As a parent, I struggle with finding time for myself. During the last few weeks, while staying with my parents, I have been able to rest and sleep better than I have in months. Last week, I mustered up enough energy to go for a quick “jog” around the neighborhood. Before I continue, there are a few details I must share about the area my parents live. First, the closest grocery store is thirty minutes away. Second, a walk with the children involves a trip to see horses, goats, and turkeys. Finally, it doesn’t matter which route you take, there are hills, hills, and more hills.
I started off on my jog going downhill, which wasn’t so bad, and actually gave me a bit of confidence. I trotted past the horses, crossed the little bridge and before I knew it, I had rounded the bend at the end of the road. Now, I had a decision: either I continue along my path – which would eventually round back to my parents’ place – or I could turn back and trot back up the hill and head home. Since the first part of my jog hadn’t taken too much time or energy, I decided to power on. Before you think I am a hardcore runner, let me clear a few things up. I have not jogged more than two miles in over two years. Also, the last time I strapped up my jogging shoes was over a month ago. So, this spur of the moment jog was driven by no more than hormones and a burst of energy.
I eventually jogged past the goats, many of which waddled their way towards me bleating, as they always did. I started the slow but steady trek up the enormous hill, which seemed to grow larger with every step I took. I now know why they pair the words “uphill” and “battle” together. Going up hills was definitely a battle between my body and my mind. As I reached the top, I noticed the sun begin to set. I reached the top of the hill and sighed in relief as it dipped downwards, giving my legs a short period of rest. For the next twenty minutes, I bounced up and down the hills, skipping through songs on my iPod, trying to stay motivated (and sane). During my entire trip, I saw no cars or vehicles, and only spotted a single person and his canine companion gazing at the setting sun. It was peaceful and quiet, and a little eerie. During the song breaks, I could hear my breath panting and my feet hitting the concrete. I felt like I was in an episode of Criminal Minds (which has been my Netflix guilty pleasure as of late) while shadows crept behind me as the sun dipped below the trees. As I spotted the porch lights at my parents house, I felt my feet run a little faster. Home. I was almost home.
It was calming as I jogged slowly back towards the house. My older sister and my mother sat on the front porch, sipping on wine and waiting for me to return. I couldn’t help but smile at how safe everything felt, despite my childish fears. During this time in my life, with the chaotic situation being “homeless” creates, the simpleness and almost naked nature of farm life couldn’t be more perfect. As I sit here writing this blog post, snuggled into bed with my heated throw, the cows moo in the distance. In just a few short days, I will be back to suburban life, carting my kids back and forth to school and gymnastics; there will be grocery stores and home improvement stores, cleaning and cooking, bills to pay, and Christmas… But, until then, I will enjoy the silence.
Since publishing my last two blog posts about planning my son’s 3rd birthday and my quest to become a better parent, I decided this would be a good time to share my story…
“I’m sorry…but I need help.” Those were some of the hardest words I’ve had to say. I still remember how hard it was to smile and how difficult every simple task was. Now only was I dealing with a newborn, but I had no desire to actually parent. Those of you that know me personally know that I am usually very ambitious and driven – which I thank my parents and family for providing me with many opportunities growing up. However, after the birth of my second child, I was transformed into someone else.
Onward into the haze of parenting
On 8/4/13 at 3:30pm, baby boy #2 was born. He weighed 6 lbs 8 oz and was 19 inches long. I was thrilled! He was not only bigger and longer than our first, but he was not tongue-tied OR jaundiced. The first two weeks postpartum were a dream! My husband took time off, was home helping with the diaper changes and feedings. I was full of energy and LOVED being a mother to two beautiful children. However, the two week “honeymoon” ended too quickly. Even though I was already a parent to a beautiful and smart toddler, I was completely unprepared for the overwhelming neediness of a newborn.
My husband went back to work, the lack of sleep was catching up with me, and my body began to ache from childbirth. The baby was eating every hour to two hours (if I was lucky) and pooped almost just as often. Breastfeeding was not easy for me, despite having breastfed my first son for 15 months. Every day felt longer and longer and the baby’s cries grew louder and louder. I began to stay indoors more during the day, ignored calls and messages and pushed family and friends away. Once my husband was home, I refused to breastfeed the baby. I preferred to pump and let my husband bottle feed him. On the weekends, I pumped enough milk, raced out the door to “run errands” and would spend as much time as I could away from my new baby. When I was home, I would be so angry. Angry at my husband for going to work. Angry at my toddler for wanting to play. Angry at my new baby for wanting to eat. Angry at everyone and everything. And if I wasn’t angry, I was sad. Sad that I couldn’t appreciate my beautiful child. Sad that I wasn’t being a good partner. Sad that I hated being a parent.
Accepting my weakness and finding happiness
During my four-week postpartum visit, they diagnosed me with postpartum depression. I cried and ignored their offer for medication. I thought I could “handle” it myself with exercise and self-care. I was wrong. I felt myself continue to spiral down, deeper and further into depression. I applied for jobs and even went on a job interview in hopes of escaping my new baby. Finally, one night it clicked. I needed help. I emailed my doctor that evening and began to take medication the next day. I finally began to feel “normal.”
It’s hard to believe that three months had passed before I really began to SEE my baby. One morning, while my husband and toddler were still fast asleep, I sat in bed with my baby and we “played.” He smiled and cooed and even tried to laugh as I made funny faces. I couldn’t believe that it had taken me that long to appreciate being a parent again.
Once I began to treat my depression, I started to feel better. I even resumed teaching, which allowed me to get into a semi-normal routine (despite the unpredictable nature of an infant). However, even today, while I am able to leave the house, socialize and feel comfortable in public, there are still days where I would rather avoid public situations where I have to talk to other people. Despite my overall happy days. I still find myself forgetting simple things on a regular basis and have an extremely difficult time concentrating.
Asking for help is a sign of STRENGTH
Now that I feel I am over the hump, I now know how important my husband’s support really is. While he did the best he could (with the information he had), I wish I had thought to give him more resources in the beginning. Even though most resources online are directed towards “dads,” I found this particular article helpful for anyone close to someone experiencing postpartum depression: For Dads: What To Do, What Not To Do. (On a side note, did you know dads can also get postpartum depression?)
The journey has been difficult and to say I am 100% better would be a lie. I have my days where I can’t focus on anything and don’t feel like holding my baby, but there are other days I can’t get enough kisses from my two beautiful loving children. The one thing that keeps me going every morning is the fact that I know this will pass and I will be that ambitious and happy woman again. Until then, I am not ashamed to admit that I needed help.
We all need help from time to time, so whether you are suffering from postpartum depression or are just feeling overwhelmed and stressed out…don’t be afraid to ask for help! You will be surprised at how many people are willing to support you and be there for you.
Patience. We are all expected to have it, but where do we learn it? Or, even better – how do we teach it?
Today, after a long and grueling morning, toting along my sick infant, sick toddler, and sick SELF to Roseville and back, I found my patience dipping dangerously low. Every time my toddler’s voice started to get a liiiiiiittttle high-pitched and whiny, I immediately snapped. I knew he wasn’t feeling well (which he did not hesitate to remind me every few minutes), and I knew I was also feeling ‘under the weather.’ All in all, I wasn’t my best “mommy” to him or my other son, and that was very disappointing, since I chose to be home with my little ones for their first few years.
Flashback: “There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.”
Recently I attended a Positive Parenting workshop with my husband. I went into the workshop thinking it would be for my husband, yet I walked out feeling both motivated and discouraged at the same time. Here I was, thinking I knew everything I knew about being a positive parent. Yet, in moments like today, I realized I had a lot to learn. Why was it so hard to keep my cool? Why couldn’t I recall all that amazing verbiage and techniques we discussed in the workshop? Then I realized something – well actually two things: First, disappointment comes from expectations; when you expect someone to act a certain way, then we are bound to be disappointed. We are all individuals. We all have a mind of our own, with our own opinions, experiences, and feelings. However, disappointment does not have to be a bad thing! Second, disappointment exists, because we care about that other someone. If we were truly selfish people and did not love others, than it would be easy to drop all expectations and therefore be free of disappointment. But what kind of life is that?
Therefore, I have decided I am going to not only practice positive parenting for my children, but also for myself. There are dayslike yesterday where I feel like a big child and want nothing more than to throw my toys and stomp out of the room. But then I remember I am the adult (or at least I am supposed to be…) Sure, I was running on empty and I may have reacted out of frustration, rather than patience. I know how important my behavior is in molding how I want my children to act. I also know that it is still early in their lives and they are open books, which means there is still time to change my behavior and show my children how I want them to be. I truly love, love, LOVE the little people who have the amazing ability to drive me bonkers on a daily basis, which means I am willing to FORGIVE myself for my “bad behavior.”
What is your favorite “positive parenting” technique?
Baby, it’s COLD outside…
February is an important month for my family. My first baby turned 3 on February 1st, and my second baby reached his first “half birthday.” As a second-time parent, I am ashamed to admit I underestimated the power of germs. I thought I was a super-clean person who gets her flu-shot every year AND buys hand-sanitizer by the gallon, yet I have fallen prey to the crazy viruses that circulate households with toddlers and babies. With one child, I had it handled. We washed our hands and weathered out any illness like normal people do – with good food, TV, and REST! However, now that I have two sick kiddos at home, sleep has continued to evade me, both day and night, as I stay up all day trying to get the kiddos to rest and am kept up all night by snotty noses and loud snores (from everyone in the house). What is a tired mom to do?
Okay parents… I know I am expected to write something super motivational and inspiring, but to be honest I am dead-tired and am running off half-eaten cheese sandwiches and squishy apple slices (the remnants of my toddler’s lunch). I am so frustrated and want nothing more than to curl up in bed next to my napping toddler (which is a miracle in itself), but instead I am sitting on my computer tap-tap-taping this blog post with a sleeping baby on my back. But, despite my aching back and tired eyes, I keep reminding myself that this is only a short period in my life and soon the children will be better, I will be better, and we will be back to our normal routine soon.
Arrrrr-gh! Birthday? Pinterest, here I come!
So, on more of an upbeat note! I have been half-hardheartedly planning my toddler’s third birthday party. I am pretty excited for this party, since A. I am not pregnant (like I was during his second birthday) and B. He picked the theme this year. I had no idea that “being three” has made him such a BIG KID (with big ideas, big choices, and big negotiating skills…) We have settled on “Jake and the Neverland Pirate” theme, which means I have a lot of preparing to do!
So, as I scoured Pinterest for “pirate-themed” party ideas, immediately the guilt began to build. It will be rainy on Sunday, so I won’t be able to do any pirate games! Will I have enough time to set-up for his party? Will there be enough food? As anxiety and worry swirled in my mind, I found myself recalling this amazing blog I read last year and it made me stop. Will my child really care if I have cute little pirate ships made out of hot dogs or a watermelon fruit bowl in the shape of a giant boat? No. Will he care if I have pirate-themed games, such as “walk the plank” and “ring toss around a sword”? No. Would he want me to be there with him, spending time with him? YES! It was then that I realized that the party wasn’t for him…it was for me – the parent.
While Pinterest is still the top app opened on my iPhone and is the holder of my idle-mind (and fingers) as I watch TV or wait for my baby to wake up from his nap, I try not to feel the urge to replicate all the amazing crafts and recipes. I still look to Pinterest for clever organizing ideas and sneaky ways to sneak in veggies, but I refuse to let it control how I see myself as a parent. I want to be a good parent to my children, and by being there for them, I know I will be an amazing parent.
Thank you to our fabulous guest blogger for this informative insight into biking with babies and car-free life with children.
By: Elle Bustamante, Bike/Pedestrian Educator and amazing car-free mama of 2 at Tiny Helmets Big Bikes.
Biking with Babies Made Easy
Bicycling is awesome! Remember the freedom it gave you as a child–the wind in your face, exploring new neighborhoods, getting tired and sweaty, and riding around with a big, giant grin plastered to your face? But then we grow up, we buy cars because we need to go farther and faster and that’s what we’re told to do. We lose freedom to responsibility and the bikes get tucked away in the garage to get dusty.
After my second child, I decided I wanted a change. I didn’t want to be schlepping my children around in a car anymore. I wanted my freedom back. I got back on my bike, children in tow, and started pedaling. Those feelings came back and I was happy! It didn’t matter if I was doing a mundane chore like picking up groceries if I was on my bike. Weekend picnics didn’t involve piling into a car, driving in traffic-filled streets, going round and round to find parking, only to be totally exhausted before we even sat down at the park. Instead, we rode. The boys were noticing the world around them, smelling dinners as we passed houses in the evening or pointing out the funny purple house with the tiny dog out front. We were talking and singing and smiling again–no more shouting at the backseat to get them to stop fighting so I could concentrate.
Bicycling not only gave me back my freedom, but also my connection with our community, and a slower-paced lifestyle so I could fully focus on my family. We enjoy the adventure of getting somewhere, we’re not just rushing to the next destination.
The number one comment I hear is always regarding safety. “Is that safe?” The short answer: yes. The longer answer: nothing in life is safe. Living life will eventually lead to dying, in one way or another. Sitting on your chair all day will kill you. Stairs kill more people each year than bicycles. The number one killer of children that no one talks about is cars. Cars are deadly yet no one thinks of the danger as they’re strapping their children down into styrofoam seats with nylon straps and plastic buckles then hurdling down the freeway at 70mph. Mile for mile, bicycling is safer than driving your car. The best way to minimize your risks while riding is to take a class in traffic safety which will help give you the confidence to bike safely and legally.
- Follow the flow of traffic, ride in the same direction as cars.
- Don’t ride on the sidewalk. Sidewalks are far more dangerous than riding in the street because drivers aren’t looking for you there.
- Follow all traffic signs, use hand signals. Ride predictably and confidently.
- Avoid the door-zone (the space next to parked cars, roughly 3-4’, in case someone swings their door open without looking).
- Choose your route. While you might think your usual route is unrideable, check out the quiet neighborhood streets just a block over. It’s a world of difference.
Getting started is hard and possibly even scary. Find a friend who is already riding to help hold your hand in the beginning. Join local bike groups, especially ones geared towards casual riders or families (Kidical Mass). Talk to your local bike shop about their suggestions, although if they give you grief, find a different shop. There are great resources online, (R)evolutions Per Minute is a FaceBook group whose members are always happy to give encouraging words or helpful suggestions for different situations. You are certainly not alone in your desire to bike with your family.
Finding a set-up that works well for your family is the first step. My children both started riding at 6 months old in a trailer behind my bike. I checked with our pediatrician first and waited until they could sit up and hold a helmet on their head. Our trailer, although we found it used on Craigslist, was top of the line and had suspension to minimize vibrations–one of the main concerns regarding riding with very young children. Other people have started with their children much younger and others have chosen to wait longer. This is a decision that is best made between you, your partner, and your child’s doctor.
- A trailer is a fantastic low-cost solution. You can find many used that are still in great shape. Trailers offer protection from the elements, a tiny haven for your child to look around, play with toys, or most often, nap. The downsides to using a trailer is that your child(ren) are low to the ground and separated from you. If they need something, you have to get off your bike to get to them. As children get bigger, the trailer gets heavier to pull and can be fairly cumbersome. You can expect a trailer to last until your child is about 4 years old, give or take.
- Bike seats that are front mounted are wonderful. They don’t fit every bike or rider but there are many options on the market that range from about $75-175. This seat puts your child (usually up to 35 lbs) right in between your arms. It’s perfect for interacting and cuddling while riding. Bike seats that mount on a rear rack have a higher weight limit, usually 45-50 lbs, sometimes higher. It’s easier to ride with a child on your bike as you’re not pulling the added weight of a trailer or focusing on the trailer’s movements in addition to your bike’s. Many people are concerned about dropping their bike with a child in the seat. If that is something that worries you, get comfortable to your bike without the children on board first. Start with your seat low enough for you to get a firm foot on the ground if you start to wobble. In reality, most people don’t just “fall off” a bike, and if they do, it’s most likely that you’re in the process of stopping. These falls are often slow and controlled. If your child is in a front seat, your arms will probably be protecting them. A rear seat often has side-protection. Choose a seat that works best with your abilities and needs. As long as you are comfortable riding a bike, adding a seat isn’t much different.
CARGO BIKES are in a class of their own. These are often viewed as car-replacement vehicles. Children under 4 years old must be strapped into a child seat (according to California vehicle code), those over 4 still need to be sitting on a designated “seat” that is designed for that purpose. Cargo bikes make riding with multiple children incredibly easy. It’s important to test ride a few different styles as this kind of bike is an investment at $800-5000.
- Longtail bikes (Yuba bicycles, Xtracycles) have extra length added to their frame to accommodate 2-3 children on the back.
- Bakfietsen or Long-John bikes look like they have a box or wheelbarrow out front. Children sit up front, low to the ground, making it a very stable and balanced set up.
For my family, we started with trailers until we realized that we wanted to make biking our main form of transportation. We committed to using our bikes for ALL trips that were “bikeable.” At first, we started with a 2-4 mile radius, excluding some routes that we weren’t comfortable on, yet. Slowly, we started finding longer distances doable and ways to get to previously uncharted territory. Our car sat in the driveway for longer and longer periods of time and we started paying attention to our savings for each mile ridden as opposed to driven.
After about 8 months, we made the leap into car-freedom by selling our Prius. Our cargo bike, a Yuba Mundo, made biking easier than using the trailer had been. In a pinch, we’ve been known to borrow my parents’ or a friend’s car and we have a membership to Zip Car, a car sharing program. We’ve found that biking can get us to about 90% of all our necessary destinations and made it 1000% more fun.
You can learn more about our journey by checking out our website: tinyhelmetsbigbikes.com. We document the good days and the not-so-good days, document what has been working and what hasn’t, and write about lots of our fun adventures going bicycle camping and touring. You can also find us riding around Sacramento and at our monthly Kidical Mass rides. We’re happy to answer any questions that could help get you into family bicycling.