The Skin I’m In: Thoughts About Body Image During Pregnancy & Beyond

Some mornings I stand in the buff and look at my pregnant body with so much admiration. I’m creating another life and my body knows exactly how to do it. Organs, little ears and tiny limbs are all being made by me – and I guess my husband helped a little too. 😉

Then there are mornings that turn into entire days where I look at myself in the harshest light. Yes, I know I’m pregnant and yes, I know my body is not mine right now, but I still feel bad about it. I feel horrible even writing that, because it doesn’t reflect how excited I am to have another child. I feel guilt just thinking that!

Obviously pregnancy stimulates a wide range of feelings about the body. Those who have been pregnant and are pregnant know exactly what I mean. Our culture, especially among certain social classes, makes no secret of how very important it is that women “get their bodies back” instantaneously. Too little attention is paid to why our bodies morph the way they do during pregnancy. We hold onto the baby weight for a reason, because it serves both the baby and mother.

Body shame in our world today is prolific and it leaves women (pregnant or not) feeling stymied. Pregnancy can be especially disorienting in so many ways. I for one, have felt an immense amount of anxiety and at times, depression about how I’m coping with my growing pregnant body.

After receiving a heartfelt and thoughtful DM from a childhood friend this morning, I felt inspired to write on this topic. My friend is pregnant with her first child and is feeling a lot of the things I felt while pregnant with Gia and how I feel now.

The other day my friend who DM’d me posted a photo to her Instagram page. The photo was a shot of her and her beautiful growing bump. She told me that when she was posting the picture she was so scared of what people would think about how she looked. She also went on to say how awful she felt for feeling that way because she was doing something amazing, growing her baby.

Like me, my friend has maintained a healthy routine through her pregnancy by working out, eating healthfully, while still allowing herself a splurge sometimes. Balance right?? Regardless of her efforts and mine to treat our bodies with kindness during this time, we have both beat ourselves up over our weight gain.

After messaging her back, we were both in agreement that we are doing the right thing for ourselves and our growing babes, but regardless of all that, our bodies are going to do what they’re going to do. For my friend that means more weight in her lower half than she’s used to or prefers. For me, that means having a cup size to rival any Victoria’s Secret hottie, as well as a growing lower half.


If I’m being honest, this picture makes me look smaller than I think I really look.  Again, I was also hesitant in even sharing this photo.  These pants are doing their damnedest to keep my bulging body parts in, but this is my version of six months pregnant.

We are all different people and all have different pregnancies. Sometimes it’s hard for me to not look at other pregnant women and be envious of their seemingly perfect bumpin’ belly and looking so petite everywhere else. I need to remind myself that those women and myself are totally different. I am a six foot tall athlete. I have been athletic my entire life. I’m going to look very different than a woman who is 5’4 and who has never played collegiate sports.

This weekend I even found myself comparing my six months pregnant body to a petite woman who was 15 months postpartum. How ridiculous is that?! First of all, I’M PREGNANT. Second, I was almost a foot taller than her with a totally different body type.

I really had to reel my thoughts back in this weekend. I also am constantly reminding myself that being pregnant is hard in so many ways. I’ve had an especially challenging time navigating my thoughts on body image through my last pregnancy and this one. I’ve mentioned briefly in a previous post that I did have an eating disorder towards the end of college.  I was in the thick of under eating and over exercising.  Because of all that, my last year I was unable to continue to play softball due to so much weight loss.  Everything important to me, including my identity, was taken away so abruptly. (At some point I’ll share the full story about this, but that’s a post for another day!)

I am fully recovered from that dark time in my life, but it’s a constant battle to silence the negative and disordered thinking that I practiced for so long. I know that it will be something I need to be mindful of for my whole life, and that’s especially true right now, even while pregnant.

I think what I really want to say is we all have a struggle. Many times that struggle is silent and we feel very alone. This post proves that I’m not alone in my complicated feelings about my pregnant body, and neither is the friend who reached out to me. We both worked hard for our healthy pre-pregnancy bodies and we will both work hard to have healthy postpartum bodies.

We all need to give ourselves some grace and remember we have one body. Be kind to it, fuel it properly, appreciate all that it is capable of and be grateful.

After having Gia I’ve realized that life just goes by faster with each passing year. I can’t get hung up on putting pressure on myself to lose baby weight from this second pregnancy by a certain time. I should be more concerned with maintaining my good health to raise equally as healthy daughters, who I hope will one day love their bodies unconditionally. Like I’ve always said, God has given me girls so I never slip back into disordered eating and so I can teach them how their bodies are strong and perfect exactly how they are.

My tips to anyone who is struggling with body image during pregnancy:

Acknowledging You’re Body is Being Borrowed – Your body is in a major transformation process. Perhaps the negative feelings you have about your pregnant body may be about something other than the actual body surface, or in addition to it. Investigate your feelings and acknowledge them. Remember pregnancy is not permanent and is such a small blip of time in your whole life. Try and look at the good during this time.

Notice Self Talk And Feedback From Others – Comparison is the thief of joy and shame based internal chatter is a recipe for unhappiness. There will always be unsolicited comments about your pregnant state. Try just accept the comment and not think too far into it. Opinions from others about your bump are truly irrelevant, unless coming from your doctor. Keep doing YOU and say “screw those people!” (And I say that in the nicest possible way! Lol!)

Acceptance – Acceptance, especially body acceptance, during a time where you’re scared that your body will forever be enlarged is tough. Here’s what I’ve realized through both of my pregnancies….worrying does not modify what may or may not happen to my body through these wondrous months. Preoccupation with my body has never brought anything fruitful and steals joy from the present moment. It’s not fair to me or my family. Keep your eye on the prize – that end result, your baby!

Focus On Being A Role Model – Being gentle on myself as I navigate body image concerns serves as an ideal template for me to parent from. I don’t want Gia and her little sister to ever treat their bodies the way I have treated mine. I’ve been cruel to myself in the past and don’t want to teach that. As I journey through motherhood, modeling what it means to be a strong woman is what’s most important.


This little girl and her growing sister are the ones that I do all of this for.  They make me stronger, happy and oh so proud.  Little eyes are always watching.

And that’s all I’ve got! I think this post serves me more than others. It’s something I should reference back to when I’m feeling not so great about myself. I need to practice what I preach, and by writing it for all of you to read I’m holding myself responsible for following through with my words.

Hopefully someone who reads this can relate in some way. Remember we are all made perfectly the way we are and that’s what’s truly beautiful.

Xo

My Week Long Social Media Detox

I’m pretty sure that from the beginning, technology was meant to serve us in a positive way. Social media is supposed to make our lives better by allowing us to have more time and connection to others in our already limited schedules. But are the likes of Instagram and Twitter really adding value to our lives?

I will certainly admit that there are times where I feel like a slave to the social media machine. It’s sometimes hard to totally “log off,” especially when our jobs and lives almost require us to be online. I catch myself scrolling through my Instagram sometimes before even hopping out of bed in the morning, and for what?

Of course social media can be a good thing, but even too much of a good thing can be harmful. For this reason, I decided to take a little break from all things social media for one week. Some of you may scoff and say, “One week is nothing!” While that may be true, at least I’ve remained true to my word for the last week by going completely cold turkey. For me, the main culprit of addiction is Instagram. I use Facebook as well, but Instagram is something that I feel more invested in, for whatever reason.

On day 2 of my detox from the online world, I realized just how much I casually visited Instagram. Day 1 was easy to go without, but the second morning I found my fingers twitching to click that little icon on my phone. Thoughtless Instagram scrolling sometimes serves as a little mommy getaway during nap time or when Gia is happily watching an episode of Sesame Street. But what was it that I was really longing for? Nothing on Instagram that I was “missing” was going to change my life, or make it better for that matter.

On Day 6 of my little detox, I realized I wasn’t even thinking about social media. With this newfound sense of “freedom” I found myself using short bursts of time for more useful things than online scrolling. I’m a pretty productive person, but this past week I’ve been more motivated to just get things done. I’m not sure if it has everything to do with not being so online, but I’ll take it.

During the past week I’ve accomplished a lot – Gia’s big girl bed is in her new room, bedding for it has been ordered, I’ve had family over for dinner, I’ve taken family to appointments and planted in the yard, just to name a few. Along with these to-do’s I’ve also felt more mental clarity. I know that sounds a little wacky, but it’s true. No trying to keep up with the Joneses, less feelings of inadequacy and more pride in the things that I have accomplished. If I can attribute these feelings to less social media usage than I may very well make this a regular thing.

We all know that social media sells a false reality, which can be especially toxic for women. We all usually post our best pictures – many times showing us on our latest adventure, silently proclaiming (with or without intention) how great our life is. Herein lies the comparison problem. It’s extremely difficult to remind ourselves that people post what they want others to see. If you say you don’t, you’re probably lying.

When I first looked at my Instagram feed after not seeing it for a week there was a couple things I noticed. I realized that I didn’t miss much of anything and I immediately had a negative thought creep into my head. After seeing a pregnancy Instagram account post a photo of a woman who was 25 weeks pregnant, I found myself comparing my pregnancy size to her. First off, I’m a couple days shy of 23 weeks, and second – it doesn’t matter! Everything I’ve been trying to stop doing the past week came racing back. I’m just pleased I was able to instantly realize how irrational and ridiculous I was being for thinking I should look like that woman.

The thing about comparing our lives to each other through social media is that it’s completely unfair. Nobody’s profile is perfect – it’s all filtered and sterilized! So why do you and I keep feeling a twinge of despair for not having as many likes and followers as the next person? Here’s where I insert a friendly reminder: Comparison is the thief of joy. A flower doesn’t think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms. Lions don’t concern themselves with the opinions of sheep either. Wish I could say I came up with those quotes, but I didn’t. They are just words I try to remember when I catch myself feeling inadequate after looking at the hottest blogger’s Instagram feed, or my mom friend who seems to always have her stuff together.

One of 30 newly planted friends in my front yard – my beautiful hydrangea:

I understand that we live in a day and age where social media is truly a big part of all of our lives. There’s lots of tangible benefits too – keeping us connected with friends and family from all over, and augmenting our social lives, rather than replacing them.

My biggest takeaway from this personal experiment was that there is so much more to life than meets the eye. My perspectives have been shifted and I’ve been reminded of what’s most important in life – our family, health and happiness.

I read an article prior to going offline for the week about a man who takes a month long break from social media every December. I thought this was a really great idea and would be something that I could benefit from. If I implement this same practice the only thing I will miss are sharing photos of my daughter. (Soon I’ll be saying daughters! Crazy!) Other than that, it sounds like I need to pick my month of the year to go on my vacation from the online world.

Have any of you taken a deliberate break from social media before? I’m curious to hear what it did for you. Leave a comment to let me know your thoughts about what the app addiction is doing to our world.

Xo

Why We Are Having Another Child

As parents, it seems like Craig and I have finally fully adjusted to life with a little one and now we are adding a little sister to the mix.  Yes, we know we will have to referee many backseat battles and likely have to buy two of everything when it comes to toys – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, of course!  But what we are most excited for is to witness Gialina and her little sister play with one another and embrace each other in warm hugs.

When Gia was born I realized I would do anything to protect her.  I hope and pray that Gia will experience a similar feeling growing up with a younger sibling.  When baby girl number two comes along and starts to become more independent, our children will learn how to split the last chocolate chip cookie that I made, and hopefully learn how to divide TV time when their favorite show is on.  Obviously these little lessons will take time and there will be bumps in the road, but they will come in handy when they are in school.

Craig and I both grew up with siblings and we couldn’t imagine not giving Gia that same gift.  She might not see it that way in the beginning, but as already experienced by Craig and I, having a built in “playmate” and lifelong friend is wonderful.  There won’t be an urgent need to schedule playdates when Gia’s best friend is in the next room.  I know that some of this talk of being best friends can be wishful thinking on my part.  I am fully aware that siblings fight and sometimes they fight a lot.  I’m also keen to the idea that we are going to raise our children with a strong moral compass, so with that, we believe that our children will love and respect one another for a lifetime.  It’s all about setting a good example and instilling proper values.

In Gia’s almost two years of life, we’ve witnessed such empathy, compassion, humor and intelligence on the daily.  Whether it’s mastering a puzzle or learning to hit a plastic golf ball, we know that Gia will teach her younger sister so many things.  In the same regard, as an older sibling she will learn a lot of patience from our new addition.

As I’ve gotten older, I share so many of my thoughts and problems with my younger brother, Zach.  I hope that Gia and her sister will turn to each other for guidance, just as their funky Unkie and I do.


Pictured here is my brother Zach explaining the finer points of surfing to Gia.  I can’t wait for her to know the bond siblings can share.

IMG_2593

As sister’s they will celebrate so much together – from birthdays to a walk down the aisle, I hope they stand by each other’s side through all of life’s monumental moments.  With those good times also comes tough times – bruised knees, a less than perfect grade, a broken heart.  No matter the problem, siblings should be there to dry each other’s tears and act as a shoulder to lean on.

(Thinking about this next part makes me emotional and teary eyed.) Above all else, we are making our family a family of four because we want Gia to have someone to grow old with.  Friends come and go, but family is forever.  Unfortunately our parents aren’t able to physically be around forever, so having another sibling ensures that Gia will have a blood connection long after Craig and I are gone.

I’m aware that not everyone wants another child, let alone one child.  (I’ve addressed that in my blog before.)  I try to be sensitive to the fact that everyone is free to live their life exactly how they wish, with child or without.  I also know that those who want kids may have difficulty conceiving and may never experience what Craig and I have.  I feel great pain for those who want kids but are unable, and I have great respect  for those who choose to live their life without children, as these are very personal things.  All I know for myself is that I would absolutely regret not having a second child.  I feel like I would be robbing Gia of something that I know is so amazing.  This is why we are adding another girl to our gang.


Soon Gia will be picking flowers with her built in bestie.

IMG_E2654

Sidenote:  I know my blog invites opinions of others, but I want to remind everyone to be kind.  By no means do you need to agree with any of my opinions, let’s just be respectful of one another.

I’d love to hear from friends and strangers alike – Why have you decided to have a another child?  Feel free to comment here and don’t forget to follow more of my adventures on my Instagram page, @mrsbennigson.

xo

Not So Frequent Flyer

For those of you who follow my Instagram account, @mrsbennigson, you already know that Gia and I took off for a weekend adventure.

For the last few weeks I’ve been wanting to head to Newport Beach to visit my brother. We don’t get to see him all the time and in turn, he doesn’t get to see Gia on the regular. We do what we can with technology and FaceTime, but the real deal is always our first choice.

Initially this trip was just going to be my mom coming down to visit Zach – I always have her for Mother’s Day, so Zach was long over due to have some mom time with her. I thought this would also be a good chance to visit Zach with Gia before baby #2 gets here, because Lord knows that we won’t be hopping on a plane with a toddler and newborn right away.

First of all, my hat is off to parents who regularly travel by air with their little ones. Flying can be stressful with or without kids – delays and being surrounded by loads of people means we aren’t really in full control.

Now, I know a flight from Oakland to Orange County is nothing compared to a transcontinental or international flight, but we had to start somewhere! Thankfully our flight was just over an hour and I armed myself to the teeth to make sure Gia and I would be prepared.

I have to say, we had it pretty easy when it came to luggage and necessities. My mom opted to drive down a day ahead of us because that’s just how it worked out. Luckily enough, I sent the stroller, car seat and our luggage with her. Yes to semi-free hands in the airport! All I needed to concern myself with was the little umbrella stroller and backpack with extra undies, snacks and books for Gia.

I think my biggest worry was the whole potty situation and not being able to get up on the plane during takeoff and landing. Fortunately, Gia was awesome about using the potty exactly when I needed her to.

I tried to think ahead and reserved our seat close to the lavatory. (My pregnant brain/mom brain didn’t fail me with that idea!) Once we boarded the plane Gia just hung on to me so she could snuggle, which is a rarity these days. Right after takeoff she dozed off and later woke before our decent. I offered her some crackers and we took a potty break before getting ready to land. Success!

Once we deplaned we were promptly greeted by my mom, or Gagi (gah-ghee), as Gia likes to call her. Needless to say, I was so proud of Gia while she was at the airport and on the plane. I think she must have been proud of herself too.

Anytime we try something new and unfamiliar it has the potential to be a little nerve wracking. I knew we would ultimately do fine on our first flight (and without daddy), but we all want things to go smoothly, especially with tots in tow.

As I’ve said on my blog many times before, just go for it. Don’t let your nerves or fears stop you from anything! Take the flight, apply for that dream job, go on the date, follow your curiosity wherever it takes you. Once you do it you’ll be glad you did, and you’ll wonder what your hang up was in the first place.

Maybe I’m a little preemptive in this post, as my flight home isn’t until Monday, but in the spirit of positivity, I’m sure we will do just fine on the way home too. I realize not all flying experiences go as planned, so I’m sure I’ll have more travel stories to share in the future – good and bad!

Happy travels and wishing all of the moms out there a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend!

Xo

Raising Strong, Confident Daughters

One thing I’ve already begun to realize over the last year and a half, or so, is that bringing up daughters is complicated: Messages of empowerment and achievement are everywhere, yet depression and anxiety plague so many.

I know these things because I am still a daughter even though I’m now also a mother. I know these things because I never want Gialina and her sister to go through the hard things that I went through. I want to raise my girls to be their best, well-rounded selves despite so many negative outside influences in our world.

During a routine morning not long ago, I was looking in our downstairs mirror. I lifted my shirt to look at my stomach – I’d recently found out I was pregnant with Gia’s sister. I was checking for any signs of a growing baby in my stomach and caught myself feeling a little bit upset. I was upset because I selfishly thought about how hard it will be to watch my body grow through another pregnancy. Although the creation of life is truly an amazing miracle, it can really do a number on a woman’s mindset and body confidence. In my case, I suffered from an eating disorder during my early twenties and although I am healthy today, the negative voices are still there and will always need to be tamped down.

After checking myself out for a quick moment I realized that my daughter Gia had been watching my every move, as she always does. To my surprise and slight horror, she walked over to where I was standing and proceeded to lift her shirt to show her tummy. She clearly was just mimicking mommy, but this instance just goes to show you that your children are always watching, listening and learning from you.

I love having a daughter and I am thrilled to be a girl-mom once again, but nothing annoys me more than when someone says, “Oooh, two girls! You sure are in for it!”

I feel like I was born to parent girls because of the challenges I overcame that tend to overwhelmingly affect women. God gave me not only one, but two girls so that I could teach them to love themselves as much as I should have been loving myself through my eating disorder. I’m excited to be raising two strong little girls, but even this early on it can feel like walking a tightrope.

Part of me is so excited for their future. There are so many female role models out there for them to aspire to be like. Unfortunately, there are also things like stress, anxiety and depression that come with high achievement. When my girls grow up and are doing everything possible to be all that they can, I want them to enjoy it. Like any parent, I want my girls to have boundless opportunity, but more than that, I want them to be happy. The bigger part of that is making sure they are ready for whatever challenges they will someday face.

Know the impact you will have on your child – celebrate their uniqueness, praise their imperfections and instill social confidence.

I know that I will always try to raise strong, confident daughters, but I also realize that they will be who they will be. I can’t make my daughters be something they weren’t meant to be. I just hope and pray that I continue to be the best parent that I can be through their challenging teen years and young adult lives.

Looking at Gia sitting beside me right now also makes me relish the simplicity of toddlerhood. She is completely unfiltered and totally herself in this moment. In a couple of years she will be more aware of the opinions of others, but I hope she holds on to her own opinions while remaining kind, strong-willed and unique.

Xo

Career & Family

I’ve had quite the wide variety of jobs throughout my short life, all of which have taught me a lot about who I am and who I want to become.

In college I studied broadcast journalism with a dream of becoming a news anchor or sports anchor.  After graduating, I quickly realized just how important being close to my family was and put my dream of reporting the news on the back-burner.  Many, many times, if you want to break into broadcasting you will have to move to the middle of nowhere to get your start with a small news station.  Now, this isn’t always the case, after all, it’s all about who you know.  I’ve always been willing to start at the bottom like everyone else, for the opportunity to climb the totem pole, but the thought of leaving my family behind for an indefinite amount of time killed me.  Then there’s also the likelihood of still being far away once I potentially did settle into a larger news station in a bigger city.  Yep, I made the right choice for myself, but I do have days where I wonder – “what could have been?”

My first job out of college was with a local police department, as a Community Services Officer.  Sounds official and I even looked pretty official, having to wear a civilianized police uniform to work everyday.  I really enjoyed that job, as I got to work with the people in the community almost everyday.  To sum it up, one of my main responsibilities was running the Neighborhood Watch for the entire city.  This meant holding educational meetings at homes of community members where the neighbors would come and ask questions about general crime prevention.  Surprisingly to some, it was a lot of fun!

After working that job for about six months or so, I knew I wanted something more – more hours and more money.  The job at the police department was only part time, so I took to the internet and started to see what else was out there, even though I didn’t really know what I was looking to do.  (I’m one of those people who loves so many different things that I could see myself having many different jobs or career paths.)

I remember randomly applying for a brand new little airline named Virgin America.  I truly did apply on a whim believing that I would never hear back from them.  Not only that, but did I really want to fly all the time?  Within a few days of applying as an “In-Flight Team Member,” a.k.a. flight attendant, I was starting the interview process and eventually went on to a stressful four week training before getting my wings.  People have no idea what kind of training flight attendants go through, but I have to say after having been through it, it is tough and it is very serious.  At the end of the day a flight attendant is there to keep passengers safe, not just to bring you a coke with no ice.

During the three years I worked for Virgin America I traveled, I met wonderful people and was part of something so unique that I don’t think it will ever be replicated.  I know my former colleagues can certainly agree with that.

I stopped working for Virgin because I didn’t feel like I was growing anymore.  I did what I could within the company to grow – became an In-Flight Team Leader, was part of the Promotions Team and worked at Virgin HQ in Burlingame, CA.  Eventually the commute to HQ got to me enough and I decided it was time to close that chapter.

Enter police work once again.  Even before my first police job, I had always been curious about police dispatchers.  Many who know me know that I come from a law enforcement family, so as they say, “it runs in the blood.”  I tested for police dispatcher positions and eventually was hired with a local police department.  I’ve never been through such a mentally challenging experience with a job until this one.  It’s hard to explain to people exactly what the job is like if they don’t know police work or have never sat alongside a police dispatcher for a partial shift.  Just like with anything, I can’t expect the general public to know just how taxing a job like that can be.  You talk to people who might be facing the absolute worst moment of their life, or you might be talking to someone wanting to end their life.

I stopped working as a dispatcher about 7 months after starting.  I realized that I didn’t want to feel the way I felt going into work everyday – I felt so much stress and always wondered about the “what if.”  Shortly after making the decision to part ways with dispatching was when Craig was trying to get into the police academy.  I knew then that if we were going to have a life together that I didn’t want to be in the same field that he was, working the same long and hard shifts, and probably not seeing much of each other because of that.

After leaving my job as a dispatcher I felt desperate to find a new job.  This was the first time in my life where I had quit a job without knowing where I would go next.  I was of the mindset that I could just work some odd job and look for the “real” job during my time away from work.  This was when I was hired by Tiffany & Co.  I thought I would work there through the holiday season and move on, but that wasn’t the case.  I quickly saw that there was opportunity for me to grow within the company.  Over the course of working for this famed jewelry store, I fell in love with so many aspects of the job.  There were also things I didn’t care for, but that’s the case with any job.  I started studying more about gemstones and diamonds and discovered that there was a plethora of information for me to learn.

Since I so enjoyed selling engagement rings, I knew that my next move was to continue my education by studying with the Gemological Institute of America.  I took online classes learning more about metals, diamonds and colored stones.  Eventually these classes took me to the GIA campus in Carlsbad, CA for additional education and testing.  I wanted to ultimately become a Gemologist, which I still would love to do.

I’ve left behind so many different jobs and potential career paths that on some days I can’t help but feel like I’ve sacrificed a career to be a stay-at-home mom.  I do not regret staying at home with Gialina one bit, but there are times where I see others and think, well they do it – “Why shouldn’t I?  Why can’t I?”  I think thoughts like these are totally normal.  Working moms long for more time with their kids, stay-at-home moms long for something of their own and moms who do it all can still have these same feelings.

Ask people what they think about stay-at-home moms and you’ll get a variety of answers, this I’m sure of.  “They sit around all day.  They’re making the best decision ever.  They don’t contribute to society.  They’re making a great sacrifice to stay home and nurture their kids day in and day out.”  There’s no shortage of opinions about women who stay home and raise their kids.  Hell, there’s no shortage of opinions about anything anymore!

Personally, I felt it impossible for me to be a great parent and a great employee at the same time.  I’m in awe of the women who do both because it’s hard!  It’s all hard!  Sometimes something has got to give.

For me, Ashley, being a great parent means nurturing my daughter as much as I can during these first years.  I’ll have my chance again to have my career soon enough.  Don’t get me wrong here, this is not a post about how to be a great parent, because unlike work, parenting is extremely subjective.  There are no titles, no end of the year bonuses, only endless care that you must provide in hopes that your child learns new things and grows up to be a good person.

I don’t have much credibility with regards to teaching others how to be good parents, so I won’t try – I mean, hello, I’ve had less than two years of experience.  All I know is that I am becoming a better parent everyday because of all the time I spend with my child.  I am keen to her unique wants and needs.  Obviously, you don’t have to stay at home like me to be a good parent or know everything about your child.  I have single-parent friends that work multiple jobs just to make sure their kids have what they need.  I have friends who work part-time and do one hell of a job making sure that they are a provider and a caregiver.  I also have friends who bust their butts at work for 12 hours a day so they can keep their house running smoothly and their kids happy.  The bottom line is, we all do what we need to do for our individual family needs and that’s perfect, but it’s still tough.

To a degree, we all long for something we don’t have and when it comes to work-life balance and parenting.  I’m not the only mom out there who feels like I don’t do enough at home – there’s always laundry, always dishes and always something!  I beat myself up when I can’t do it all.  “You’re just a stay-at home mom, why can’t you just get it all done like everyone else?!”

Enough negative self talk.  Enough.  If you work full-time, part-time, have a side hustle, stay at home with your kids, etc., you are amazing and doing your very best.  There’s always time in this life for the it career, the vacation, the whatever.  Remind yourself that what you’re doing is right for you at this moment in time.

IMG_2242

My daughter and her sister who is growing in my belly will only be little for so long.  I will have my career in a few years.  For now, it can wait because I’m doing what’s best for my family and so should you, even if it means that my life and yours look very different.

xo

Our Potty Training Essentials

Okay, so we are on day 11 of this potty training journey. I’m still alive and I haven’t strangled anyone! There have been really great days and days where I feel so defeated. I keep reminding myself this is completely normal and this is a habit that Gia is learning. I’ve realized I need to stop counting the unsuccessful moments and celebrate the successful ones like a crazy lady.

Over the last week and a half or so, I’ve found that there are some products that are absolutely essential for the place we are in time. I wanted to share what we are using and what’s working for us.

First, and most obviously, we have a little potty for Gia to use. We keep it in whatever room she is playing in and will eventually leave it in our bathroom as she continues to master her craft. 😉 I wanted to get a potty that was super simple – no bells and whistles. I didn’t want it to be viewed as a toy or to look and feel scary, so I ordered the Baby Bjorn Potty. I got ours off of Amazon for around $20.

These potties come in a variety of colors, but we went with white and gray. Basic, simple, straightforward.

We bring Gia’s small potty with us if we are going out to run an errand or anytime we have to get in the car. I keep it in the back of my small SUV and I give her the chance to use it before we head into a store, as well as before getting back in the car seat.

Over the weekend I placed it on the front passenger seat because I was getting some resistance from Gia. This small change in scenery really helped the focus not be on the potty and let her relax.

When we do go out to do things, we are still very brief and strategic. With that being said, I don’t tote the little potty with us in stores. I have a foldable insert that I keep in my diaper backpack for easy access.

If we go into a store, the first thing I do is locate the restroom and bring Gia in there with me. I do this to let her know where the bathroom is and to show her that it’s not as unfamiliar and scary as it may seem.

Before we started all of this potty training stuff I ordered an insert that didn’t fold. I like it, but after bringing it with us in a nondescript bag when on the go, I decided to keep that one on the big potty at home. The brand of that insert is Cozy Greens, and again, I found it on Amazon. It comes with a sticker chart, but we don’t use it.

Now when we go out we bring our foldable insert, which comes with a washable storage bag! So much more convenient and a bit more sanitary. The brand of this insert is Gimars and it comes with a little owl face on the seat, with a variety of colors.

I know that I mentioned I wanted to keep her potty seats simple, but after facing a few days of resistance, I thought this would be inviting for Gia and take some pressure off of her. I mostly like it because of how small it folds up for travel. I don’t recall the exact price, but I think it was right around $15.

This morning it came to mind that I should order some type of baby doll that has a potty chair. The last few days Gia has brought some of her stuffed animals to her potty to show it to them and “make them go potty.” I did some googling and found that the toy brand Melissa and Doug makes a baby doll that comes with a potty and a few other accessories. Yep, I already ordered it and it will be here today or tomorrow. Gotta love Amazon! The doll was around $22.

Now, I realize that not every child will want or need a doll like this, but I know that Gia will like it. Not only that, but I think it will serve as a fun learning tool for her.

Lastly, whenever we go out I bring multiple changes of clothes. This includes shirts, pants, socks and shoes. You never know how messy things can get. I also bring multiple gallon size ziplock bags for dirty clothes. Another thing I bring is a tub of Lysol wipes. These definitely come in handy, and I wouldn’t have thought of these off the bat.

Let me stress again that every kid is different and will potty train differently. These tools and products are what’s working for us. I also want to tell you that I’ve shed my fair share of tears this past week and a half. If I were able to have a glass or two of wine at the end of the day it might help, but since I’m pregnant that’s out of the question.

I’m definitely learning a lot about myself as Gia learns this new skill. Just as I’ve needed this reminder on a daily basis, I’ll also remind any of you going through this – don’t give up!

Xo

Potty Training: The Good, Bad And Ugly

For the last month and a half or so, I’ve been slightly obsessed with all things potty training. This obsession was spurred by learning a friend of mine started the process with her daughter, who is about four months older than my daughter.

After hearing my friend had taken five days off of work to get the ball rolling, I did some research and ordered a book on potty training to prepare myself for this future milestone. I knew that if my friend’s daughter could do it, so could Gia. Our girls are both very verbal and independent, so why not give them the gift of a clean bum?

I took longer reading the book than I thought because I didn’t want to just rush through it. Also, I couldn’t just finish it in a couple days because, well, LIFE. There’s hundreds of books and opinions out there, so there’s many ways to go about potty training. After all, when we were kids there weren’t all of these resources. Our parents mostly did what they thought was best for us and that’s fine. The way they potty trained, the way I’m potty training and the way you potty train all work for us and our kids. There isn’t necessarily a “right” or “wrong.” You can expect for everyone to interject their opinions though. Just do what you think is best and ignore the rest.

So, if you’re a parent of a toddler, you may be wondering which book I went with. I ordered Oh Crap! Potty Training, by Jamie Glowacki, through Amazon. I gave myself about two weeks time to try and not think about potty training after finishing the book, before actually starting.

Craig and I decided our start date would be on his first day off of his work week. This allowed us three days together to try and tackle things as a team. Thank goodness we planned it this way because we needed each other’s support. Don’t get me wrong though, there were times we were very frustrated with one another.

Let me just say that the first day was very hard. As a Type- A individual, it was difficult to let go of the fact that my child would not be good at this in the beginning. Duh, Ashley! How crazy of me to think for one second that my child, who has known only diapers since moments after birth, would magically be a pro at potty training!

I think that as a parent I secretly wished that this process would be smooth sailing and we would magically get it done. No such thing, even when children are bright.

The main reason why I’m sharing part of our experience is to let other parents know that this is hard stuff. Fortunately for me, I have a sister-in-law with a newly turned two-year old son, who started potty training last month. After our first day of potty training I asked her if she experienced the things we were experiencing. Low and behold, they did. The bottom line of this is that potty training takes an insane amount of time, energy and absolute patience. These are all attributes that most parents just white knuckle their way into acquiring. Yep, that’s right – we don’t know everything and that’s totally okay!

For those of you in the first days of potty training, I applaud you and encourage you to push through! If I didn’t have encouragement from my husband, mom, girlfriend and sister-in-law after the first two days, I might have thrown in the towel. You will feel the same way, but DO NOT GIVE IN! It is worth having the most challenging time to see progress. We are currently on day six of our potty training and I am amazed. The sense of pride I feel is huge and what’s even better is seeing the big smile on Gia’s face when she goes on her potty. You can see how proud she is of herself too.

Set yourself up for success and do some research, get a potty, get an insert and have wine ready at the end of the day. It will be hard and we all face different hurdles through this time. Working parents, kids who go to day care and stay at home parents all have a different set of challenges to deal with while hitting this milestone.

Even if potty training sends you to therapy, you can do it! If I can get over the hump and continue to push through, so can you!

Xo

#MomSoHard

As parents we try our very best to be the ultimate caretakers, protectors, providers and nurturers, but some days we feel like we just flat out suck. If there’s one thing I know, I am not alone with these feelings.

Becoming a parent has hands down been the greatest thing I’ve ever done, yet it’s also been the absolute hardest. Gialina has the power to melt me or crush me with a single word, look, or gesture. It’s almost as if I’m at the mercy of a tiny dictator….an adorable tiny dictator.

I think about how Craig and I made the decision for me to be a stay-at-home mom and I know it has been the best decision for our family. With that, some days I can’t help but think about the single parents, the working parents and parents of multiple kids who seem to always get everything done, and without complaint.

On my tough days at home with Gia I try and remember parents who have it a lot harder than me (the stay-at-home parent raising three kids under three, the parent who cries when dropping their child off at daycare, and the parent working two jobs who just can’t catch a break). I should be so grateful to stay home and raise my daughter, knowing she’s learning from me. I am grateful of course, but it’s not picture perfect, nor should it be.

Being a mom is hard. I’m alone most of the time and that takes a toll on my mental health. When I say alone, I’m with my daughter, but obviously talking to her is very different than talking to an adult. I sit in my own thoughts and that can have a negative snowball effect on me at times.

It’s easy for me to judge myself and feel guilty about most anything related to parenting. I know many parents feel that same guilt, so I’m not alone, but man….it still feels lonely.

I feel like I didn’t do my best as a mom if I didn’t talk enough to Gia, play enough, take her to the park, etc. These thoughts are completely ridiculous, I know. She gets plenty of stimulation doing the countless things we do at home.

Then there’s that other guilt I get. Guilt from not folding the laundry right away, from not picking up the play room (even though I’ve done it three times already), guilt from not making Craig a lunch for work, etc. After all, my job is to take care of Gia and our family home.

The days I don’t do it all, or don’t feel like doing it all make me feel like I’ve lost. If this is my “job” and what I choose to do then I should be doing better at it, right?! No. I’m doing the best I can, just like everyone else.

Yesterday was a day where I felt like I just couldn’t win. The second Craig walked in the door I felt better because I had my partner in life home. At the same time I was upset that Gia could care less about me because he was home. I’m so glad that she loves both of us so deeply, but I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of envy. I’m with her all day, everyday, bending over backwards to give her everything she needs. Daddy is gone at work, so of course she misses him. I feel bad for having those feelings, but they’re honest.

Once Craig had changed from work and asked me what he could do to help with dinner, etc. I asked if he wouldn’t mind bathing Gia for me. When I walked down the hall to see how they were doing, any feelings of envy disappeared. Appreciation was what I felt in that moment instead.

Tubby time with daddy:

We are all just trying our best to make it through each day, whether we have kids or not. Don’t judge the mom in the grocery store because her clothes are covered in dog hair and don’t judge the person on BART falling asleep after a long day at work. You don’t know what they might be dealing with in their personal life, or how long they were up with their kids the night before.

Xo

Finding Balance While Maintaining A Sleep Schedule

To schedule or not to schedule?!  The idea of having some kind of routine for Gia crept into my mind during the first few weeks after taking her home from the hospital.  I read a couple of sleep solution books prior to Gia being born, in anticipation of being so sleep deprived myself that the last thing on my mind would be a book.

I’ve always been someone who likes a routine and babies and little ones like it too — or so I’ve read.  🙂  For the sake of making sure Gia was/is happy, thriving & rested, I adopted a schedule for her.  I didn’t really know what I was doing, but what I figured was best was to follow Gia’s cues.  And when I say schedule I’m primarily talking about a sleep schedule.

Over the last year and a half we’ve gotten a rhythm and have a pretty good system that works for us.  Nowadays, Gia takes one nap around noon and will usually sleep until 2:30-3 pm.  I prefer to be home for her naps so she can be better rested by sleeping in her crib, as opposed to sleeping on-the-go in the car or in her stroller.  That’s not to say that we don’t do that occasionally, but it doesn’t work as well for us.


Over-tired and out to dinner:

IMG_8329

Here’s a little secret:  I’ve always been in awe of the parents who are “no-schedule” kind of schedulers.  I think it’s because I wish I could be a little bit more like that.  You know what I mean….fly by the seat of your pants, take every minute as it comes kind of thing.  That’s just not how I’m wired, but I’m working hard to bring more of that free spirited attitude into my life.

Again, I know there is no wrong way to do things when it comes to a schedule for your child, or lack there of one.  I just like learning from the ways that other parents do it, so I can see if it works for my family too.

The reason why a set nap time in her crib works best is because Gia does not transfer well from the car to her crib.  I’ve successfully transferred her mayyyybe two times in her life.  For me it’s just not worth having an over-tired, cranky toddler by the time 4 pm rolls around, especially since days as a stay-at-home parent can feel long when they don’t go smoothly.  (Days are long for anyone – working parent, stay-at-home parent, etc.)  I know for a fact that people think I’m strict about how our day goes with Gia, but I really don’t care anymore.  What works for us may or may not work for others and there’s nothing wrong with that.


This is the “no nap” look:

IMG_7585

What I do know about making sure Gia gets adequate day time sleep is that she sleeps well at night because of it.  She’s always been a good little sleeper, but if I make sure she’s happy and rested it makes life so much easier for me.

A typical day with no exciting plans usually looks like this:

  • 7 am Wake up
  • Breakfast time + play time
  • 9 am Gym (Gia plays in the daycare while we workout)
  • 11 am Lunch time for Gia
  • Play until nap time at noon-ish
  • 2:30-3 pm Wake up
  • Play + snack
  • Run necessary errands or go to the park
  • 5 pm dinner for Gia
  • Bath time
  • 7 pm Bed time

We went down from two naps to one nap per day for Gia pretty soon after her first birthday.  She was fighting going down for her second nap of the day on a consistent basis, so I knew that was a sign to cut it down to one nap.  That nap transition wasn’t the easiest because I felt limited in what we could get done in the morning.  If we were in the car anywhere from 10 am on, that would result in falling asleep and hindering the sleep plan for the day.  Not the end of the world, but still tough on mom, dad and toddler.

Now, we just make it work and I never feel deprived or as if I don’t get to go do anything with her because of our routine.  I’m making a point to go out once a week where we just wing it through the day, as far as naps and a schedule goes.  Many times this results in a challenging afternoon due to an over-tired 18 month old, but we are all learning how to deal with these curveballs.  In a strange way, the days that naps go haywire are the days where my mental health is challenged and made stronger.  See, I’m finding the positive in something that I would’ve considered negative.


On-the-go sleep:

IMG_2950

I’m curious, do any other parents out there have any tricks up their sleeve regarding schedules and napping?  What do you guys do when your child has skipped their nap?  How do you make it until bedtime with minimal meltdowns?  What do you do if you want to enjoy a day out as a family?

I know sometimes these hiccups are just par for the course, but I’d love to hear what works for others so we can try things out to see if they work for us too.  We’re in this together!

xo