Category Archives: Striving for Balance: Personal & Family

For parents seeking personal and family balance.

Sibling Spacing: One Year Apart, Too Close or Just Right?

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)

**Originally published in the Spring 2008 New Baby issue of The Journal of API

Rachel and her doll
Rachel and her doll

I love babies, especially the newborns. I love breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, the whole shebang. When other mothers can hardly stand to get through those first couple months of irregular schedules and sleep deprivation, of crazy diaper explosions and unpredictable spit-up sessions, I am soaking it all in – the comfort of knowing that I am all my little one needs, at least for a little while. For all the challenges my oldest daughter, Rachel, threw my way during her first year of life, the joys and amazement of becoming a parent far outweighed the negatives.

When Rachel turned eight months old, I turned to my husband Mike and said that I thought it’d be fun to have a baby every year. The next month, we found out I was pregnant. It wasn’t planned, but it was wonderful news. There was a problem, however, in that Rachel was far too young to comprehend what it meant to have a new baby brother or sister. Throughout the pregnancy, I tried to introduce the concept of a “baby” to her. I pointed out babies in books and on the TV. I wrapped up one of her stuffed animals in a diaper and blanket. We visited a friend with a newborn baby.

Reality Sets In

In my ninth month of pregnancy, I began to worry about how bringing home a new baby would affect my 16-month-old daughter. How would Rachel handle living with Grandma in an unfamiliar house while I was in the hospital? How would she deal with me being unable to lift her and hold her for eight weeks after a medically necessary cesarean section? How would she cope with not being the sole center of my universe? Continue reading

Considerations of Sibling Spacing on the Family Dynamic

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)

**Originally published in the Spring 2008 New Baby issue of The Journal of API

childrenOne year, two years, five years, ten years – just what is the ideal spacing between siblings?

Every mom contemplating their second child wants to know the answer. But just try to look up an exact answer on the Internet, in a magazine, or in a book. Most of these resources, if they choose to pinpoint an age gap, promote anywhere from two-and-one-half to five years as the best range, but no one can say for sure just what is best when it comes to the appropriate spacing between brothers and sisters.

The answer from many experienced parents is it all depends on what you think you’d like. Some say that closely spaced children, those with only a couple of years or less between them, will be more work in the early years but give siblings a playmate. Others claim that widely spaced children will give parents a break from the energy-intensive early years, but the siblings may not be as closely bonded. Continue reading

Give More Presence Instead of More Presents

From API’s Communications Team

Gift

The Public News Service published an article featuring the advice of Attachment Parenting International Co-founder Barbara Nicholson on gift-giving this holiday season.

Said Nicholson: “Who knew that our economy would be giving us the opportunity to really give parents some insight?”

With families around the world tightening their budgets, she suggested parents consider giving their children more presence rather than more presents. Some of her ideas including playing board games, crafting homemade gifts for others, playing a neighborhood sports game, and visiting the library.

“There are wonderful insights and strategies to teach our children about the fun ways to play, without having material things,” Nicholson said.

To read the entire article, go to www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/7230-1.

Mothering Ourselves

By Dedra Keoshian. leader of API of Stark County, Ohio

Author Dedra & family
Author Dedra & family

The other day, I was in the midst of scrambling around the kitchen, preparing everyone’s breakfast according to their unique requests. James, 4, wanted pancakes. Neil, 17 months, was pointing to the bananas. I was making a fried egg sandwich on Ezekiel Muffins for myself and urging James to get dressed while I made the meals. My husband, Ed, had left for work hours ago. I had yet to drink in any fuel, a.k.a. coffee, and was feeling the lava mount in my stomach.

By the time James had eaten his pancakes and Neil had scarfed his banana, my sandwich was finally being assembled. Then came the screams for “More! More!” and “You forgot my water!” Now, I will unashamedly admit that I am a grumpy monster in the morning, and I was about to lose it. But something in me said, “Take some breaths, you are the adult here.”

As the oxygen flowed to my brain, I turned to James and said, “How many mom-moms are here?” He said, “One.” And I said, “How many people are in this room and need to be taken care of right now?” He said, “Two.” I replied, “No, there are three people in this room. There is you, Baby Neil, and me. Someone has to take care of me, too. So, I have to take care of all three of us. You have gotten to eat breakfast and Neil has gotten to eat, but I have had nothing. Mom-moms need food, too.”

As parents, we sacrifice everything for our children. As spouses, we must sacrifice for our marriages. We nurture these relationships and tend carefully to them, as constant gardeners. But, as women, we often forget to nurture ourselves. We, too, need mothers. We must learn to mother ourselves, meaning that we must treat ourselves as persons who have needs that must be met in order to be physically and emotionally healthy.

This is the best gift that we can give our children. They need to see that even mom-moms are persons of value, with unique needs, concerns, and qualities. Everyone is important  equally. By showing children how we care for ourselves, they will learn to care for themselves. They will grow to be mothers who nurture themselves so that they can nurture their children and partners. They will grow to be fathers who love themselves, their children, and who support their partners.

I think that, too often, we look to others to step in if they see we need something. We are slow to ask. But just as we are advocates for our children, we should be advocates for ourselves. Taking just a small amount of time each day to clear our minds, evaluate our hearts, or just veg out can nourish us to continue to give daily, hourly. This will look different for each mother. Look honestly at what your needs are and set a plan for meeting those needs. Maybe it’s half an hour in the bath, uninterrupted; perhaps an hour at a coffee shop with a friend or a good book. Whatever is right for you, demand it. You deserve it; your children deserve it!

As mothers, we sacrifice everything for our children. As wives, we must sacrifice for our marriages. We nurture these relationships and tend carefully to them, as constant gardeners. But, as women, we often forget to nurture ourselves.

Frugal Family Finances 101

By Rita Brhel, editor of The Attached Family

The current economic climate in the U.S. is putting a lot of people on edge about where their financial futures may lie. Some people are struggling to keep their homes, others are trying to climb out from a mountain to credit card debt, and many are watching the value of their stocks plummet. It seems no one is immune to the concerns about what else may happen to the national – or for that matter, global – economy. And it’s difficult to be a happy parent when you’re worried about finances.

Fortunately, there are many ways to cut family costs and still be able to build enough savings to take vacations, go on shopping trips, or not stress over emergencies. Here are some tips from Soni Sangha in her About.com article “Five Ways to Jump-Start Your Household Budget” and from CNBC Correspondent Sharon Epperson’s www.msnbc.msn.com article “Money Tips for Stay-at-Home Moms”:

  • Create a budget – This is not to be taken without some real financial planning. Take a month to record exactly how much money you’re spending and on what. Then, set your budget according to this spending pattern. Be sure to set aside enough money to pay for your set monthly bills, like your mortgage or rent, loan payments, utilities and phone charges, insurance, food and medical. Each month, aim to spend not more than your budget but pay attention to when your incidental expenses occur, like vehicle care, dentist appointments, and birthday gifts, and adjust your budget accordingly.
  • Use your budget – This is harder to do than it sounds, because you need to actually keep your budget in mind or, better yet, carry your budget with you. Write down how much you have budgeted for grocery shopping, for example, and take it with you so that you can be sure to stay within that amount. This may mean opting for more generic brands or doing without some items in order to be able to afford those that you truly need.
  • Regularly check back with your budget – Schedule a time every week when you check back with your budget to make sure you’re staying within budget, or you’ll likely forget all about your budget and overspend.
  • Stick to your budget – This means actually changing your spending habits for the long term. The real returns from living on a budget come after several months of sticking to one and then seeing the savings build up.
  • Prioritize your spending – You will probably have to cut something out of your regular spending patterns to stay within budget. This may be deciding to eat out less, take shorter vacations closer to home, or even choosing to make treats for your playgroup instead of buying a box of cupcakes at the store.
  • Pay yourself – Setting aside a set amount per month for savings is just like giving yourself a monthly stipend. You can still try to save extra, but by taking out a savings deposit each month, just as you would your mortgage payment, you’re making it a priority and being sure it gets done. Don’t fall into the trap of skimping on the savings deposit to buy something you don’t need; your savings is not only to save up for fun stuff, but to be there for emergencies like medical crises or a vehicle accident.
  • Create a separate account for savings – When you’re pulling part of your spouse’s salary for your family savings, actually take it out of your checking account and put it in its own savings account. This way, you can watch your savings grow, plus if you do withdraw an amount, you can easily keep track of how much you’re spending.
  • Don’t skimp on insurance, or retirement savings – Cutting either of these won’t do you any favors in the long term. That retirement savings is what will ensure that you’ll live comfortably in retirement, or that your spouse will be able to retire at all. And while insurance premiums seem costly now, if something should happen – a storm damages your house, you have a car accident, you need surgery – the expenses incurred without insurance will break your bank account a lot faster.

Go Green with Holistic Parenting

By Nancy Massotto, PhD, executive director of Holistic Moms Network

Everywhere you look, there is a growing interest in eco-conscious choices, natural solutions, and organic products.

While these trends are significant in the marketplace, they are also apparent in a movement toward parenting and lifestyle choices that focus on promoting awareness of environmental conservation, natural remedies, and the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling.

But living a greener life means more than incorporating green ideas into daily living; it’s a mindset. Parents who are seeking and living this lifestyle are practicing holistic parenting.

Green Parenting

Holistic parenting springs from an awareness of how our choices are interconnected. Like Attachment Parenting, holistic parenting seeks to build and strengthen connections – between parent and child, between our lifestyle and our health, and between our choices and their impact upon the Earth. It’s about understanding the relationship between mind, body, and spirit and trying to find balance.

When you are out of balance emotionally, physically, or spiritually – or when your environment is toxic – it is a sign of illness. Making choices that embrace these interconnections and working with nature and our innate knowledge helps us to restore balance.

Holistic parenting is also about becoming informed and being cognizant of how different options affect our health and well-being, as well as their impact upon our communities and the world. Being conscious of our choices enables us to think on a larger scale and to do what is best for our families.

Although holistic parenting can take many routes, here are some simple things every parent can to do to begin their holistic living journey:

  • Stay informed – Being informed in our parenting and health care choices are cornerstones of whole living. From childbirth options to nutrition, from education alternatives to discipline, holistic parenting seeks a natural path. Parents should look beyond the surface to assess the risks and benefits of their choices to understand how their choices impact their lives on physical, spiritual, and emotional levels. Modern technology has enabled parents to access a wealth of information and to become aware of less conventional perspectives. Parents need to become advocates for themselves, their children, and our planet, and to be open to information that resonates with them regardless of whether or not the data confers with “mainstream” perspectives.
  • Cultivate trust – Living holistically starts with a shift in your perspective away from fear and uncertainty and toward trust in yourself, your body, and nature’s healing power. Cultivating this trust is challenging, but uncovering it is a source of empowerment. From childbirth and breastfeeding to natural healing, trusting in the body and its amazing abilities enables us to recognize that nature holds many miracles. This also means trusting in the needs of our children. We all know babies have needs and wants, but our society tends to minimize their levels of consciousness and awareness. If we trust in our babies’ abilities to know what they need, we will parent more successfully.
  • Tune into your wisdom – Deep within ourselves lies our inner wisdom and intuition. What feels right to us may not be the most traveled path but often will best serve our families. This wisdom guides not only our parenting styles but also simple choices we make everyday. Many times, we may wonder if something is really “good” for us, even if it is considered “safe” by the authorities. If your wisdom is questioning, become informed and seek alternatives. Parenting from the heart and trusting in our instinct honors our own wisdom and abilities.
  • Go natural – The preponderance of chemicals in our food, homes, and environment is wreaking havoc on our health. A 2004 article in The Journal of Pediatrics advised pediatricians to discuss the neurological risks of exposing babies to pesticides, whether through foods or environmental exposure on lawns. In the article, it was noted that the blood-brain barrier in babies is easily crossed by chemicals, thus reducing exposure is essential. They also noted that “we are currently able to characterize pediatric risks for only a handful of the approximately 80,000 man-made chemicals that have entered the environment since World War II.” We need to look for safe, non-toxic products to care for our homes, and to eliminate artificial ingredients, preservatives, and pesticides from our food for the health of our families, and our environment.
  • Live lightly on the earth – Living holistically means recognizing the interconnectedness of our choices. Treading lightly by supporting industries that nurture the earth (such as organic farming), incorporating green practices into your life (such as recycling), and giving back of yourself through volunteer work are essential components of natural living. As parents, we can educate our children to take simple but important steps to conserve, reuse, and to live simply and thoughtfully for themselves and future generations.
  • Find support – While all things “green” may be increasingly popular, living a holistic lifestyle continues to be considered “alternative” and often garners criticism from our own families and friends. Interacting with others who share similar philosophies is empowering and helps parents find the tools they need to grow a healthy family. Social support itself is health creating. Recent studies show that being socially connected to others can improve your physical health and is linked to lower mortality rates. Connecting with like-minded parents can help you learn and share as you continue your journey to a more natural and balanced life.

About the Holistic Moms Network
The Holistic Moms Network (HMN) is a nonprofit organization connecting parents who are passionate about holistic health and green living. For more information, visit www.holisticmoms.org.