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A typical day in my home office: The kids come in from school, and my son Brooks heads straight for the couch, hoping to watch TV. I plant myself between him and the set, cajoling him to confide a morsel or two of information about first grade, and reviewing options of things to do besides watch TV. An hour before her soccer practice, Kyle walks in holding her stomach. It's the third day in a row she's been complaining of a stomachache, so I call the pediatrician's office. The nurse tells me what I fear: I should bring Kyle in immediately. But I'm in the middle of honing the Defining Principles for the first chapter of this book, and I'm on an editorial roll. It comes down to Pediatrician vs. Book, and the pediatrician wins, hands down. Kyle, it turns out, has strep throat.
This everyday emergency encapsulates both my life as a working parent (though my stay-at-home friends tell me how much they can relate) and the complexities of parenting. The crises and parenting issues seem to repeat themselves with stunning regularity. Such moments are what truly make this The Mom Book. In between karate practice, sick days, pottery lessons, summer vacation, family vacation, and stolen moments at the gym that I rely on for my sanity, I've written this book. When homework and spelling tests loom, fall weekends beckon, and my babysitting help evaporates, I find myself negotiating, minute by minute, the daylong effort of taking care of my kids' needs and making sure they feel loved and attended to. In the meantime, I'm writing away, interviewing moms, selecting tips moms have e-mailed, and editing chapters.
Once upon a time, when I was in law school, my ambitions ran toward being a senator. Now I'm happy to manage seven hours of sleep and help the kids get their homework done on time. How could I have known that the negotiation over the six sentences Brooks must compose for this week's homework would run longer and more passionately than any debate on the Senate floor? The frightening thing is, my life, though overwhelmingly overbooked at times, is not unusual. In fact, I feel extraordinarily lucky to have found a way to pursue a career and stay home no matter how imperfect the balance may be at times.
Prior to focusing professionally on the issues that consume most moms' lives, I worked at Harvard Law School for nine years. I founded and directed the Office of Public Interest Advising. While there, I counseled thousands of students in their twenties on how best to structure their professional careers and embrace public service work. A substantial portion of our conversations centered on how to find a confluence between professional goals and personal values, accommodate dual careers, have a personal life, and raise a family. For the women I advised, the work-family dilemma was foremost on their minds. And for me, as I aged from twenty-nine to thirty-eight and had two children, my perspective shifted radically.
I started off thinking of balancing work and family as completely doable. Yet as my kids grew older and became more eloquent in their pleas for mom time, and as my husband's career heated up, even my part-time schedule didn't cover the gaps. I found myself in a profound state of angst. How could I reconcile my strong ambition with the needs of my family? How could I find the time to create the sanctuary I wanted our house to be? How could I provide my children with hands-on mothering? I have come to recognize that it's an ongoing struggle to simultaneously be a devoted, attentive mother and embrace a professional drive to excellence.
For the vast majority of working and stay-at-home moms, the challenge of primary parenting responsibility consumes our waking moments. Yet we seldom share with each other the details and logistics of everyday parenting, household, and organizational dilemmas. Often we stumble about, hoping to arrive at a quick answer to our parenting-related problem of the moment, be that getting homework done or changing a squirming child's diaper. In the midst of our hectic and active lives, we look for solutions to practical parenting dilemmas that others discovered long before us. This book comprises the best pragmatic thinking of hundreds of moms and helps you master the logistics of parenting without constantly re-inventing the wheel.
To tackle the ambitious content of this book, I spent hundreds of hours talking with and interviewing moms, gathering their solutions, stories, and reflections. Scores of others shared their expertise and experiences via E-mail and on our Mom Central Web site, www.momcentral.com. What I looked for were smart ideas that make you go, "Aha! I've got to try that," and stories that illuminated the various aspects of raising kids and running a household. The voices of these women are woven into the tapestry of the text, not only as Mom Quotes, but as ideas offered in the individual sections.
Because the book incorporates the collective wisdom of so many moms, the Mom Quotes sometimes express contradictory opinions. What worked perfectly for one person may have proved futile for another. And while this book primarily addresses parenting a child from birth through age eight, much of the practical advice applies all the way through your child's teenage years.
I, along with Jill Martyn, my senior editor at Mom Central, and a handful of energized interns, spent thousands of hours searching the Internet to absorb what moms think about, worry about, need solutions for, and share ideas about. I was amazed and daunted by how much time it took just to wade though hundreds of posted messages. I was also discouraged by having to read through lengthy paragraphs of text in parenting books just to get to the point. So we did the homework for you, enabling you to find the practical answers you seek without having to do hours of extensive research, surfing, or talking with hundreds of moms yourself. I arrived at the bullet format to help you access clever ideas quickly, making the book a tool you can use whenever a parenting dilemma presents itself.
We had many laughs along the way, testing out suggestions offered by moms, from edible peanut butter play-dough (a big hit that inspired artistic creativity) to the frozen pea bag that doubled as an ice pack for a visiting playdate who got a bad bump. Then we had the rejected ideas, like the orange peels we baked to make the house smell more homey, but drove everyone crazy with food cravings.
As I wrote this book, my eight-year-old daughter, Kyle, would pop into my office with dozens of hints of her own. "I've got a Mom Central hint for you!" she would exclaim. Her hints have ranged from telling all of you to buy "no tears" shampoo, to have visiting cousins name their favorite toy so they always feel welcome, and to pack lots of chocolate milk boxes for long car rides. Her chiming in with her own suggestions and reflections has been very much a part of the book's creation for me and captures in many ways the heart of parenting and the fundamental brainstorming process that went into this book. Of course, there was also six-year-old Brooks, who before going to play with his friend Carey after school declared indignantly, "If you weren't working on that book, you would have the time to drop my Gameboy off at his house!" Sometimes as a mom, you just can't win.
Each chapter starts with ten Defining Principles to give you an overview of a topic before delving into the pragmatics. Simply for the purposes of clarity, some chapters use "he" and some "she" when referring to your child. I have also referred to "child" in the singular, while recognizing that you may have a larger family.
I believe that we still face several generations of transition before we will see a dramatic shift in parenting roles, with responsibilities divided more equitably between men and women. In the meantime, as we wait for the generational tide to change, I address this book primarily to moms, though its advice clearly applies to dads as well.
I have chosen to refer to your significant other as your "partner" throughout the book, rather than husband, boyfriend, ex-husband, lover, and so on. I have done so in recognition of today's diverse family configurations, given that many parents no longer raise children within traditional nuclear families. Moreover, "partner" captures the hopeful attitude I believe best for the team effort in running a home and parenting a child. For single moms, I have interspersed suggestions aimed at helping with the significant extra burdens you absorb and struggles you face as a parent. I have used the phrase "working moms" to refer to women who have jobs and work for money simply for purposes of clarification. That all mothers work goes without saying, and I want to emphasize this point.
Some contributing moms have requested that their identities be kept private for personal reasons or to enable them to speak candidly about difficult topics. Still other moms contributed tips electronically, via E-mail or posting on our Mom Central Web site, giving no further contact information. As a result you will read some anonymous quotes sprinkled through the book (you'll also see some quotes from me, indicated by my name). Wherever possible, I have added children's names and ages to personalize each mom's remarks, to help you contextualize the experience of the mom quoted, and as a tribute to all our children, without whom none of us would have anything to say!
Approach the book's text much as you would a cookbook, looking up recipes for solutions to the everyday parenting and household issues you encounter. Refer to the detailed table of contents or the index to zero in on a current concern or problem you need to tackle. Use the thousands of ideas in this book as a springboard for creative solutions of your own, experimenting to discover what works best, given your child's temperament and your unique family situation. I also invite you to come to www.momcentral.com for additional resources and links to parenting resources.
Copyright © 2002 by Mom Central, Inc.
From Chapter 3: Medical Concerns, Childproofing, & Safety
10 Defining Principles
Pick a pediatrician with whom you feel that both you and your child can build a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. Ask for recommendations from friends and other parents, and take the time to interview pediatricians until you find one with whom you feel comfortable. Your pediatrician should not make you feel intimidated about asking anything on your mind concerning your child's well-being. Consider your pediatrician an important partner in caring for your child.
Participate actively in your child's health care. Even before routine office visits, think through questions and observations ahead of time. Make sure you fully understand your pediatrician's concerns, advice, or prescription instructions before you walk out of the office. Ask as many questions as you need to clarify things. You know your child best and can serve as his most passionate advocate.
If your baby suffers from colic, take heart that it will almost certainly end after three months, and hunker down for the duration, recognizing that your best efforts may not pacify his crying. Go easy on yourself, as consistent crying wears every parent down. Trade off with your partner each evening or every half an hour during your child's bouts of colic. Give yourself an outlet from time to time before it becomes too much for you. If you feel yourself losing composure when you are alone with your crying baby, simply put him down in his crib for a few minutes and step out of the room to give yourself a brief, guilt-free respite. While your baby's crying can make you feel terrible, it's no reflection on your competency as a parent.
Go to a pediatric emergency room instead of a regular emergency room if you have a choice, as the whole staff will be geared toward kids and will have pediatric specialists on duty. Consider your options before rushing to an emergency room. Call your pediatrician if you are not sure whether your child's illness or injury qualifies as an emergency. She will often be able to provide you with better and faster service. Patients who arrive by ambulance and patients with serious injuries take precedence over stitches, sprains, and sometimes even broken bones, especially in large, urban hospitals, which are notorious for long waits of several hours or more. Your pediatrician can help you triage the situation by either seeing you on a sick call at the office or meeting you at the emergency room.
If you do find yourself in the ER, try to stay calm, comfort your child, and clarify any medical information you don't understand in the chaos that may surround you. Don't be embarrassed to ask detailed questions to help you better understand what a doctor says, and always ask for a second opinion from the attending physician if you question or disagree with a proposed course of medical action for your child. If your child needs a procedure that leaves you faint of heart, such as stitches, don't feel guilty about stepping out for the duration to allow the medical staff to work, and returning a few minutes later as the comforting, heroic parent.
When your child needs hospitalization, stay calm, positive, reassuring, and hopeful. As always, your child will take his cue from your emotions. Let your child know what's going to happen. Be honest and forthcoming about what he should expect hospitals are scary enough without lies and surprises. If your child's behavior regresses while he's hospitalized, allow him this comfort. Avoid losing your temper with him if he becomes overly frightened as a result of his experience. Console him as much as he needs it, and let him draw from your strength.
Balance childproofing with watchfulness and teaching your child about safety. Don't trust even a thorough childproofing job to keep your child completely safe without your supervision. Keep an eye on him as he explores your house, and teach him to stay away from potential hazards, such as climbing or putting things from the floor in his mouth. Approach childproofing as a never-ending process, as you strive to keep up with your child's increasing mobility and developing skills.
Your baby's fascination with small objects, coupled with his ability to move toward them and put them in his mouth, makes choking a prime safety concern. Prepare for the worst. Learn how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on an infant or child. Be especially vigilant about what you leave around for curious little fingers to find. Any object smaller than an inch and a half in diameter can lodge in your baby's airway. If a toy passes easily through a toilet paper roll tube, it's small enough to pose a choking hazard.
When supervising your child near any source of water, give him your full attention. Do not talk on the phone, read, or engage in any other distracting activity. A drowning child makes no noise. Monitoring a child from another room or within hearing distance does not ensure that you will be able to save or protect your child. If for any reason you discover that your child is missing, check your bath, pool, or hot tub first, as every second counts.
Talk through your child's fears of real disasters, and reassure him of steps you have taken to protect him. Discuss what each of you would do in case of his specific fear, whether of a fire, a hurricane, a burglar, or of getting picked up by a stranger. Not only will you help him prepare for the unlikely event, you'll also make him feel more empowered and reassured that you've taken steps to prevent this from happening
Copyright © 2002 by Mom Central, Inc.
From Chapter 3: Medical Concerns, Childproofing, & Safety
Selecting a Pediatrician
Though this chapter refers to finding a pediatrician, your choices also include a family physician, doctor and nurse practitioner team, or a pediatric nurse practitioner to take care of your child.
Make a list of possible pediatricians, based on recommendations by:
- Friends with young children
- Family members
- Colleagues at work
- Lactation consultant
- Health plan
To shorten your list, call the office of each recommended provider and ask basic make-or-break questions, such as:
Is the pediatrician accepting new patients?
Does the practice have convenient office hours, such as Saturdays, evenings, or first thing in the morning?
Is the office located somewhere convenient for you?
What are the fees, and how much is covered by your insurance?
Ask about each pediatrician's educational background, training, board certifications, and experience.
Check out both large and small practices. Though a small practice may feel more hands-on, a large practice with plenty of staff may afford your doctor and her co-workers more time to attend to you and your child.
Meet with your top two choices. Some pediatricians will charge for this introductory visit, and insurance rarely pays for it, but it's worth it to find the right person.
Check out the Facility
Is the doctor part of a larger practice? If so, under what circumstances would other doctors in the practice see your child?
What is the role of the nursing staff?
How far in advance do you have to schedule a well-child visit?
How does the practice manage calls outside of office hours? Will you talk to a doctor or a nurse first? Who returns calls and answers follow-up questions?
How many people are in the waiting room when you arrive?
Are there toys for the kids?
How do the receptionist and staff treat you?
Interview the Doctor
How long has she been practicing?
Where did she attend medical school and do her residency?
Does she have any specialized training?
Does she teach pediatric medicine? (Pediatricians who teach have to stay current with the latest research and treatments.)
Is she a parent herself?
How are sick visits scheduled?
What is the typical length of time before a parent's after-hours call is returned?
Who responds to telephone calls during the day?
How does she handle referrals to pediatric specialists?
In an emergency will she meet you at the hospital?
With which hospital is the practice affiliated?
How does the doctor conduct exams? Can your baby or toddler stay in your lap for the duration?
Will the doctor come to see your baby in the hospital in which you will be giving birth? When should she be contacted after the birth?
Will she be present for the birth at your request?
Who will examine the baby after the delivery?
Reflect on Your Meeting
Is she attentive, respectful, and helpful?
Do you feel comfortable talking with her?
Does she take plenty of time to answer your questions? Do you feel rushed?
Does her philosophy of treating your child match your needs? Would you prefer someone who gives you options and asks your opinion when choosing treatment for your child, or would you rather have a more decisive, authoritative doctor?
Does the doctor's child-rearing philosophy match yours? How does she feel about issues important to you, such as breastfeeding, toilet training, vegetarianism, the use of antibiotics, or alternative medicine? How supportive is she of working moms, if you are one?
Does the pediatrician have the kind of temperament to which you respond best?
Does the pediatrician have in-depth knowledge of the local medical community and the ability to recommend excellent pediatric specialists?
Schedule well-child visits far in advance so you can pick the times most convenient for you and your child.
Ask for the first appointment of the morning or the first one after lunch, as at these times your doctor will most likely run on time.
Don't bring your child to the doctor during his normal nap times.
A pediatrician's busiest stretch generally falls after school, which makes this the worst time for you to call with routine questions or to schedule an appointment.
To prepare for a well-child visit:
Bring a pad of paper and pencil to the visit to jot down instructions or information.
Ask about giving your child Tylenol before he receives immunization shots to lessen the reaction.
Dress your child in clothing that's easy to get on and off.
Bring small toys, crayons, and paper to keep your child occupied during what could be a long wait.
Bring crayons into the examining room: your child can color the paper on the examining table or his paper robe. Have your child draw a picture to surprise the doctor.
If your child is very fearful, bring a doll to the doctor's office and ask the doctor to do some of the procedures first on the doll and then on your child. Suggest something your child can look forward to afterward, like a snack or an outing.
Do not try to squeeze a question about a second child into one child's visit. You run the risk of their both receiving rushed and inadequate care.
For babies, wait until the doctor arrives to fully undress your baby, instead of waiting with a shivering and fussing infant. Bring a waterproof pad for yourself, as you may find yourself holding your naked baby for most of the visit.
Remind the receptionist when you are visiting the doctor with a sick child. If your child has something highly infectious, like chicken pox, ask if they prefer you use another entrance.
When scheduling a sick-child visit, ask to meet with your pediatrician, as opposed to another doctor in the practice, for continuity and relationship building.
Ask your pediatrician if she can call a prescription into your pharmacy (bring the number with you) instead of writing it out, so you do not have to wait in the store while your prescription is filled.
Calling After Hours
Trust your instincts. Do not feel afraid to call the doctor's office if your child's illness worries you.
Pull out your medical records so you have your child's medical history, as well as a record of drugs he has taken in the past, adverse reactions, and what your child seemed to respond to best. When you do have to call your doctor late at night or after hours, you'll get faster, more accurate care if you have basic medical information about your child on hand.
Remind the physician on call of recent sickness, injuries, or shots.
Know if your child has a fever and what his temperature reads.
Have ready the number of an all-night pharmacy where your doctor can call in prescriptions.
Do not get off the phone until you and your doctor have arrived at a plan that makes sense to you. This may mean taking your child in for treatment, calling in a prescription, scheduling an appointment, or monitoring him at home for the next day or two.
Keeping Medical Records
Keep a record of your child's health handy in case you have a medical emergency or you see a specialist who is unfamiliar with your child. Include in it:
Names and addresses of all doctors and specialists your child sees
Immunization records, along with your child's current height and weight
Major illnesses and injuries, treatment, complications, and healing time
Allergies to food or medication
Medication your child is taking or has taken recently, duration, strength, and his reaction to it
Family medical history, including allergies and illnesses, cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, or osteoporosis. Include the causes of death for your parents or grandparents
Your pregnancy history, including medication you took, illness you had while pregnant, or difficulties at birth
When to Change Pediatricians
When to find a new doctor:
If you feel your pediatrician has become patronizing, acts impatient, resists your questions, or belittles you or your child.
After multiple visits she fails to establish a rapport with your child.
She fails to fully inform you about possible side effects of medications prescribed.
You experience tremendous delays in getting after-hours calls returned or in scheduling a sick-child visit.
You spend inordinate amounts of time waiting to be seen every time you bring your child to the office for a scheduled appointment.
Your sick child isn't getting better, yet your pediatrician does not change her plan of action.
You do not feel comfortable about your relationship, and you do not agree with or trust her advice.
Copyright © 2002 by Mom Central, Inc.