Monday, January 19, 2009

Baby Care Back-up Plans

What to do when you’re down to the last diaper, forgot a bib, run out of milk

by Melissa Stanton

Once you get the basics down (feed the baby, burp the baby, change the baby, rock the baby to sleep) you'll be faced with the inevitable curveballs, the problems you have to solve in the moment. With some field-tested solutions, and your innate smarts, you'll be prepared for anything!

1. The Last Diaper

A time may come, if it hasn’t already, when you are down to one diaper—or no diapers!—either at home or while on the go. You have options:

• Advanced Warning: The following isn’t as gross as it sounds. If you have only one diaper left, chances are you have some sanitary pads in the house or, if you’re in a mall or restaurant, you can buy one from a ladies room vending machine. Stick a highly absorbent pad into that last diaper. The pad will absorb all or most of the mess and enable you to just change the pads until you can get your hands on more diapers.

• Keep first aid adhesive tape on hand—at home and in your diaper bag—for when a closing tab is accidentally ripped off of a diaper. While many types of tape will work (duct tape, masking tape, packing tape, though not so much cellophane tape), I prefer first aid paper tape, which has the gentlest adhesive if it touches the skin.

• For when you’re totally out of disposable diapers, be sure to keep a few cloth diapers on hand (which you can put to use as burp cloths while they await their time at bat). You can also craft a diaper out of a towel or dishcloth. Here are some basic diaper folding instructions from which you can improvise as needed:

1) Fold the cloth into a rectangle. (Depending on the size of the child, your finished rectangle will be approximately 6” x 10”; a larger cloth can be folded over by sections in order to provide you with extra layers for absorbency.)

2) Place and center the baby vertically on the length of the cloth.

3) Bring the bottom part of the fabric up between the baby’s legs. Flip the left and right sides over to lay on the baby’s belly, and then secure all three sections together.

If you don’t have diaper pins in reserve, use the aforementioned tape. If you don’t have rubber pants to put over the diaper, consider fashioning a very temporary pair out of a gallon-size plastic bag or even a plastic grocery bag. (See caveat below.)

2) Create a bib on-the-go

Speaking of plastic bags, let’s venture into another practical use for plastic grocery bags—with the caveat that this method is to be used correctly under constant adult supervision because, as all plastic bags tell us themselves, they must be kept out of reach of babies and children.

When you’re out and about and have no bib, but desperately need a bib, you likely have or have access to a plastic shopping bag. If so, size up the bag and your child. Depending on which will be the better fit, choose from these tailoring methods:
Option A: Tear open the bottom of the bag. Use the bag’s pre-existing opening for your child’s head and the handle openings as arm holes. Adorn your child in, essentially, a plastic tank top.

Option B: For a top with less “cleavage,” tear a hole in the bottom of the bag. Put the child’s head through that new hole. Pop openings in each side of the bag and guide your child’s hands and arms through those new holes.

Ta-da! You now have a full-torso covering for impromptu restaurant meals, ice cream cones and even finger-painting. Yes, the bib will be bizarre looking, and you and your bag-wearing baby might get some odd looks. But I have used this technique in public on many occasions and have been praised by restaurant servers and diners for my ingenuity.

3. Always have fresh milk on hand

Yes, a mother can breastfeed her child, which makes having milk in the fridge a non-issue. Short of that, all parents with young milk drinkers should acquaint themselves with ultra-pasteurized UHT shelf-stable milk. Packaged in box-like aseptic cartons, the milk needs no refrigeration until it’s opened. UHT milk tastes like regular milk, only a bit sweeter, and is widely used in countries that don’t have consistent refrigeration. I always keep several of the one-quart cartons in my pantry as back-up for when we run out of fresh milk.

Because the milk, which comes in whole, 2-percent, skim and chocolate varieties, is also sold in a six-pack of individual serving sizes (like a juice box), you can keep milk handy in your car, stroller or diaper bag without having to worry about cool packs or spoiling. (The cartons do have expiration dates, which are usually several months out based on storage at room temperature.) Hint: At the supermarket, look for UHT milk in the baking rather than daily aisle. Similar shelf-stable packaging exists for milk products made from soy and rice.

"Mommy Wars" is not the answer

Ignore the date, above. The following essay is from my archives.

"Mommy Wars" is not the answer

by Melissa Stanton

Looking at my own decade-long work-family juggling act, I realize that each side in the so-called Mommy Wars could, at some point, claim me as one of its own.

When my first child was born I worked for a company that allowed employees to take a full year of unpaid parental leave, so I became a stay-at-home mom (albeit one who had a lucrative job waiting for her). During my child’s next two years of life I was an employed mother, putting in what was officially a four-day week but in reality had me at the office, commuting and/or working from home some 12-plus hours a day. Then, due to a confluence of events (including my husband accepting a job that had him living weekdays in another state), I walked away from my high-pressure career. In order to be with my son by day but also provide health insurance for my family, I worked evenings and weekends at a business close to my home. When I became pregnant with twins, I left the workforce entirely due to medical complications and then becoming a weekday single mother of three. As my kids got older, I resumed my freelance work and became a "work-from-home" mom.

Having seen the battlefield from differing vantage points, I know that the Mommy Wars between employed and stay-at-home moms are a destructive waste of time and energy. But, often, depending on which way the wind is blowing, a woman will be praised or pilloried for whatever work-family route she takes. When motherhood is treated as a spectator sport, with women on the field as its fiercest competitors, all women are hurt when either side takes a hit.

Which is the right work-family path for a woman to take? I think each and every path available.

Some of us will stay in the workforce after becoming mothers and some won’t. Some of us will go back and forth between the two worlds, or seek out opportunities so we can earn an income while also being available during the day to care for young children. All mothers are “working mothers.” Some work at paid jobs and as mothers. Others put in the same number of hours working as at-home moms.

We all need to stop justifying our own choices, lives and situations by demeaning our neighbor’s. If we work together to improve upon the traditional male model of balancing work and family (i.e. parent works, someone else cares for the kids), and if we support rather than snipe at our varying arrangements and juggling techniques, we’ll all thrive. More importantly, we’ll prove that “war” is not the answer.

Why “employed” and “stay-at-home” moms need one another
The friends you have as a woman who happens to also be a mother shouldn’t fall into a she’s-either-with-me-or-against-me sorter. For so many reasons, ranging from each of us individually to collectively, it’s important that friendships exist between stay-at-home moms and employed moms. Here’s why:

• A stay-at-home mom can be an employed mom’s eyes and ears while she’s at work. In case of an emergency, a stay-at-home neighbor may be able to relieve a babysitter (or be the babysitter), or retrieve a sick child from a daycare center before an employed mom can arrive home.

• Employed mothers prove to employers and society-at-large that women, like men, can participate in the paid workforce and thrive in careers regardless of their parental status.

• The volunteer efforts of stay-at-home mothers greatly benefit schools, children’s sports programs, and community activities.

• Employed mothers can assist stay-at-home mothers when professional services are needed (e.g. medical, financial, legal).

• If the time ever comes when a stay-at-home mom wants or needs to return to the workforce, it’s her working friends who will be a network for job leads and a source of recommendations.

• Likewise, if an employed mom needs to leave the workforce, due to a job loss or medical matter, for instance, her stay-at-home friends will likely become her biggest source of daily support.

• It’s important for children to understand that some moms work outside the home, some work at home (as moms) and others work from home. “I have a very good friend who works an insane schedule yet still does a very good job parenting her three boys,” says Lyn, an attorney turned stay-at-home mother of three. “My kids benefit from knowing hers and being in her home, where the values are the same but the procedures are different. And her kids benefit from being in my home and experiencing our environment.”

Regardless of the shared positives and examples of differently engaged moms playing nice, the most important reason for women to support each other’s choices—to work, to have children, to not have children, to stay home with their children, to be employed mothers—is so women can continue to have choices.

Mom Writer's Literary Magazine Interview with Melissa Stanton

Mom Writer's Literary Magazine, COVER FEATURE, Winter 2008/2009

Melissa Stanton: Sometimes It’s OK to Not Love Being a Stay-at-Home Mom
by Kris Underwood
"It definitely doesn't mean we're bad mothers."

Stay-at-home-moms. The “Mommy Wars.” Sentimental mommy-lit. The role of the stay-at-home mom has been somewhat looked down upon and criticized by media, society and other women, begging the old question: What do you do all day? It is often seen as “not a real job,” when in fact, it is very real, just not in the traditional view of the paid workforce.

The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide by Melissa Stanton speaks
volumes without being preachy, overtly tongue-in-cheek or feeding the “Mommy Wars.” Instead, there is an element of support throughout the book that is relative to all aspects of motherhood, whether you are SAHM (stay-at-home mom), WAHM (work-at-home mom), or a mother re-entering the workforce.

Formerly a senior editor at People and LIFE magazines, Melissa
made the decision to stay home and care for her three kids. It was a process of readjustment, reassessment and adaptation – such are the constants of motherhood. In regard to what she hopes women
will take away from the book, she says this: “If there’s one thing I hope women will learn from this book, it’s that it’s OK to sometimes not love being a stay-at-home mom. It doesn’t mean we don’t love our children. It doesn’t mean we’d make a different choice if we had a do-over. It definitely doesn’t mean we’re bad mothers. Few people like their job every minute of the day. The same goes for the job of being a stay-at-home mom.”

MWLM: How was the transition from being a senior editor at People magazine to a stay-at-home mom for you personally?

MS: At first, I felt a huge sense of relief at having finally made the decision to stay home with my son. In many ways,
those initial few weeks were like a vacation. It got tougher when I began to realize that my identity and social contacts had been turned upside down. My employed mom friends and I didn’t relate to each other as we once had, and the stay-at-home women I spent time with in those early days didn’t have the experience of leaving a high-level career or job they really enjoyed. It took a while for me to meet women who, like me, had mixed feelings about not being in the workforce. It took time to make new friends based on a stay-at-home mom kinship. However, it was those friendships that helped me survive my career-to-home transition and my many in-the-trenches days once I became pregnant with twins and was a literally housebound-stay-at-home mom. Still, despite my support network, I did and sometimes still do feel as if I’ve disappeared. When my husband’s job required us to move out-of-state, I became further isolated. I did no paid work for four years. Fortunately, the book, my renewed freelancing and new relationships have helped me reemerge.

MWLM: How did the choice to stay home come about?

MS: When my son was born, I took a one-year unpaid leave from my editing job at LIFE magazine. When I returned to work I negotiated a four-day week, albeit with a pay cut. Within a few months I was offered and accepted the job at People. While I got to keep my four-day week, I worked late at the office and/or logged in again from home. The
commute between my Manhattan office and New Jersey home took at least three hours a day. I saw my son, who was cared for by a nanny, for barely an hour a day.

When the boom crashed, my husband was laid off by his Wall
Street-area employer. He accepted a job in Baltimore, which is where he would live during the week, coming home only on weekends. Because Tuesday, September 11, 2001, was going to be his last day at work before leaving for Baltimore, he decided to go in late. Because he did, his World Trade Center-bound train was diverted to a different station. When the towers fell he had to run from the cloud of debris.

Due to my son starting preschool, I had taken the week off from work. Five of the 10 students in my child’s class had parents who would have been in or near the towers had they not stayed home or gone in late due to the preschool start. The experience made me reassess my life. I was about to become a weekday single mother, with a now even worse commute (due to the post-9/11 train problems). I would have to juggle a heavy workload due to both the season and recent layoffs at the magazine. I knew I’d need to sneak out of the office by 6 p.m. in order to relieve my nanny, and I’d have to log back in to work after putting my son to bed. A year earlier a fellow employed mom had left my company in order, she said, to have a family-friendlier career. When I reacted to her news by saying I was too afraid to quit my job, she explained that she was no longer letting her fear of the future get in the way of her present. I decided to follow her lead and do the same by living and working in a different way.

MWLM: How do you “survive” being a stay at home mom?

MS: A very committed stay-at-home mom who homeschools her children congratulated me for writing a book that “encourages women to embrace stay-at-home motherhood.” I corrected her that my book is not about “embracing” stay-at-home motherhood. I hadn’t embraced stay-at-home motherhood; I had survived and adapted to it. For me, the key was having and making mom friends, and participating in activities beyond caring for my house and kids. (I volunteered a lot, at high levels, to keep my mind active, use my professional skills and meet people.) I also started to look at stay-at-home motherhood as a job, not purely a lifestyle.

In the beginning, I felt bad for quitting
my job. I felt insecure and guilty about being financially dependent. I felt I was a failure for not being able to “have it all.” Then I realized that my past career and earnings are part of what has made it possible for my family to have the life we do, and I realized that my husband has the career and family he wanted because I put aside my ambitions and became the primary caregiver of our children and manager of our home. I work to support a family just as much as he does.

Another survival technique was to make clear that since my husband’s workday has an end, mine as a stay-at-home
mom of preschoolers needed to have an end as well. As a result, when my husband arrived home at around 7 p.m., he took over being in charge of the kids. After dinner, I’d go off and handle the e-mails and bills and paperwork that come with managing a family of five. I also “survived” by realizing that my stay-at-home mom career, which my family and I have been fortunate to have, would comprise just a few years out of what I hope will be a long life full of new experiences and opportunities.

MWLM: Who has influenced you as a mother?

MS: As a mother, I’ve been influenced by the experiences of the women who came before me in my family. In many ways, I feel I’ve learned mostly from their hardships. I’ve gained insight into how not to lose myself to my husband and kids, and about the importance of maintaining friendships and protecting my financial security.

MWLM: Where did the idea for The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide come from? Inspirations?

MS: After I emerged from a five year fog in which I quit my job, became pregnant with twins, was on bed rest while
caring for a toddler, managed a commuter marriage, was a weekday single mother of three, and then packed up and moved twice, I encountered a blitz of books lambasting women for “opting out” of the workforce to raise children.

These books included Get to Work by Linda Hirshman, The Feminine Mistake by Leslie Bennetts, To Hell with All That
by Caitlin Flanagan, and Mommy Wars, an anthology edited by Leslie Morgan Steiner. Among the assertions made: educated women who leave the workforce to be moms undermine all women; stay-at-home mothers are delusional about their finances and want to be cared for by men; at-home moms aspire to and are fully satisfied by domesticity. That wasn’t me, nor was it most of the stay-at-home moms I knew. While the authors make many valid points about the precarious status of women and the financial risks of stay-at-home motherhood, the tone of each book was largely condescending to women who were home full-time with kids. The other books I encountered about stay-at-home motherhood seemed to be either overly sentimental (“Being a mommy is the most fulfilling job I could ever have in my life”) or filled with slapstick (“The baby puked on me again”).

I felt stay-at-home mothers needed a book in which they could be heard and supported.
I sent a proposal called The
MotherHood: What It’s Really Like to Leave a Career and Become a Stay-at-Home Mom to at least two dozen agents and publishing houses. I was rejected by each one. Several said my writing and credentials were great, but they didn’t want to do a “stay-at-home mommy book.” If I had a “strong platform,” such as one aggressively arguing that mothers should stay home, I could develop a Mommy Wars grenade worthy of attention. But I don’t believe all mothers should stay home. Discouraged, I gave up on the book. Then, in March 2007, by an incredible stroke of dumb luck, Laura Mazer, an editor at Seal Press, a feminist imprint of Perseus Books, championed the idea of creating a book for stay-at-home moms. Laura had once been a stay-at-home mom. Her colleague, Brooke Warner, then the acquisitions editor, had been receptive to my book proposal when it landed on her desk as an unsolicited submission the previous fall. Despite her enthusiasm, Seal rejected the proposal. When Brooke contacted me a month later with a page of notes from Laura, she asked me to redo my pitch by giving the book more of a “how-to” spin. The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide title was Laura’s idea. My revised proposal was unanimously accepted by Seal’s board.

MWLM: How do you balance work and motherhood?

MS: When I was writing the book, I spent my days caring for my 4-year-old twins. I mostly worked at night, typically from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., often later. Since I couldn’t have extended phone conversations during the day because of the kids, nor could the moms I was interviewing, we communicated by e-mail and I used the Internet for research. This academic year, my three children are all in full-day school. I now run errands and work from home while they’re gone. I stop at 3 p.m. for the bus pick-up and restart at 9 p.m. I am more efficient and productive in my work now than I ever was when I had a “real” job, which involved a commute, lunch outings and office distractions. (On the downside, I’m totally freelance and barely earn what I did my first years out of college!)

MWLM: History has been made this election year in several respects, but more specifically: an African-American man
on the Democratic ticket for president and a woman on the Republican ticket for vice president. Do you think the candidates addressed issues important to women, mothers and families? What do you think of all the media attention Sarah Palin received about her mothering experience? Do you think it’s relevant to the job? How do you think the scrutiny she got affects the chances of other women running for office?

MS: In a macro view, I think having Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin as the lead candidates in the race
for the White House means aspiring to the presidency is no longer the sole purview of white men. I don’t think Hillary Clinton’s candidacy was felled so much by sexism as it was by Obama’s appeal, the missteps of her campaign and concern about Bill Clinton’s past and present behavior, and future role. Many people, including those like me who think Hillary Clinton is more than qualified to be president of the United States, worried about reviving the partisan ghosts of the past.

While the barrier of a woman or non-white man being a serious contender for the While House has been broken, the barrier of being an open advocate for women’s rights and the needs of families was not similarly breeched. Senators Obama and Clinton perhaps feared that aggressively speaking out for women’s pay equity, better work-family policies, maternal health and reproductive rights—all of which they support—would label them as being too liberal. As a social conservative, Sarah Palin doesn’t appear to be a champion of those issues.

I personally feel that Sarah Palin’s selection was a cynical choice by John McCain to woo women and, more so, the
religious right. However, Palin’s ascent will hopefully quiet social conservatives’ assertions that women with children belong at home rather than in the workforce. And since Palin has an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter, the religious “right” will hopefully tone down some of its moral values rhetoric against “the left.” We can hope that, going forward, voters who supported Palin will also support (or keep quiet about) other women with small children who want to be both mothers and active participants in the world beyond their front doors.

If there’s any double-standard, I think it’s a partisan one. It’s interesting to me that when the Clintons first came on the
national scene in the early 1990s, Hillary was tarred for being a career woman, political operative and working mom. However, Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne, has pursued a similar path, and as Second Lady was employed by the American Enterprise Institute think-tank, yet no one questioned the appropriateness of her career or political involvement. Early in the 2008 race Michelle Obama was criticized for being an ambitious career woman who was leaving her kids behind to join her husband on the campaign trail. She had to explain that their girls are cared for by her mother, and that she would leave home for only short periods of time. While Hillary Clinton was criticized for her superior tone and assertiveness during the presidential campaign, Sarah Palin earned praise for her similarly aggressive style.

The media was accused of being partisan or sexist for asking the
V.P. nominee, a mother of five with a new baby, about her amazing juggling act. One reason the question hasn’t been asked of men is that most every man who has run for high office has had older children or a stay-at-home wife who cares for his kids. Palin’s spouse wasn’t presented as a stay-at-home dad. I think the “what about the kids?” question should be asked of candidates and celebrities who tout their family credentials without addressing the realities of how they do it all. We live in a country where two incomes are often needed to get by. We gain useful knowledge by learning how successful individuals and families balance work and family (or don’t).

MWLM: You’re working on another book, a follow up to The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide. Can you tell us more about this? Can we expect anything else in the near future?

MS: Several of my readers have encouraged me to produce a similar, intelligent yet conversational “guide” along the
lines of The Stay-at-Home Mom’s Survival Guide to Rejoining the Paid Workforce. (That’s a working title.) One of the biggest anxieties stay-at-home moms have is whether or not they’ll be able to reenter the workforce when or if they need or want to. Women are unsure about how to explain their absences from the workforce. They worry about convincing dubious employers that their brains and professional skills didn’t disappear because they took time to care for children. At the moment, I’m doing research and preparing a proposal for publishers. If any former stay-at-home moms want to share their “comeback” experiences, please write to me at

Kris Underwood is an editor at Mom Writer’s Literary Magazine and has had poetry appear in several publications
including MotherVerse, and Poetry Midwest. Other writing is featured at MotherVerse blog: Mothering Out Loud and Moms Speak Up. She writes simply because it helps keep her sane among the chaos. For more information, please visit her personal blog, Writing In The Mountains (

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Motherhood & More

by Melissa Stanton

Ignore the date, above. This is an article from my "archives."

Women are often defined by their relationships to others, and for most of history women followed the single-lane path from being a father’s daughter to a husband’s wife to a child’s mother. While familial labels also apply to males, men have traditionally been allowed to just be whomever they are—without a stated link to someone else. (Think of the notable men, past and present, about whom you know little or nothing regarding their marital and family status.)

I make this observation as a woman who, having left a successful career to become a stay-at-home mom, is now mostly identified by whom I care for rather than the whole of who I am. Most adult women are mothers, but each one of us is a mother and more.

It’s important for men and society-at-large to understand that truth, but it’s essential for women to accept that they needn’t be solely defined by or, worse, consumed by, motherhood. I suspect that each of us would be more content in our daily lives, and collectively more supportive of one another, if we abandoned the head games that accompany our work as mothers. (And yes, I consider motherhood and childrearing to be a job.) Hence ….

STAY-AT-HOME MOTHERS need to speak up when they’re told, “You’re so lucky you don’t have to work.” Stay-at-home moms are indeed "lucky" that their households can get by on one income (even barely), but these women absolutely work—as mothers. Save for the occasional “princess bride” whose home and children are managed by what amounts to her own palace staff, women who spend their days directly caring for young children work longer hours than most people do in the paid workforce. We all need to recognize that caring for children without end is a physically, emotionally and intellectually taxing job. As such, a mom who occasionally loses her temper—or counts the minutes until she can hand the kids to her spouse or a sitter—isn’t a bad mom. She (you?) simply needs a break, just like any other overworked employee.

EMPLOYED MOTHERS who have full- or part-time jobs outside the home may want to craft a response to, or else simply tune out, comments along the lines of, “Why did you have children if you won’t stay home and care for them?” Such statements are rarely (if ever) made about men who go to jobs as opposed to staying at home caring for kids. Mothers participate in the workforce for many reasons, chief among them the need to earn money. (After all, living on one income is becoming harder and harder all the time.) The only reason an employed mom should ever feel guilty about leaving her children in order to work is if she is truly neglecting her offspring or placing them in an unsafe, un-nurturing environment. Parents need to do what they determine is best or essential for their family, preferably without giving short shrift to anyone in the mix.

WORK-FROM-HOME MOTHERS who are attempting to balance domestic responsibilities with those in the world beyond their front doors are best served by recognizing that, at different times, their attention will be on one universe or the other. That means when a work-from-home mother is participating in the work world, her office door needs to be shut, her kids should be out of earshot (at school or with a caregiver) and everyone has to understand that although mom is home, she’s not really there. While work life will likely intrude on home life, there needs to be defined times for family. In some cases, a work-from-home mom can focus on business by day when her kids are in school, “leave” the office around 3 p.m. to manage post-school activities (homework, dinner, bath and bed), and then go back to work for another few after-dark hours. (I work part-time from home myself, and I've found that I’m tons more efficient than I ever was while commuting to and from an office and getting pulled into meetings and workplace socializing.)

• For MOTHERS IN TRANSITION—which we all have been or will be at some point in our lives—it’s useful to concentrate on living in the present, because the past is unchangeable and the future can’t be controlled. So if a woman is moving into motherhood as a first time parent, or from the workforce into the stay-at-home world, or vice versa, all involved need to recognize that she is in the midst of an enormous change. It’s a myth that motherhood is purely instinctive and that unlike men women are just wired to care for and bond with babies and children. Parenting is a learned skill and, frankly, a talent. Some of us are faster or more intuitive learners than others. Whatever transition stage you’re in, recognize it—and recognize that even though your neighbor may make it all look so easy, it’s not!

So absolutely, be proud of being your child or children’s mother—and your parent’s daughter and your partner’s spouse. Just don’t forget to be proud of, and concerned about, your non-mom self as well.

Too Tired for Sex—or Anything Else

Ignore the date, above. A version of the following essay appeared in The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide.

Why it’s so hard to be a mom and a hot mama

When I was 23 years old and working at a popular women’s magazine, I was given an article to fact-check called, “Too Tired for Sex.” At the time I scoffed at the story’s title and its premise. Two decades later, as a married mother of three, I can relate to that article more than I can to my former 23-year-old self.

It’s not uncommon for a woman who has children to collapse in bed at night feeling as emotionally and physically drained as a vampire victim. When a stay-at-home mother spends her day being clung to and crawled upon by children, by the time her partner arrives home the only thing she wants to do is escape, and not be touched. Employed moms can feel the same way after juggling work and family, and frequently managing both upon returning home in the evening. (Make dinner, prepare tomorrow’s lunches, log back into the office after the kids go to bed.) With so many people in a mother’s life taking from her in order to satisfy their own needs, there’s often nothing left to give.

It’s not that women with children don’t want to have sex. Intimacy and affection is very important, particularly for one’s self-esteem. The hitch is that time and place and context now matter. Aside from often not having the physical and emotional energy for even the simplest bedroom gymnastics, it can be hard for a woman to intellectually switch gears from mommy to vixen.

So assuming that He is often as eager as She is exhausted, how can a couple childproof their love life?

Communicate: This means talking—including about feelings. One frequently recommended title for how partners can better understand one other is Finding the Love You Want, by Hendrick Harlan.

Be appreciative: Instead of becoming overwhelmed by parenthood, both partners can be thankful for all they have together. “We don’t take our intimacy for granted anymore,” a 33-year-old mother of three told me.

Share the domestic duties: It’s not fair for one partner to be racing around before bed to finish household chores while the other sits on the couch and channel surfs. (Note: Men doing housework is sexy!)

Date nights: Since it’s harder now to be spontaneous, make plans to spend time together, somewhere, somehow. It can be an enormous mood lifter to know that the two of you are going out together (soon) or will be spending a few hours alone (i.e. without kids).

Go away: Sometimes parents develop separate social lives because someone needs to stay home and care for the children. While outings with friends are important—as are family vacations—it’s important for parents to get away together (even if it’s only for an overnight) without the kids in tow.

Try it, you’ll like it: In other words, have sex, even if it’s just quickie sex.

Take the long view: The clich├ęs are true. Children are only small once. And this too shall pass. Although by the time it does, you’ll have to sneak around a bit so your older, savvy children won’t know what’s going on behind mom and dad’s closed door.

A Special Message to the Partners of Stay-at-Home Moms: Woo the mother of your child(ren) the same way you did before she was the mother of your child(ren). Instead of pouncing on her when she collapses exhausted into bed, make and take her on a real date. You likely get to leave the house on a regular basis, and you likely do this unencumbered by offspring; the mother of your child or children often doesn’t. (Imagine if you lived and worked at your office and never left. Imagine if, during the only time you did leave the building, your boss, staff and colleagues came with you. Horrifying, isn’t it?) Women who spend their days caring for children need time to reenergize the part of themselves that enabled them to become moms in the first place (i.e. their sex appeal and sex drive). To really get in the mood they often need new scenery and a chance to dress-up. They need to be complimented and, most of all, listened to. Remember: This is a person who currently spends her days with children who don’t listen, and with whom she surely can’t have an adult conversation. Take her out, talk and listen and you’re in!

Babies on a Plane!

Ignore the date, above. This is an article from my "archive."

Mastering the Diaper Change at 30,000 feet

By Melissa Stanton

You needn’t have ever seen the film Snakes on a Plane to know that loose snakes on a plane would be terrifying. But ask any parent trying to care for and calm a baby on a plane, and chances are good that mom or dad would rather take on the snakes.

With flight delays, bathroom malfunctions and passengers being stuck for hours inside parked planes, when traveling the not-so-friendly-skies with a baby, it’s actually wise to plan as if the flight will take 20 hours instead of two. That means enough pacifiers (sucking and swallowing help prevent painful ear popping), teethers, baby food, snacks, toys, sippy cups and, if needed, fixins for bottles. (It’s smart to have at least two bottles and nipple sets on board: One is for using, and the other as a back-up in case the first is lost or accidentally melted when warmed in the airplane microwave oven.) And then there’s the diaper detail.

While international flights often keep an emergency supply of diapers on board, domestic flights generally don’t. Accordingly, parents traveling with little ones need to be prepared with wipes, a changing pad, a few outfits and lots of diapers (for before, during and immediately after the flight). How many diapers? You know your child, but for guidance keep in mind that the American Pregnancy Association estimates that “babies urinate approximately 20 times a day for the first several months of their lives.” Bring plastic bags for containing the debris, but also ask the flight attendant for a handful of motion sickness bags, which are often more effective at sealing away odors.

Most large airplanes—as opposed to smaller, commuter aircrafts—are now equipped with changing tables in the lavatories. (It’s a good idea to keep a small tote handy so when you and your baby head for the plane bathroom, you can carry only the items you’ll need right then instead of your entire supply.) When a diaper changing station is available on a plane, it’s expected that a parent will use it. If you don’t, be prepared for nasty looks from your fellow passengers or a reminder from a flight attendant about the plane’s facilities.

When a changing table isn’t available, “Mothers are very ingenious,” says Sarah Anthony, a spokesperson for Continental Airlines. If a baby needs to be placed on a seat, the floor or a lap, that’s just what needs to occur. For many reasons (safety, hygiene), diapering on a tray table is frowned upon. But if you have no other options, and your child is small enough, you might choose to give it a try. After making sure the coast is clear of possible tsk-tskers, support the pull-down tray with your knees or a carry-on bag propped on your lap, and cover the tabletop with a folded blanket (for cushioning) and a changing pad. Then keep one hand securely on the baby while you work very quickly with the other.

Leeann, a frequent flying mom from Atlanta, suggests that parents flying with an infant “book seats in the two-seat side of the plane, and change the baby in the seat.” While a pee diaper is no problem, she warns that a smelly poop requires lightening fast clean-up work and waste containment. (Now’s the time to break into that supply of sealable motion sickness bags!) Daryl, a mother of two who has taken numerous flights between New Jersey and Arizona with babes in tow, recommends that if you’re traveling alone with an infant and can afford the ticket, buy your less than two-year-old child a seat even though it’s not required. “The more space you have for maneuvering with a baby the better,” she says. “Flight attendants either aren’t willing or able to help, and fellow passengers don't want to be bothered, so you’re pretty much on your own.”

And how does a parent traveling solo use the airplane bathroom? By trusting the baby to a fellow passenger or else wearing the child in a baby carrier.

Good luck with your trip!

Busy But Bored

Ignore the date, above. The following article is from my archives.

Stay-at-home motherhood is a great many things—
yet, some days, it can be unbearably dull

By Melissa Stanton

Following is the actual text of a late night email I received from Jessa, a stay-at-home mother of two pre-schoolers:

“Everyone celebrates motherhood but we mothers feel guilty for not loving every second of motherhood and no one really wants to hear us say we actually do not like it all the time - how blasphemous, huh??!!! Just today I was playing with my kids outside to stay sane and I was just thinking how fricking BORED I was, how much I love them to death, but how BORED I was playing on the swings, bikes, etc.... :-) :-)”

Here’s a plea for help, submitted by a new stay-at-home mom, which I recently answered for a parenting magazine:

While I love being with my three-month-old daughter, it sometimes feels like my days with her drag on forever. I often find myself counting down the hours until my husband returns from work. Do you have any suggestions for how I can keep from being bored out of my mind?

A paradox of stay-at-home motherhood is that while you’re busy practically every minute of the day—caring for kids, entertaining kids, picking up after kids—the day can drag, leaving you feeling lonely, isolated, angry and depressed.

While many stay-at-home moms truly enjoy their days home alone with children, many others struggle with the demands of the job. (And, yes, stay-at-home motherhood is a job.) It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Even the most devoted stay-at-home mother can have trouble finding fulfillment in a daily routine of coloring, cooking, cleaning, cartoons, carseats and Candyland.

If I’ve described your typical day—and your feelings about it—here are some field-tested survival tips:

MAKE FRIENDS: A key to surviving—and enjoying—stay-at-home motherhood are the friendships you make with other moms. To meet these women you can join a local mother’s group, or even an online chat room. You can attend Mommy & Me classes and library storytimes. If you live in a pedestrian-friendly place, I strongly suggest you strap your baby into a stroller and take a walk. (You can’t meet people while driving in your car.) Strike up conversations. Be outgoing, and proactive. When I was a first-time mom my support group consisted of women I befriended in parks, baby classes and while wandering around my New Jersey town. To this day one of my best friends is a woman whose doorbell I rang a decade ago, simply because I knew she was, like me, at home on maternity leave with a newborn. Karen answered the door, in the midst of nursing her daughter, and before I could even open my mouth to explain my presence, she declared, “Thank God you’re here!”

MAKE PLANS AND GOALS: If being home all day is making you nuts, schedule a daily outing, even if it’s only to the supermarket. For the days you can’t leave the house, provide some structure to your time by setting doable goals or planning practical diversions: e.g. “I will read today’s newspaper.” “I will write five thank you notes.” “I will call or email a friend.” “I will watch a one-hour TV show.”

TAKE A BREAK: No one in the paid workforce is expected to work 24/7, and you shouldn’t be expected to either. Don’t let anyone claim that you don’t work. For example: Your husband refuses to take charge of the kids at bedtime because he “worked all day” while you stayed home. Hello! You worked all day too! You just happen to work at home, as a mom. Your workday has to have an end. Also recognize that, like any hard working person, you will sometimes need time off and a change of scenery. As I live outside of Washington D.C., last month I took a couple of days off from my job as a mom and volunteered for the presidential inauguration. (My husband and mother filled in for me at home.) The chance to actively participate in the outside world and spend time in a bustling city (sans kids) was invigorating.

TAKE THE LONG VIEW: As a stay-at-home mom your homebound hours can often seem endless, but a time may come when you’ll be back in the workforce and/or juggling all the places your kids need to be (for school, sports, socializing, etc.). If you’re struggling with the monotony of your stay-at-home routine, try to focus on the perks of your current parenting career: No commuting, office politics or daily child care angst, the freedom of not being tied to a workplace, the ability to spend time with and directly care for your child or children.

It can also help to keep in mind that working day-after-day at any job can be boring, whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or a business executive. As Sandra, a trial attorney turned stay-at-home mother, reported to me about a conversation she had with a former colleague: “She asked me if I was bored being at home with kids,” recalls Sharon. “I finessed the question. While I didn’t point out that I had often been bored in meetings with her and people from, say, the insurance industry, I did explain how I now presided over meals with kids between the ages of four and six, discussing things like how infinity is not actually a number, but rather a concept. They all got it. Those kids were a lot smarter than a good number of the people at the meetings I used to go to. So who’s bored?”

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