Why is Daycare So Expensive?

So you’re looking for daycare for your child. Great! You start looking up daycares along your commute and looking into their hours, program details, and pricing. You go on Facebook or Instagram to find a home daycare provider since you like more of a close-knit feel for your child. You ask about pricing and you are floored when the home daycare provider replies “My prices start at $140 a week for part time and go up from there.” You think “Seriously?! $140? I could find someone that watches kids for $20 a day or send them to a center for the same price!” And you’re right; you could find someone to watch your child for $20 a day, and I’m sure they would do a good job. Or bring them to a center with a similar price point. But let me walk you through why we home daycare providers charge what we charge. Because I promise we are not trying to take advantage of you.

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Let’s start at the beginning; the setup. The daycare room, decor, wall painting, nap equipment, linens, high chairs, kids table and chairs, marketing materials, childproofing, etc. all cost quite a bit to acquire when you consider that it’s meant to be used for 6-8 children on a regular basis- to the tune of $5000, or more if you include the wooden swingset in our backyard.

The fact that I make from-scratch meals is a great benefit of my program, but it takes time to plan and purchase ingredients and cooking equipment. My weekly business-only groceries are about $80-$180, depending on what I’m making and the number of children in care. It takes me about 2-3 hours to plan and grocery shop each week for just my business menu. Next: the prep. Here’s where it starts to get a little more complicated. Each day, I need to be sure that my home is clean, recently vacuumed and mopped, the dishes done, daycare areas clean and tidy, no choking hazards out (we have a 4 year old with toys with small parts), and that my home is tour-ready at all times. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes things like record-keeping, receipt filing, and tax stuff that adds about 20 hours a week on top of the work I do with children during business hours.

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Now let’s get to the fun part; activities! This can be simple or elaborate, but even the simplest activities take a lot of time to acquire supplies and setup the activities for the day. As you can imagine, this also takes advanced planning and time. It takes me on average at least 1 hour a day to plan activities and get the setup ready, before the day begins. Having multiples of art supplies, sensory bins and sensory bottles, and the right tools to do these activities can easily cost $30 per type of medium for our group. That’s for just 1 type of activity like play d’oh, watercolors, or fingerpaint.

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To break that down and see how much I am paying myself per hour: it’s $195 for full time care for a child that’s 3 months -18 months old. Ontop of the 50 hours a week I work caring for a typical child, there’s also a weekly food budget of about $35/child. So that’s $195-$35=$160. Add on the typical 20 hours a week I’m doing business-related work outside of operating hours, that’s $160/70 hours = $2.29 per hour. Yep. I make $2.29 per hour doing what I do. Is that shocking to you?

 

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This estimate is not including any overhead costs either. We daycare providers also invest a good amount of money into our supplies and equipment. Just my kids table, 6 kids chairs, and 3 shortie high chairs cost $220. That’s just mealtime equipment, not even including plates, bowls, cups, or utensils. The wooden swingset, 12″ tall border and ramp, and playground mulch cost $2100. Now, am I charging you for use of my equipment and other supplies when I take care of your child? Of course not, but they are necessities for me to run a child-appropriate and delightful childcare business.

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So if I only make $2.29 an hour, why do I do home daycare? Because I LOVE IT. I love my work! I love making children and families happy with my services! It’s my creative outlet, especially for meals and activities. I also love the fact that I can run my own business, can be home with my own children, and provide customized quality daycare for local families. I don’t tell you this to make you feel bad or feel like you should be paying more; my sole intention is to put our pricing into perspective. Every daycare setup is a labor of love and creativity and I believe that they are worth every dollar you will spend.

Our children are only little for so long and since the most formative years are 0-5, getting the best quality care for your children will have a lasting effect on their health, well-being, types of food they are willing to eat, and their manners and social skills. Give them the best.

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Holly’s Recipe: Monte Cristos

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“A Monte Cristo is a fried ham and cheese sandwich, a variation of the French croque-monsieur. In the 1930s–1960s, American cookbooks had recipes for this sandwich under such names as “French Sandwich”, “Toasted Ham Sandwich”, and “French Toasted Cheese Sandwich”. Swiss cheese is typically used.”

Today for breakfast, I served these beauties for myself and the daycare children. They are fairly easy to make but there are a few tips and tricks that make these amazing (compared to other recipes.)

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Monte Cristo Sandwich (recipe for 1 sandwich)
2 slices bread (white or honey wheat)
3 slices deli ham
3 slices deli turkey
1-2 slices cheese (we love muenster or havarti)
1 Tablespoon mayonaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

For Egg Wash
1 egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon milk
Dash of salt and pepper

Topping
1 teaspoon powdered sugar, sifted (optional)
1 Tablespoon of 4-Fruit Jam or Boysenberry jam

Begin with having all items accessible and working on a cutting board. Remove the crust from the bread and place on the cutting board. Spread the mayonaise on both sides then add the Dijon on and spread it evenly on the bread. Put the cheese on the sandwich next. If using 2 slices, put one on each piece of bread. Then layer on your ham and turkey. Flip the top half onto the bottom half with the mayonaise sides inwards.

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Wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap, place on a plate, and put in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes, 1 hour is better. Wrapping the sandwiches helps them stay together when we pan-fry them later.

Once you’re ready to cook them, beat an egg in a wide dish and add the milk, mixing well. Add in a dash of salt and pepper. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is heated, use tongs to dip the entire sandwich in the egg wash, flip it over, and then place in the skillet to cook. Cook until golden, about 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side another 3-4 minutes. Remove and plate. Top with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and/or a dollop of jelly. My favorite is boysenberry or Bonne Maman’s 4 Fruit, though you can use whichever you like. Eat with a fork and knife. Bon appétit!

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Tell Your Child “No” Without Having a Meltdown

The waters of parenting are challenging, mysterious, and deep. To do things the right way is challenging and not often so obvious, as we often know what the end result is but not how to go about achieving it. For instance, you might know that you want your child to accept it when you say “no” to something without having a meltdown, but how do you get to that point? How can you impose boundaries and limits while still being respectful?

I will be honest with you- it takes practice, patience, and training. You need to have a plan or an idea on what you want to say and how you want to handle a situation before it happens. Or at least have a feeling of what kind of message you want to convey. Some of my favorite books on Positive Parenting you can find on Amazon: “Positive Discipline A to Z”, “Positive Parenting”, and “Happiest Toddler on the Block”. These 3 books really cover nearly everything you could want to know about how to handle negative behaviors and how to do it in a way that doesn’t damage your child’s spirit by being too harsh, mean, or having extreme consequences.

The best way to go about handling behavior like this is to think: “What would I tell my friend if I was their caretaker and they asked for something not in the plan?” Proceed in simple terms, being respectful of your child’s needs and feelings, but maintain the boundary. So if your child wants a candy bar from the checkout line area, simply say matter-of-factly, “We’re not getting candy today. Maybe another day.” If they persist, ask them if you can “put it on their wishlist”. Generally, this will appease them since they feel that you understand them (that they want it), even though you aren’t buying it for them. You can also say, “Let’s get a candy bar the next time we come to the store.” Let them have a treat on occasion, so that you’re not always saying no, but always speak respectfully to them when saying no. Validate their feelings and maintain the limit. (The book recommendations I gave go into this technique in more depth).

Having a connection and relationship with your child is important for them to trust your wisdom and insight. If they know you have their best interested in mind, they will mostly act and behave and listen to your wisdom. This is especially important if you want them to listen to you about important topics later in life during their teenage years (think: sex, drugs, alcohol, the wrong group of friends, etc.) The small stuff now is still just as important to them as the big stuff later in their lives. Establishing an open, honest, and trustworthy relationship NOW will help keep lines of communication open during their later years. You can do this by not blowing up, by being present, by working on solving a problem versus blaming someone for why it happened, and for cleaning up a mess or a mistake instead of shaming them. If your child spills food while busing their dish, just say, “Let’s clean that up. Here, I’ll get you a washcloth,” and then show them how to clean up their mess so they can learn responsibility and that it’s not a big deal that they spilled, but they should clean it up.

To teach your child empathy and consideration for others, you must also treat your child in this way. If they are injured, ask them what happened, what hurts, if they want you to kiss it, etc. If your child doesn’t want to hug your relative they barely know, don’t force it. Ask them if they want to give a handshake, a high five, or just wave “hi” or “bye bye”. Respect your child’s personal boundaries. Unless it’s safety-related, let them go to the beat of their own drum when it comes to certain decisions. Let them pick out their shirt from 2-3 choices, have them choose a book or 2 to read before bed, and have them help you do household chores as young as 1 or 2 (like tidying, putting laundry in the hamper, busing their dishes, etc.) which will lead to better habits, responsibility, etc. in their coming years.

Narrating what’s going on is helpful to a child’s understanding of culture and why we do the things we do. If you’re at the store and your child is running, you can say, “We are at the store, we don’t run here. Need to use walking feet.” This establishes a boundary, states where you are, what type of behavior is expected, and tells the child what they CAN do, which is the most important part. Just telling a child “stop it” isn’t very helpful since they don’t know what it is they are doing wrong. Giving a positive frame of reference (walking feet) shows them what’s allowed and will serve as a reminder anytime you’re at a place where “walking feet” are required (which is more than not, haha!). In our family, I also say, “This is a parking lot, hold my hand”, “This is not a playground, you need to sit nice on the chair”, “You see a ceiling above you? That means we’re inside. You need to use your inside voice.”

My 4 year old now will ask if he can scream as soon as we are out of the car (since it’s technically outside when we get out) and when I say yes, he then proceeds to scream in the parking lot on our walk towards the grocery store. He’s got my spunk, that’s for sure! He’s my more challenging child, but he’s also a lot like me, so I owe it to myself (and my mom for what I’m sure I put her through….) to work towards being a Positive Parent, a role model, and the biggest fan for my son. I’m his mommy as my first job and then his confidante/friend as number 2. In that order, so that I can guide him to the right path and then revel in the friendship we have when all’s well. And even when it’s not.

Ways to Help a Child Learn and Develop Autonomy

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A vital skill that all children must learn is autonomy- or independence. It is a skill and attitude about oneself and the capabilities one has in their life. It’s essential for resilience and for a child to listen to their intuition and follow their passions. Autonomy can be as simple as a child using sign language to tell you “milk” or verbally telling you they’d like a drink or as complex as their feelings, desires, or dreams.

Autonomy begins when a parent understands that their child is a separate being, with different needs and feelings. From there, the child develops preferences, likes certain things and dislikes other things, and maybe has a different personality type and manner of communication. They develop opinions and make their own (albeit small) decisions in daily life happenings. When guided properly, children can make wise decisions and can hold up to peer pressure in their preteen years and beyond. It all begins with the mindset that the child is treated with respect, that they feel capable, and that they are worth getting to know.

Autonomy also allows a child freedom of expression within certain limits. Hairstyle, clothing, music, interests, hobbies, and friends are all things that children should have a say in, with parental guidance and limit-setting if you are uncomfortable with something your child wants to do. Always talk about things, don’t just say “no” or “you’re not doing that” because knowing the reason why (if there is one) is just as important to your bond/relationship as being an authority figure.

If you really want your daughter to do ballet but she doesn’t have an interest in it and instead prefers to play an instrument or play sports, let her do so. It’s vital that children be able to try different activities to see what they like and to find things they are good at. The arts are just as important, for boys and girls, and being open to anything your child might be interested in (if appropriate) is important. There’s no bigger slap in the face than a parent not supporting their child’s interests, even if the parent doesn’t take an interest in that activity themselves. Children think simplistically and so they equate you not being involved with them or their activities as you not loving them or other similar feelings. While this isn’t true (maybe you have to catch up on work stuff and have to miss that recital or game), try your best to be there for your child’s performances and games. It feeds into their positive feelings account which helps them feel important, loved, connected, and all those feelings help build resilience, which is crucial for navigating life’s challenges.

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Autonomy also means letting your child make mistakes, try things for themselves (like putting socks and shoes on, getting dressed, taking their clothes off and putting them on, going to the bathroom to go potty on their own, washing their hands, busing their dish after a meal or snack, putting dirty clothes into the laundry basket, cleaning up a mess they made, cleaning up toys, and eventually helping with household chores like doing the dishes, sweeping, mopping, dusting, folding clothes and putting them away, etc.

Autonomy at the park means letting your child climb and explore on their own, with you nearby in case they need help or assistance. Let them climb and explore on their own. Don’t tell them what they should do. If they look like they aren’t sure what to do with something, give them an explanation of what it is or 2 ways they can use it. See what they come up with. Encourage cooperative play and to be on the lookout for others before they go down the slide or jump off a platform. Be concerned for others and verbalize this to them and they will develop empathy.

Let your child try thing for themselves. If they get stuck, try to talk them through it for how to get out (instead of just coming to their rescue and pulling them out). If they are in a dangerous situation, this does not apply! Save that baby! But for everyday stuff, you can help them by talking them through how to fix the problem. This helps children develop critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and gets them to focus on finding their own solutions instead of relying on others. Children will need to learn how to rely on others for help as well as themselves, but self-awareness can be a tool used for safety, confidence, and adeptness.

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 2.11.14 PM.png  You can help your older baby (6+ months) build autonomy by:

  • Talking them through their feelings instead of picking them up the second they cry
    • Empathetically say:
      • “I know you want me to hold you right now, but I’m cooking and it’s not safe to hold you right now.”
      • “Are you hungry? You ready to eat some food? It’s almost ready, just hold on.”
      • “Are you sad that Charlie knocked over your tower? Should we build another one?”
      • “Uh oh! You fell down! Did that scare you? Are you doing ok?”
      • “Bonk! You got a bonk on your head! Does it hurt, honey?”
      • “Okay, bath time’s all done! Let’s get you out of the tub. I know you want to play more, but it’s bedtime. We can have more bath time tomorrow.”
  • Having them use baby sign language to communicate with you
  • Giving them a choice of being spoon-fed or eating with their hands
  • Playing alone with toys on the floor (called “independent floor play”)
  • Looking at books and flipping through them (use board books)
  • Having them give you their bottle/plate/bowl when done
    •  “If you’re all done, give me your bottle/plate/bowl please.”

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 2.13.01 PM You can help your toddler/preschooler build autonomy by:

  • Having (age-appropriate) expectations of your child
  • Giving them small daily responsibilities
  • Having them help you with tasks that need to get done
    • bringing in groceries, raking leaves, picking up sticks in the yard, putting laundry in the washer, taking a small trash can out (like the lint or bathroom trash), or cleaning glass doors/windows
  • Having them be responsible for cleaning up their toys or just 1 thing, like blocks
  • Having them pick out what shirt they want to wear for the day
  • Get dressed by themselves (with your assistance, if needed)
  • Talking them through their feelings instead of picking them up the second they cry or giving in to their demands/wishes
    • Empathetically say:
      • “I know you want that toy, but we aren’t buying that today. If you want, we can put it on your list. Should we do that?”
      • “I know you don’t want to leave the swimming pool, but we have other things we need to do today. Should we come back again soon?”
      • “I know you’re upset that you don’t have presents too, but this is Ingrid’s birthday party. You’ll get to open presents at your birthday party in February.”
      • “I know screaming is fun, but we only scream outside, not inside the car. When we get to the grocery store and are outside, would you like to scream then?”
      • “You’re upset that James took your toy, aren’t you? What’s a solution to this problem? Do you want to go ask him for it back, or take turns playing with it?”

How to Keep Up Housework With Young Children

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To a parent with young kids, it may seem impossible to get any housework done when they are around! Or at all! Ever! In this article, I share my expertise in how I stay on top of chores and housework while having 2 young children in the house.

“Success is determined by your daily choices and habits.”

Oddly enough, it’s the small, daily tasks that add up to the most impact with anything. Budgeting, fitness, clean eating, opening a business, keeping a car or your house clean, etc. all follow this rule.

So how do you be a parent AND still keep your house from being a sty? Here are my proven tips that WORK if you put in the EFFORT:

  1. Clean up after cooking- 25 minutes
    I don’t mean immediately when the stove is still hot, I mean about 1-2 hours after you’re done eating and you’re content. Go put a load of dishes in the dishwasher, wipe the counters and stovetop down, and then put away the dishes when clean.
  2. Make your bed- 10 minutes
    Unless you have some ornate set-up, making a bed isn’t a huge undertaking. It makes a room feel clean, put-together, and invites a sense of relaxation. Plus it gets you in a tidy/clean-up mindset.
  3. Have a designated day for doing laundry and do it all in one swoop- 4 hours inactive, 1 hour active
    My laundry day is Saturday. I strip my bed weekly and my kids beds every 2 weeks. Wash clothes all on Saturday starting at about 8am (the baby is up anyway) and do multiple loads back-to-back: my kids laundry & sheets & towels, whites & our bedding & towels, mediums, darks, kitchen towels & rags & cleaning cloths, daycare linens. Move items along as they are done and have a folding party later in the day. While the laundry is going, save time by doing other household chores!
  4. Grocery shop with a plan in mind- 3 hours (driving & shopping & unloading)
    Having a plan makes all the difference and gives you more time for other projects! I make weekly menus for daycare and also for personal use. From that menu, I make a grocery list for: Costco and General List (I go to Publix, Target, or Save-a-Lot for groceries). Then when the kids are fed and the baby just woke up from morning nap, it’s out the door we go to the store! I have my lists and a plan of where we are driving based on what we’re buying. I stick to the list to stay on budget.
  5. Delegate tasks!
    If you expect to have young children and have 1 person do everything when it comes to housework/yardwork, you’re doomed to fail. Sit down with your significant other and make a chore list with how often each chore needs to be done and who is responsible for it (or do you want to alternate doing it?). Each of you put your name next to the chores you don’t mind doing (ie: dusting, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, mopping, cleaning glass, cleaning the kitchen, mowing the yard, weeding, dishes, trash, etc) and then of the ones remaining, divvy them out. If you have pre-teens or teenagers, enlist them as well. Chores are a part of life and everyone needs to learn these self-help skills to be a functioning adult in society.
  6. Do a little every day. And enlist your children to help!
    When my son was 1.5 years old he was cleaning up spills, putting his shoes away on the shelf, busing his dish after meals and scraping food into the trash, and putting his dirty clothes in his laundry basket. Kids love these types of skills, but unless you show them how to do it and expect it of them, they are going to be slobs! Setting and enforcing limits takes a lot of time and can be quite exhausting, but it also reaps major benefits once the system is in place.As for parents, be sure to put away things when done, put your dirty clothes in the designated laundry basket, bring in the mail and put it into the appropriate mail slot in the sorter, when going from car to house bring all items and trash inside, finish tasks that are begun, fix that burnt out light bulb the second you notice it, repair that ripped sock if you want to salvage it, and throw away junk mail.
  7. Do seasonal or annual cleaning & get rid of stuff!
    This helps because the less stuff you have, the less there is to clean or clutter your mind or home. Twice a year I go through my: shoes, clothes, pants, books, stuff, file cabinet, toys, etc and get rid of everything that I don’t want or need anymore. Some of it is trashed and a lot of it is donated to Salvation Army. Just a few months ago I got rid of about 1/4 the stuff in our garage and just put it down at the street. All items were free (because my priority was getting rid of it, not selling it) and all of it was gone within 5 days. Felt SO good to lighten our load and add benefit to the community.
  8. Have daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, and annual projects.
    My tasks-
    Daily
    : put dirty laundry away, make bed, clean counters after cooking, do 2 loads of dishes, wipe down kids tables and high chairs after use
    Weekly: Clean the kitchen sink with bleach and then clean with soap, dust whole house, all laundry, menu planning, grocery shopping, clean bathrooms, mow yard, weed garden beds, bathe dog
    Monthly: change the air filter for the AC unit, deep clean whole house, dust light fixtures, clean glass and mirrors,
    Seasonal: Decorations, decluttering, adding mulch to garden beds

How to Raise Well-Behaved Children

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Raising well-behaved children. This is what we all go into parenting hoping to do. Sometimes our desires to do things a certain way or to have a certain outcome get derailed because we’re unsure how to get from point A to point B. Or maybe our past baggage from how we were raised gets in the way. Or maybe we just don’t have the tools to guide us along the way.

  1. Begin with the end in mind.
    This goes for just about any topic out there, but think of the long-term consequences of doing any 1 thing regarding child care and child rearing. In the short-run, you may find a solution that may gain you immediate compliance or be a quick fix, but then down the line you will have to undo that conditioning and the workload will be at least double. I figure do it right the first time and be done with it.
    This could be things like: holding a baby until they fall asleep versus gentle sleep training, letting a child do whatever they want without consequence versus showing and telling and guiding children towards appropriate behaviors.
  2. Think about why your child is behaving the way they are.
    If your child is acting out at the grocery store, instead of yelling at them, spanking them, or being a jerk right back to them, think about what is causing the misbehavior. There’s always a reason, although it may take some digging to find it. Hunger, fatigue/tiredness, feeling isolated/lonely, being too hot or cold, being scared, wanting to be held, wanting attention, etc are common reasons. If you can figure out what the cause is, then you can help remedy it. For a child that can talk, ask them what’s wrong. If they are pre-verbal, try a few different things, if possible, to try and rule out possibilities.This also shifts your focus from reactive to responsive, which is a paradigm shift in thinking. It helps you focus on the fact that your child is a person with preferences, opinions, feelings, and needs versus thinking that they are trying to manipulate you or get what they want (though there’s plenty of that later IF you don’t have a solid and consistent foundation/relationship with your child).
  3. Explain things to your child in a simple, matter-of-fact fashion.
    If your child wants to eat a cookie, tell them why they can’t have it versus just saying “no”. In my household, I rarely use the word “no” because I give simple explanations and/or tell the child what the proper way to do things is.So if my son asks for a cookie (and he’s had enough sweets today), I’ll say, “Sweetie, you’ve had too many cookies today. We can have another cookie tomorrow.” So he knows that I’m saying no to a cookie right now, not indefinitely. Or if we are about to eat dinner and he asks, I’ll say, “We are going to eat dinner soon. We can have a cookie after dinner.” Then he understands that he needs to eat food first and then dessert. Notice that I didn’t say something like “eat all of your dinner” or “clean your plate”. Children know when they have had enough and forcing them to eat everything can lead to eating disorders later in life. Just serve smaller portions next time and chalk it up to a lesson learned on your end.
  4. Always tell the truth!
    It may be tempting to say “Oh, the store is closed!” when the truth of the matter is that you don’t want to go. Sooner or later, your white lies will catch up to you and your child may have trouble believing what you say. Hold yourself to it to tell the truth to your child, no matter what. 

    If they say they want ice cream and you don’t have any money left, say, “That sounds fun! I don’t have enough money for that, but we can maybe go next week.” Or if your child wants to go outside to play and it’s 8pm, say, “It’s dark outside right now. We can play outside tomorrow when the sun is up.” Or if they ask where grandma went, say, “Grandma had to go home. She’ll come back another time.”

  5. Involve your child in daily tasks.
    Anything from household chores to laundry to grocery shopping to picking up after themselves, get them involved and get them involved young. About the time a child is 1.5 years old they should be feeding themselves (maybe using a spoon or fork), drinking out of a sippy cup, maybe taking their dish to the sink after mealtime, doing light picking up, putting their dirty clothes in the laundry basket after they take them off, helping you pick out produce at the grocery store (with help), getting food for the pet bowls (with help), unloading safe and unbreakable things from the dishwasher and handing to you, loading the washer with clothes (with help), and other small tasks.Not only does this teach them independence, it gives them confidence. It helps them feel capable of their abilities. It also shows them that things are expected of them in your household. They will go away to college knowing how to do laundry!
  6. Have behavioral expectations of your children and enforce them consistently.
    The biggest flaw parents have is the lack of follow-through. You need to be consistent and use consistent phrases to have credibility that your word means something. This goes hand-in-hand with #4. In our house, we don’t walk around with food, so children have 2 options: “you can sit and eat” or “if you’re done you can bus your dish” (dump any uneaten food and then take it to the sink). This way they understand that they have the choice as to whether they are eating or all done, but that the rules surrounding each setting are determined by me, the parent/provider.Or have an expectation that they put their shoes away in a designated spot when they take them off. Here, I say to my son, “Where do shoes go?” and then I showed him where they go when he was around 1.5 and ever since he has put them there when I say this. He runs off all excited to do it too! I also have a few rules for things out in public like: need to sit nice while out to eat or you’ll sit in the baby chair (high chair),

    You also need to put your own shoes away as well as other items if you want your child to do it with theirs. “Monkey see, monkey do”.

  7. Give them real food from a young age. Don’t keep them on baby food or kid food for long.
    Children develop their eating habits within the first 3 years of life. Texture aversions and food aversions/being scared to try new things are usually developed in this time frame as well if they are not exposed to a variety of textures, fruits, veggies, and etc. Give them real food as soon as you can and limit the amounts of purees and “kid food” because they may never outgrow it!
  8. Narrate what you’re doing as you do it.
    This helps your child learn why you do the things you do as well as lets them hear words, your thought process, and understands the processes for things in life.
  9. Be sure to let your child have independence!
    This is the generation of helicopter parents and children who have caregivers that part take in this method of parenting tend to be more clingy, have more separation anxiety, and cannot do tasks/play alone because they are looking for someone to make commentary and watch what they are doing. Children need to learn that they should enjoy doing things for the sake of doing them, not for the recognition they may get for it. If a child sees you engaged in activities like cooking, cleaning, reading, etc they will naturally want to do their own activities and be independent in their interests. A healthy dose of independence and dependence on caregivers helps children to have their needs met when needed and to also learn to separate from their caregivers.
  10. Challenge them in tasks and movement of their body.
    Children learn best when they are in a comfortable and safe place where they can explore boundaries, test limits, and see what their bodies can do. Safe crawling, walking, climbing, jumping, and running are all important to gross motor development and should be encouraged in appropriate settings.

My Personal Cooking Hacks

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Whenever you have years of experience with something, you come across some tricks of the trade- either things you’ve developed yourself or things others have taught you (in real life or online). I’m not one to hog good ideas, so here are some of the things I’ve thought up or borrowed from others.

  1. After using an ingredient in a can and you have leftovers, be sure to put them in a different container before refrigerating (like canned tomatoes or corn). The ingredients in the can (if opened and exposed to oxygen) get contaminated inside. Jarred items (in glass or plastic) can go right in the fridge.
  2. If you use tomato paste and there’s some leftover from the recipe, portion out 1 Tablespoon amounts onto a piece of parchment paper and put in the freezer until solid. Then put in a freezer-safe bag or container and the next time you need tomato paste, it’ll be fast and easy to get the right amount since most recipes call for even Tablespoons of tomato paste.
  3. To save money and have fresh produce on-hand, consider buying in bulk and prepping then freezing certain things. I do this at Costco with red bell peppers since I love cooking with them and they end up being around $1 each at Costco versus $2 or so at my local grocery store. I buy the 6 pack of peppers then immediately chop them up when I get home and freeze in a gallon ziplock bag.
  4. Buy meats in bulk and freeze. You can either do this with a big package then portion it at home for how it makes sense or you can buy 1-pound packages of meat. Either option is fine. For things like pork tenderloin, figure out how much a standard portion is for your family and then have that be the size you divvy it up into. For us with 2 young children, 1 pound tends to do nicely.
  5. Buy shredded cheeses in bulk and freeze. The cool thing about shredded cheese is that you can easily break off a piece if you need to cook with some and it defrosts rather quickly in the fridge, on the counter, or in a cooking pot. Since it’s likely to spoil fast if kept in the fridge, we always freeze ours. We can get a huge amount of mozzarella, cheddar, Mexican, or Parmesan cheese and save oodles of money by freezing it. (We love cheese in this family!)
  6. Buy butter in bulk and freeze. I picked this up from a former job’s customer. I was cleaning her fridge and bottom freezer and notices that she had butter in the freezer. A great way to stock up on sale (or if you just don’t use it fast enough) so that you won’t run out. Cooks use a lot of butter.

I’m sure there are more things that I do subconsciously for cooking hacks, but these are the main ones that I do/use and they not only help our family eat better but they also make the process not so tedious or time-consuming since I’ve already done some of the work before the cooking has even begun.

Avoiding Power Struggles with Feeding

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Many parents find themselves with a toddler who fights them at mealtime, is picky, or seemingly doesn’t eat “enough” or eats “too much”, according to the parents. Interestingly enough, eating and feeding habits are established and solidified from the first day of life. Every decision and action made affects a child’s ideology and feelings about food and feedings.

In the beginning of a child’s life, their main needs revolve around connection and trust, food, and being kept clean/dry. How a new parent approaches the baby’s needs for connection and food will set up the child’s feelings of relaxation or anxiety regarding food. Babies especially need to be fed on-demand, meaning they need to be given food as often as they need it and as much as they need. For a breastfed baby, this means nursing when baby is giving hunger signals and learning about the individual cues they give for if they are done or just taking a breathing break or have a gas bubble that needs to come out. For a formula-fed baby, it means also feeding them on demand but not limiting their intake to a certain number of ounces or to a certain frequency or time between feedings. It’s best to read and trust your baby, that they will self-regulate and eat only as much as they need and no more. If a parent can internalize this ideology for feeding, power struggles will be eliminated and the child will get the amount they need.

For when a child gets a bit older and is eating baby food/purées, the game changes a little. A child should be offered a wide variety of safe foods to expand the palate. But that doesn’t mean that there should be coercion, bribes, pleading, or asking the child to try some “for mama” or “for daddy”. Eating needs to be a pleasant experience for a child to have a healthy relationship with food when they are older. It’s been discovered that forcing a child to eat when they don’t want to, and the opposite, trying to get a child to stop eating if you think they are eating too much, can both lead to anxiety with food and may cause eating disorders.

Parents need to divide the “responsibility” of eating with their child: the parent provides the food, the time the meal is offered, and the setting. The child determines how much and of what they eat. It’s best if a variety is offered at mealtime and if the child is allowed to self-feed (if at the age when they are able to, even if clumsily). Best results are achieved if the food is set out in front of the child and then the child is left to eat as they see fit. Once they start to slow down and seem disinterested or have finished their food, determine if they want more or if they are truly done.

As a parent, you know your child’s cues best. If they are done, then calmly remove the food from their plate/tray and discard it or save for later. Don’t have them “take one more bite” or “swallow what is in their mouth” if they don’t want to, or “clean their plate”. These are all disrespectful and undermine the child’s ability to self-regulate their intake. They will only eat as much as they need- there’s no reason to force them to eat more or to eat something they don’t like. It’s a good idea to have a napkin on the table that the child can either spit their “bad” food into or if they take it out of their mouth. This gives them an out that is socially acceptable if it’s needed.

If a child has entered the toddler years and is extremely picky with their food, one of the best ways to figure out why is to record the child’s mealtime interaction with you and others in the home and then review it later. Maybe you are pushing the food on your child versus just offering it on the plate: “Here’s some spinach! Eat up!”. Maybe you are bribing them: “Just one more bite then you can have a cookie”. Maybe you are making them finish everything on their plate: “You need to eat all of that”. Maybe you don’t want them to spit out food they don’t like (which is kind of mean, really): “Need to swallow that”. If you’re unsure of what the problem may be, ask a friend or another mom or even your pediatrician or child’s dietician about it.

Just as it would be inconsiderate to expect another adult to “clean their plate” or to “swallow that bite” of food that they find unappealing or distasteful, it is also inconsiderate to do the same to children, except that it’s all too common, especially among Baby Boomers and even older parents who grew up with these ideas. If someone in your life who is a caregiver of your child (even an occasional one), it’s best to speak up about your feelings towards food and eating and be an advocate for your child if needed. If grandma tells your child to “swallow that bite” of food and your child clearly doesn’t want to and is even slightly in distress about it, by all means, let your child spit out the food in an appropriate place (mother’s hands are a typical landing spot, haha!). Hopefully your respectful parenting techniques will rub off and if not, it’s time for a chat about how you would like your children to be treated.

5 Ways Birth is Different from How Media Portrays it

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We’ve all seen movies, TV shows, and commercials where a woman in labor is a sweaty, screaming mess who looks to be in so much pain and is always in a hospital setting. She likely gets the epidural, is stressed to the max, and is yelling at someone about something trivial. And it all usually begins with her water breaking and then rushing off to the hospital. The stereotypical birth is this chaotic image and it’s no wonder so many women are terrified of it!

Here are a few ways that birth is drastically different from mainstream ideas on the matter:

  1. A woman’s water doesn’t usually break until right before the baby comes. 95% of women have their water break towards the end of active labor, right before pushing. Only 5% have their water break first then have labor begin. The movies have it all wrong.
  2. The reason women are stressed while in labor is moreso their lack of information on pain coping techniques like deep breathing, relaxation, water therapy, hypnobirthing, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, walking around, squatting, back massage, aromatherapy, etc. They go in not having any plan for dealing with the early labor contractions and transition (which is very intense). The thing with contractions is that if a woman is tense and tightens her muscles (anywhere, like clenching facial muscles or making fists), her body tenses up even more and the pain level goes up. If instead she closes her eyes and truly relaxes with deep breaths, imagining a peaceful place, tunes out noises and distractions, etc, the body takes this cue as a sign and pain is lessened. I’ve experienced this difference first-hand with my Braxton Hicks contractions with my first pregnancy.
  3. Women are always delivering babies in hospitals. There are many more options than just this one! Birth Centers with a certified midwife, home birth, and even birthing in nature, like a stream or under a waterfall! Only 10% of pregnancies are considered high risk (high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, history of miscarriage, multiple births (twins, etc), and women that have had premature babies before). A high-risk pregnancy needs to have an Obstetrician and the the baby needs to be delivered in a hospital setting with the equipment and specialists to handle any emergency situations that may happen. The other 90% of pregnancies are low-risk and the medical interventions and high-stress environment of a hospital are totally unnecessary (like the IV drip with Pitocin in it, the epidural, the episiotomy cut of the perineum skin, the outrageously high rate of C-sections in the United States, etc)
  4. Women are always delivering in supine position (reclined, on their back, legs spread in stirrups). Not only is this position the most difficult to push a baby out, but it’s also the most limiting in terms of comfort, mobility, and the mother’s control of her own birth experience. Doctors like to have things be predictable and unfortunately, birth is something that is still institutionalized in the States. Anyone who wants to labor in a different position, on a birth ball, in a shower or tub, etc is told that they cannot or that it’s not safe! (Yes, really). I had a friend whose OB told her that she couldn’t labor in a tub because it can give the baby an infection. I delivered my son in a jacuzzi tub, which, if done correctly with proper monitoring and care, is entirely safe.
  5. Birth isn’t always a scream-fest. My fist son’s birth was quite peaceful and quiet and I’m sure my partner thought I was either a superhuman or just made to make and have babies! My midwife said I was a rockstar and asked if I was sure this was my first birth! Haha! I just wish that there would be better representation of the different ways birth can go- peaceful ways and others as well.

 

Some good videos/movies to watch on methods of more holistic childbirth and information on coping techniques for labor pains:

  • The Business of Being Born
  • Call the Midwife
  • Freedom for Birth
  • Birth as We Know it
  • Welcome to the World
  • National Geographic- In the Womb
  • 9 Magical Months
  • A Baby Story
  • Babies
  • Pregnant in America

The Job I Never Thought I’d Enjoy: Being a Stay-At-Home-Mom

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When I was growing up, I knew that I always wanted kids. From age 12 and maybe earlier I’ve loved children, found them entertaining and fun and cute, and knew that I’d be a mom one day. I also thought that I would be the kind of mom that would have some sort of a career and drop the kid(s) off at daycare without much thought, worry, or concern.

Fast-forward to when I was pregnant with my first son, and I began looking into daycare homes and centers and found that even the most expensive options still didn’t meet my standards on what I thought my child deserved. So as I was working a “kid job” as I call it, my mom suggested that I do the necessary training to open my own home daycare. So I dove right in, taking online classes and the exams necessary. A LOT of reading- both required material and other topics that I personally wanted to learn about. I was ready to open up shop when my son was 2 months old but ran into some roadblocks and had to postpone opening.

It ended up being 6-9 months that I stayed home with my son and was a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) before I got another job, which was a 3rd shift custodian job at a nearby school. I was able to work full-time and still raise my son (until he was about 18 months old) when I went back to daytime work. But the experiences I had with all 3 options (SAHM, working but raising my son, and working plus putting my son in daycare) really helped me compare the pros and cons. I can say without a shadow of doubt that me staying home with my son was the best of all options- financially, health-wise, cooking-wise, getting things done wise, and happiness-wise.

The most unexpected thing for me was how much LOVE I had for my baby after a few months of time together. I loved him more than myself, more than my dog, my family, my boyfriend…. and it scared me. I was very critical of anyone watching him, the environment, the safety, the food and nutrition, and the supervision. Even with family I was this way, the only person I didn’t worry about was my mom cause she’s more safety-conscious than me.

I think the thing I loved most about being a SAHM was the fact that the whole day ahead of my was MINE. I didn’t have somewhere to be at a certain time (ie: work), I didn’t have to pack a lunch for myself or my son, didn’t have to worry about traffic or accidentally leaving my son in his car seat, or if he had enough supplies at daycare (diapers, wipes, bottle, formula, changes of clothes, sippy cups, etc), or if I forgot to brush my teeth that day, or if I remembered my grocery list that I’d shop off of after work…. and the list goes on.

The best part of being a SAHM was that I could sleep in with my son if we both needed it, take the day as lazy or adventurous as we wanted, take a leisurely walk with the dog in the morning and throughout the day and actually enjoy ourselves, go to a splash pad for fun, pick up used kids items and books to establish my daycare supplies, make homemade pastries and yogurt, cook healthy and delicious dinners, grocery shop and get good deals, take my son to the park, bathe and groom my dog, do endless loads of laundry, read business literature, keep up with my business records, read online articles, meet up with other mommies, have playdates, and many other activities.

I’ve never been the kind of person that does well with scheduled things like appointments, personal hygiene appointments, being to a certain place at a certain time, etc. so for me, the biggest advantage of being a SAHM was the lack of an official schedule. We had our own daily routine but it was VERY flexible. Like if my son had a blowout diaper when waking up, we could take time in the morning to get a bath and not have it be chaotic, versus now if that happens it’s a quick hose-down in the tub followed by frantic dressing and hustling out the door. Not that being a SAHM is no stress, there’s not as much “be on time” stress that is very hard to do with children, especially if you have to wake them up- to do it gently and pleasantly or fast and tantruming? Pick your poison if you’re a working mom!