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  1. Working to get to a place where each parent is comfortable with the other household can take years of trials and tribulations. Now, coparents with minimal conflict and an established routine have had an unforeseen wrench thrown into things: COVID-19. The underlying issue that causes conflict in split households is the worry that comes with one parent lacking control or knowledge over what occurs in the other’s household, which is why communication is important — but even with great communicators, this can be hard. As a family lawyer, I'm flagging some issues that I've seen arise during COVID-19 with split household families, and sharing advice on how to resolve these problems. [Related: How to co-parent during the coronavirus pandemic] 1. Vaccinations. As vaccines become more widespread, parents may have differing views on whether the members of their household will become vaccinated — whether it be parents, relatives, and soon, children. Parents must consider the science presented, consult with the pediatrician, and discuss their concerns and values. Whether parents or children get vaccinated could impact parenting time in limited situations. 2. Third Parties. Significant others, extended family, and caregivers are third parties that children may be in contact with. It is appropriate to ask questions to ensure they are abiding by CDC guidelines, and if genuine concern arises regarding the presence of third parties, first address it with your coparent. If the issue persists, it may be time to address the concern with a mediator, family therapist, parenting coordinator or the Court if necessary. 3. Summer Travel. There are different reasons why travel may occur over the summer. First, if one parent lives out of state, it may be necessary for either the parent or child to travel, perhaps for extended parenting time, or simply for summer vacation. If you plan to take a trip over the summer, it is important to give notice to your coparent as soon as possible in order to avoid last minute conflict. In addition, discuss logistics such as whether you’ll be driving instead of flying, who you will be traveling with, the location where you will be staying, and what you intend to do during the travel. [Related: How to handle remote learning while co-parenting] 4. Exposure. Create a game plan for what will happen if one parent or member of a household becomes exposed to COVID-19. This can include preparing for quarantine, who should be tested, and coordinating make-up parenting time. Consult with your child’s pediatrician for advice regarding quarantine procedures and testing. If in-person parenting time must cease for a quarantine period, consider how virtual parenting time can be exercised through Zoom, Facetime, or similar. 5. Back to School. As summer plans are discussed, the next step will be the return to school in the fall — for which more and more will be an in-person setting. Parents will have to make decisions such as what district, public or private, in person, remote or hybrid. While vaccines are increasing and schools are reopening, there is still a lot unknown. Stay in the know on what schools are offering and how they are deciding to operate in the fall and keep these questions in mind, so they do not create last-minute chaos. Communication regarding all of these issues helps to minimize the conflict. If there is disagreement, it is likely more time and cost effective to utilize mediation or a parenting coordinator before turning to litigation, or a family therapist to learn communication skills.
  2. Photo by Edwin Hooper It is November 1, 2020, as I write this article. You will be reading this in Winter 2021. So much will happen between today and the new year: the election (pause and breathe), Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and New Year’s. That is a lot to take in under normal circumstances, but this year, none of it will be exactly normal. Whatever comes of the election and the intense holiday season, there will certainly be additional tension at the start of the year for all families. [Related: Self-care during Covid: Creating your own pandemic slow-down] The following is a list of possible scenarios for processing the holidays. Pick the one that most closely resembles your experience, and then match that scenario with thoughts about the new year. A. Your candidate won the election and your whole, extended family was in agreement and celebrated. This excitement wove its way seamlessly into your holidays and everyone agreed on a safe plan for a socially distant celebration of all the holidays (every holiday was celebrated because of your culturally diverse family that blends and honors all the holidays equally). Despite the uncertainty of what lies ahead in 2021, you feel so nourished by your time with family and friends that you sprang into the New Year full of hope and possibilities of this new frontier. B. Your candidate lost the election. You felt alone in your family of “other candidate” supporters and had to spend a decent amount of time through the holidays listening to their gloating, while you are terrified for what is to come of our country over the next four years. Some members of the family think COVID is a hoax, while others haven’t left their house since March because they are so scared. It was so disappointing not to have the annual all-family holiday gathering that each family did their own thing and never connected as a big group. You feel defeated and hopeless going into 2021 C. You got through it. Is choice “A” even possible? Is some version of choice “B” inevitable? Is choice “C” pretty darn likely? [Related: From slow to go! Balancing life post-pandemic.] The reality is, there is truth and possibility in all three. And whether one of these was close to your actual experience or not, we will all have had aspects of all of them and a season like no other we could have imagined. Good for us! That’s right: I said, good for us! Now is when we really need to celebrate: our fortitude, our resilience, our creativity in difficult situations that brought bits of normalcy and spirit into chaos. In addition to celebrating, here are a few ways you can take your lived experience of 2020 — the good, the bad and the ugly — and use it to make a positive difference in how you experience 2021: Make a list of challenges you faced this past year and how you dealt with them. If you didn’t like how you handled some of them, what can you do differently when something similar arises this year? Be ready! Let your feelings flow. If you are like most of us, you’ve been holding your breath to get through it, only to realize there is no getting through. Share with a loved one your authentic fears, hopes, dreams for this year. It is never too late to have a joyful holiday! Bring as much of the true spirit of the holidays into the new year as we can: generosity of spirit, goodwill, beauty, light in the darkness, charity, and lots of hope.
  3. Article
    Mother's Day is such a loaded holiday for lots of reasons — often tied to traditions set in place to honor our own mothers. But like it did in 2020, this Mother’s Day isn’t “normal.” Will it be any different this year? Or is it something that you're looking forward to because it's predictable? Given the challenges and victories for mothers and all caregivers who continue to prevail in this pandemic, I believe it’s a perfect time to expose and disrupt the status quo. Starting with Mother’s Day. Do you know its origin? It started as an anti-war movement in the 1850s. In 1870, Julia Ward Howe — composer of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" — issued a widely read "Mother's Day Proclamation" calling for women to take an active political role in promoting peace. Ultimately, in 1914 Anna Jarvis was successful in her campaign to have the day dedicated to appreciating your own mother when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it a national holiday. [Related: Mother's Day ideas for Chicago moms] Unfortunately, Jarvis lost her second battle which was to keep the holiday out of the hands of consumerism. Speaking of which, how much do you think we spend on Mother’s Day? Made up mostly of greeting cards, flowers, and social outings, Americans spent $26.7 billion dollars on Mother’s day in 2020. Does the 7% spending increase (in the throes of a pandemic) from 2019 and the 45% increase from 2010 translate to a mothers' increased fulfillment and satisfaction in the day? Well, that is for each individual mother to decide. Let’s look at it another way that might spark your interest. Just as you are the author and director of your pleasure in all spheres of your life (wink, wink), so too are you ultimately responsible for your own “MOM-GASM!” I may be stretching it a bit with the metaphor, but the possibility for a day where everything from time with yourself to experiences with others brings you delight. [Related: To the mom missing her dad on Father's Day] The sky's the limit, but the key is to make it your own. Map out your day, and if you want it a certain way, you have to ask for it — your family cannot read your mind. While lovely to receive gifts and acknowledgment, one day won’t refuel you from a year of incredible stress and increased hours of unpaid labor. But you deserve to design a lovely day. As women, we are generally great at caring for others, but not so adept with mothering ourselves. Empower yourself this Mother’s Day to disrupt old paradigms that do not serve you, and create a vision or intention for yourself. It’s not selfish, nor does it take away from the day to communicate your wishes and set the tone. While hardly exhaustive, I offer a few ideas to get your started: • Do some research on May day/Mother’s day in different cultures. • Create your own “ritual” or devotion for the day that you may carry forward. • Inventory all the ways you have mothered yourself and others during a deadly pandemic. • Ask for a vision or wishes from your family for the year ahead. • Carve out a minimum of an hour, but hopefully more, of alone time. • Keep it real and remember it has been an incredible year, and you can feel all of your feelings on this day and beyond. Cheers to you, Mother.
  4. We are now nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and have experienced the accompanying challenges and bright spots of quarantine, working remotely, and e-learning. As we acclimate to the new normal, you might be experiencing some clarity in your relationships. Some people are realizing their relationship with their significant other may bring unhappiness rather than satisfaction, or strain rather than ease. Are you staying for the sake of your children? Have you tried couple’s therapy but still cannot get along? If you relate to any of these issues, you may be already considering separation or divorce. This can be incredibly difficult to process, but the struggles we have all experienced over the past year may have alerted you to a desire for change. This realization may be enlightening or potentially distressing, but the next steps do not have to be strenuous or daunting. You can separate peacefully and amicably by taking into consideration the following tips. [Related: Have a difficult ex? Co-parenting is possible with these tools] Communication and compromise The best thing you can do now is communicate with your spouse, either directly or through a therapist or your lawyer, in a respectful manner. Compromise and cooperation are key. Peaceful processes Consider mediation, which involves a neutral third party to facilitate the separation or an uncontested divorce process, where either one or both parties can have representation and the divorce will move forward seamlessly so long as there is agreement amongst the parties. Another idea is to begin or continue in therapy for communication or co-parenting counseling. For other couples, separation may become contentious but if you can keep level-headed and communicate your thoughts with your spouse, this can help exponentially. Keep in mind that the common goal is to separate civilly and expeditiously. Children come first Remember your common goals of keeping the children happy, safe and healthy are priority; always consider their wants or needs and how to align those with your requests in the separation. You and your co-parent must cooperate and act in your children’s best interests. There are a variety of professionals that can facilitate this process: a Child Representative or Guardian ad Litem may be appointed to represent the children’s interests, or a Parenting Coordinator may be appointed to help with communication. Self-care Something many people forget during separation is taking care of themselves. Try to do activities you may not have done with your significant other or even with your children — anything from starting a new fitness class online to spending more time with your friends and loved ones. Recognize that self-care is one of the most important routines you should preserve during this time. If you keep the above tips in mind, separation and divorce during COVID-19 may actually enhance your life. Remember: Your and your children’s happiness is indispensable.
  5. My long-term relationship that had been fizzling for quite a while had finally snuffed out when it occurred to me that I should become a single-mother-by choice. I was always able to picture myself as a mother but the image of myself as a wife was hazy. Very willing to have the baby and not the man, I started to strategize on how to make that happen. What is a single-mother-by-choice (SMC)? Sometimes called a choice mom or only parent, a single-mother-by-choice is a woman who decides to become a mother with full understanding that she will be the only parent. Or as the 2015 article, the single mother by choice myth defines it, “she’s the epitome of the modern independent woman who wants to have it all, career and family ─ taking her future into her hands, acting decisively, and doing what it takes to achieve her goal of motherhood, with no need for a man. A single-mother-by-choice will pursue motherhood with the aid of donor sperm from either a known donor, with a sperm bank, or private donation. I went with a sperm bank. How does it work? Initially, my plan was intrauterine insemination (IUI), where sperm is placed inside the uterus. Some women are brave enough to do it on their own at home. I wanted to go through a doctor. In doing so, I researched the best in the Chicagoland area and went with Chicago IVF. After sharing my medical history, I underwent a hysterosalpingogram, an X-ray of my uterus and fallopian tubes. I learned that in vitro fertilization (IVF), where the sperm and egg are fertilized outside of the body and then placed inside the uterus, was my only option. Due to the rigorous care schedule, I transferred my care to the Fertility Center of Illinois in River North because it was closer to home and work. Speaking of work, in Illinois, there is a state mandate that health insurance must cover fertility treatment, including up to four cycles of IVF. But how does it work as a parent? The African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child, rings loud and true for an only parent. If not to help in childcare or to have someone in case of emergency, you will need a sane adult to let you know that you will survive. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the help of my parents—without them, working from home during the shelter-in-place would have been impossible. Any advice for someone considering SMC-hood? Working to get pregnant is well, work. Don’t be afraid to ask all of the questions. Choose a healthcare team that you’re comfortable with, especially if you’re a woman of color as racial and ethnic disparities in pregnancy-related deaths persist. Get a full physical workup before you start. Keep a journal because pregnancy comes with a lot of feelings and your journal can be your listening ear. Focus on what you have and not on what you’re missing. It took me two years to become pregnant. Out of those 730 days, Mother’s and Father’s Days were some of the roughest. The first year, I was starting IVF and had no clue if it would work. I skipped church and their Mother’s Day parade and focused all the energy I had after a good shower cry on my mom. That Father’s Day was rough because I was working to become an SMC and I was already rife with worry of how my baby-to-be would feel about the holiday seeing that she or he wouldn’t have a conventional dad. By the next year, I was an IVF pro, but I still needed a distraction. I spent that holiday season uplifting other moms-to-be and hosted a Twitter giveaway for a self-care kit. However, the nervousness around Father’s Day persisted. My mom was the first person I told my decision to become an SMC. “A baby needs a dad,” she said, and I agreed. But when I told her that I didn’t want to miss my chance to become a mother because I didn’t have a man, she quickly gave me her blessing. Yet, that didn’t stop me from praying that my love for my child would be enough. My third embryo transfer, in which my father drove me to the doctor, was a charm. That February, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Mother’s Day of that year was going to be great. My mom and I made plans to brunch with her best friend and her daughters, all of whom are mothers. I would finally get to celebrate with the cool kids. I even bought me and the baby boy matching shirts. But the Thursday before Mother’s Day, my father had a stroke. My mother spent the holiday in the hospital with my dad, while I celebrated my first Mother’s Day worrying and taking awkward selfies of me and my son. My dad’s recovery was slow but steady. He was still in the hospital for Father’s Day. Me, mom, and the baby sat around his bed and ate salads from Portillo’s. This year, while Mother’s and Father’s Day was off-kilter for the entire country, I’ve finally hit a stride and that blanket of burden is gone. My son is growing into his own person every single day and I’m confident in my ability to parent him, for now. This first year of parenting has already taught me that he will change and change. Even this Father’s Day felt better. My dad is doing as well as we could expect, and I’ve begun to practice my spiel on how I will tell my son know that he’s donor-conceived. I’ve even had the opportunity to connect with two handfuls of his donor siblings ─ giving him a peek (when he’s ready) into his other side, albeit extremely non-conventional. And maybe now I will channel all that Mother’s and Father’s Day tension into a holiday more deserving, like National Brownie Day.
  6. Co-parenting is always a balancing act, but add your child's remote learning into the mix and you could have a real challenge on your hands. As always, communication is key. Each parent should be informed on what the back to school process looks like and all available options, knowing that with COVID-19, recommendations and options are changing every day. Discuss with your co-parent the concerns you each have as it pertains to healthcare, your work schedule, and your child’s educational, emotional and social needs. [Related: How to co-parent during the coronavirus pandemic] What are some options you can consider? Perhaps a temporary modification of the current schedule to better accommodate the child’s new hybrid learning model or remote learning schedule. Seek out advice from teachers and counselors at your children’s school to help create a good parenting schedule and break up of work among both households. Perhaps brainstorming together about co-teaching different subjects and classes, coming up with activities or homework that can involve both parties. Children will also be in a time of transition during the period of remote or hybrid learning. It is vital as parents to be on the same team with one another, trying to create a fun and educational environment in both homes, finding new and exciting ways to teach and learn given the circumstances. However, co-parents may be facing certain issues that nuclear families do not. For example, a point of contention may arise over which home is more equipped to facilitate remote learning during the week. Do both parents have adequate access to a computer, an extra room or office, or even faster internet? Another issue may be that one parent’s work schedule may allow for more hands-on learning with the child while the other’s work schedule poses time constraints. Parents need to communicate with one another and determine what the best remote learning option is for their child. [Related: Have a difficult ex? Co-parenting is still possible with these tools] Apps such as Talking Parents and Our Family Wizard should be used for parents to check in and make sure the children are being kept up to date on the school curriculum. Calendar applications within the OurFamilyWizard program can be used to update the other parent on homework for the week and what work has already been completed. Parents also should communicate to ensure that consistency is being maintained. It is expected that both parents get on the same page to facilitate remote learning in equal or similar environments, support one another, and communicate about issues the child may experience. If you and your co-parent are worried about the transition to online learning (and parenting) or have already been faced with hiccups when trying to compromise, seeking third-party help is always an option. Mediation, Parenting Coordination or involving a Guardian ad Litem may be the best resources for helping you both come to a healthy resolution or fair compromise. These forms or third-party help can be used to avoid costly litigation and help parents stay grounded in the most important thing: the way your child can learn, progress, and transition to remote learning with ease. The Law Office of Erin M. Wilson specializes in family law, litigation, mediation and parenting coordination.
  7. Even in the best of times, being great at both parenting and partnership requires deft maneuvering. Throw in a global pandemic, and many of the struggles two-parent households are experiencing shine in glaringly bright light. But it’s possible this time could forever redefine our roles in the home and our relationships with our partners. Simply put, sheltering-in-place together has answered the question around what we do in a day. We’ve always juggled a lot but there’s less curiosity about what the other parent has done, is doing, and will do for the family. Still, I’d like you to ask yourself: Who’s the default parent in your child’s eyes? Are you happy with how well you work with your partner to tackle the never-ending list? Do you fairly split the domestic work in (and out of) your home? Your time should be valued equally to your partner’s. You shouldn’t have to feel resentful or like you’re nagging to receive help from your spouse. If things feel inefficient at home or you feel like you’re secretly keeping score on what they do versus what you do in a day, there’s an opportunity for improvement. [Related: Will my relationship survive this virus?] My husband and I share two children, five and one and a half years old—both boys. I run two companies. He works full time and is the breadwinner of our household. We’re making it work during the pandemic by having clear discussions, separate tasks and respect for each other’s roles. Here’s how you can get started on the path to equity in your partnership. Have a direct conversation. Changing the dynamic with your spouse is a difficult conversation to have, but it’s worth having. Most folks will react positively to a direct approach, an explicit and collaborative request for help. Consider your approach. How you communicate directly affects the way you are heard in the world. This also holds true in your own home. It’s important to be thoughtful in your approach. Deliver your ask for help in a way that engages and invites your partner to have a conversation with you. To start you might say, “All this time at home has me thinking about how we run our house and manage the kids. I think we both see how much it takes. I’m wondering if there’s a way to make things feel easier, so we can get stuff done faster. Want to make some time to talk about later?” Know your intention going into the conversation so you can manage the outcome. You’re asking for a true collaborator in the system, so put some value behind it. Give them a reason for buying-in to the plan so there’s mutual understanding. For example, your partner may be really happy to hear that buying into this will bring you more happiness, that you’ll be a more fulfilled spouse. Or they may be happy to hear that they’ll finally be taking the lead on certain things. Keep tasks separate. There needs to be a clear division of who’s doing what, and when, to maximize efficiency and minimize disappointment. Trust matters, so give your partner space to take care of things from start to finish. In my family, important dates and details are added to a shared calendar so the person responsible for that to-do has all they need to pull it off without bothering the other person for information. Continue the conversation. This is an ongoing conversation. It’s about teamwork and the mutual respect you have for one another. My partner and I talk household/kid-stuff regularly so nothing is left up for interpretation. We do this every day while making the bed in the morning or while we’re having breakfast. While it took time for both of us to fall into this way of life, we now unapologetically rely on it, and as a result, are less exhausted by day-to-day adulting. [Related: What it's like to be a parent with Covid] When couples habitually choose to divide and conquer their to-do list, they are choosing a new way to talk about what they need. They’re recognizing that time is precious and by creating household efficiencies, there’s space in the day for what matters. Like laughing and having fun. And lots of snuggles. For me, that means I see my partner raising two boys without any stereotypes of toxic masculinity. In turn, my kids see his full, vulnerable heart and this helps their emotional development. They also see two dependable people managing the mundane to the outrageous for our home, while juggling their careers and hobbies. This is valuable modeling for their future, one where there isn’t a helper parent but an equal partnership while parenting. I’d even dare to say we’re creating new patterns to make life a little more fair one day. At least that’s my hope.
  8. Co-parenting can be complicated enough without additional factors that throw a wrench into the system you and your co-parent have developed. The presence of coronavirus will alter the way that you co-parent. Here are some tips on how to be successful co-parents while dealing with coronavirus. Stick with the routine where you can. During this stressful time, there will be adjustments that have to be made. However, it is important to keep consistency in the places that you can. Children thrive on routines, so keeping small things consistent will help them remain calm and make a scary situation more predictable. Try to engage in similar activities with your child as you have in the past. If your child is out of school, try to incorporate academics into their day. School subjects can be incorporated into the daily routine with activities that you have done in the past such as reading their favorite books, practicing their favorite school subject with writing or math exercises, or even at home science experiments. Also, coordinate with your children’s teachers, as many are sending excellent resources for you to do at home. Accept that you may have to interact with your co-parent more than usual. Communicating during this time is going to be more important than ever. Communication tools such as Our Family Wizard and Google Calendar can help increase communication while also keeping it civil. Pickups and drop-offs may have to be face-to-face if school or your usual spot is no longer an option, so minimize all unnecessary interaction when you exchange your child. Try to keep these communications as short and efficient as possible. Do your best to be as responsive, understanding and civil as possible as you communicate and interact with the co-parent. Be flexible. It is not surprising to know that parenting schedules and systems are not always set in stone. Things come up that require changes to be made. During this time, there will have to be adjustments to the parenting system that you have developed over time. It is important to be flexible and work with your co-parent in order to keep things running smoothly for your children. If you are uncomfortable with the current custody agreement due to coronavirus, openly communicate that with your co-parent and attempt to come to a temporary agreement. Make sure you know which battles are important for you to fight, and which battles you are able to concede. At the end of the day, both parents will have to compromise and work together in order to continue functioning. Accept help. During the practice of social distancing, children have seen a decrease in their typical events, including extracurricular activities, playdates, school and sports. However, you may still have to work. This can create issues if you are unable to watch your child at certain times. Accepting help from your co-parent or other third parties will be extremely beneficial to you and your child. Accepting help will decrease your stress levels as well. Putting personal issues aside and accepting help from a step-parent or extended family may be necessary in order to act in the best interest of your child.
  9. Many of us are in a relationship that was already taxed before being quarantined and ordered to stay at home — for the foreseeable future. Some of you are in the process of divorce and now that courts have halted, you are feeling stuck. Others with children are now having to work even more as a team, which was already difficult pre-Covid-19. This isn’t easy. More time together in a pressure cooker of tight spaces and new stresses is rough. Maybe your partner has some really annoying habits or doesn’t handle stress well. Or perhaps your children are more likable when they go to school and wear off some energy before you hang out together. I get it. No matter what, there are things you can do to make things better. Research shows that if even one person in a relationship makes a positive change, it can have lasting effects on the relationship as a whole. I think of the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding when the mom says, “Let me tell you something, Toula: the man is the head, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head any way she wants.” Hang with me. I’m not suggesting the obvious here. Instead, I’m suggesting we have control to turn our own neck during this time. If we want five reasons that drinking is good for us, we’ll find five. If we want five reasons drinking is bad for us, we’ll find five. Therefore, despite feeling out of control in so many facets of life right now, we still have choices. Choice #1: Turn toward or away Relationships are difficult, but choosing to turn toward your partner rather than away can make things better, even if the relationship is ending. I know social distancing and turning toward seem like an oxymoron, but it’s an emotional turn to build emotional intimacy. That means sharing your feelings, avoiding blame, and taking responsibility for yourself. Feelings will be all over the place in the next few months and naming them is the only way we can validate and make space for them. If we don’t do this, the feelings will come out sideways in anger, distancing, addiction, etc. Choice #2: Making space for each other–LITERALLY Everyone needs to have their own space. This means kids need their own space and each of you need your own space. This might mean one person at a time taking a nap or a few hours to work on a personal project. Today my husband built a stool and I took time to write this blog. During each of our projects, we took turns with the kids. Choice #3: Move your body Thoughts have a tendency to get stuck and cycle on repeat. One great way to get out of this pattern is to physically change your location. If you are on the couch dwelling in despair, then go to the kitchen and grab a healthy snack. If you are in bed tossing and turning, go take an epsom salt bath to reset. Also, 30 minutes of exercise a day can boost your immune system and raise endorphins to help you feel better. Helping each other take this time is an act of kindness. Choice #4: Love Mapping The Gottmans, a therapist team known for their insights into healthy relationships, ask that couples “remap” every six months. After years of knowing each other, we start to think that we know everything about our partner and begin to predict what they will choose, say, and do. However, things change. People change. Asking each other random questions and listening to their answers as though you don’t already know them can be a helpful reset. Remember when you were first dating and you would stay up late talking about your favorite artist, musician, food, etc. Let’s do this again as a way to connect. Check out the Gottman Institute’s Card Decks free app for questions to get started. Choice #5: Appreciate each other’s Enneagram number If you haven’t heard of this personality measure, you now have all the time it takes to complete the assessment. Go to www.enneagraminsititute.com and take the test for $12. Once you both take the assessment, google “numbers ____ and ___ in a relationship.” This will provide you a brief description of your strengths and weaknesses as a couple. This new awareness will really be helpful during this stressful time. Acceptance is what we are searching for here. If we know that we are in a relationship with a 3 and they need to make a list and be productive, then we can accept that. If we know that we are in a relationship with a 7, then we will better understand their need for adventure and impulsivity. It is always better to accept your partner rather than try to change them. Know that change only happens if the person is seeking to change on their own. Choice #6: Random Acts of Kindness This works for any kind of relationship. It shows care, concern, love, and respect. It fosters happiness and joy for all. I know that sounds flowery, but we can choose this new lens every day moving forward. A few things to try: take a task off of someone’s to-do list, buy them flowers, send an email or text with a detailed expression of love, have a favorite food delivered, watch what they want to watch, read out loud to each other, sing to them, tell them to take a break, or make them dinner. My wish is that everyone will grow closer during this time, focus on what’s important, and love each other. Even if your relationship is coming to an end, you have a choice to be respectful and leave that person with a little more closure and understanding. Crystal Clair is a therapist and mom of two littles. During the summer you can find her and her kids mostly outdoors either at Foster Beach, Lincoln Park Zoo, or any local park with a water feature. She strives to find the joy in parenting even in the tough times.
  10. Becoming a parent is a joyful, exciting time. It is also a stressful, disorienting and exhausting time. There is cultural messaging that children are a joy and we should be happy throughout their babyhood. However, as a clinical psychologist and mother, I've seen that this is just not reality, and this message creates shame for mothers and partners who struggle with this major life transition. In fact, did you know that, statistically, couples report the lowest rates of marital satisfaction after the birth of a baby? These tiny humans have a way of taking up a huge amount of emotional space, time and energy. Much of this time, energy and attention you once had to give to your partner or yourself, so of course the transition will be a little bumpy! While you can find thousands of resources about the best car seat or swaddle, it’s rare to find information about what to do to prepare and protect one of the most important things to you and your baby: your marriage or partnership. So here are a few ways to help baby-proof your relationship and prepare your partnership for the transition to parenthood. Establish good communication strategies It is vital to the long-term health of a partnership, particularly during times of stress, to learn how to ask for help and how to constructively express frustration or disappointment. No matter how close we are to someone, they can’t read our mind! It’s also important to reduce criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling (shutting your partner out), as these types of communication patterns have been identified as particularly damaging to a relationship. Discuss expectations Who will do the late-night feedings? Who is in charge of childcare? You may think you’re both on the same page, but sitting down to let your partner know your expectations, and to hear theirs, is essential. Prioritize connection Parenting a newborn is all-encompassing. Connecting with your partner may not look like weekends away or long nights out for a while, but you can still make each other coffee, reach for their hand, or turn your phones and tv off to talk for a few minutes at night. These small moments of connection can make a huge difference. Work on your mindset Don’t keep score! When you aim to win an argument or you keep track of exact numbers of times you do something, even if you win, the relationship loses. See yourself as a team, you both have the same goal to care for this baby. Also remember that this is a temporary phase of life. When we have thoughts like, My life will always be this way, it can make our negative emotions more intense. Take care of yourself You can’t be a good partner if you’re totally depleted. Stay connected to friends, go for walks and lean on your support system. Postpartum anxiety or depression can compound the difficulty of adjusting to parenthood and to your relationship and absolutely necessitates treatment. If you or someone you love is experiencing difficulty, please reach out to me or to another mental health professional.
  11. Mom, have you ever had the feeling that you are running on fumes? Has your tank ever felt empty already when you were waking up in the morning? Have you gone to bed with your mind racing with all the things you need to get done the next day only to be in a twilight sleep the entire night and wake up as tired as you were when you first went to bed? If you are like most moms, you have probably felt like this on more than one occasion. If you are a normal mom, you have probably felt like this at least once a week. I know I have. There are many moments when I want to yell, "Mom down!". In those moments of despair, I am secretly wishing for someone to come to my rescue and say, "Nicole, I got this ... Go relax." Many times when I am stressed, tired, overwhelmed or all of the above, I am guilty of leaving a trail of mommy meltdown destruction. I am more susceptible to being short with my kids or even my husband. My tolerance for normal kid behavior becomes nonexistent. It's not even who I am. I want to be a compassionate, loving wife and mom but in those instances where I have reached the point of no return, I realize that it is time for me to rest and recharge. I have recognized more than ever that for my sanity, health and happiness—and my families'—I cannot ever let my cup get that empty where they get the brunt of Mommy being stressed. It's not fair to them or me to create a stressful environment in our home because Mommy is in a bad mood. Here's a plan to help save us and our families from cranky mommy: Ask for quiet time When my sister and I were teenagers, my mom would ask for 15 minutes of quiet time as soon as we got In from school. She would go upstairs to her room close the door. We didn't know what she did for those 15 minutes but she came back downstairs ready to conquer her second job as Mommy. At first read, your initial reaction may be that you don't have time to take 15 minutes and risk throwing off the evening routine. I would argue that taking that moment to take off the day is worth the sacrifice. Create a bedtime routine As important as bedtime routines are for our children, they should also be mandatory for mommies too! Not only do we need to get as much sleep as possible to recharge our batteries, but we also need to quiet our brains to make sure the sleep is quality. I am inconsistently consistent with my bedtime routine but on a good night, it is comprised of a hot cup of sleepytime tea and a long, hot shower. Every time I am intentional about doing it I often ask myself why I don't do it more often. Ask for help I am a pretty prideful wife and mom and it takes a lot out of me to ask for help. Ironically, the days that I hit a wall are the days I should have raised a white flag much earlier. It's ok to ask a girlfriend to watch the kids for an hour. It's ok to ask your significant other to fold the clothes in the dryer. Take a mommy break The fastest way to refill your cup is to take a mommy break. You owe it to yourself to take a moment to recharge and reboot. It may be a simple as a manicure and Target run or as elaborate as a full weekend off of mommy duty. Find the one thing that brings you a moment of joy and go after it at least once a month (ideally once a week). It does not cure all the woes of mommyhood but it definitely makes it more manageable! Enact these four ideas to avoid your family ever experiencing the wrath of a mommy who is running on "e" and not taking the time to take care of herself. Let's continue to be the fabulous, perfectly imperfect moms that we are and not let stress get too much in the way.
  12. I might pride myself on saying thank you and being thoughtful, but like many of us I probably don't show enough gratitude to the person who does the most for me: my partner. So in the spirit of love and committing to show my appreciation more, I enlisted my husband's input on ideas: [Related: 5 tips for bringing back the partner in the partnership] Send something to work A no-brainer way to show gratitude is to add chocolate or a little something to a work bag. But organizing something to be delivered takes this one step further. While flowers are appreciated there are other items that will seem all the more thoughtful for their uniqueness. What about breakfast or a beautiful notebook? Make something I'm not talking about having to be a top-notch crafter. Greeting your loved one with a favorite cocktail when they arrive home will be creative enough for many. Alternately, utilizing those magical pens that write on icing can allow you to create an edible thank-you with minimal effort. Leave a message With very small children, some days even finding a few minutes for a grown-up conversation eludes you. So how about using those odd minutes (waiting for bottles to sterilize or milk to warm) to jot down a note. We recently purchased a whiteboard lightbox to convey cute, positive sentiments. Give a gift just because I'm always on the look-out for the perfect gift. Of course sometimes, it's ages till a birthday or significant occasion and I'm bursting to share it. So why not? Gifts are often much more appreciated when they're unexpected. What about a "Because it's Friday and we survived the week" present? [Related: Chicago date ideas that go beyond dinner and drinks] Arrange an A+ date night We've all read the well-meaning articles telling us how important it is to arrange regular date nights, but it's also important to ensure they're engaging. With minimal effort, you can find something truly interesting in our wonderful city. We're taking a cocktail and magic class, which should certainly prevent the conversation from turning to kids' schedules. Surprise them with a babysitter As well as prearranging nights out, my husband mentioned how nice it would be if I just surprised him with a sitter. Picking some time during the day (not at night when your kids are sleeping) and getting out to watch a game or to do some leisurely shopping together can seem quite luxurious. Create an at-home date night Of course, it's not always possible to find or afford a babysitter. So creating an at-home date night might be more doable. In the past I've put together a Spanish-themed evening, paring tapas, paella and sangria with a travel movie. We could almost believe we were on vacation. Allow some alone time As well as doing, don't underestimate the power of not doing. Allowing some alone time might be the ultimate way of showing your partner gratitude. In our household, we like to work out. While there are jogging strollers, being able to run along the lakefront on your own is a welcome opportunity to think, listen, or just switch off completely. However you choose to show your partner gratitude, it's doing something that matters. The power of thank you goes a long way.
  13. During a divorce, it’s important to make sure your finances survive this transition. That’s why NPN has partnered with the Law Office of Jennifer Guimond-Quigley to develop a three-part video series that explores the financial implications of divorce and how to keep your finances afloat during this life change. The child support law in Illinois drastically changed in 2017 and left many wondering how it would or could affect the outcome of their own child support obligation or award. In this first installment of a three-part series that addresses financial considerations in divorce, Jennifer Guimond-Quigley of the Law Office of Jennifer Guimond-Quigley highlights the key provisions of the new child support law, sample applications of the law, how parents may be able to obtain more than what the law provides, and under what circumstances a change may be warranted.
  14. Video

    Divorce and Taxes

    During a divorce, it’s important to make sure your finances survive this transition. That’s why NPN has partnered with the Law Office of Jennifer Guimond-Quigley to develop a three-part video series that explores the financial implications of divorce and how to keep your finances afloat during this life change. Is property division in a divorce a taxable event? How do we divide taxable accounts such as IRAs and 401(k)s without penalty? What are the tax impact(s) of maintenance and child support? These questions are common and it's important for anyone going through a divorce or considering a divorce to have an understanding of the tax impact of certain events they may encounter. In this third installment of a three-part series that addresses financial considerations in divorce, Jennifer Guimond-Quigley of the Law Office of Jennifer Guimond-Quigley will discuss the impact of some of the most common transfers, transactions and payments pursuant to a divorce.
  15. Video
    During a divorce, it’s important to make sure your finances survive this transition. That’s why NPN has partnered with the Law Office of Jennifer Guimond-Quigley to develop a three-part video series that explores the financial implications of divorce and how to keep your finances afloat during this life change. Divorce affects everything, including what protections need to be put in place to plan for your estate in the event of disability or death. In this second installment of a three-part series that addresses financial considerations in divorce, Jennifer Guimond-Quigley of the Law Office of Jennifer Guimond-Quigley will discuss what estate planning mechanisms and asset protection tools are no longer available once a divorce occurs and what people may want to consider when putting together their estate plan in light of their new single status.
  16. Self-care. It’s a necessity to being the best caregiver you can be to your children. But it’s a low priority for many parents who wear multiple hats to maintain a career (even as Chief Executive Mom), maintain the household, and raise healthy, happy, and well-balanced children. Confession: I have been there multiple times. Albeit passive-aggressively, but definitely there. I know you may be thinking, “How can I possibly fit in one more thing in an already overcommitted schedule?” But it’s not just one more thing. In the absence of self-care, fatigue, stress and resentment set in. Your mental sanity is at stake here! [Related: 4 ways I focus on my marriage after becoming a parent] Your goal: Take a moment for yourself at least once a week. If that’s too aggressive starting out, aim for twice a month. Following is my foolproof plan to being more mindful of “me time”: Plan, Share, Do. Plan The nature of our role as “mom” or “dad” does not often allow us to be spontaneous when it comes to taking time for ourselves. After you wrap up your Sunday chores and get the kids to bed, look at the week ahead and determine when you will have an hour or two to steal for yourself. You will need to be flexible with your schedule, whether it’s Friday evening or midweek — whatever is going to be your most frictionless opportunity to get out of the house and decompress. Keep a running list of the types of activities you enjoy doing. You can plan something as simple as sneaking away to Starbucks with your new issue of O Magazine or something more intense, like a 4-hour cooking class. No matter how simple or complex, be intentional about looking ahead and planning the break, so that come the following Sunday, you won’t be kicking yourself for not making any time for yourself. [Related: To the moms running on fumes, this is how to refill the tank] Share If you say you’re going to take a break once a week, you want someone to be holding you accountable to make sure you do it. You would think spouses/partners are the best accountability partners, but their support can wane depending on the number of chores (and number of children!) you are asking them to support while you take your break. The next best thing is a close friend. Bonus if your close friend is a parent, who can be extra empathetic to what you are trying to do. Let them know what you are trying to do, why you are trying to do it, and to check in with you midweek to make sure you are still on track for your mindful “me time.” Do This is where the rubber meets the road, where you actually have to follow through on the plans that you made. You may have to turn the other cheek to a sink full of dishes, a toddler meltdown, and an empty fridge waiting for you to grocery shopping. No matter the exhaustion and to-do list demons working against you, fight back! Take that moment for yourself. One hour away from the house is all the rejuvenation that most parents need. Don’t delay: Enact this plan today. Being more mindful of your “me time” is a win-win for the entire household. Put yourself first, because when you do, you will truly be the best perfectly imperfect parent you can be, and your family will thank you for it.
  17. Raising children with another person can be unbelievably stressful. Despite our best efforts to be sensitive to another person’s parenting style or preferred method of discipline, aligning one’s values with the other parent when both parents have strong opinions of the “right” or “wrong” way to rear children can be tricky. While parties who don’t have children together can effectively sever ties (absent a financial obligation to the other party), this is an impossibility for parents. What was once a “bundle of joy” may now be a ball of stress, especially if decisions cannot be made for the best interest of their child. In Illinois, parents are presumed to be fit to co-parent absent the existence of an impediment to this presumption. I have many clients who complain that their former partner is “impossible” to co-parent with, that co-parenting with a difficult partner seems like an oxymoron, and that seeking sole decision making on behalf of the child or children is the only option. Is all lost in the face of a difficult parent? If conflict has abounded during the period of separation or thereafter, is sole decision-making the only option? I do not believe so. In fact, through a plethora of tools and approaches, co-parenting with the difficult parent can happen. It is not without tension and the need for taking (many) deep breaths, but it is feasible with the help of a few tools. 1. Centralize. While texting is quick and efficient, tone often gets lost over text. How many times have we interpreted a perfectly benign comment as an insult? Texting between separated parents, though perhaps necessary in the event of an emergency, begs for conflict. Luckily, a number of online tools are available for separated parents where communication can be centralized and monitored. I encourage parents to use websites like OurFamilyWizard.com and Talkingparents.com, where messages are stored and it is possible to see if a parent has viewed a message and when. On top of this, OurFamilyWizard.com can analyze messages before they are sent to identify inflammatory language and suggest alternative words that will diffuse a message. 2. Organize. In addition to using centralized communication portals, where parents can share a calendar and even upload receipts for reimbursement of expenses, parents can avoid conflict by being organized in what they communicate with one another. When sending an email, stick to one topic per thread to ensure matters are addressed separately. While it may seem cumbersome to break down subjects into several emails each, there is less of a risk of misinterpretation or finger pointing when decisions need to be made. 3. Diffuse. Parenting coordinators are professionals who assist parents with resolving disputes without the need to go to court, unless a party disagrees with the parenting coordinator’s suggested resolution and needs a judge to weigh in. Considered a “mediator with teeth,” parenting coordinators are governed by circuit court rules and appointed by court order that includes very specific terms regarding the types of decisions he or she will make for the parties. In addition to immediate resolution of conflict when a decision has to be made (versus litigation, which can take months to resolve with the courts’ full calendars), the cost savings can be significant. Whether parents to toddlers or teens, separated parties can raise children together in a less conflict-ridden manner than one might think, provided there is a commitment to working through differences and taking advantage of the tools out there to do so.
  18. One of the most complicated and nuanced parts of the dissolution of two parents’ relationship, be it through the process of divorce or through a “parentage” action (where parents are not married), is developing a schedule of parenting time where each parent feels like he or she can continue to be a meaningful part of their child’s life notwithstanding the change of circumstances of one household to two. Plenty of my clients are dismayed by the thought of not spending their every waking moment with their children (when they are not engaged in school, camp or otherwise social functions or activities) and feel like they are handed a death sentence simply for wanting to alter their relationship with the individual with whom they chose to have children. It is a devastating feeling to know that your child is spending time with the “other parent,” to whom you no longer like, trust or simply feel connected. When I am asked to come up with creative solutions to “level the playing field” of parenting time, one of the most accessible solutions is to focus on those two (often two-and-a-half) months of summer vacation that most children enjoy. Parents forget the enormous amount of time children are given each summer to play and relax — time that is ripe for strengthening their bond with their kids, who do not have strict “school night” bedtimes, who can play outside long after dinner is done and who can take vacations without being penalized for missed school days. So what does a “creative” summertime parenting schedule look like? While I am often asked about a week-on, week-off schedule as a solution to avoid the ping-pong effect of changing households, the biggest issue that presents is that a child will go seven days without having significant time with the other parent (even if you insert a dinner or two mid-week). Instead, I will recommend to parents a “2-2-3” schedule, which often looks like this: Monday and Tuesday day and overnight with Parent 1, Wednesday and Thursday day and overnight with Parent 2, and alternating weekends from Friday morning through Monday morning. This is a win-win for both parents and kids; not only does this type of schedule give each parent the ability to see their child every few days, but children are less stressed when they get to see each parent on a consistent basis. Moreover, with summer schedules allowing for more flexibility for later bedtime routines, no homework and out-of-town travel opportunities, family time becomes quality time. While family conflict can be heart-wrenching, parents should not and must not feel hopeless and panicked about not being with their children. With a little creativity and flexibility, stability — even in divided households — can be achieved.
  19. If you're like me, date nights look something like this: drinks, dinner, repeat. My husband and I rarely plan ahead, opting to snag an OpenTable reservation somewhere interesting mere hours before the sitter arrives. A few weeks ago this consisted of an incredibly lucky last-minute opening at Parachute, followed by drinks at Ludlow Liquors. If you wind up at Parachute, don't miss its famous Bing Bread—crispy on the outside and loaded with potato, bacon and scallion. Slather on the sour cream butter if you really want to gild the lily. Hoping to break out of the dinner and drinks rut, I've been brainstorming some new and fun date night ideas for the spring and summer. I've also been mulling over some past dates that could use a refresh. Some are outdoorsy, some are inside, but they're all immersive experiences that are uniquely Chicago. Feel free to "borrow" them and let me know how it goes! Chicago Magic Lounge This requires some advance planning since shows sell out, but the experience at Chicago Magic Lounge lives up to the hype. The space is gorgeous and there's magic everywhere you turn—even the bartenders perform tricks! Dining options here are limited to a small plates menu. For something heartier, try nearby Hopleaf or Immm Rice and Beyond. On Sundays, Chicago Magic Lounge offers The Family Show, a great opportunity if you can't book a sitter and want to go somewhere that satisfies both the adults and the kids. Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary Who says date night has to be in the evening? If you and your significant other can swing it, head out for an early-morning date at the Montrose Bird Sanctuary. Bring your binoculars to catch a glimpse of some of the 300 species of birds that have been spotted at this world-famous (really) birding destination. Grab coffee, pastries or sandwiches for a picnic, from nearby Dollop Coffee Co. Blessed with a sitter for the whole day? Chicago Architecture Foundation gives tours of nearby Graceland Cemetery. See the final resting places of Chicago's movers and shakers in one of the most serene and beautiful spots in the city. Trust me, it's truly awe-inspiring. Dusek's and Thalia Hall This is one of my favorite date-night combos and I wish we did it more often! Enjoy dinner at Dusek's in Pilsen, then head upstairs into one of Chicago's grandest concert venues, Thalia Hall. Granted landmark status in 1989, Thalia Hall was originally built in 1982 and modeled after the Prague Opera House. Plenty of wow factor but still intimate enough to enjoy smaller acts. My pick for an upcoming show? The Jayhawks on July 13. After the show head to the basement bar, Punch House, for a nightcap. Moonlight Kayak Tour One of the best ways to see the Chicago River is at night when there are fewer boats and the water is calmer. Wateriders offers a "Moonlight Paddle" tour through downtown Chicago. Enjoy the river when it's all lit up by the lights from bordering skyscrapers. It starts at 8:30pm so there's plenty of time to grab dinner near their dock. Try The Hampton Social for all kinds of fresh seafood like oysters, lobster rolls and crab legs. None of it caught in the river (of course) but it will hopefully still put you in a seafaring mood.
  20. Seven years of marriage has taught me a lot. How communicating with my wife (and really listening) when I would prefer to shut down really helps us solve problems. How saying “I’m sorry” should only be used if I truly mean it, because it could lead to further issues if I don’t. How marriage can be the most rewarding relationship I’ve ever experienced if I put in the work, and how it can be incredibly challenging if I don’t. Yet no matter how much I’ve learned and how much work I’ve put into our relationship since we said “I do,” bringing our son home from the hospital last year has brought about a whole new set of stresses and challenges that, at times, has put a strain on our marriage. I think that tends to happen as attention shifts from spouse to child. Let me stop here and make it clear that I’m in no way qualified to offer advice about what you need to do to have a happy and healthy marriage. Everyone’s situation is different. So I’m just going to share what has allowed my wife and me to focus on our relationship during the infrequent mommy-daddy times that we can enjoy. If this can somehow benefit you and your significant other in some way, then great. If not, I hope you find what works best for you. Commentate on reality TV. After a day of juggling a never-ending string of emails, piles of laundry, overflowing Diaper Genies, and dealing with our son’s sometimes unwillingness to eat anything but Puffs and fruit, my wife and I will often veg out on the couch and share a laugh at the expense of reality TV “stars” and their drama. Sometimes we stay up too late watching these mindless programs—and we pay for it the next morning when our son decides to start chatting at 4:30am—but it’s nice to shut our brains off for a while, have a few good laughs, and just relax. Organize living room picnics. Who doesn’t like to go out for a nice dinner? We miss those nights out on the town, but it can be pricey when you’re paying for a babysitter and dinner. Plus, we’re parents to a 15-month-old—we get tired at, like, 9pm these days. So one solution to get out of the house while still at home is this: Once our son is down for the night, we order takeout and share a meal and a conversation about our day on a blanket in our living room. I’ll take that any day over the picnics we used to have in Millennium Park. Offer our daily or weekly appreciation. My wife deserves all the credit for this one. How this works is at the end of the day or week we’ll tell each other what we appreciate about each other. This can be as simple as me telling her that I appreciate her cleaning up our son’s dresser or her letting me know that she appreciates me finally deciding to wash the dishes. The point of this exercise is that we’re acknowledging each other’s contributions and not taking each other for granted. Run. My wife and I both turn 40 this year, so as part of that celebration, we’re running our first marathon this December in Honolulu. While we can’t go on training runs together because the other is at home watching our son, we’ve had babysitters and my parents watch our son while we’ve run more weekend races (5Ks, 10Ks, a 10-miler, a half marathon) this year than ever before. My wife and I talk frequently about best running routes, how to avoid and treat injuries, and what it might feel like when we finally complete our first 26.2. We love our son to death, but it’s been really nice to have a shared goal and a common interest that doesn’t involve him. Matt Beardmore used to cover sports for ESPN The Magazine and the Chicago Tribune, and contribute to The New York Times Travel section and In Transit blog, but he’d much rather write about a far more important topic—being a dad.
  21. Exhausted, sweating, and questioning my travel attire (for some reason I thought jeans and a hooded sweatshirt would make the perfect Caribbean outfit), I just wanted to escape the customs line at Punta Cana International, find a bottled water and our seats on the shuttle, and then finally check in to the resort so the relaxing part of our four-day Dominican Republic vacation could begin. With our then–8-month-old son taking in the sights from his comfy perch in the Ergobaby, my wife and I worked our way up to third or fourth in line when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and saw a man in his early- to mid-60s we had spoken with a few minutes earlier during the brief shuttle ride from our plane to the customs building. Our son’s penguin pajamas were the topic of that lighthearted conversation as he and his wife shared how they used to read their son a penguin book. This friendly exchange was a nice way to break up the strains and stresses that come with disembarking a plane with your hands full of luggage and an infant who could get agitated at a moment’s notice. But once we stepped off that shuttle, I assumed the conversation was over and we could get back to the business of starting this trip. “You know what? I just want to tell you you’re a great dad,” this man told me with a wide smile. Excuse me? But … why? After saying, “thank you,” my mind started racing as I wondered what I possibly could have done during the four-plus-hour flight from Midway, or during our conversation on the shuttle, that would cause this man to go out of his way to compliment me on my parenting abilities. “I’ve been watching you with your son,” he continued. “It pays off spending time with your children because they will grow up being close to you.” What a nice comment. I had never heard someone say it quite that way. It made me think how my wife and I would love nothing more than to always have a strong relationship with our son. But beyond that, his unexpected comments made me wonder why my wife, no matter how much she does and how much she means to our family, rarely, if ever, receives these type of comments from strangers or family members. I’m also guilty of not taking enough time to voice my appreciation for what she does, and I’m embarrassed to say that because my wife, without a doubt, is the one who makes our family work. She’s the one who brings the calm when our son’s bedtime storms arrive. She’s the one who creates catchy French songs on the fly and transforms feeding and diaper time into fun and memorable experiences for all. She’s the one poring over baby nutrition books and websites and spending Sunday afternoons cooking so our son can experiment with new foods and flavors. She’s the one learning about child developmental stages and educating me on what we should expect. She’s the one ordering his diapers and clothes and toys and ensuring that our son’s needs are always met. She’s one of a kind. Yet, despite all of this, she too frequently gets unsolicited advice from people who have no business telling her how to be a mom. “Your son is crying—he must be hungry.” (Even though he just ate.) “You need to hold him more.” And I love this one: “He’s sneezing. You need to change his diaper.” Meanwhile, I’m the frequent recipient of the “You’re such a great dad!” looks and comments from strangers for just doing what dads should be doing, like making a bottle in the grocery store aisle and feeding my child when the “I’m hungry” tears start flowing, taking him on walks around the neighborhood in his stroller, changing diapers—even if that means on the floor—when we're at a restaurant or store, or carrying him off a plane and interacting with him. And let’s not forget the people who go out of their way to help me when I’m struggling to maneuver my son’s stroller, like the woman at the cleaners who barely looks me in the eye when I’m alone but jumps out from behind the counter and props the door open for us (and makes plenty of baby noises) when my son is along for the ride, or if we’re taking a walk and I drop something. When my wife was pregnant she sometimes couldn’t find a resting spot on the 146 or 148 bus after a long day at work because people wouldn’t give up their seats. I’m sure much of the parenting praise I receive, and the lack of it that’s directed toward my wife, can be attributed to generational and cultural differences, as I’m certain, even in 2017, it’s a shock for some to see a dad taking care of “mommy duties.” But times have changed, and it should come as no surprise that more and more dads want to be hands-on in every area of their children’s lives. That doesn’t mean, though, that those dads deserve a pat on the back for just being around or getting their hands a little dirty. That’s our job. I think we can all do a better job of delivering praise—and how about stopping the criticism and shaming?—to the ones who have, for far too long, taken on much of the parenting duties while being unappreciated for all their efforts. The moms.
  22. When you have fertility issues, the holidays can feel like a punch to your heart every time you open up a card with tons of adorable children or see the many social posts of holiday traditions for children. Every year, I tape the holiday cards to the front of my refrigerator. My first round of IVF failed around November of 2008. I got pregnant and miscarried six weeks later. So, with that first holiday, taping the cards up on the fridge was a bit painful. And then, trying to rise above feeling pity for myself, I kept the cards up until the end of January as usual. When trying for my second, the cards-on-the-fridge tradition became a game of pain-and-torture. I had three holidays of taping up those cards and feeling finger-flicks of pain in my heart with every card I put up, and then staring at them for a month. Don’t make the mistakes that I made. Be kinder to yourself and put yourself first—because you deserve it. Here are some techniques that I have gathered and created throughout the years to help my clients deal with Holiday Infertility Pains. 1. Hide the holiday cards except for the ones that make you smile when you open them. 2.Get off social media until January 5. Removing social media is a freedom like no other. And the time you will get back in your life can be used for Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6 instead. 3. Create an appreciation log. This log is simply the gratuity journal that Oprah has been telling us about for years. If you are often on the go, use a cloud-based organizational app like Evernote to keep the log. Research has proven that those who write about things they appreciate every day are healthier and happier. So, if the holidays are extra hard due to infertility, this is a great way to reverse some of those feelings. It is harder to be sad and feeling like your life is missing something when you actively notice and record all of the good people and events that surround you. And if the people around you are not making you a better, happier person, you now have your New Year's resolution completed. 4. Meditation feels like Valium. Download the Headspace app for a 10-minute guided meditation. Plan this into your schedule so you cannot skip it. If you do skip, you need a new time during the day to do it. And if you are very anxious, do deep breathing (into the nose for 8 seconds and out of the mouth for 8 seconds) for 2–5 minutes. Set your phone, so you do not have to check the time. And then do regular breathing, or guided meditation, for another 5 minutes. 5. Create a vision board. Include a positive pregnancy test, a picture of a baby ultrasound, a picture of a pregnant woman’s belly, a picture of someone in the hospital holding their baby for the first time (remove any faces), and a family picture with as many children in it that you ultimately want. Keep this in a place where you will see it multiple times a day. You can either cut and paste pictures from online or use Pinterest. Look at this board often and imagine you in those pictures. Feel what it feels like to be that person. 6. Talk to your BFF (Best Fertility Friend). If you keep all of this pain and negativity inside, there will not be enough room for your baby-to-be to grow. You need a completely clear mind and body. Call or text your BFF as often as possible to talk, vent and create strategies for your next journey to getting one, or another, child. And if you do not have someone like this in your life, I would be honored to be that person for you.
  23. Article
    Motherhood is a mix of emotions: excitement, exhaustion and, of course, endless amounts of love. But here’s the thing: Motherhood can also bring up another feeling that not a lot of people talk about. Loneliness. I am lucky to have most of my family and friends living in Chicagoland, but many of them weren’t entrenched in the world of diapers and feeding schedules like I was. I needed to build my own mama tribe, and I didn’t know where to start. Whenever my baby and I would go to the library or park, I was like a guy on the prowl at Wrigleyville bars, looking for mommy friends. But time after time I was surrounded by nannies or moms that clearly weren’t the right fit for me. I’m not going to lie, it was rough trying to find someone who was not only a cool person who I would have chosen as a friend before kids entered the picture, but also someone who had a parenting style that matched mine. After a few months of creepily checking out every mom I encountered and exchanging information only to have a play date or two that ended up being a total bust, I was a bit desperate. So when one of my husband’s friends mentioned that she had a friend with boys who lived in my town, I was all about meeting her. I mean, if someone else vouched for her and thought we would be a good mommy match, why not reach out? Even better, we had the opportunity to meet in a neutral setting before I struck up the courage to “ask her out.” And like most moms at a wedding, we both took advantage of the open bar and ended up looking like hot messes on the dance floor once we were finally introduced. All I remember from our initial meeting was that she was nervous because her baby wouldn’t take a bottle from the babysitter…exactly what I went through with my little guy six months prior. Our first connection. Cheered on by my husband, I nervously typed an email to her the next week asking if she would like to meet up at a park—my first blind date EVER. She responded immediately, and I giddily counted down the days until our date. Neither of us really remembered what the other one looked like when we initially met in a drunken stupor, but thankfully we were the only ones at the park that morning. In the light of day I realized that this person was my complete mommy match. Fast forward almost five years, we have celebrated so much together: new babies, new homes, nights out on the town…I don’t know what I ever would have done without meeting this wonderful friend. So my advice to you, lonely mamas, is to speak up and reach out to other moms in order to find your mommy match. You will be so glad you did.
  24. Motherhood will make you feel every single emotion possible, including some emotions you didn't even know existed. But there's nothing like the anger/annoyance of an unnecessary comment from another mother. You know, someone who is going or has gone through the very thing you're going through, but somehow feels the need to express disdain or criticize the job you're trying your best at. So here are 5 things moms should never say to other moms: "Just wait." The problem with this simple two-word phrase is that it's never followed up with things like, "Just wait till your kid starts bringing you margaritas, it's so awesome!" Or "Just wait, in a couple months, you're gonna be able to sleep in until 9am and your 2 year old will totally be able to make pancakes on his own." Nope. Just wait is almost always followed by something negative and ain't nobody got time for that. "You don't feed your kid all organic?" Girl, are you buying my groceries? Because if not then please STFU. I'll feed my kid the best I possibly can but that might not include organic everything. And you know what, you and my kid will be just fine. "You look so tired." An appropriate response to that comment would be, "And you look so old." Kidding! Not really. At some point, we all look haggard, run down or tired, so there's no need to point it out. "You're going back to work/You're staying at home with your child?" GASP! Moms need to give other moms credit for whatever decisions they make with regard to working/staying at home. Period. "My kids would never do that." Right. Because you are a perfect parent with perfect kids. Maybe your kids would never do that but I am sure they did something else equally as bad. So please, get off your high horse and walk among us normal moms. So what should you say to other moms? A couple ideas: * "Can I get you a refill on that mimosa?" * "You look amazing and I totally can't even see the spit up on your shirt!"

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