5 Ways to Be a Frugal Mama

frgual mamaIt is no secret that having a child is e.x.p.e.n.s.i.v.e. Add to that living in the Boston area (where I live and Mamajamas was born), and the cost of parenthood is off the charts. Massachusetts families actually spend more in daycare per child than any other state. Eeks. Yes, there are the necessities like diapers and daycare. But for many, there is also the intense urge to dress up our little ones in teeny-weeny mini-me stylish clothes (that they outgrow in days) and involve them in various stimulating activities (that engage them but also just get us out of the house!). The cost of new parenthood is exacerbated by the need to clothe our newly shaped body, maintain a somewhat orderly (but increasingly chaotic) house, and feed a frantic, sleep deprived family….oh, and do it all on either half our normal income, or with basically a second mortgage if paying for daycare. Emulating those who look like a million bucks dressed in Target (excuse me: Tar-Shay), sprinkled in with designer hand-me-downs, I’ve managed to BE FRUGAL this first year of parenthood, stretch our fewer dollars, yet make being thrifty actually fun (and a little addicting). Here’s how.

My Top 5 ways to be a Frugal Mama:

1) Buy and sell clothes and gear locally. Facebook groups that facilitate baby clothes and gear swapping are growing explosively in many towns. I keep an envelope of the money I make from selling my daughter’s stuff and use that stash for the designer gems I’ve found at a fraction of the price at these sales. Some of my favorite finds have been from Tea Collection, Jacadi, and Hanna Andersson in like-new or new condition with prices more comparable to what I’d pay on the sale rack at Macy’s! The envelope challenge makes it a game for me, and keeps the addiction in check. If you are in the Boston area, the HIGH-END Baby & Kids Clothes Group is open to all nearby towns. Also in this area, Arlington Closet Sharers has over 1600 members. If a facebook group like this isn’t in your area yet, consider starting one if you have time to be an admin, or take advantage of local consignment shops where you often find brand new [ie: NWT] cute things too. You will want to know the fancy acronyms to shop on these sites!  NWT= New With Tags  EUC= Excellent Used Condition!

2) Babysitting co-ops. With no money transferred, you sit for other families, and they do the same for you. These often start with a group of friends whose kids do playdates anyway, so babysitting doesn’t even feel like work. As they grow, other friends often get added in. Find the right group, and it can be an amazing way to keep mom and dad happy with date-nights, without the costs. I’ve also found it a wonderful way to meet other families locally. For everyone to feel comfortable, you may want to avoid total strangers. I found mine through a new friend I met after having my daughter. Mommy and me classes could also be a good way to find families you can trust.

3) Pinterest and Mamajamas! Find step-by-step DIY directions on ANYTHING and EVERYTHING on Pinterest. Whether decorating your nursery, finding games to play with your kids or looking for birthday party ideas, you can save oodles easily with Pinterest as your guide. Check out the Mamajamas Pinterest Page if you haven’t already for tons of parenting resources and ideas. Speaking of Mamajamas, you can save a bundle using the site to get advice from your veteran parent friends on the products they recommend (and don’t!). With Mamajamas lists as your guide, you can buy the right product the first time around (I’m looking at you diaper pail) or the right quantities (I wish I had been told I didn’t need to buy ANY 0-3 onesies for myself). And yes, since this is the Mamajamas blog, you had to expect there would be a shameless plug for the site in here somewhere.

4) Library. Books for mama and baby are obviously a no-brainer to check out of the library. But many libraries also have FREE sing-alongs and reading classes for kids of all ages. Some also carry free museum passes or coupons for other events. I go to the library so much, I feel the librarians are like friends!  

5) Use your Freezer! When I fall behind on my meal planning, I end up more disorganized at the grocery store. This often leads me to buy five times more food than I should and resort to more prepared meals-–which are not as healthy–and, no surprise, cost more. So now when I am feeling organized, I try to cook even bigger batches of food (and baby food) and stick them in the freezer. I also freeze leftovers. This makes my future meal planning infinitely easier knowing dinner is already made–plus, my cost per meal for the week goes WAY down.

Parenthood is expensive and often exhausting! I’ve found that the more connected I become in my community, and with other families, the more ideas I get on how to prudently shop and save and ultimately offer the most I can to my family (time included!).

By Christy Mraz
Christy Mraz is mom to an almost one year old baby girl. She’s also the most recent addition to the Mamajamas team. SHE IS THE EYES, EARS–AND TYPING FINGERS–BEHIND OUR SOCIAL MEDIA. A SELF-PROCLAIMED FOODIE, ADDICTED TO COOKBOOKS AND Epicurean MAGAZINES, SHE’s very excited about CONTRIBUTING RECIPE IDEAS FOR BABY AND BUSY FAMILIES…. IN the MEANTIME, FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND PINTEREST and you’ll see (or rather REad) a lot of Christy.

Summertime Means Travel Time: 5 Must-Haves for Vacation-Bound Babies

design_3It’s finally summer time. And in our family, that means it’s travel timel! We took our first trip across the country when my son was just six weeks old to see my in-laws. I must have spent hours thinking about what I was going to pack. I was petrified to get on that plane. Of course, he was so little he slept the entire flight. Thinking back to those days, it seemed like it would have been enough to just bring some diapers, wipes, a muslin swaddle blanket, and a nursing cover.

As time has passed, travel has gotten MUCH harder. My son is three now, and since we travel quite a bit for work and family, he’s become a bit of a pro. But I’m definitely still that parent who asks the flight attendant for a third bag of animal crackers to keep him busy just a little bit longer.

As a result of our jetsetting, I’ve also tried out a lot of different baby travel gear. Here are five of my absolute favorites:

6-12 months

41fdyJM+beLRhino Toys Oball Rattle: This simple ball would keep my son entertained for hours on a flight. As soon as your baby learns to grasp, I’d recommend getting one of these.

Booginhead PaciGrip Pacifier Holder: For any baby that takes a pacifier, these are a must-have for a plane or car ride, or you’ll spend half of the time looking for their pacifier and wiping the grime off of it.

 12-24 months

Munchkin Travel Booster Seat: This is the best portable high chair! I alstravel boostero love that it has ample storage underneath for things like bibs, dishes and spoons.

Summer Infant Tiny Diner: When your baby gets to the stage where they love to eat food themselves, but haven’t mastered the art of using a plate at a restaurant, these little mats are amazing. They stick onto the table with suction cups, and catch a lot of the mess before it hits the floor. They have made many a restaurant meal with our baby significantly less stressful!

Fisher-Price Travel Doodler Pro: This is a light and great toy for the plane or car, and always keeps my son’s attention for quite awhile.

And of course, check out my Mamajamas list for a more extensive list of travel “must-haves” as well as “don’t bothers”.

Good luck with your summer travel. And just remember, it may be a bit chaotic, and it may not necessarily feel like a “vacation,” but you’ll get there eventually, and it will most likely be quite an adventure!

What Top Sleep Products Are Actually Detrimental To Baby’s Sleep?

When I asked top Harvard Sleep Doctor Erin Evans about whether there were any sleep products for babies that she would NOT recommend, I was stunned when she rattled off a bunch of super popular, mainstream products, including some that I had sworn by when my son was a baby!

It turns out some of the major brands are NOT designing their products with the science of sleep in mind. And according to Erin, some of these popular products can actually be detrimental to your baby getting healthy sleep!

Erin warns:

“Many new parents buy products that claim to “sooth your baby to sleep.” Some of these products are unnecessary and in some cases may actually cause sleep disruption. For example, a blue light is the most potent stimulant of the biological clock. Blue light immediately promotes wakefulness and blue light is actually used just like caffeine to help keep shiftworkers awake all night. For some reason this information hasn’t made it back to baby product manufacturers, who suggest that the color blue is soothing!”
Baby sleep aides that Erin DOES NOT RECOMMEND because of the color of their light include:

Fisher-Price Rainforest Waterfall Peek-a-Boo Soother
: This toy projects bright blue light in your baby’s crib to help “lull” your baby to sleep. The problem is that your baby’s body is very sensitive to blue light and exposure to light tonight at 4:00 AM will cause a signal to wake up tomorrow at 4:00 AM. It’s much better to teach your baby to fall asleep in other ways and avoid the need to soothe to sleep with something that will cause more waking.

Fisher-Price Luv U Zoo Crib ‘N Go Projector SootherLight is what resets the circadian rhythm. The last thing you want is a light in your child’s crib — it could massively disrupt your child’s sleep. Save toys like this for daytime play.

gracoGraco Sweet Slumber Sound Machine: The sound machine functionality is nice, it goes all night and has a variety of soothing sounds to choose from, however, they chose a blue, stimulating night for the night light! [Note: I love this sound machine, but I recently removed this from my personal Mamajamas list based on Erin’s advice about the night light portion of it.]

Again from Erin:

“Stay away from products that light up (in any color except red or amber). Since light is alerting and is what resets the biological clock, having your baby stare at a light before falling asleep is likely to lead to trouble in the future.”

If you do want a night light, Erin DOES RECOMMEND:

Leviton Amber LED Nightlight:  If you need a night light to see in your child’s room, then choose one that is very dim and amber or red in color. Blue, green and white nightlights are stimulating to the circadian rhythm and can actually increase your child’s night wakings.

For all of Erin’s “must have” and “don’t buy” sleep products, check out her Mamajamas List. And, for more great baby sleep tips, check out Erin’s website “Baby Sleep Science” or her blog “The Sleep Doctor’s Son”.

SPECIAL OFFER: Use the code MAMAJAMAS, and get 10% off of your first Baby Sleep Science phone consultation.

Barks and Babies: Preparing Your “Furry Baby” for the “New Baby”

DOGSThere’s a lot to be said for being prepared for when you bring your baby home. We read lots of books, bought way too much gear, and signed up for a college semester’s worth of childbirth classes. In reflection, the best investment my husband and I made was taking the Barks & Babies class at The Pawsitive Dog.

We have two pure-bred American Shelter Dogs (aka rescue mutts) who came to us with their own personalities; one is afraid of people, the other is aggressive with other dogs.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I knew their reality was about to shift in a big way. I was anxious for advice on how to manage the changes for them -AND most importantly, have a safe environment for the new baby.

In comes Jen Vickery, a canine-human relationship guru who helps families manage the “new baby transition.” She’s the founder of The Pawsitive Dog, in Boston, MA. In Jen’s Barks & Babies class, we gained a whole new perspective on what bringing baby home would be like through the eyes (ears and nose!) of our dogs.

I was six months pregnant when we signed up for Barks and Babies. I learned there was no time to waste. It turns out there was a lot we could do even before the baby arrived! Jen promptly gave us our marching orders, and here was some of her best advice:

    •  Start walking the dogs while pushing your new stroller—they need familiarity with the new gear. (Yes, you will look a little strange because there isn’t actually a baby in the stroller yet.)
    • Channel your inner toddler by pinching and poking the dogs and then reward them with a treat. (Yes, pinching, poking and pulling WILL happen in the toddler years. Best to desensitize your pup early on.)
    • Start giving your dogs commands with your feet, not your hands. (At first I thought this was odd, but Jen was so right. Once the baby arrives forget using two hands for anything! And, if you have a sleeping baby in you arms, the last thing you want to do is utter a word that might disturb the peace. )
    • Last but not least, FORGET to feed the dogs now and again. They need to get used to unpredictability. (This has happened on more than one sleep-deprived occasion, I’ll confess.)

Jen’s been running Barks and Babies for over 20 years.  Her advice was solid, effective and helped tremendously in those early blurry days when we were overwhelmed with our newborn. We found comfort in her advice and reflected back on our learnings well into toddlerhood. Now, in large part thanks to Jen, we are now one happy, harmonious pack.

By Johanna Cockburn
JR headshotJohanna COCKBURN is a mom, co-pack leader, and nonprofit development consultant in the Boston area. When she’s not managing the canine-human life force in her home, she’s matchmaking people (and sometimes people and rescue dogs) to help build a better world through community activism and social change efforts.

This Mother’s Day: 4 Tips to Get Dads Involved From the Beginning

Given it’s Mother’s Day today, I wanted to explore an important issue that affects many moms every single day. It’s impact is often overlooked. It’s complex. It’s wonderful. It’s personal.IMG_0691

It’s the role of Dads (and partners). Or more specifically, the role of dads in early parenting.

I’m a huge fan of very involved fathers. I believe it makes for healthier kids, more fulfilling career paths for both parents, and better adult relationships.

My father, a successful lawyer, became a stay-at-home dad for three years starting when I was three (and at great peril to his future career trajectory). His presence bonded us together in ways unique between father and daughter. I feel incredibly close to my father to this day (he was the parent, for example, that went with me to buy my first feminine products).

Now my own husband has managed to rival my dad in his face time with our son. While in between jobs, he took almost a year-long paternity leave. After becoming a Professor at MIT, he still stayed with my son every morning during his second year, and has managed to take a day off a week to be with my son into his third year.

I know that my situation is unique. Incredibly so. I know every family cannot afford, would be allowed, or would even want to have such a flexible arrangement. I also know that even if you have and want the option, to be both ambitious and present as a parent is really hard.

But I think that if you are looking for a partner that will truly co-parent with you, even if it’s just on nights and weekends, and not hand you back the baby every time he starts to fuss, there are some things you can do to facilitate more of an equitable parenting arrangement from the beginning.

Paternity leave is important. While paternity leave is not an option for many (we are, sadly, one of the most regressive of all industrialized countries on this issue), have your partner take what he can and be creative! Whether it is 2 days, 2 weeks, or 2 months, uninterrupted family time in the beginning can be so helpful in developing lasting bonds with your newborn. In Daddy Track: The Case for Paternity Leave, Liza Mundy writes:

Paternity leave is a chance to intervene at what one study called “a crucial time of renegotiation”: those early, sleep-deprived weeks of diaper changes and midnight feedings, during which couples fall into patterns that turn out to be surprisingly permanent.

Even if your partner can’t take leave in the first days, perhaps he could take a couple days or half days as early when he has some vacation time available.IMG_0656

Trust your husband! It’s unfair to correct your husband every time he puts on a diaper or chooses a onesie, and then expect that he’s going to feel comfortable caring for your baby in your absence. I admit to being a somewhat critical and perfectionist mother, but I made sure to silence myself when it came to criticizing his early care-giving so that he felt competent and “in charge”  of taking care of our child too.

Leave your husband alone with your baby. Frequently. Go on a weekend trip and leave your baby with your husband, or just plan a night out with friends. Start this early on (even if you’re feeling to tethered to breastfeeding, take a walk between feedings or something). It’s important that your partner has the time to develop a role as caregiver, without feeling like he can hand the baby to you as soon as things get difficult. The added benefit is that he’ll probably appreciate you all the more once he realizes how hard it can be to care for a new baby solo.

Encourage daddy rituals. Whether he does bath time when he gets home from work, makes breakfast, or just always plays with a specific toy or sings the baby a certain song when they are together, try to encourage “something” that only your partner does with your child. Having him play an integral part in your baby’s daily routine, or at least having a ritual that is done only with him, is wonderful for baby, and has an amazing effect on the parent too.

I saw the power of many of these tactics first-hand with my husband. Pre-baby, he did not give off any extra paternal, stay-at-home dad vibes. He had literally only held a baby once before my son arrived. But as we cocooned ourself in our hospital room post-birth for a few days, and kept visitors to a minimum for the next couple weeks, I saw my husband blossom in his new role of father and protector. He refused to let me change a single diaper (“that’s my job!” he’d say) and literally slept with my son on his chest for the first two months. I saw him get almost obsessed with spending time with our son, even exceeding my own expectations (I’ve actually had to ask him recently to spend less time with our son, and more time taking care of himself).

According to Barry Hewlett, who wrote “Intimate Fathers: The Nature and Context of Aka Pygmy Paternal Infant Care,” children in the Aka Pygmie tribe spend almost equal time with their fathers and mothers. The men carry their babies in slings on hunting trips, and literally let them suck on their nipples when their wives weren’t around to nurse.

I’m obviously not advocating men start nursing, but given that the role of the father varies so dramatically from culture to culture, I truly believe you can shape your roles as parents, together, and make it more equitable, from the beginning.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

New Moms: Where Do You Go When You’re Lonely?

Mom and AlexNew motherhood can be a lonely time, even for those living in vibrant urban areas. When Rachael Fanopoulos had her first child, she was living in the biggest of big cities, New York City. Nevertheless, it wasn’t easy for her to find a community of like-minded parents and good parenting resources (and we all know that the internet can be a scary place when it comes to locating quality parenting advice). That’s when she discovered Mommybites, a national online parenting community, and started attending their NYC events with her infant son. Through Mommybites, she was able to connect with other first-time parents who were going through what she was experiencing, and tap into a rich trove of online courses and resources.

When Rachael moved to the Boston area a few years later, she was determined to help the Boston parent community access the same support she received in New York. So, in 2012, Rachael founded Mommybites Boston with the goal of “empowering moms” by connecting them to each other, experts and local resources. Today, the Mommybites mission has never been more relevant in the Boston area, especially in light of the recent abrupt closure of a local parenting institution, Isis.

So when I sat down with Rachael to get her take on baby products (she sees lots of new moms and lots of baby gear!), it was no surprise that her advice focused less on what products you have, and more on surrounding yourself with the right community and resources:

Nothing can prepare a new mom for how drastically your life changes after baby arrives. You can read all the books and have all the right gear, but being a new mom can be an emotional, exhausting and overwhelming time (as well as the most joyful and rewarding time of your life). Having a friend or moms group to lean on is the best thing you can do for yourself. They help you realize that everything you and your baby are going through (isolation, feelings of self-doubt, for instance) are normal.
While making sure you have a strong supportive community around you in the first couple of years was Rachael’s primary message, she also had some down-to-earth advice on baby products that didn’t disappoint. She made a fantastic Mamajamas list, which focuses on stylish, yet budget friendly baby gear options. She also had strong opinions on categories of products you don’t necessarily need. For example, she advises to skip the high chair and go with a booster instead:

I don’t think moms need a big high chair – just go with the booster seat from day one. It will save space in your dining area and also make the baby feel like they are eating on a chair, at the table, with the family from the start.
Rachael recommends the Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat as a practical and economic booster seat option.

If you’re pregnant or a new mom and looking for some support, I highly recommend getting involved with Mommybites. They have tons of new moms groups popping up in the Boston area regularly, and their larger events are great too. I recently went to their Mom’s Ultimate Night Out and it was really fun (as well as lucrative – they had tons of giveaways and a nice gift bag – I downed an entire disc of free Taza Cinnamon Chocolate on the way home). So perhaps I’ll see you at their Mother’s Day Event in Cambridge?

Parenting in the modern age has become more isolating than ever, as families spread out over vast distances, and our lives become increasingly busy. When you have kids, you finally realize why so many people say “it takes a village.” So if you don’t already have that village or want to expand yours, and you’re living in the Boston area, I can highly recommend Mommybites Boston as a good place to start cultivating one

Your Mamajamas List Can Now Help Your Laziest of Pregnant Friends

Today we launched the ability for your friends to copy your entire Mamajamas list onto theirs with one click!

Now when I send my Mamajamas list to my pregnant friends, they can simply press the “Copy List” button off of my list, and voilá, baby gear problems solved!

Obviously, they may not want EVERYTHING I recommended (maybe my Himalayan Salt Lamp is a little too weird for them), so after copying my list, they can then customize theirs as they see fit (by looking at other Mamajamas suggested lamps, adding, deleting products, etc. etc.).

But for some folks, they’re cool just trusting you all the way (and possibly your hours of research). It takes time to think about baby gear.

So I say, share your list and encourage your friends copy away!


The Children’s Book Everyone Should Have

No offense to all the friends and family who gifted us a mountain of cool baby gear, but it was shocking how few books we received. I always thought of books as a classic present – with all the trappings of a great gift: timeless, personal, re-giftable, the gift that keeps on giving, etc. etc. And mostly unique! When the books did start to roll in over the various holidays, I began to worry about the health of the children’s book landscape. We received five gifts of ‘Goodnight Moon’ and re-gifted the lastcroc three copies of ‘Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site‘. ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?‘ I see you in the home of everybody.

Not that I have ever worried about diversity of book options – there are endless fabulous books for kids out there! But I worry about the monoculture of ‘bestsellers’ saturating the few remaining outlets we have for book buying. Leaving the literate starving for variety. I have often witnessed parents scramble to write down the name of a book recommended by another parent with a focus and speed typically not displayed by the sleep deprived. And recently I found myself in the same position where the sight of a few books I have never seen before sent a rush of adrenaline through my spine to quickly devour them. It was as if I’d been fed only hamburgers for weeks and was just seeing my first grilled chicken salad. I needed to own them, and read them to my children tonight!

Of coursethose who frequent their local library may not feel the pinch that the rest of us feel (though if people stop buying books, publishers will stop printing books, and libraries will go the way of bookstores). But for the rest of us, with the bookstore desert that is sweeping our landscape, where do we turn but to each other?

I am launching a call to parents – go to your bookshelves. Find the most tattered, chewed upon, food sticky, well-loved book that your child demands be read over and over again. And post just the title and author on whatever social media outlet you prefer: Facebook, Twitter, spam your email contacts list, text your favorites, call a few friends on your landline, or have a face to face interaction with another human being.  Let’s spread the good word.

The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water‘ by Gemma Merino

By Kathryn Grantham
lead_granthamKathryn has a passion for health and an activist’s fervor for the environment, and a track record of social entrepreneurship. In 1999, at the age of 22, Kathryn founded Bluestockings, an independent social justice-themed bookstore in New York City. In parallel, she was discovering the world of natural health and its connection with the health of our planet, at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She sold the bookstore in 2003, attended Harvard Business School (MBA ’05), and launched Roots Remedies, a locally-sourced herbal products company in 2008. She lives in Cambridge, MA with her husband and two young sons. 
For more Unique Children’s Book REcommendations from KAthryn, Check out her Mamajamas List Here.

5 Challenges of Motherhood No One Warns You About

dario_mamaWhen I was pregnant, I asked for, and received, a lot of good advice – everything from how to deal with the postpartum baby blues, to when you should start worrying about spoiling a child.

But here are five things people never told me:

  1. You will never be able to go out past 7:00pm again with your partner without paying someone. Even if you are one of those lucky families that has parents nearby who babysit for free, you will still have fewer opportunities to stay out past dark. My husband and I used to take walks every night after dinner. Now we feel extremely lucky when we can squeeze in a weekly “date night.” 
  2. A vacation is not really a vacation. Unless you leave the kids at home (and risk separation anxiety) or take a babysitter with you (really expensive), vacations are no longer relaxing. We recently spent a long weekend in Bermuda stuck in a small hotel room with our three-year-old while it poured rain outside. At some point, we even tried to force him to watch movies (a desperate step for parents who don’t even own a TV at home).
  3. You will have no more time to yourself in general.  I used to do pottery. It took up a lot of time but it was so relaxing. The only clay I touch these days is playdough, and I probably won’t have a chance to do pottery for another 15 years. 
  4. It’s not just parenting that makes life harder, but ALL your domestic responsibilities are a new level of hard . While pregnant, I was adequately warned about the sleepless nights and poopy diapers. What I didn’t anticipate was the added amount of extra housework and logistical planning. There is not a free moment where I am not picking up after my child, cleaning up his breakfast/lunch/crumbs/toys/clothes, scheduling doctors appointments, afternoon activities… and don’t even get me started on all the extra laundry. And the amount of extra domestic duties has not even gotten better over time (it has just changed in nature–refer to #5).
  5. Everything’s a phase and each phase presents new challenges. I had this notion that things would just get easier after the first year of parenting, but that’s not necessarily how it works. The challenges just keep changing. They move from sleep issues to behavioral issues, back to sleep again, and so on. Even now that my son is three, many challenges exist. Just as I’m getting used to him waking up at 7:30am, he decides to wake up an hour earlier. Just as he’s getting comfortable in his current daily routine, it’s time to start pre-school. Things change quickly, and it’s not always easy to keep up. That’s just the reality – once you have a kid, you have to learn to adapt to new challenges all of the time. 

Gosh. I’m making this whole motherhood thing sound pretty rough. So why do people keep having kids? Well, to be fair, it is hard to convey the rewards of motherhood in words. But I’m going to try, so without further ado, here are five great rewards I never anticipated :

  1. Every little milestone fills me with pride. Yesterday my son was strutting down the street in his new rain boots, so content, stepping into every puddle. He was singing some song he made up. Just looking at him, doing nothing special, but so fully formed, filled me with this intense love I can’t describe. I couldn’t believe that I made this cool little person that now just walks along singing.
  2. I feel my life has a greater purpose than it did before. This one is thrilling, yet a bit terrifying. There ia little person in this world who depends on me. I am his mother, and my parenting (and even just my actions) will inform much of the man he will one day become. That’s quite the feeling of a greater purpose.
  3. I’ve never felt I had a stronger community of family and friends. Good friends and family have never been more important to me than they are now. I appreciate my parents and in-laws more than ever. They provide me with much needed advice and help! I now understand why people move to communes — and why people say it takes a village.
  4. I see the world in a new way. By nature, I’m the impatient, efficient, all-work-and-no-play type. My son helps me to stop and smell the roses. Literally. He’s always stopping to smell the flowers. He helps me live in the moment and enjoy the world as a small child would see it.
  5. There is no one else I’d rather spend my time with. My son is three and I still miss him every day when I’m working. I like work, and I like having time to myself, but there is absolutely no one else I’d rather spend time with than my son. The best feeling in the world is when my son runs to me with a huge smile on his face when I come home. It feels so good to matter so much to someone.

Having kids means a whole lot of sacrifices, but it also means a new life that is more fulfilling in ways I never imagined. These moments with my child are indescribable, and I have experienced love in a way I never felt before. I’d happily trade a lifetime without ceramics, for just an hour with my son.

For Toddlers and Tough Transitions: Try Sand Timers

I can’t remember precisely when it happened, but at some point around the early twos, our son started having a tough time with some every day transitions. Time to start the bedtime routine… protest. Time to get out of the bath… whine. Time to nap… cry. We soon realized that if we gave him some notice, in the form of a countdown or number of minutes, he seemed to accept these transitions a little better because he knew they were coming. But even with a warning, things weren’t perfect. My two year old had no idea what 5 minutes meant, for example, so he would stress about when the 5 minutes would be done. That’s when my husband had this brilliant idea.

He ordered some Tea Timers. They came in a pack of three: one for 3, 5 and 7 minutes. They have colored sand which falls down so my son now has a concrete visual indication of how much time has passed and how much is left.

Now we let our son turn over a timer for each tough transition. They have worked like a charm! They work especially well for bath time. He used to protest the end of bath time like crazy (can’t blame him really–baths are great). Now we use the three minute timer when we want him to get out. He likes turning it over, can see the green sand falling down, and after it is done, he has no problems climbing out and getting his towel.

We also invested in a bigger hourglass. We got a 15 minute one to use during rest/nap time. We allow him to turn it over once or twice for each rest time and after it is done, he can get up. He watches as the purple sand falls down, and more than often, he’s asleep before it finishes. It has been incredibly helpful, especially since my son is now 3 1/2 so his naps have become less consistent. But at least now, we have a way of ensuring he gets in a good 15-30 minute rest every day.

I’ve noticed with parenthood, sometimes it’s little things that make a big difference. This is one that has helped us tremendously during the toddler phase. I’ve added the tea timers to my Mamajamas list. I hope your list will eventually help you share with your new parent friends some little things that have helped you along the way.