Beyond “Mom:” How Parenting Defines Us

By Demetria Gallegos

Everett Collection
Parents fall into roles within the household. How hard is it to change them?

When my daughters ask what’s for dinner, I have the extreme pleasure of saying, “I don’t know.”  Because I rarely do. Their dad makes almost every meal, usually from scratch, and in his hands, it’s tasty, economical and healthful.

John’s reign as Meal Parent began almost 16 years ago, shortly after our oldest was born.  When Jamie was ready for solids, she got home-made baby food, which made other mothers in our playgroup feel a little insecure.  I don’t remember ever asking him to be in charge of meals, but he was good at it, and – as the parent at home – he felt it was his responsibility.

At the time, with just one little baby, I never would have imagined who I have become.  Turns out, I’m in charge of Homework, Housekeeping, Photos and Tech Support.

I never understood how unrelenting the chores of parenthood would be, and how we would naturally fall into these roles.  It’s beautiful when it works (did I mention he’s also Laundry, Shopping and Dishes Parent? – I know, I hit the jackpot).

But sometimes you have to take on jobs that no one wants.  Midnight Parent, to help the child with the bad stomach. Sewage Clean-Up Custodian, after a basement shower drain kept exploding. Bug Killer. Shoveling the Driveway for Three Days After a Blizzard to Extricate the Cars Parent.  You step up when duty calls.  Every time these roles are invoked, I reflect anew with deep humility on how single parents do it.

I wrote this week about how John has been Pet Parent all these years, and how I considered challenging his primacy when one of the girls set her heart on adopting a cat.   In the end, I chose not to, in part because of my respect for the thoughtful process he has gone through with the girls to evaluate different potential pets and our ability to care for them well.  It’s always been his turf.

But things are changing and roles are shifting as our daughters get older, and we all become more mindful of how entrenched these patterns have become.

Propelling the four of them through homework can still be onerous, but increasingly, they track their own responsibilities and progress.

The girls and I have finally begun to feel guilty about leaving dishes in the sink, and realize how much John has been spoiling us.

One of our girls is very interested in cooking, and has begun trying recipes on us – to our delight.  We need more of that to happen.  And, in truth, I should probably make more than the occasional grilled cheese.

Jugglers, which parent are you? What do you think of the division of labor?  Would you set up things differently if you were starting over again?

Ron Asks: “How do you divide the parenting roles in your household?”

10 habits for a well-run home

1. Wake up early. I know this one stinks, but it is the best way to get a jump on your day. Otherwise, the day seems to be in control rather than you controlling the day.

2. Waking up early starts with going to bed earlier. I know that you like the time after the kids have gone to bed for yourself, or for working on projects, or even for trying to catch up on housework. The fact is, shutting down and turning in earlier will make for a better morning and you will likely be more productive. This may not be accurate for the true night owls out there, but I urge you to give it a try.

3. Evening preparations. Make sure everything that is needed to leave the house in the morning is prepped and where it should be. Teach your children this habit as soon as you possibly can, it can make your life easier.

4. Institute meal-planning. Whether you have every meal for the week planned out, or you have 6 dinners to pick from each day, find a way to make meal planning work for you. I love Pinterest for ideas for meals! Look at your meal plan the evening before and see if you need to do any prep like take something out of the freezer, or prepare the crock pot.

5. Do one complete load of laundry a day. From start to finish. Build a habit of grabbing everyone’s clothes after bathtime and tossing in wash. and then toss in dryer before bed. Or in the morning when you get up. Take 5-10 minutes to fold and put away that load (or have your kids do it!) One load a day may or may not be enough for your family, but doing at least one load every day will help you stay on top of the pile.

6. Do your best to get your dishes done in the evening before going to bed. I know this can be hard sometimes, but think how much better it feels in the morning to come down to a clean sink. Build this habit and you will appreciate it. Again, if your kids are old enough to do the dishes or at least help, then let them! See: My strategy for getting the dishes done

7. Take 5 minutes and buzz through the bathrooms with a damp cloth. Straighten, wipe, and keep a toilet brush handy for swishing the toilet. Take any dirty towels and clothes to laundry room. Some days use a paper towel with windex to shine things up, including the mirror.

8. A place for everything and everything in its place. We have heard this our whole lives and it is true, it makes life a lot easier. One problem is that we have accumulated too much stuff so that we have a difficult time keeping things in their places. Work on clearing clutter and designating homes for regularly used items. And teach your children this as well. I know well how discouraging it can be to walk into a room and multiple things are sitting out. On the reverse, think how calming it is to walk into a room where everything is tidy and orderly. (notice I didn’t say spotless) See: How to magically make your house cleaner

9. Have a bedtime routine that includes putting away toys, books, dishes, trash, etc and picking out clothes for tomorrow. Having this routine in place will help your kids learn responsibility and know what is expected of them. We are their mom, not their maid.

10. Do not say YES immediately to new requests. Come up with a response, such as “Let me check my calendar and get back with you.” Or if you know you need to say NO, get it over with. And don’t feel like you have to explain why. A simple, “Due to other obligations, I won’t be able to ________”.  See: You know you say YES too much if…

Okay, before you go feeling like a total failure, and wondering how will I ever be able to do all these things, listen to me.

Baby steps.

Pick 1 or 2 things to start working on today.

Do them consistently and teach your family to do the same. Once they become habit, add 2 more things. Keep at it slowly and you will be surprised at how doing these little things will help relieve some of your stress, and lighten that burden that moms always seem to be carrying on their shoulders.

Ron Huxley: I am not a clean freak but I love these simple tips for keeping ahead of the chaos. The trick is that you have to do this everyday or it will overtake you.

Real-world Stress Saving Tips

This blogger, from Huffingtonpost, has some very sane, sanity saving tips:

“I did search for what experts say when it comes to "timesaving tips for busy parents”, but I found their advice to be unreasonable and cumbersome. One site advised to “never come home angry.” Well sure, that is a fine goal, but if we can’t come home angry, some of us would never come home at all.

My tips, on the other hand, are practical suggestions to save twenty seconds here, a minute there, and a massive headache later. These are the hidden methods to my madness:

Wear day/night clothing. It may be time to ditch the cute pajama pants and matching tank and invest in a wardrobe that meets your daytime and bedtime needs. A flattering pair of black yoga pants can easily transition from the bedroom to the playground. Not only will this save time crucial time in the morning, but it can cut down the laundry loads quite a bit.

Utilize those babywipes for more than your tot’s tush! Instead of washing my face in the morning, I use baby wipes to clean the sleep from my eyes. Don’t be so appalled, I do buy the chlorine free ones.

Never prepare an unnecessary meal. When my husband has one of his many dinner meetings, instead of making my own evening meal, I eat the leftovers on my daughters’ plates. Yum… carrot sticks and uninspired chicken on Disney Princess plates.

Make Sprout your new BFF. I know, I know, admitting that I let my children watch the occasional television program may likely send Children’s Protective Services to my home, but it’s true, we do. The girls love Dora, Max and Ruby, Olivia, and a good half-dozen other annoying cartoon characters. Do you know how many task I can get done during one 30-minute cartoon? Clean the dishes, put away the laundry, have a quickie in the bedroom with my husband…

Cut your daughter’s hair. On principle I keep the hair on my two young daughters’ heads well trimmed. I have yet to meet the parent of a girl that doesn’t suffer from the tiresome tangle battles. Neither of my girls readily allow me to brush their hair, nor do they have the ability to do this themselves. So, in my effort to avoid chasing them around the house, wrestling them to the ground and holding them in place with my thighs while I attempt to detangle the rat nests cultivating on their domes, I simply keep their hair no longer than chin length.

Pretend you don’t notice. Some days my husband will arrive home from work shocked at the state of a room. “What happened?” he exclaims, the anxiety spilling from his ears. “Gee, I just took out the garbage and when I came back…” I answer, where in reality I have carefully stayed clear of the two girls who were ever so diligently painting the bathroom with a tube of toothpaste. Sure, the clean up will be bothersome, but it took them a solid 25 minutes of cooperative play to make this mess!

Pajama Day! Is it really so horrible for your preschooler to show up to school in last night’s pajamas? I’m sure his teachers have seen it before. With my 2-year-old, the morning tasks are some of the hardest to get accomplished, so I often bring an outfit for her to change into at school if she so desires. Again, this also saves time with the laundry.

Socks? What socks? Fortunately we live in the moderate Bay Area climate, where the temperature rarely drops below 48 degrees. Because of this, and Crocs made for toddlers, my girls almost never wear socks. They each own less than ten pairs and only wear them when we visit my parents in Oregon, during the winter … if it snows. By foregoing this extra layer of footwear, I save approximately thirty seconds each morning, in addition to a good ten minutes each Sunday desperately attempting to match pairs of tiny toddler socks.

Skip the extra-extracurricular activities. My children are allowed one, two at most, lessons a week. In my opinion, their swimming classes are mandatory, but if we don’t make it out of the house for their 9 AM Saturday morning ballet lesson, we all kind of benefit.

Stop picking up the toys. Whenever the clutter in children’s bedrooms begins to trigger my panic attacks, I close their doors and remember the mantra of the iconic Phyllis Diller: “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.”

Now that I’ve shared mine, tell us, what are your time saving secrets for an easier day?“

Tell us on Facebook and get a free membership to our "Inner Circle” Club for parents…

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rhiana-maidenberg/mom-shortcuts-timesaving-tips_b_1363911.html?ref=topbar#

Fun Ideas for Picky Eaters

Toddler’s can be the most finicky little people when it comes to just about anything; especially when it comes to eating! Parent’s are always trying to find fun, innovative ways of introducing new foods to the family menu. In this article I will be providing a few fun tips for letting your kids be the kitchen “Sous Chef” so to speak.

I’ve found that introducing new vegetables, colors and just about anything that doesn’t resemble a piece of chicken or slice of pizza is the most difficult task when trying to get my toddler to eat new things. A new game we’ve started together is—

The Calendar/Alphabet Game
Make a large calendar for the month and for each day have your children write a different letter of the alphabet on the calendar. For example, Monday “B”, Tuesday “M” etc … On Monday you and your children choose a new fruit, vegetable, dairy or grain that starts with the letter “B” to incorporate in the meals and snacks for that day. There is no limit to the many ways that the new foods can be added either. If you choose Broccoli for the new vegetable, liven it up a bit … have it as a snack, cold with their favorite dip or chopped up in a homemade cheese omelette for breakfast. Our favorite so far is “Y”, we made the best mixed fresh fruit and low-fat yogurt parfait with granola for dessert which followed our Yellow Squash Lasagna. It is very important to have your children involved in the prep work for each of the meals/snacks. It gives them a chance to connect with the food and learn to be creative. They’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when they finally sit down to enjoy the food that they never thought that would!

I’m a stay at home mom so my kids are almost always at home with me. to break the ongoing cabin fever that plagues young kids I try to implement atmosphere changes as frequently as possible, which leads me to my next tip—

The Color Wheel Picnic
This can be done as often as your schedule allows and it really is a lot of fun! On the same calendar that you use for the calendar game, put a star on a few days a month that you’d like to have a picnic, whether it is at the neighborhood park, your backyard, or in your family room on a rainy day.

Now have your child pick their three to five favorite colors for that day. Write down the colors and together go into your refrigerator and/or pantry. Find fruits, snacks, fresh vegetables, cheese/dairy and whole grains that match those colors and pack them into your picnic basket, have fun with your kids sampling all of the fun and colorful foods. Remember to bring a camera to document all of the colors that you’ve created with the food and take pictures to pin to your calendar so that you can remember just how yummy it all was!Along with creating fun and healthy meals with your kids, getting in enough physical activity is essential to their growth and what better way to connect eating healthy with staying fit. My next tip shows you how to help your toddler burn off some energy while getting your daily exercise in as well. I recommend spending at least thirty to forty-five minutes per day of physical activity—The Final Countdown
Who doesn’t know the saying “no pain no gain”? Well, who says you can’t have fun too? Countdown consists of combining a little math with a little exercise. Before starting remember, stretching is always important so do a few minutes of leg and body stretches with your children. Now, choose a number from one to five, for instance your child chooses the number “four”.. start off with doing four sets of four sit ups together. Remember to have them count along with you that would have been a total of 16 sit ups. When finished have them choose another number, “five” now do five sets of five jumping jacks, twenty-five in all. Once you’ve finished all numbers one to five reward yourselves with a nice cold smoothie or your favorite treat!These are just a few, fun, nutritious, and healthy tips to share with your children. Keep an eye out for more fun topics to come very soon!

Via http://www.divinecaroline.com/22107/118457-fun-ideas-expanding-toddler-s-menu/2#ixzz1YmdjP5uW