/depression-during-pregnancy-its-not-a-mood-swing/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 14:29:28 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=36376

Hi Amy,

I have been reading your Pregnancy Week by Week  and it’s been a big help. Your humor really helps me feel less alone.

My question is this: How can you tell what are normal mood swings?

I want to preface this by saying that I would never ever harm myself or my little girl (I am 20 weeks 3 days along). Ever. I am not worried about doing anything crazy, I am just so sick of having these awful thoughts. I’ve never been depressed before, but ever since I got pregnant, whenever I feel down I don’t just feel a little sad- I feel the all out “what’s the point of anything nothing matters, I’m just going to stay in bed and hope I disappear” sort of despair.

I’ve tried talking to my husband, but I’ve just made him so worried for me, and it ends up turning into me reassuring him and pretending I feel better because I don’t want to make things harder for him. He doesn’t try to make me feel worse, but when he tries to cheer me up he tells me how proud of me he is for everything I’m doing, and I just feel this overwhelming guilt on top of the hopelessness that I already feel.

I also haven’t mentioned anything to my doctor, but that’s mostly just because I know I’m not suicidal, and I don’t feel comfortable talking to him about it anyway.

Is there anything I can do to help myself from feeling so awful? I don’t feel like that all the time; I’m usually happy, excited to meet our little girl, and very active. My diet is great, weight gain is healthy, and I work out. I have a lot of good days. But the bad days are horrible, and sometimes they really get in the way.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
A

Ack ack call a doctor call a doctor.

I am not a doctor, so while I obviously am not qualified to make any sort of diagnosis via email and the Internet Tubes, I am going to be blunt and brutal here and say that no, these mood swings do not sound “normal” to me. They sound like prenatal/antenatal depression. Which is a thing that absolutely exists, and sadly does not get talked about enough. One in 10 pregnant women will suffer from some form of anxiety or depression during pregnancy. ONE IN TEN.

What you’re describing — good days mixed with overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness and guilt — are all telltale symptoms of a clinical depression, very likely linked to your pregnancy hormones. It’s not something you can control, it’s not something you caused in any way…but it’s not something you can just sort of…mash down and ignore and hope for the best. YOU NEED TO CALL A DOCTOR.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your OB about this, get a new OB, or call your primary care physician or a mental health professional. Stop downplaying your feelings because you’re not suicidal or having thoughts of harming yourself. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Not to mention that untreated depression can very much escalate and go on to affect you physically.

It can also lead to pregnancy complications and preterm labor. Yes. Fact.

Which is why you need to TELL SOMEONE (other than your husband) exactly what you wrote here: You’re not just feeling a little down from time to time, you’re veering into “nothing matters” pits of despair, overwhelming guilt, pretending to feel better so you aren’t a burden, unpredictable mood swings despite staying active and working out and having — by all other measures — a healthy, happy, wanted pregnancy.

Again: This isn’t your fault. This is a very common pregnancy symptom that has nothing to do with you or your ability to mother and love your baby. It’s like morning sickness or gestational diabetes, but in your brain chemistry. And while it’s “common” it’s NOT something you can ignore and not talk your doctor about because you feel guilty, silly or embarrassed. You can’t just will yourself out of this, or go on pretending that you’re fine, just fine, I swear I’m fine.

You asked what you can do to help yourself from feeling so awful. You can do that by asking for help from someone qualified to help.

Here is  a list of other resources on prenatal/antenatal depression and anxiety. Read them, use them, then please please please talk to someone in real life about how you’re feeling.

Depression in Pregnancy (American Pregnancy Association)

Depression During Pregnancy (postpartum.net)

Depression During Pregnancy (Baby Center)

Pre/Antenatal Depression (PANDAS)

Depression During Pregnancy (Postpartum Progress)

The Truth About Prenatal Depression (SheKnows)

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Can This Pediatrician Relationship Be Saved? http://alphamom.com/parenting/parenting-health-safety/pediatrician-relationship/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/parenting-health-safety/pediatrician-relationship/#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2015 15:34:04 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=36330

Dear Amy,

I’m writing because I’m at my wits end. I have a 1.5 year old little girl. She was small when she was born (5lbs 8oz full term) and she’s been growing steadily since birth but has flattened out a little over the last few months.

She eats pretty well but can be picky and immediately stops eating the minute she feels unwell- this winter has been a battle as every two weeks she got an ear infection or a cold- nothing serious but enough to make her want to drink every meal and forget about things that are high in protein and she absolutely hates Pediasure.

Anyways, my concern is not about my daughter, but about our relationship with our pediatrician. When my daughter was born, they made it clear to me at the hospital that her low birth weight was my fault- the doctor told me that “obviously she wasn’t getting good nutrition in utero so now you really need to focus on fattening her up.” That was the first of so many comments about my child’s low weight and now they come from her doctor constantly. When we go to the office, she’s deemed totally healthy except she’s small. At her 1 year check-up, the doctor told me to feed her butter on everything she ate to increase the calories so she would gain more weight. I’ve told him that the babies in my family are smaller and my husband’s side is very small (babies and people). But he continues to prod me about what I’m feeding her every time we go in to the point now that I just feel attacked and on edge. On days that we have pediatrician appointments, I’m a mess. Now he’s ordered blood tests and the results came back normal (albeit the prealbumin levels a bit low) but we’re still getting so much pressure to force feed her ice cream and butter products. If he says to me one more time “focus on high fat high protein foods” I will go insane. What does he think I’m doing?

I don’t doubt that our pediatrician is doing what he thinks is right. He obviously feels that she is too small and that it is important for her to gain weight. However, I’m concerned that his constant attention to her weight is a red herring and that the focus is not just wasting our time and money as a family, but is killing our relationship to our pediatrician and the medical system in general. I’ve spoken to other parents with children of similar size and growth patterns. I had assumed that our pediatrician’s concerns meant that she was an anomaly but I meet parents every day that say their kids were/are the same. Some of them said that they were actually worried but their pediatricians said it wasn’t a big deal.

So here’s my question: Should I change pediatricians? How important is our relationship to this doctor? I never really had a pediatrician as a child or a family physician so I’m concerned that I don’t understand how important this relationship is to my daughter’s health. Is it just a thing where we go in and see the doctor occasionally and grin and bear the fact that we don’t love him? Or will this relationship just get worse over time?

I just can’t help but think that my frustration about the issue is a) now stopping me from being objective and b) not going to get better.

Any advice about pediatrician woes would be much appreciated.

Change pediatricians.

I mean, what else is there to say? Your daughter is fine. She’s just small. Your pediatrician has essentially CONFIRMED that she is fine and is just small thanks to extra check-ups and tests. But clearly his bedside manner is driving you bonkers and that alone is a perfectly justifiable reason to change pediatricians.

What the hospital told you (“it’s your fault”) was complete B.S., and a horrible thing to say to a new mother — who OF COURSE is going to take that deeply to heart and worry that she’s already failed her child for life because AS WE ALL KNOW, people LOVE to tell pregnant women everything and anything they are eating or drinking is wrong and bad and why aren’t they thinking about the baaaaaaaaby instead of their selfish craving for a hot dog.

But I don’t doubt for a second that the hospital said that, because they said essentially the same thing to ME about my 9 lb, 15 oz, full term but not overdue baby. “We have to test his blood sugar,” the nurse told me. “Babies aren’t supposed to be that big.” When I insisted that I’d passed my gestational diabetes test, she actually snorted a laugh at me. “We’ll see,” she said, super condescendingly.

His blood sugar was FINE. He was FINE. He was just BIG.

So I don’t doubt that your daughter is also just fine and you’re doing the best you can to get calories in her, the way parents of picky-but-typical-weight-babies do. (My huge baby gave me more feeding/weight gain stress that EITHER of my two 7-pound babies did, by the way.)

And really, changing pediatricians is not a decision you need to justify to me or anyone else. This guy drives you nuts and won’t drop this one issue and you’re having ANXIETY about visits. Move on, really, and don’t worry about it. I remember feeling so pressured during my first pregnancy to OMG FIND A PEDIATRICIAN and it felt the same as picking a daycare — super momentously important and also permanent, like I wasn’t allowed to change my mind if it didn’t work out.

Ha ha yeah mom-of-three now and I’ve changed pediatricians multiple times. Once because the practice dropped our insurance. Another time because they repeatedly failed to correctly diagnose my child’s UTI and we ended up terrified and at a specialist’s office because of the misdiagnosis. I’ve also switched between doctors within the same practice for a variety of reasons: This doctor thinks Cry It Out is appropriate for newborns and won’t stop suggesting it. That doctor tends to interrupt you a lot and doesn’t fully listen to your questions. That doctor is really chill and I like him while that other doctor gets mad if I tell her that no, sorry, my kids refuse to drink skim or 2% milk so I let them drink whole milk and I’m sticking with that decision, okay, lalalalalala?

Our current pede practice has eight different doctors. I see us now as having a relationship with the practice and not necessarily with any specific doctor. I trust that I can always get an appointment if my boys are sick. They will be operating on time and will bill our insurance correctly and fill out forms when we need them. My kids will get their vaccinations as needed and the doctors and nurses will work hard to make visits as pleasant and non-scary as possible. And they will give me good advice and recommendations without making me feel defensive, judged or panicky.

Your doctor isn’t working out on that last one.  Go back to the parents of other fine-just-small babies and children and ask for pediatrician recommendations. Stick up for yourself and your own instincts.

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My Two Grandmas http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/dibs-on-grandma-name/ http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/dibs-on-grandma-name/#comments Mon, 09 Mar 2015 17:29:54 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=36262

Dear Amy,

My daughter and son-in-law had their first child almost 2 years ago and my daughter is now pregnant with her second.

She called me yesterday to tell me that since there are two grandmothers and to avoid confusion on her son’s part and baby #2, as well as their desire to not have to differentiate between the Grandma who lives in (name you place) and the Grandma who lives in another place, I should choose another name to go by and her mother-in-law would be called Grandma.

This hurts. There is no tradition in my family to be called anything other than Grandma and I’ve been referred to this way up until now. I don’t see why there would be confusion either as I had two grandmothers. Kids have figured that out for years. I’m not a step grandmother or girlfriend of her father and I don’t want to be referred to as Nana or some other option that just doesn’t mean anything to me.

I told her there’s no such tradition in the family and I didn’t want to be called G-ma and the conversation was left with the onus on me to come up with something. Of course it could be vetoed by the parents.

The only thing I can come up with that might be remotely okay is to simply wait to see what the grandkids call me. Not sure if that will fly though.

Any suggestions?
Woman formerly known as Grandma

I am going to give your daughter the benefit of the doubt here and guess that she is dealing with a crazy demanding mother-in-law who is the real force behind this request. Because yes, it’s odd to suddenly demand a change two years later, after you’ve established (and likely feel an emotional connection to)  your chosen, traditional title/name.

Also, yes, talk about a non-problem. Plenty of families use the same titles for multiple grandparents and kids manage to figure it out just fine. Both of my grandfathers passed away before I was born, but they’d both been called Grandpa by other grandchildren. When I heard stories about them, my parents would just give me some other clue or detail so I knew which one we were talking about. (And yes, sometimes it was just where they’d lived!)

As new parents, we had it easy — my parents had chosen Pop Pop and Nana well over a decade before I had children, and my first baby was my in-laws’ first grandchild, so they were free to pick Grandma and Grandpa for themselves, as that’s the tradition on their side of the family. However, if there had been overlap, I doubt it would have been a big deal —  my husband had both a Grandma Dot and a Grandma. Grandma Dot was technically named Dorothy, but they added her nickname to differentiate.

So that’s a suggestion you could make, if you have a name or nickname that’s short or easy for a small child to say, or just use the first letter of your name. Mother-in-law could do the same. Your daughter would have an easy way to differentiate to the kids (since for whatever reason that’s a problem she’s choosing to focus on right now), and then with time it’s up to the kids to decide what they’d like to go with. They might pick one nickname or initial and drop the other, or they might invent their own distinction between you two.

I have a friend who calls her grandmother “Grandma Boo,” and that simply happened because that grandma always played peek-a-boo with her as a baby/toddler and the name stuck. She’s now a Great-Grandma Boo. I think that’s pretty adorable.

And honestly, it’s not really that big of deal if you two continue on as Grandma Who Lives Here and Grandma Who Lives There. For some reason this is bothering your daughter, and she doesn’t think it’s a big deal to change up the names after two years. Maybe it’s coming from the MIL, or maybe she just had this idea and felt more comfortable approaching you about it rather than her MIL. Once you expressed your objections and dismay, I’d say she probably should have just backed off/dropped it, but since she’s asking for an alternative, think it over and see if you can find something acceptable to add to Grandma, rather than losing the name completely.

It can always be tough to figure out how hard you want to push back on these things, but hopefully if you can keep the discussions civil and out of THIS IS THE HILL I CHOOSE TO DIE ON SCREW YOU territory, this will all work out. (And eventually settle into a non-issue when the kids come up with their own nicknames/pronunciations/monikers for their two grandmas.)

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Tips for Tangle-Free Toddler Hair http://alphamom.com/parenting/young-child/tangle-free-kid-hair-tips/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/young-child/tangle-free-kid-hair-tips/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 16:53:18 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=36217

(AND WE’RE BACK! The Advice Smackdown is back, babies. And toddlers and preschoolers and everybody else. Consider your non-sleeping-eating-pooping-on-the-potty ways ON NOTICE, because Imma bout to dish out some rambling, tangential wisdom. Or something.)

(The Advice Smackdown will be, for now, once weekly. I hope to amp up the publishing frequency again at some point but thank y’all for your patience and for sticking with this column for so long, throughout so many different publishing schedules and iterations. As always, please to email me all of your many problems at amyadvice@gmail.com!)

***************

My 3.5 year old daughter has fine blonde hair like your youngest son, Ike. The difference is that it is as straight as can be but still turns into a tangled matted mess at the back if we miss one bathtime or have one morning where we run out of time to brush. What do you use on Ike’s hair? Or are we just forever doomed to deal with the knots??

-long-time reader

(PS I’m exhausted, and if you need me to be more witty in order to post this to the site I can re-write it)

And behold! Our first question takes us back to this column’s odd, tangled roots: HAIRZ.

No need for wit here, by the way. Just get the question typed and sent. I consider that to be a fabulous accomplishment.

And with brevity in mind, here’s how we keep Ike’s fine, shaggy mop-top mostly free of knots:

1) Comb out hair BEFORE the bath to ensure it’s tangle-free. Skipping this step can turn a small knot into a big old matted mess during the washing/drying process. Trust.

2) Wash with a gentle shampoo. We currently use the combo shampoo/body wash by The Honest Company. As a fine-haired individual myself, I’ve learned to mostly ignore shampoos labeled for that hair type — they all promise “volume” which isn’t what my 3 year old needs, and most volumizing products are very drying, which makes my hair more prone to tangles. So for Ike, I look for a shampoo that won’t sting his eyes, won’t irritate his scalp (he’s still prone to cradle cap so occasionally we have to use a tea tree oil shampoo), and both suds up and rinses away as quickly as possible. Most gentle baby shampoos fit the bill just fine, and won’t really effect the post-bath tangle situation either way.

3) Condition with a Real Actual Grown-Up Conditioner. We used various “baby” or “kids” conditioners for a long time, but eventually I had to concede that they just weren’t getting the job done for Ike. So I started using my conditioner on him (or other conditioners I bought/got samples of/stole from hotels). Muuuuuuch better. I don’t even think any particular brand is super necessary — just moving out of the baby/kids labels seemed to make a visible difference in his hair’s softness and combability (totally a word) in the days after a bath. (Since we don’t bathe him everyday in the winter.)

My personal favorite conditioners for my fine, knotty hair are Pureology Hydrate and Klorane Oat Milk Conditioner. Pureology is pricey as hell so I would never buy it just for my kid, but I’m such a loving, caring mother I’m willing to occasionally share a tiny drop of it with him. But if you don’t have anything handy to try on your daughter, just go to the drugstore and look for something labeled with one or more of the following buzzwords: detangling, calming, lightweight moisturizing, gentle, etc. Stay away from anything promising volume or “deep” conditioning. I believe Garnier Fructis or Herbal Essences would likely have something appropriate.

4) Shampoo the roots, condition the ends. Man, this one takes me back. I am pretty sure I’ve been giving out this advice to fellow fine-haired ladies for over a decade now. But it’s the BEST thing I ever started doing for my hair, and it totally works for Ike, too. As best as I can, I keep shampoo and the associated scrubbing/later limited to just the roots. Don’t pull it through to the ends, don’t pile her hair up on top of her head in a big soapy pouf. Rinse it out, then apply her conditioner to just her ends. Basically hold her hair out at an angle from her head, as if you were preparing to cut it. Apply conditioner to just the final couple inches of hair that pull away from the scalp. Let the conditioner stay on her hair for the duration of the bath, then rinse it right before she gets out.

This works because most of the time, fine hair is really only getting dirty up by the scalp, thanks to all our natural oils (and running our hands through it to flip or tuck it out of our way). By over shampooing the non-dirty ends, we’re drying them out, making them super prone to frizz, breakage and tangles. And for fine, lightweight hair, conditioning the roots weighs them down, making our hair look even flatter and more lifeless than usual. Same deal with my fine-haired kid.

5) Use a detangling spray and comb it through promptly. I use a lightweight, spray-in detangling spray on all three of my boys to ensure a nice, pain-free post-bath comb through. My favorite for them is the The Honest Company’s. I’ve used it on myself, though my personal grown-up favorite is Bed Head’s Superstar Volumizing Leave-in Conditioner. (My kids don’t need the volume part, though, so I don’t share that one.) Also go easy on the towel drying — don’t toss a towel on her head and rub it all over. Comb her hair out while it’s still dripping wet and then gently squeeze the ends (with a towel or t-shirt) to absorb the excess. Then let it air dry on its on, time permitting.

6) Use a detangling spray, period.  I know it can feel like a pointless battle — you detangle and comb out and ensure a perfectly tangle-free head post-bath…only to have them wake up the next day or pull a winter hat off and BAM. Knot City. So spritz with the detangling spray (just one or two pumps) before you brush, each and every time. Yes, you can use it on dry hair, and you can use it BEFORE the knotted, matted mess has a chance to form. It’ll make your morning brush session  go MUCH quicker and help prevent tangles later in the day.

7) Keep those ends trimmed and healthy. Regular trims will do WONDERS for hair tangles. I can always tell when I’m overdue for a haircut when, despite my best conditioning and haircare efforts, I hit a huge major snag on the back of my head after the shower, or start noticing my hair tangling more and more around my shoulders, thanks to coats/hoods/scarves/etc. I trim Ike’s hair about every four weeks — microscopic snips, usually! — and find this to help immensely with the back-of-the-head tangles.

Anything else to add? Specific products to recommend? Or simply want to commiserate on the agony of trying to brush a toddler’s hair while they shriek and cower and act like you’re yanking their hair out by the roots, and then promptly mess it all up with their hands the second you’re done?

 

Photo source: DepositPhotos

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10 Ways to Stop Eczema Cold This Winter http://alphamom.com/parenting/parenting-health-safety/prevent-eczema-in-winter/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/parenting-health-safety/prevent-eczema-in-winter/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 15:27:25 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=36138

This post is brought to you by our sponsor, Skinfix.

Oh, HELLO winter. And winter weather. You sure are on a roll this year. And like every year, you bring all kinds of skin annoyances to me and my family. Particularly: seasonal eczema. For me and my son. We take dry skin to a whole other, blotchy, ugly level this time of year. Thankfully, we’ve figured a few things out to keep comfortable and splotch-free.

1) Bathe your kids less…

Once the temperature drops (and your home’s artificial heat kicks on), the nightly bath routine simply does more harm than good for dry, itchy skin. In the summer, kids get muddy and sweaty and genuinely grimy – but in the winter it’s REALLY okay to let them go a few days without a bath. We wash hair separately in the sink, if needed. And then we bathe selectively on gym day, or sports practice/swim lesson day, or if they’ve spent a lot of time outside in a bajillion outerwear layers. Basically, we’ll go as long as possible (particularly for my eczema-prone eldest) and wait until they are actually dirty before a dip in the tub. (WHAT A CONCEPT!)

2)…and moisturize them MORE.

Someday, I dream of having self-sufficient children who can recognize that oh, my skin feels tight and itchy, I should put something on that. Instead, I’ve got kids who will scratch themselves raw if I don’t stay on top of slathering up their bodies. In the summer, a little lotion after the nightly bath is sufficient. In the winter, no way. Morning and night, with some extra hand rubdowns due to all the cold/flu season-related hand washing/sanitizing.

Of course, for the child who needs this routine the most – my super-sensitive, eczema-prone 9 year old – this isn’t always the easiest thing in the world. He has sensory issues on top of his skin problems, and spent YEARS running from me if he spotted a bottle of lotion in my hand, and the whole thing would devolve into a big IT PUTS THE LOTION ON ITS SKIN battle. Luckily, through a combination of these 10 little tips and the right, effective products (which you’ll read about in a second), we’re in a much, MUCH better place this winter than ever before. Phew!

3) When you bathe or shower, go as tepid/lukewarm as you can, and get out ASAP.

So tip number one? Yeah, that one actually isn’t one I can personally follow. I wake up gross and oily and sweaty and…dead sexy. Definitely in need of a shower. And while I typically love long, steamy showers so hot my husband doesn’t understand how I manage to avoid first-degree burns from them, in the winter I suck it up and keep the temperature tepid and the duration short. (I also get mild eczema in the winter – although I’ve only managed to figure out how to KEEP it mild once my son inherited the condition and I finally got around to educating my dumb self about it.)

Likewise, my kids’ baths are as short as possible, with a drastic reduction in the post-wash playtime. In and out, if possible.

(Luckily they tend to declare any bath temperature above semi-lukewarm as “HOT TOO HOT OH GOD IT BURNS” so that part isn’t an issue.)

10 Ways to Stop Eczema During The Winter

4) And add colloidal oatmeal or baking soda to baths soothe the itching.

Step AWAY from the bubbles and the bath bombs and whatever other colored/scented/rose-petal stuff you know we all love. It’s not sexy, but in the winter or whenever eczema rears its ugly scales, go for fragrance-free basics like an oatmeal bath or plain baking soda.

5) Moisturize while your skin is still wet.

Full disclosure: I hate this one. I hate turning off the shower, stepping out all dripping wet and freezing and reaching for my moisturizers instead of the warm, fuzzy embrace of my towel or bathrobe. I hate watching my kids shiver and drip water all over the bathmat while I lotion them up.

But it works. It’s effective and worth it. It seals in more moisture, and stops my post-shower flare-ups dead in their tracks. Drying off with a towel first produces the opposite results – an extended flare-up over a larger area of my body. Currently I use Skinfix’s Body Repair Treatment on my eczema (it erupts like clockwork on my upper arms and shoulders – right where the shower hits me the hardest) and then follow up with an all-over application of their Daily Lotion. The Body Repair is specific for eczema flares and absorbs slowly – but faster on wet skin than dry, I’ve noticed – and acts as an all-day barrier against other triggers (dry heat, wind, clothing irritation, etc.) and the patchiness is generally gone by the time I’m dressed.

My 9 year old typically complains that lotions make him “cold,” but applying them while he’s wet (and already cold) from the bath gives him the opposite feeling – my hands vigorously rubbing his eczema-prone legs and arms feels “warm” in comparison. The result – less complaining/resisting, and I can use the same product regimen on him (Skinfix Body Repair + Daily Moisturizer) without a subsequent freak-out over the eczema cream visibly lingering too long on his skin’s surface.

6) Get REALLY picky about your products.

Avoid fragrances, dyes, harsh ingredients at all costs. (And this goes for anything that touches your skin — your acne regimen, laundry detergent, soaps, lotions, etc.) Flip all those bottles/packages over and read the ingredients just like you (presumably) do for any food product you feed your kids. It’s up to you to define what your complete list of no-go ingredients is (re: parabens or other preservatives), but at a bare minimum avoid anything with fragrance/parfum listed, and give a side-eye to anything that claims to be scented with “natural” oils or essences – these can be just as bad for sensitive skin. When it doubt, go for bottles labeled both fragrance-free AND unscented.

I don’t care how yummy that scented pink or purple baby lotion smells, it’s pretty much the worst thing you can put on dry, sensitive or eczema-prone skin, no exaggeration. It’s okay for human children to smell like human children instead of flowers or baby powder. (And not to put too fine a point on it, but Skinfix has a full line-up of baby care products — lotion, hair/body wash, diaper balm, etc. — that pass the ingredient muster and are appropriate for all skin types, including eczema. Just sayin’.)

7) Get your kids out of wet socks/gloves/clothing ASAP.

Even just a few minutes in wet gloves or socks can lead to horribly irritated skin that lingers for weeks: think red, chapped, cracked skin that takes forever to fully heal. (And can even get infected.) Even if they’re wearing waterproof outerwear in the snow, it’s a good idea to have them come in for periodic checks and swaps.

And once your kids are inside, see Tips #1 and #2 and resist the urge to warm them up in a hot bath right away. Some warm food and drink and a generous application of moisturizer will be MUCH better for their skin.

8) Use a humidifier.

Besides your bath/shower water, your skin’s number one winter enemy is not really the cold: It’s the dry heat of your home or office. The best way to combat its effects (while still staying warm!) is to use humidifiers and add some moisture back into the air. We have one going in every bedroom…although my ultimate dream is to install a full-house system at some point. Sigh. File that one with the dream of self-sufficient lotion-applying children, I guess.

9) Carry your favorite moisturizers in travel sizes everywhere you go and apply, apply, apply.

You guys, it is so cold out there. I took my glove off this morning for 20 seconds to shove some coins in a parking meter and it took all of 10 seconds for my knuckles to turn bright red and irritated. Thankfully I’d tossed a travel-sized tube of Skinfix Hand Repair Cream and was able to promptly treat my hands to a liberal coating once I was back inside. It’s also a good habit in the face of all the extra hand-washing we do in the winter to combat germs – the skin on your hands is thin and delicate and really needs the extra care if you hope to avoid painful stuff like hangnails, split knuckles, chapped skin.

10) Know what eczema looks like and treat it appropriately.

I’ve been throwing around a lot of adjectives in this article, and they really aren’t all that interchangeable. There’s “dry winter skin.” There’s “itchy skin” and “sensitive skin” and “chapped, red, raw angry skin.”

And then there’s “eczema-prone skin.”

I’d describe my husband’s skin as sensitive, as he reacts badly to fragrances and scents and a few other assorted ingredients. My 6 year old gets dry in the winter, but nothing too terrible, while my 3 year old gets dry to the point of itchiness and ashiness, and also has some of his dad’s ingredient quirks.

And then there’s me and the 9 year old. We get the full eczema show if we’re not careful. The itchy red patches that spread and raise and give way to ugly, stubborn scales. Thankfully our eczema isn’t tied to food triggers or allergies (it often is), but man. It is not fun. My son will scratch at his patches until he BLEEDS, you guys. I know nobody likes to Google Image Search skin conditions, but if you don’t know what eczema looks like (and what it can turn into if left untreated)…well, probably best to get it over with and eat a late lunch today.

I’ve tried seemingly every product out there – heavy-duty prescriptions options aren’t the most convenient for seasonal eczema (think yearly dermatologist visits for updated/non-expired scripts) – but the majority of OTC eczema treatments haven’t worked for us either, or triggered some other skin or sensory sensitivity in my son. Since we gave the Skinfix regimen a try (Body Repair Balm + Daily Lotion), both of our flare-ups are fully under control…even when  I break my own rules and treat myself to a long, hot, steamy shower, because YOU KNOW I DO SOMETIMES.

(Hey, who here is ready for SPRING?)

**************************

Trusted for generations, Skinfix’s award-winning products ensure head to toe happy and moisturized skin. Available exclusively at Target.

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Too Many Visitors During Pregnancy http://alphamom.com/pregnancy/relationships-pregnancy/no-visitors-during-pregnancy/ http://alphamom.com/pregnancy/relationships-pregnancy/no-visitors-during-pregnancy/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 21:11:46 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35943

Dear Amy,

I’m feeling a little bit frazzled (maybe being 27 weeks pregnant has SOMEthing to do with that). My issue is visitors, a topic that I know you’ve covered eloquently before, but I’m hoping you can help me (and other mommies-to-be) figure out if I’m being unreasonable – and also direct me toward some tips for how to say “No” gracefully.

My husband and I live in a small-ish home with one bathroom and an extra guestroom/office. Both of our families live in different cities that are a plane ride away. Over the past year, it’s just somehow transpired that we’ve had a LOT of visitors to our home… about one person or family every 3 weeks or so. I got pregnant during this time (surprise!), so it also happened to shake out that we had a visitor about every 2 weeks during my first trimester. These were all pre-planned visits by people we love very much and WANTED to see… but it quickly started to feel like I was running a bed and breakfast – and I’m now feeling at the end of my rope.

As I begin my third trimester, the requests for visits have continued. No one has been pushy, and no one has requested a lengthy stay. They all want to come out of love or to “help us get set up for the baby”… but I’ve just… had it. I’ve had it. We’ve had a revolving door to our home (including throughout some of the difficult times of my early pregnancy) and I just don’t want to see anyone right now. Is this abnormal? Maybe the hormones are making me antisocial? I am generally a private, introverted person and visits take a lot out of me. I’m always a little stressed about entertaining, and even when my houseguests are wonderful/low maintenance, I still feel concerned about making conversation, whether they’re enjoying themselves, what we’ll do for dinner, etc. The thought of hosting any more people in my last trimester makes me want to weep.

But how can I say no? I really do love everyone that has come – they’ve been dear friends and our closest family. And some of the people that want to come in the next couple of months have even offered to stay in hotels or with other friends, which is very considerate, but the truth is… I still feel over it. I’m working until my due date at both a full-time and a freelance job, I want to spend time with my husband, and he and I have a lot to do with readying our home, making a new budget and talking through this upcoming development in our lives. I just don’t want to devote my last remaining weekends to visitors – even “helpful” ones. Is that selfish?

Amy (and community), first of all: am I being oversensitive here? I know having many people that love us and want to support is a wonderful problem to have – should I just suck it up? And second: how can I say no to future visitors while really, really expressing how much I love and appreciate them?

(And in case you were wondering, we’ve already been working at setting boundaries for AFTER the baby is born by putting out a 2 week “no visitors” buffer after delivery. That one has been hard too – but it seems like people understand it a little better.)

Many, many thanks,
This hotel is closed.

Say no! Say nooooooo. Say no thank you, but no.

You are not being unreasonable or oversensitive. I’m not even pregnant and reading your first couple paragraphs stressed ME out. It sounds exhausting and NATURALLY, anxiety inducing, because I’m like you: Even hosting/entertaining the most fun, easy-going people who I love more than anything still requires mental and physical work and energy. Do they know where the towels are? Do we have clean pillowcases? Are they bored? Is it rude if I sleep in a little instead of rushing downstairs to make coffee/breakfast? How late are they going to stay up? Are we going to run out of hot water? What diet restrictions do we need to work around?

(And knowing how pregnancy works, I bet you end up craving the exact thing your guests can’t or won’t eat and gaaaahhhh rage.)

So. It’s okay to say no. You don’t even need to make some big “NO VISITORS ALLOWED GO AWAY” announcement or rule. Just tell people you’re busy.

For people offering to stay elsewhere, with other friends, you can — if you WANT to see them just not in a full-weekend hostess/city guide capacity — manage expectations: “We could get dinner together one night that weekend, but that’s probably all I’m up for at this point.”

But otherwise, just tell people you’re booked up for the next couple months, or be honest and tell them you’re just not feeling up to visitors and entertaining, and that you guys really don’t need any help “getting set up” for the baby. The “busy” line is actually true, because you’re busy CREATING LIFE, life that is getting kind of big and pokey and heavy at this point. It’s okay to shut down the social calendar and take some mental health weekends. It’s totally okay to want to spend your last pre-parenthood weekends with just your husband. What YOU want and feel like your body/brain needs right now takes precedence over everything else.

And you know what? If all these dear friends and wonderful family members are as dear and wonderful as you say: They will understand. They will not need you to word everything perfectly, or immediately reassure them that your saying no to a single weekend visit means you don’t love them or ever want to see them again. You’re in your third trimester and need to take it easy, so it’s just not a really good time right now. The end! Understood!

Anyone who would get pissy or pushy after being told, “sorry, now’s not a good time” is not a dear or wonderful person, and definitely doesn’t deserve a spot in your office guestroom. (Or weighing on your people-pleasing conscience. Forget them.)

You can also tell them — if it’s true or doable — that you guys are planning to make trips to each side of the family’s cities with the baby as soon as you can. Maximize your time by seeing as many people as possible and (hopefully) stem the rushing tide of everybody coming to see you (and your ONE BATHROOM) individually, week after week because BABYYYYYYY.

But for now: Just say no. It’s okay, really.

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Too Many Big Moves at Once? http://alphamom.com/parenting/big-changes-for-toddler/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/big-changes-for-toddler/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 18:13:46 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35887

Hi Amy!

I’m looking at the next six months and starting to freak out a little. My son is two and a half, and right on the cusp of two pretty big transitions – switching from a crib to a bed, and starting to potty train. So, why am I freaking out? Because my husband just got transferred at work; we’re moving to a different state in three weeks; the housing market is both crummy AND expensive at our destination and we don’t have permanent housing yet; therefore, we’ll probably be crashing with different family members for about a month while we look for a reasonable place to rent or buy. To top it all off, we’re expecting our second child in July. How in the world can I manage all this upheaval for my son so that I’m setting him up for success instead of failure, frustration, and regression?

The first and most pressing issue is the move from crib to bed. He’s mostly happy in his crib – he’s never tried to escape (beyond the normal toddler nap-resisting shenanigans), and he loves to snuggle up against the crib walls. Normally, I’d just keep him in the crib until after we move, and then as his sibling’s due date drew closer I’d make the transition. But here’s where things get tricky. We’re moving back to our home state at the end of this month, smack in between my parents and my in-laws – about a 2.5 hour drive from either. My sister lives about 30 minutes from my husband’s new work site. My husband’s schedule will be three long days on and four days off, so he suggested that while we’re looking for housing, my son and I could just visit with relatives for a week here and a week there, and he can crash with my sis and then join us on his days off. In many ways, this would be great – we’ve lived a day’s drive from my entire family for the last ten years, so I’m really excited to see more of them. The problem is, the sleeping arrangements are not ideal at any of these places. My parents have a crib set up at their house, but my mom watches my niece during the day, and she’ll be using the crib during my son’s nap time. My sister’s kids are a little older, so they just got rid of their crib, and my in-laws never got one. Ultimately, we’d be stuck with either disassembling and reassembling our crib over and over, or using a pack & play for up to a month. The pack & play would certainly be more convenient, but my son is a big kid – he’s already on the upper end of the growth charts for THREE year olds, and he’s just too long and too heavy to sleep comfortably and safely in a pack & play for any real length of time. We’ve managed with it for short visits – one or two nights, then back home to our crib. But I just don’t feel good about cramming my kid into a pack & play for a month when he’s clearly too big for it. I’ve looked for portable cribs or toddler travel beds – but so far, the porta-cribs all seem too small, and the toddler beds are just that – beds. Amy, where am I going to put this kid?!?

The other question is potty training. He’ll turn three right around my due date in July, and I’d like to have him in preschool this fall, so I know I need to start the process sometime in the not-too-distant future. I have enough sense to know that it’s not a good idea to even attempt it until we are permanently settled, which will hopefully be by March. But the question I have is this: is it even worth it to attempt to potty train him so close to his sibling’s arrival? From everything I’ve heard, a new baby is a recipe for major potty regressions. Between that, the move, and the crib to bed switch, would I just be overloading him? Should I wait until after the baby comes, or am I just way over-thinking this?

Please help me manage my life, Amy, because right now my sh*t is all kinds of bananas.

Thanks!

Okay, okay. BREATHE. This is going to be okay. This might not all be the most peaceful, stress-free period of your life but it’s going to be okay.

Sleeping Arrangements

First, let’s tackle the sleeping arrangements. Let’s run through your temp housing options:

Parents’ House: Has crib, but is occupied at nap times by niece (age not specified). Could your NIECE spend her naps in the pack-n-play, if she’s still within the recommended height/weight limits?

(Note that according to Graco, their pack-n-play is only for children under 35 inches in height and who weigh less than 30 pounds. If your son is as big as you say, he’s probably over those limits. Thus the pack-n-play probably isn’t even an option at this point, from both a comfort and safety perspective.)

Sister & In-Laws’ house: No crib.

But are there…beds?

See, here’s the thing: There is NO rule or law or even real recommendation that there MUST be some specialized extra step in between the crib and a “real” bed. You don’t need a toddler bed. At all. Only one of my children slept in a toddler bed and while it was adorable and all, it was ultimately a waste of money, given the tiny window of time he used it. I also had a Very Big Toddler, and the mattress (from Ikea) was slightly longer than a crib mattress — as you’ve probably noted, most toddler beds simply use crib mattresses — but he still outgrew it quickly. We upgraded our bed from a full to a king and gave him that full-size bed not long after his third birthday.

My other two children went straight from the crib to a full-sized mattress & box spring, the lower bunk of our bunk bed. For the first couple weeks, I attached a removable safety guard bar (available at Amazon or in the safety section of the big box baby stores) and put some blankets on the floor. Yes, there was a lot of getting in and out and escaping and some missed naps, but you’re going to do the same thing with a toddler bed. And again, when you’re talking about a Very Big Toddler, I double down on the advice that a small in-between toddler bed or porto-crib will be a ridiculous waste of money, especially if you’re going to spend at least a month in transition, hauling it around from house to house. (And assembling and disassembling a full-sized crib once a week or so? Then loading it in a car and dragging it inside and setting it up again? WHILE PREGNANT? Girl. No.)

If there isn’t a spare bed for him, you can simply opt for a mattress on the floor, in whatever size you choose. It can just be something inflatable and easy to take from place to place. At my in-laws’ house, there’s only one twin bed (beyond a full bed for my husband and I), and now that my children are all out of the crib, we use two twin-sized inflatable mattresses for our younger sons. They roll off, we roll ‘em back on.

Yes, he’s happy in his crib and you weren’t planning to move him for a few more months. But hey, sometimes life forces us to change the schedule. There’s nothing to be gained by beating yourself up over things you just can’t change or avoid right now. And 2.5 is a perfectly acceptable, reasonable age to make the switch, and I’m betting that when he arrives at a house without a crib, it will be more of an “out of sight, out of mind” thing for him. It’s an adventure! Here’s where you sleep at Grandma’s house, at Auntie’s house, at Nana’s house. If you’re really concerned about the lack of consistency, get the inflatable bed. Get it now, before you move and introduce it to him. He’ll probably LOVE watching you inflate it and think it’s a fun, special thing. Be prepared to stay next to him and read lots of books until he’s used to the idea of actually SLEEPING there, but hopefully he’ll catch on quickly. (If there’s an Actual Bed for him at each place, start trying out naps in your bed at home, or take his crib mattress out and see if he’ll sleep on that.)

The reality is, toddlers are much more resilient than we often give them credit for. He might get a little clingy, act out at times, and naps might go to hell (which would happen WHENEVER you made the switch to bedtime freedom, horrible freedom), but he’ll make it through this temporary upheaval just fine in the end.

Potty Training

As for potty training: I wouldn’t push it, personally, but I also wouldn’t let the possibility of a sibling regression stop me from introducing the concept once you’re settled. I potty trained both of my first two right before the next baby was born. We weren’t 100% “done” either time and there were some slips and accidents — but I wouldn’t say it was all that different training my youngest, who had similar “regressions” with no new sibling in sight. So…meh. If he’s crazy resistant, let it go. If he’s intrigued and interested, go for it. And once you’re done with the housing search, turn your attention to preschools — so you can know for sure if the potty training is even a set-in-stone requirement for a 3 year old! Some schools totally don’t expect it, and will let peer pressure help the process along.

Above all, just remember to give him lots of positive attention and love. Lots of familiar toys and transitional items. Don’t feel like you need to constantly explain what’s going on and why (WHOOSH over the head) — just offer reassurance that you and Daddy are still Here, and will be with him when you go There, no matter what.

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Little Boys in Pink Shoes http://alphamom.com/parenting/toddler-parenting/boys-who-love-pink-shoes/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/toddler-parenting/boys-who-love-pink-shoes/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 15:05:22 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35872

Dear Amy,

I have a 2.5-year-old boy who loves the color pink. He also hates wearing shoes. Recently, I was showing him a web page with lots of different shoes on it, trying to get him interested, and I asked him which of two pairs of shoes he liked better. He picked a pair of pink shoes he saw off to the side. Just for fun, I scrolled down the page and again asked him to choose between blue and brown. He again pointed to a different flowery pink pair off to the side. I tried a third set of choices, and again, he came up with pink.

Now this doesn’t bother me in the least. I don’t care if he likes pink shoes, or pink pants, or dolls, or whatever the hell he wants to like. I don’t think this makes him weird, or gay, or whatever society deems male children who prefer pink. It’s just a color. My problem is that I don’t feel that I can let him wear pink shoes because other people/kids will pick on him. I don’t want him to be picked on. Of course I don’t. He will be starting preschool when he turns 3 next summer, and I don’t think I can, in good conscience, send him to preschool wearing pink shoes. But part of me wonders, would he be more willing to wear shoes (in general) if they were pink? Would the daily shoe wars come to an end?

Am I being ridiculous? Should I just let him wear whatever color he wants and not worry about the reactions from other people? Or should I quietly just order the brown shoes and hope he chooses a new favorite color next year?

Since you have 3 boys, I am interested to know what you would do. I don’t want stereotypes to get in the way of his happiness, but I hesitate to have people label my son, who is too young to understand, let alone defend himself if I’m not around.

While none of my boy children ever developed an affinity for pink clothing, all of them at one point pushed a pink doll stroller around our neighborhood, and my six-year-old still takes his “babies” to his friends’ houses, with one of them decked out in her finest pink party dress and flowered headband that he picked out specifically for her. And oh yeah, I fought the ridiculous daily NO SHOES battle with all three of them at some point. So I feel confident in my “what would I do” response, even if it is technically a hypothetical.

Buy him the shoes he will wear. The pink ones. He’ll be fine.

In my (three time!) experience, the 3-year-old preschool classroom is not the junior-high meat-grinder atmosphere you seem to be envisioning. It’s a classroom full of very young toddlers who are still basically babies, many of whom will 1) cry, 2) have potty accidents, 3) suck their thumbs, 4) drag a blankie/lovey around with them, and 5) do any number of things their parents are completely terrified will result in teasing, because we all think everybody ELSE’s 3 year olds don’t still do those things for some reason.

My current 3 year old attends a mixed-age classroom, so some of his peers are technically kindergartners. He also has long hair (for a boy), and at this point is quite vocal that it’s his preference to keep it that way. I asked his teacher if…you know…she’d ever overheard anyone tease him or say anything along the “YOU LOOK LIKE A GIRL” lines. She stared at me, almost a little shocked at the question. “Of course not! I can’t imagine any of these kids saying or even thinking that. This isn’t that kind of environment.”

Obviously, I can’t guarantee that your son won’t be told pink shoes are for girls, or teased for his preference. But that’s the reality of sending your child out into the world. I can’t guarantee that any of my children won’t be teased at school today, no matter what “kind of environment” their teachers are doing their best to create. My oldest son is on the Spectrum and has serious social issues, my middle son prefers the company of girls and would rather play house than soccer, and my youngest has long blonde hair and insists on wearing at least one item of clothing backwards most days. (I don’t know. I’ve stopped fighting that particular battle as well.)

What matters more, I believe, is that my children know that when they come home, to me, to their father, they will be accepted and supported and loved unconditionally. They’re allowed to like what they like and be their authentic selves. By pointedly ignoring your son’s preference (after asking for his opinion/input) for the pink shoes, YOU will be the one sending him the signal that there’s something “wrong” with that preference.

If he comes home from preschool and suddenly no longer wants to wear the pink shoes, go ahead and buy him a new brown or blue or green pair, but don’t make it a huge thing, or panic that he’s been hurt and teased and scarred for life. Buy him some pink pajamas that he can wear and enjoy in peace at home, where he KNOWS his color preference is accepted and honored. And in the end, it’s your unconditional acceptance and love that will translate into self-confidence, and the ability for him to look a peer in the eye and say “I don’t care what you think, I like these shoes, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

I always tell my boys there’s no such thing as “girl colors/toys” and “boy colors/toys” but they (at least the older ones) insist that I am wrong. The marketing gets to them eventually, so I usually just shrug, tell them they’ll understand the insidious, sexist nature  of the gender stereotyping machine someday (WHOOSH OVER THEIR HEADS), and attempt to reinforce that idea that there’s nothing BETTER about boy things or LESSER about girl things. Everybody is allowed to like what they like, and we NEVER tease anyone about liking something “different” than us.

I’m doing my best to raise sons who would never, ever tease a little boy for wearing pink shoes. I really am. I like to think I’m not the only one.

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To Budget Or Not To Budget http://alphamom.com/your-life/money-work/starting-family-budget/ http://alphamom.com/your-life/money-work/starting-family-budget/#comments Wed, 14 Jan 2015 20:43:52 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35819

Hi Amy,

For a change of pace, how about a question that is not baby related. It’s about the one thing possibly more stressful than babies- money.

My husband and I do not see eye to eye on budgeting. We’re in the fortunate position that we live fairly comfortably- not extravagantly, but we can afford to go out for the occasional dinner. But we’re in our early 30s with a toddler and finances are getting tighter and tighter. We’d like to buy a house, have another baby, go on vacations… but the future is a little scary. We’re fine day to day, but there is no plan for our future. We were both graduate students for years, so we didn’t have our 20s to save up. I’d like to set a budget, but admit I panic when I start trying and have no follow-through. My husband- who handles the money- thinks a budget is unnecessary and says he has it under control. I think his big fear is that a budget will leave no flexibility for fun. Most of our conversations about money end up in stress and arguments. It’s not so much that we’re having financial issues right now, but I think we could be living smarter.

So I guess my question is twofold: Do people honestly set budgets and stick to them or is our way “normal?” And if we do need better control of our finances, how do I get my husband on board?

Thank you!

-Show me da money

Is your way “normal?” I don’t know if I’d necessarily go that far, but I will guess that your way is probably pretty “common.” However, that doesn’t make it optimal, or wise.

Three fairly big red flags here:

1) No plan for the future, or even the short term. Ambitious goals (house, baby, vacations) that you probably just sorta hope will happen someday, but aren’t really taking the necessary, realistic steps to get there. I’m guessing college tuition, retirement or any sort of substantial savings cushion in case of an emergency/job loss/life event are also in the “yeah we should get on that, but it kinda stresses us out so we’ll think about it tomorrow” category.

2) Your husband handles the money so you probably have no real insight into your own financial future (or present), and the person who handles your finances thinks budgets are unnecessary and is actively resisting your (completely reasonable and probably overdue) requests that you guys get your shit together financially and set some goals and make some plans.

3) Your conversations about money end in stress and arguments. That is not a financial situation that is “under control.” Sure, you guys probably ARE fine day to day and in no immediate peril, but obviously things could be better. Most couples fight about money at some point, yes. But don’t underestimate the damage that these arguments can wreak on your marriage — finances and money issues are one of the top reasons for divorce. Deal with this sooner, rather than later.

You guys both sound like you generally find finances/budgeting in general to be unpleasant and stressful. I TOTALLY get that. But it’s part of being a grown-up. You owe it to yourselves and your daughter to get some plans in place and get realistic about your current spending/saving levels. I would highly, highly recommend you enlist the services of a third party here, since you are both in such wildly different places right now.

We use and love the online budgeting tools Mint.com offer, for example, but they are self-directed and only as good as your own commitment to using them. Since your husband doesn’t think budgets are “necessary,” perhaps loading up your monthly income, expenses and spending habits into a budget template would be enough of a come-to-Jesus moment for him, or it might reassure you both that you aren’t living beyond your means in the short term. But it still won’t address his resistance to creating any sort of long-term plan for your collective futures, and your admitted lack of follow-through, if you guys don’t stick with it month to month. So perhaps an appointment with a financial planner or some of Dave Ramsey’s resources/training would be helpful for you both. You’ll need to swallow your general anxiety/dislike of these tough money-related conversations, and remind yourselves that YOU WILL FEEL BETTER WITH A FINANCIAL PLAN IN PLACE. You really will! You’ll be able to talk about money without that creeping edge of anxiety, you’ll likely meet your goals sooner than you would otherwise…and YOU as an individual will be more in control of your own financial future and not overly dependent on your husband’s money management skills and judgement. (I know it’s another thing no one likes to talk about, but marriages do end. Death of a spouse can happen. You do yourself no favors to pretend otherwise when it comes to your finances.)

By the way, you can — and totally should! — budget for fun. Fun is essential! You can include a restaurant budget, a wine budget, a special savings line just to chip away at paying for that dream vacation or weekend getaway. Household budgets often fail because people go overboard and forget to allow themselves some fun and pleasure. Keep that in mind as you tackle this issue.

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Post-Baby Foodshaming http://alphamom.com/your-life/postpartum/post-baby-foodshaming/ http://alphamom.com/your-life/postpartum/post-baby-foodshaming/#comments Fri, 09 Jan 2015 19:47:21 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=35795

Dear All-Knowing Amalah,

Four months ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy whom I love dearly. Unfortunately, pregnancy left me with extra baby weight, which I do not love dearly. It has made me feel uncomfortable about my body, so I decided to get serious about losing the rest of the weight at the beginning of the year (because that’s what we do, right?), and started a diet. I enjoy eating healthily and am loving the extra energy I have, but my diet is causing problems in my marriage. My husband is the very thin, can-eat-anything-he-wants-and-will-still-lose-weight type and he has taken it upon himself to ensure that every calorie that passes my lips is accounted for. I’m nursing a baby, so I am hungry more often than he understands and he has accused me several times of “eating all day long.” When I walk to the kitchen he asks me what I’m doing and tries to talk me out of eating. Even grabbing a quick snack unleashes a lecture on the sorry state of my physical health. It is making me crazy. I tried rationally explaining that his food-shaming is hurtful and unhealthy and when that didn’t work I tried crying and screaming that his food-shaming is hurtful and unhealthy. Still, he carries on with his self-appointed mission to make me lose weight. I love him and know that he means well, but I swear that if he doesn’t stop I might just beat him to death with my juicer (that he bought me – go figure). How can I explain that the way he acts about how I eat is inappropriate? Please help.

Sincerely,

Desperate for a Respite

FLAMES.

FLAMES ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE.

You had a baby four months ago. You are nursing. You are married to a jerk.

I mean, I’m sure he’s great and all and you love him, but this is ridiculous. You asked “how can I explain that the way he acts about how I eat is inappropriate” but I highly doubt there’s a script I could write that would get through to him. Because you’ve ALREADY explained it. Once rationally, and once in TEARS. And — call me old-fashioned and/or crazy — if you have actively driven the person you love to TEARS, and yet CONTINUE to actively engage in the same pattern of behavior that made them cry…that crosses a line into abusive.

I don’t care that he means well. He’s being controlling and obsessive and cruel. YOU JUST HAD A BABY. YOU ARE NURSING A BABY. You are a human being who needs calories to function (and 500 EXTRA calories to nurse). Weight loss should not be a priority here, for you and DEFINITELY not for him, because it’s not his damn body.

(Random aside: While many women love going on and on about the weight-loss benefits of breastfeeding, many MORE women anecdotally report that their bodies hold onto extra weight [10 pounds is what I’ve typically heard, though I’m sure it varies] that never budges until the baby weans. The more you know!)

It’s not a difficult concept for someone to grasp (especially after having been told) (twice!) that, “Hmm, my well-intentioned efforts to support my spouse in her diet and weight-loss goals do not seem to be helping, but instead seem to be actively making her unhappy and/or sending her the message that I’m grossed out by her post-baby body. Perhaps I should back off.” Since he cannot grasp that concept, I admit that I’m less than willing to give him the “but he MEANS well” pass. He’s got a great metabolism and superiority complex. And probably some hidden food issues of his own, mixed in with unrealistic expectations re: post-baby bodies.

Part of me wants to tell you to walk into the kitchen right now and just like, stare him right in the eyes while shoving an entire chocolate cupcake into your mouth in one big, spiteful bite.

But I won’t, because that’s not how grown-ups are supposed to handle things like this. Personally, I think you guys should probably consider taking this to a third party, someone who can also explain that yes, DUDE, the food-shaming is hurtful, unhealthy, and completely counterproductive. A couples counselor would be one option, especially if he’s ever shown these controlling-type tendencies about other aspects of your life or physical appearance. If you can think of any other instances that, hmmm, maybe suggest a pattern, insist he come to counseling because that pattern needs to stop NOW.

If this really truly is the one sole issue he’s decided to be a complete (but so well meaning!!) jerk about, I’d suggest hiring yourself a personal trainer. (Hey, I bet your husband would totally spring for the expense since it’s so IMPORTANT.) Preferably one who specializes in post-pregnancy weight loss. Maybe find a dietician or nutritionist. And then these people — AND ONLY THESE PEOPLE — are the ones who get any say in your diet/exercise plan and are the only people you need to be accountable to, besides yourself. Tell him this. You’ve absolutely had it with him and his self-appointed mission and it’s done and over.

If he continues to harass you in the kitchen or try to inventory your food intake or basically be the world’s most obnoxious calorie counting app, tell him it’s time for some counseling. If he really can’t see/understand what this behavior is doing to you (and your marriage), then this is a real problem, and one that might not magically go away once you hit the “right” number on the scale.

 

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