Powering Down: The Importance of Getting Enough Sleep

Is your child getting enough sleep?  We are phasing out of the days where kids run around all day and play outside until the street lights come on.  In today’s world, a lot of kids are entertaining themselves in a new way and it may be affecting their sleep.  About 75% of elementary and middle school children have access to some type of electronic device in their bedroom.  The extra stimulation, light and sound can make it harder for children to relax and get enough sleep.

The solution?

Try to limit screen time at night and at least 1 hour before bedtime.  Instead, try unplugged activities like reading, games, exercise or quiet time.  Keep in mind, adults should lead by example in this department and use the time as quality time with family.

Lack of sleep can lead to decreased concentration in school, a weakened immune system, increased risk for obesity and moodiness.  Kids ages 5 to 12 should be getting at least 10 to 11 hours of sleep.  So, let’s power down at night so we can power up in the morning for a successful day!

Great Expectations

This week's blog post is brought to you by our friends at Third Coast Birth. They offer childbirth education, birth doula support, postpartum and parenting support to Chicago area families.

We love the honesty of this piece. We all had ideas of how we would parent our children before we had them. Some of those ideas worked well, and some had to be thrown out the window once we met our children and discovered their various personalities! Thanks for sharing this truth, Margarita. We certainly can relate!

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I had grand ideas about my hypothetical children before I ever met them. I had dedicated the first 12 years of my adult life to a career working with and supporting children and families. I understood kids. I especially understood the kids that gave most adults a hard time. I loved their honesty, their capacity to call bullshit when they saw it, and overall, their unburdened perspective on humanity. I respected them; they respected me.

And then I gave birth to a child very similar to the ones I just described. Except the people who have had a hard time with her are me and her dad, not her teachers, nor her friend’s parents, mostly just us – her parents. My oldest kid is small and mighty, intelligent and opinionated and she takes nothing, and I mean not a single thing, at face value. She is also an empath and an observer. She mirrors the emotions of those around her and for better or for worse, she and I are very in tune with one another’s emotions. This means then, any objectivity I was once capable of as a caregiver becomes completely obliterated by our collective emotions.

Let’s take a step back. I remember the day I graduated with my masters in child development, and a few people said to me:

“You’re going to be an amazing mother!”

Oh, well, thank you. What makes you think that?

“Well, with all this knowledge of children you have, you’ll be so great with your own!”

Hmm, that’s an interesting idea. I didn’t think the information I learned in grad school would actually give me much of an advantage on parenting, quite simply because of the one factor that isn’t present when you’re working with children who don’t live with you: deep rooted emotional connection.

Emotions play a pivotal role in parent-child interactions, I think we can all agree with that concept. The entire purpose of the parent-child relationship within the first 3 years of life is to allow strong social-emotional capacities to flourish within our kids, so that they may be functioning members of society and humanity. That may be a bit harder to swallow, but that’s another discussion for another time. As a non-parent, in my work with kids, it was easier to see each individual child as a whole developing person, rather than as small, irrational and intense humans who lose their minds when you cut their pancakes into triangles instead of squares (even though they specifically asked for triangles and then silently changed their minds during the 5 seconds you assumed the pancake cutting position; true story).

Fact: we cannot be objective with our own kids. We are connected to them on a cellular level, and at a uniquely emotional level that only a parent-child dyad can share. So, what does that mean for our day-to-day parenting interactions with our kids?

In reading this article, from PBS Parents, the following stood out like the kid who has a fresh poop in his diaper in Mom&Baby music class:

“Keep in mind that you can’t actually make your child do anything–eat, sleep, pee, poop, talk, or stop having a tantrum. What you do have control over is how you respond to your child’s actions, as this is what guides and shapes their behavior.”

Wait. What? I know I can’t make my kid do anything, but I thought that I was just doing everything wrong. Not so. I am doing so many things right, and so are you. And if we shift our perspective to accommodate the concept that as parents, we don’t actually run the show, maybe then we can give ourselves the space to have effective and reasonable responses to the ever fluctuating intensity of being the grown up to our 3 year old skeptics, our 4 year old sages and even to our 2 year old tyrants.

The collective expectation in our society: that parents need to single-handedly mold, control, teach our children everything from how to deal with emotion, to how to read and write, to how to pee in a toilet, to how to sleep a socially acceptable number of hours every night, to be polite, etc, is a total farce. It’s time to shift our expectations, folks. And it will be time to shift expectations again every 3-6ish weeks in the first 6 months of life, and then every 4-8ish months thereafter through about age 5. Stay tuned for what that all means in terms of milestones like beginning to sit, crawl, stand, talk first using telegraphic speech and then in full multi-word sentences. It’s a wild ride, but if we stick together, it’s still dramatic and exhausting, but a lot less terrifying.

Parenting is Exhausting!

Parenting is Exhausting!

We recently took a family road trip. We drove from Chicago to Nashville and had a lot of big fun. Our kids are champs in the car (translation: they watch a ton of movies and play tons of games on their various devices!), and we previously road-tripped to NYC for winter break, so this drive was nothing!  That said, after a long day of driving, my husband was exhausted, the kids wanted to swim and I got to be the one to watch them. Sure, I could have thrown on my suit and jumped in the pool with them, but I just didn't feel like it. As I was sitting there watching them enjoy the pool, I could feel myself growing irritated. Not at them, just cranky in general. So, after the kids were done, I brought them back to the hotel room, changed into my gym clothes, passed the kids off to my hubby and headed to the hotel gym. A half hour on the treadmill was all I needed to feel like myself again. A little sweat, a little quiet, a little kid-free zone. This small amount of time reminded me of how crucial it is for moms to take time for themselves. It isn't always easy, but it's so very important.

Even though we aren't country fans, we had a great time at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Whether you work in or out of the home, moms seem hardwired to do the majority of the worrying and feeling guilty, and therefore are generally the ones on the back burner. This is not to say that dads don’t kick ass, because they really do, they just seem to be better at taking time for themselves.  So moms, instead of letting ourselves go and/or being resentful of our significant other’s ability to hit pause when needed, I’ve put together a few ideas that will help take great care of you and your little ones, and make your life just a bit easier.  Bonus, these are all mom-owned businesses, so you’ll be taking care of yourself while helping out another mom. Win win!

Sweat it out.  This is my go to. When I can feel myself losing it, I throw on my shoes and hit the gym or head outside for a run.

●     Active Moms Club- Cassandra can help whip you back into shape post baby and beyond. She offers group classes as well as personal training. Her classes are encouraging, engaging, and a great way to meet other moms.

●     Primary Crossfit and Yoga- Located in Uptown, this gym offers the best of both worlds. Sweat your booty off one day and soothe your soul (and body) with yoga the next…or do it all on the same day if you can!

Pamper yourself. My other favorite thing to do. There’s nothing like fresh hair or a fabulous mani/pedi!

●     Nails Boutique- Tucked across Webster Ave. from Oz park, this little gem is my go to. Great conversation is always had and, of course, great nails.

●     Chroma K8- This adorable "beautique" is so environmentally responsible, they used mostly vintage furniture when they remodeled. I have seen some very fabulous hair walk out of this salon, including my own!

Get stuff done. Do you need to drop off the kids for a few hours? All day? Do you need a change of scenery, and a place for your kids to play safely? These places have you covered.

●     Take a Break Playcare- I can't say enough about this genius concept. Clearly mom created! At Take a Break, you can drop in and play (with your kids) for a couple of hours, or you can drop your kids off and actually get something done! They offer care for newborns up to age 13. Genius, just genius.

●     Purple Monkey Playroom- I love the coziness of this play space. Purple Monkey is the perfect alternative to the park on those days when you need to let your kiddos run around, but don't feel like worrying about how much bark they're eating or making sure they don't run into an oncoming swing. The park is great and all, but man, it's exhausting chasing tiny people around! Here, you can have a cup of coffee, chat with other moms and ensure that your little ones are nice and ready for nap time :)

●     Little Beans Cafe- Another great indoor play space, that offers locations in both Chicago and Evanston. This is great for smaller kids, but also offers options for older kids as well.

Birthday help. Once you have kids, you find yourself either going to or planning a party, constantly. My son has three parties to attend in the next week. If you are pressed for time (who isn't?!), these fabulous businesses can help.

●     Building Blocks Toy Store- Katherine and her team are AMAZING. You can call the store (two locations, Wicker Park and Lakeview), tell them what you want, pay over the phone and they will have it wrapped and ready for you to swoop in and pick up en route to the party. Not sure what the perfect gift is? If you give them a price range, and some ideas of what the birthday kiddo is into, they will hand select something for you. It doesn't get any better than that in my book. They also have a great selection of party favors, including personalized items that can be ready in minutes. Also great for teacher gifts and holiday.

●     Chicago Custom Cakes- Libby has a great eye for design and creates the cutest cakes. Whether you need a smash cake for you little one's first birthday, or a more detailed creation of whatever character your older kiddo is currently obsessed with, Chicago Custom Cakes has you covered.

Hopefully this list provides a few helpful options that help you recharge and refresh. You work hard and deserve a break. Pat yourself on the back, wipe the spit-up (or banana, or yogurt, or paint, or...) off your shirt and keep on trucking, mama!