If you want to be happy, you shouldn’t have kids. That’s a fact. Or at least, Time magazine and the sociologists who conducted this study believe so.

Parents get less sleep, have less money, and less independence. Parents have more stress, more marital arguments, more expenses.

And although those facts are indisputable, when I see them my feathers get all kinds of ruffled. I am defensive. Angry.

How dare you insinuate I’m unhappy?–I’m sooo happy! You don’t know just how happy I am, you stupid PhD scientists. Isn’t that right, mamas!?


Truth is, my husband and I are tired and broke and frazzled. Our kitchen looks like a yogurt bomb exploded in it, and my Diaper Genie has yet to grant my one wish: a pleasant smelling nursery. For the last three months my hair has literally been falling out – by the handful. Oh, it’s growing back . . . in stand-up inch-long patches. There are bags under my eyes and cold coffee in my cup.

Sure my non-parenting friends have fresh hair and dewy skin and exhilarating hobbies and romantic Caribbean vacations. But what do they know about happiness….?

A lot, apparently.

They are well-rested and well-entertained and well-traveled. Oh hell, I’m not even going to dispute it. They’re SO happy.

I’ll go a step further and AGREE: If you want to be happy, you shouldn’t have kids.

What is happiness anyways?

It’s a fleeting emotion. It’s a feeling we experience when life circumstances serve our interests. Momentary bliss. Don’t get me wrong–there’s nothing bad about happiness. In fact, it’s a beautiful, sunny sort of thing that everyone wants to have.

But what happens when it rains throughout your Caribbean vacation? I’ll tell you: Happiness crawls back into its little turtle shell and waits for the weather to improve.

I have no doubt that as a mom, I experience that brand of happiness less than I used to. My guitar playing and horse riding and fancy dining days are few and far between. And those things truly made me happy.

But please, Time Magazine. Don’t feel sorry for me. Because, to me, your brand of happiness is overrated.

What I have now is joy. A fullness and abundance of joy that transcends my current sleeplessness. That negates my messy hair and offers more sun than 100 Caribbean vacations.

Happiness is merely an outward expression. Joy is a deeply-satisfying inward contentment.

Sociologists can study joy all they want, and they’ll never be able to quantify it.

But I can. My aptly named “bundle of joy” is 22 pounds and growing. And the longer he’s in my life, the more my heart is overwhelmed with the quiet gratitude, the self-sacrificing contentment that is JOY. It swells up in my chest as I watch him sleep. It bubbles through me as he laughs. And joy stays. It remains through the yogurt bombs and the stinky butts. Through long nights and low account balances, joy will remain.

Sure—parents are tired. And we bicker. And we’re broke half the time.

But let’s be honest. Happiness is overrated.

This post was originally featured on Mary’s blog, Mom Babble

With the arrival of Baby #2, I’ve adopted a new mantra: Don’t dillydally.

If you’ve read the story of how my daughter made her big debut, you know that my doctor told me not to dillydally when getting to the hospital, and thank God: When she was ready to come out, she was ready to come out right then

And that sentiment has permeated every aspect of my life in the three weeks since she was born. I can’t dillydally if I want to get anything done. The problem is, I want to dillydally. I lovedillydallying. It gives me the illusion that I have control over my own life and that it’s not being run by two very adorable little dictators.

Because this is how my life looks as a mom of two: Folding laundry that’s been sitting in the basket for at least three days…while singing along to a Laurie Berkner DVD with my son, who’s putting on a full show with singing, dancing and guitar-playing…while using one foot to further bounce the baby’s bouncy seat to lull her back to sleep.

I can’t decide if I’m amused or horrified by that little tableau, which seemed completely normal when it happened last week. All I know is that it’s my new reality. And this is why moms, especially moms of two (or more), should seize the moment when they’re presented with some rare peace, quiet and kiddie sleep.

Don’t dillydally…because that cup of tea will go cold. And so will the second, third and fourth attempts at the same damn cup.

Don’t dillydally…because it’s occasionally nice to eat more than your 3-year-old’s pb&j crusts.

Don’t dillydally…because when spit-up dries on your clothes, it is really foul, but it’s somehow easy to forget about until after you’ve left the house.

Don’t dillydally…because you really need to send that e-mail and/or see that cat video and you don’t want your kids to see you on your phone all the time.

Don’t dillydally…because it’s incredibly hard to write thank-you notes when two little people are trying to use your head as a springboard.

Don’t dillydally…because that flash-sale site isn’t going to shop itself and your kid is one minute closer to waking up from her nap.

Don’t dillydally…because you need to return those phone calls and people in the civilized world go to bed before 2 a.m. and aren’t up in 3-hour increments to feed a hungry little barracuda.

Don’t dillydally…because that fabulous idea that popped into your head will be gone forever if you don’t write it down immediately.

Don’t dillydally…because the later in the day that it gets, the less your brain will work properly, and those six half-written blog posts will sit on your desktop for two weeks. Oh, wait, maybe that’s just me.

Don’t dillydally…because your laundry is mysteriously multiplying by the millisecond.

Don’t dillydally…because showering is not only lovely but also kind of necessary once in a while.

Don’t dillydally…because your hungry newborn will start pecking at you like a chicken at the most inopportune time.

Don’t dillydally…because you will be late to everything. Actually, even when you don’t dillydally, you’ll probably still be late to everything.

All that said, sometimes you need a little mental downtime so that your head doesn’t explode, Scanners-style. Sometimes you need to give yourself a manicure and binge-watch The Walking Deadonce the little ones are in bed. Sometimes you need to do a little something—or a lot of something—whatever that may be, to maintain your sanity.

And sometimes, dillydallying just translates into good parenting—mostly, when you’re marveling at your newborn and soaking in the awesomeness of new motherhood. Because even if you’re covered in spit-up, exhausted, unshowered and still in your pajamas at 4 p.m., that kind of dillydallying is 100 percent, absolutely, completely and totally worth it. No guilt necessary and no explanation required to anyone, including yourself.

This post was originally featured on Dawn’s blog, Momsanity. Photo via.

All you can think when you envision a potty-trained child is: No more pee-soaked and poopy diapers! Hooray!

But there’s something you’re not thinking about—one big thing blocking your road to diaper-free bliss. And I’m not talking about the inevitable accidents or backsliding. I’m talking about public bathrooms. As in, your-beloved-and-trying-really-hard-to-do-pee-pee-on-the-potty child with the very small bladder is going to have to use public bathrooms. A lot.

And the little voice inside your head will be screaming, “OH, MY GOD, THIS IS SO DISGUSTING! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING!!!”

Let me explain.

You see, as adults, we take so many things for granted, like the fact that you shouldn’t stick your hand—or, you know, your entire head—into a toilet. Especially when that toilet has been used by countless, germy, disgusting strangers.

And before you ask, those baby porta-potties have never worked for us. My newly minted 2-year-old is almost-off-the-charts big, and the damn things are doll-sized. Also, they may be fine for road trips, but are you really going to schlep that thing all over creation in your purse? Yeah, no. Then there are the collapsible training seats touted for travel that always seem to collapse when you don’t want them to. So…public bathrooms, here we come.

But children are curious, and they learn by touching everything. Of course, you do not want them to touch everything in a public bathroom. I mean, whose ass has been on that seat? What kind of bacteria is lurking in there? I’ve seen those segments on The Today Show, and unfortunately, I can’t erase that knowledge from my brain.

Before I started this process, I had visions of lining the toilet with paper or one of those special covers, and gently placing my toddler on the seat, where he would tinkle on demand. Riiiiight. He’s a toddler, so he squirms. And that wonderfully interesting paper that’s suddenly covering the seat? Mommy was so thoughtful to put something fun there for me to play with, something for me to crinkle, something for me to throw!

New plan.

With my least panicked, “Sweetie, don’t touch that!” I body-block my toddler until I can disinfect the toilet with a wipe. I always forget to do the handle, and of course the first thing he wants to do every single time is flush. I haven’t touched one of those things with my hands since—well, I don’t think I ever have. But I have to let it go, because he’s already touched it and now it’s time to crouch down and get him potty-ready.

Keep in mind that public toilets are not kid-sized. There is no pulling down the pants and pull-ups to your little one’s shoes and having him hop up. Because a toddler is too small to sit on it like an adult, he has to straddle the damn thing to stay on it.

So, at least in my experience with a young toddler, everything from the waist down has to come off, shoes included, in the public bathroom. The socks stay on, of course, since I don’t want his feet to touch that floor, but this, too, will become problematic a few hours later when I put him down for a nap. Because my mom brain often forgets seemingly big things. Like ridiculously dirty, germ-soaked socks on nice, clean sheets. Ew.

But let’s deal with the here and now. OK, so the toddler is now on the wiped-down, paper-free toilet, straddling it with his legs…and he has to hold on. With his hands. Yes, I’ve wiped down the toilet, but no amount of wiping it down will ever be enough. His. Hands. Are. On. The. Public. Toilet.

So now we wait.

There might be singing. There might be pleas not to squirm and turn around to touch the flusher again. There might be slight panic when it seems like he’ll slip and fall in the toilet water.

But wait, we do. As I’m crouching on the floor in the tiny stall. Back cramped, thighs screaming from the effort of being in that position for way too long. (I’m not just out of shape; I have knee issues. Though I’m also out of shape.) I’m trying not to touch anything, and I’m trying not to freak out about everything I mentioned above, and I’m trying to mentally will this to happen so that we don’t have to do this again in another 20 minutes. Lots of inner monologue, lots of arguing with myself and lots of cheering myself on. I can do this. I can do this.

And…there’s pee-pee! And we’re shouting hooray! And clapping! And sounding like complete lunatics to anyone else in this public area. But that’s OK because, as I just shouted, there is pee-pee!

Time to put the pull-up back on and navigate the dirty socks through the leg holes without having them touch the inside the pull-up. Then the pants. Then the shoes, which he doesn’t want to wait to put on because he knows that he gets to play with water—er, wash his hands—next.

We wash hands—hallelujah!—and dry hands. And sing about it all. And then argue about how many reams of paper towels we can use.

I emerge from the bathroom spent, exhausted, sweaty.

But there was pee-pee. And, in the end, that’s all that matters.

This post was originally featured on Dawn’s blog, Momsanity

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Every time I see an article about breastfeeding, I see the following statement (or something similar), “Breastfeeding is hard.” Every article seems to bemoan all the challenges of breastfeeding and make it seem like all women struggle.

I feel strangely guilty and confused when I read these articles. Why? Because I found breastfeeding natural and fairly easy.

Before I started breastfeeding, I read all these articles. I knew it was going to be hard. I knew it would be a struggle because my mom and sister struggled. Neither one of them were able to breastfeed longer than three months. Their experience mirrored many of the problems described in articles I had read.

To make sure I had all the information available, and, therefore, had the best shot at being successful, I read everything I could find. I attended a breastfeeding class held at my local hospital and asked lots of questions. By the time Ginny was born, I knew what to expect.

The moment that Ginny first latched on to me, I realized it wasn’t what I expected. I thought it would feel odd. Instead, it felt like the most natural thing in the world. I was amazed!

Even more amazing, I didn’t struggle with nursing like my mom did or my sister. I didn’t struggle with it like every article I read suggested I would. In some ways, it was the easiest thing I had ever done.

Breastfeeding did not go perfectly, at first. Ginny lost a lot of weight. All babies lose weight, but she lost more than doctors and nurses consider acceptable. There were concerns about my milk production. I was confident though. My milk took a bit longer to come in than expected. All that preparation ahead of time let me know she would be okay. Naturally, I worried as the nurse would arrived at our home the day after we did to check her weight and again the next day. However, Ginny had plenty of wet and dirty diapers.

At the two-week check, Ginny hadn’t reached her birth weight yet, although she was close. My doctor encouraged me to supplement with formula. I felt torn and confused. I didn’t want to sabotage our attempts at nursing by giving my baby a bottle. My instincts told me that my milk was enough. After all, she still had plenty of wet and dirty diapers. We tried the bottle once, but it felt wrong so I refused to try it again. Instead, I made sure to nurse my daughter at least every two hours.

It didn’t help that I went to a breastfeeding group at the hospital only a week later. I had never been and didn’t know what to expect, so I nursed Ginny before we left. When we got there, I discovered I could weigh Ginny. The expectation was to nurse the baby while you were there then weigh her afterward to make sure she was getting enough milk. I knew it wouldn’t go well because I had recently nursed her. I tried though. Then after the second weigh-in, I got a lecture from the lactation-consultant nurse encouraging me to supplement. That suggestion made me angry, and I never returned.

My instincts proved me right. Ginny gained weight and thrived. The doctor never knew that I ignored his suggestion. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that our baby was healthy and growing.

When it came to nursing, I didn’t really have sore nipples beyond a week. If they got dry, I would express a little milk and rub that on the nipple. It worked. The only time nursing became painful and a challenge was during my pregnancy with my youngest, Grace. Pregnancy will make your breasts hurt. Nursing with sore breasts is not fun. Okay, it sucked! I tried to power through, but couldn’t do it and planned to wean Ginny. Ginny ended up weaning herself once I made that decision. My milk changed. She didn’t like it and was no longer interested. She was 12 months old.

When I had Grace, I was more prepared and more determined than ever that she wouldn’t lose as much weight as her sister did. Luckily, my milk came in faster so I thought I would do well. The problem was that Grace was more interested in sleep than nursing. It turned out that she had jaundice. The jaundice wasn’t caused by lack of milk. Grace and I simply have different blood types. It would take a while for her body to adapt to the milk I was giving her.

It took about 6 weeks for the jaundice to go away, but during that time she gained weight and grew. She thrived. We worried about the jaundice. We hated taking her to have her blood tested every week, but it was necessary. Eventually, her body did adjust to my antibodies and the yellow appearance of my daughter disappeared.

I was able to breastfeed Grace longer than Ginny. We stopped nursing three months ago when she was 18 months old. I didn’t want to stop, but I was pregnant and the pain was too much for me to handle. So, I forced her to wean. She still misses it, and honestly, I do too. In some ways I miss it more because we miscarried. Not only did I lose a baby, I lost the ability to nurse my youngest.

I feel bad for the women who do struggle with breastfeeding. I think some struggle because they don’t know what to expect. I believe others struggle due to legitimate milk supply issues and others because their doctors and nurses encourage them to supplement. And, I’m sure there are even more reasons beyond those.

This post was originally featured on Denise’s blog, Jayhawk Mommy. Photo via.

So you’re going back to work.

Maybe you’ve been on maternity leave.

Maybe your young charges hired you as Stay-At-Home-With-Me-Mom for the past few years, but when you found out that your toddlers didn’t provide a 401k, you needed to return to a work environment with richer benefits.

Either way, the workplace is now calling, and you’re about to strap on those boots or high heels or sneakers and get yourself a paycheck.

But you feel guilty.

Because you’re a mom, and how can you not? Like maybe you’re thinking this:

“How can I justify calling myself a ‘mom’ if I drop off my child at daycare at 8, pick her up at 6 and she goes to sleep at 7?”

Or this:

“How can I say I’m raising my kids if a nanny feeds and transports and puts them down for naps ¾ of the time?”

I returned to work a couple of months ago after a year at home with our daughter, and these questions often crossed my mind. So having traversed the terrain of the stay-at-home-turned-working-mom myself, here are some insights I can offer:

1. Consider the Extra Love: When I returned to work, I worried a lot about whether I still “counted” as Annie’s mom if I wasn’t around as much. Then I thought of a friend of mine who had fertility issues and had to turn to an egg donor and surrogate to help her start a family. She once told me, “You know, I could feel threatened by these women, but all it really means is that my child will have two more people who care deeply for him. So why wouldn’t you want as many people to love your child as you can get?” I held onto that piece of wisdom when I dropped my daughter off at “school” for the first day. At her super-early-education-program-for-young-toddlers, she was going to meet other kids and teachers who would look after her and care about her and comfort her if she scraped a knee. That wasn’t a threat to me or my identity. It was reinforcement. It was another set of people who had her back, and that was a good thing.

2. Flex Your Kid’s Hours: Radio host Sheri Lynch wrote a fabulous book for new moms awhile back and she talked about parents who never got to see their young children because of their work hours. The solution: the parents moved the child’s bedtime a little later. Sure, parenting books say to put your kid to bed by 7, but if your kid will go to bed at 8 or (gasp) 9 and you can make it work the next morning and get some extra time with them, then do it! Or it may be that you want to switch your child’s bedtime to be a little earlier so you get some extra morning time. Either way, the point is this: think about ways you can make your child’s sleep work for them and for you. It might make like you’re able to be more involved in their lives that way.

3. Identify What You Can Flex: Changing your child’s bedtime is a great example of thinking in a flexible way that can transform the quality of your family life. Now where’s the flexibility in your day? What can you switch that will be the equivalent of shifting your kid’s bedtime? One option might be to ask your employer about alternate work hours. It certainly doesn’t hurt, and your boss might say yes. Maybe you could work 4 days a week for 10 hours or come in on the weekends or work from home one day. This way, you could get more time with your child while still getting your full workload in. Alternatively, maybe you want to think about small changes like cooking less and stocking up on prepared foods more (or at least cooking in bulk and freezing) so that you can spend more time playing make believe and less chopping vegetables. In short: Analyze your day. See what you can switch or let go of. Then make those changes work for you and your family.

4. Consider Big Changes: Big changes are hard, but once they’re made, they can transform your life.   Like in our case, we asked my mother-in-law to move in for the year, and it has been amazing! A-Maz-Ing. She moved halfway across the country (her husband stayed in Iowa), and it’s made all the difference. Not only is my daughter building a super special relationship with her grandma, but we’re getting some help with everything from our laundry to cleaning the floor after our daughter drops rice all over it at dinner. And that gives us extra time to chase after our little Annie to give her more hugs.

The transition back to work is a challenging one, but what I’ve learned is that it’s also a huge opportunity to take control of your life and make changes that will help you in the long run.

So what changes are you planning on making? Or if you’ve already gone back to work, what advice do you have for moms returning to work?

Photo via

My husband and I are currently in the trenches of potty-training our toddler. While she gets the concept, she really just doesn’t give a crap (not in the toilet, anyway). As first time parents, we’ve consulted everyone about what is normal and what is not.

We’ve had friends tell us that they potty-trained their child in one day (we secretly hate those friends) and others who have said it took the better part of a year. All we know is that diapers are an expensive hassle and we’re ready to be done with them.

Still, I can sort of understand where my child’s coming from; I too would like to not have to get up to use the restroom. But since it’s socially unacceptable – thanks a lot, society – we all must be potty-trained at some point.

So, I give you – fellow parents to a peeing and pooping kiddo – an ode to get you through another round of diaper changes.

An Ode to the Potty Training Toddler

As you poop on the floor
we buy more diapers from the store.
And throw your clothes into the hamper –
once again, it’s back to Pampers.

Wipes and dipes – they’re all a pain.
Can’t you just be potty-trained?
For each time we try to wean,
we have to get our carpets cleaned.

It hasn’t worked – our potty plan.
Until it does, no more bran.
Go and sit upon the throne –
you’ve pooped us out of house and home!

We’ve tried to bribe – Coke and Fritos.
M&M’s and crunchy Cheetos.
Dolls and balls and spinning tops.
Drums and gum and lollipops.

What will it take to get you trained?
Giant stalks of sugarcane?
A brand new bike? A Barbie house?
A talking to from Mickey Mouse?

Or this desperate cry – per your dad and mom:
you must make it to the john….
for all your poops and your pee, too.
And then we will decide to keep you

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