Wednesday, May 15, 2019

5 ways to deal with working mom guilt:

Hi! I know I've been missing but it's for a good reason --
I've written a book! All you need to know about parenting, and I've been a big caught up with the editing and release! It's now in stores and online so do order, if you enjoy my blog you will love it! It's packed with fun stories and even more tips and tricks on parenting--
Click below for :
Amazon India- 

Kindle-

Amazon.com -


Hope you enjoy the read!!!


Now for mom guilt, which seems most apt, while I myself have been trying to juggle it all --
One of the most common questions I get is how do you do it all, and how do you do it guilt free. The reality is though, that regardless of how balanced everything may look on social media, or sound otherwise, there's no way to do it all without feeling like you're sacrificing something. It's definitely never guilt free. However, there are ways to make sure that the time you do get with your children is maximized so that you can be more effective as parents, and your children also know how truly adored they are.

5 ways to deal with working mom guilt and be effective parents: 

1. Quality over quantity: when you do get time with your babies, put away your cell phone, turn off the television and give them all the energy you have left - which sometimes isn't much, but make sure they know they have your undivided attention. Ask them about their day and probe with interesting questions so that you get answers beyond "nice". Instead of how was school, ask them if they read a book, what their best friend was wearing or who had the yummiest break box at snack time. If you're lucky, you may even get a short story out of them, as a response.

2. Weekend time: The weekends are really your time to maximize everything. Even if you're social and get out a lot, try and ensure that you include the kids in your routine, or then get out without them once they are asleep. You will be surprised at how much they grow and pick up from being out and about with you. Meals out and managing them outside gets easier as they grow.  So take them for a swim, to the beach, a play area or some place fun and give them attention while you can. It makes it easier to get busy with household things when home.

3. Set time everyday for your children: This could be something small like making sure you sit with them and read them books through their dinner, have a family meal or that you bathe them yourself everyday. Kids thrive on routine, and them knowing that you will be there at a set time everyday no matter what - even if it's just bedtime, is more important to them than we realize. It also gives them something to consistently look forward to when they are missing you during the day.

4. Talk to them and explain the importance of your work: No matter how significant or insignificant you think your day has been, explain it to your child. Tell them why you go to work, why it's important for you to earn for your family and what you did in your day that was meaningful. This will not only involve them in the process, it will help create an understanding and build their appreciation and values too.

5. Remember that you are setting an example: It's not easy to close the door on them and walk out to work. Specially when they are home from school, done with school or on holiday (my current situation since my babies are on summer break), but it's important to keep in mind and know that you are a role model for your children. As parents, they look up to us no matter what we do, and we pave  roads in their minds and carve their understanding of how the world works. This holds true for stay at home moms as well, you are their role model no matter what, so tell them your purpose, and be proud of who you are and what you are doing, and they will be proud of you too!


It's never easy, it's never guilt-free, but if they know you are doing all you can (and you know you are doing all you can), then that's truly the best you can do.


More to come!

-TKV




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Friday, August 31, 2018

6 Parenting Truths to Digest


        A lot of the information available out there (note - on social media in particular), pushes us into a bubble. One where everyone looks airbrushed, happy and skinny. This includes mothers with spanking new babies. And while there maybe a few who come out of the hospital looking skinny and airbrushed (like Kate Middleton of course), most of us come out in mesh undies, with leaking body parts and in baggy maternity clothes that we were hoping to never seen again (or at least tuck away for a while). What many social media accounts (even bloggers like me are guilty of this) are missing is a big fat dose of reality that most are afraid to convey. I for one am a believer that the reality doesn't make you look weak, but instead it shows that you are persevering and imparts strength to others who are likely in a similar boat. So here are some mom truths that every mom should know (regardless of how many kids you have or how old they are).


Essential Parenting Truths: 

1. Being a parent can be overwhelming.

         I'm skipping the sugar coating and getting to the point - post delivery, however you delivered, you are physically exhausted. To add learning to be a human vending machine at all hours of the day and night, in addition to dealing with all the post partum pain and bleeding, is downright insane. However, it is something we all go through and try to combat with a smile - as new parents are expected to be overjoyed and thrilled. I vividly remember feeling venomous towards the many people who had the guts to ask me "when's the next one?" when they visited me in hospital post delivery (and by the way, this was after my second and last one, but you guys know it as it's probably happened to you too).
       As parents though we are juggling our emotions constantly, and long after our physical wounds have healed. Whether it's mom guilt versus wanting me time, or the mix of happiness and sadness while we watch our kids grow up - it's a constant emotional tussle. And being overwhelmed through a lot of it is not only okay, but it is indeed normal!


Always.


2. Postpartum depression is real.

       Why does no body want to talk about this when the reality is that those in need can only get the help they need when they are able to open up and talk about? Being a new parent is isolating as your schedule is completely different from everyone else while nursing, your hormones are all over the place and you are physically consumed with taking care of a new baby. That's usually also when postpartum depression hits due to hormonal changes, and not everyone has someone around to notice and drag them to seek help. Often women have to stand up for themselves and seek the help they need. Which is why it is so important to talk about it, so that others know too that they are not alone and that what they are going through is something that is alright, and something that they can come out of. They need to know that they will feel happy and balanced again and they will be able to enjoy their children too, but to get there they need to be recognize they need help and to able to accept the help they need.


3. Self-love is essential.
 
        Essential to your happiness, your child's happiness, your marriage, and your ability to parent. Absolutely essential. It's also an upward battle though with yourself, thanks to the millions of pictures online of women who look absolutely nothing like the pictures they post online. As someone who frequently posts under the "nomakeupnofilter" hashtag, and means it - let me tell you this, you have to love, accept and also forgive yourself. Accept that your body has changed, whether not externally then internally through birthing, nursing, being pregnant and all the hormonal changes it has gone through. Forgive yourself for eating anything you though you shouldn't, not going to the gym when you felt you should have and for allowing yourself to simply be human. And loving yourself regardless, because until you are happy with who you are and how you are - any other love you get won't feel as real, as it will be feeding only a pit of self doubt. A confident woman on the other hand has more love to share with everyone around her and is less focused on the airbrushed plethora too.


4. Preconceived notions be gone.

       I was in Disneyland Orlando in 2011, shortly after my wedding (with no plans of children on the horizon), and saw a mother chasing her toddler while he was on a leash. I was pretty aghast, and I'm quite sure I passed some judgmental looks and thought some even worse things in my head. This year, in 2018, I was at Disneyland with my two kids and two strollers and my backpack leash - fully prepared to use it (and I have used it several times over the last 4 and a half years since I had my first child). I was definitely apprehensive the first time, about people (like me in 2011) judging me, but then realized that it doesn't matter what anyone thinks because keeping my toddlers safe is my first priority (dirty looks be damned). This is just one of the many many instances where I have had to change my mind set and go from being annoyed at the crying baby on the plane to apologizing for the shrieking badly behaved baby on the plane.
     Parenting teaches you more than any other experience I have ever had (including schooling), and one of the first things I learned was to let go on my preconceived notions and judgments, because once your priorities shift to your little baby and their immense needs - everything else is irrelevant.     

5. Life is up and down, that's just how it is.

       Everything is not always going to be smooth sailing, unfortunately. Kids do fall ill, have off days and seriously disobedient days, and we all go through things that we would rather not talk about. I for one have had a particularly rough year with negative life incidences and seriously ill immediate family members -but it's not something that I have chosen to share on my social media because I needed privacy myself to get through it all (and while I am private in many ways, I am someone who believes these things should be shared if they can do collective good, but was too stumped processing reality myself this year to share). What I have realized though is that everyone goes through these things between deaths and cancers and illnesses and environmental calamities and fertility issues - we are all affected by some degree or another. And yet, when we scroll through people's pages we let the happy faces and facades get underneath our skin and can make us feel worse (or atleast more isolated) about what we are going through, when in reality we all have problems and issues that are easier to not talk about or dwell on.


6. It's alright to prioritize yourself.

     Taking time for yourself, even if it's a long shower with blaring music while ignoring the kids banging on the door, or getting out for a girl's night or a date night doesn't mean that you are neglecting your children or that you love them any less. It just means that you love yourself - as an individual too. And it's hard to prioritize your individual needs around your kids because they have demands constantly (which is fine, who else will they express it too), but we tend to get lost in their needs. So every once in a while, whether you feel you need it or not, take a few minutes or hours (or even a day or two - I know people who love getting a weekend away), to focus on yourself, because that too will make you a better parent. For children it's about quality time and not quantity as much. If you are around all day but answering calls and emails they will be frustrated. However, if you take a few hours to get to work, or catch up with friends and come back put away your phone and play games with them - they will choose the latter in a heart beat.
Definitely Me time 


I hope this helps you feel a little better about being human, (or about not being a part of the rest of us who are human), as it's really the purpose of most of what I write.

More to come!
-TKV

P.S. Sorry about the long silence,  point 5 hopefully explained why I've been MIA.



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Monday, April 30, 2018

10 things to avoid in your baby's skin care products:

Hello!

Sorry for the radio silence last month, those following me on social media (Facebook & Instagram), know that I have been contributing to a couple magazines, in addition to working on a start up, so my writing efforts were channeled elsewhere last month. For those in India, do check out March's Mother and Baby magazine for a detailed piece on how to raise fearless feeders, and April's Conde Nast Traveller (hard copy of both) for some summer inspiration on adventure holidays with kids!!


I've been posting a lot about skin care cosmetics, and how it is safer for our little ones that we use more natural and/or organic products. Particularly in today's day, when most of the products available in the market  have chemical components in them, and harsh surfactants (cleansers). However, we now know through the news and scientific studies that it is as dangerous to put these on your skin as it would to eat them. Our skin is porous and receptive, and chemicals can seep through to our blood and have dangerous long term effects. So, it is best to know what you are putting on your skin, and especially your babies' skin, and is even better to keep your kids away from products that have a high chemical content.

If you are from the school of thought that says "well, we used these products/ chemicals growing up and are fine." I've used that argument in the past too when I didn't know better. However, having your own children changes a lot more than your body, it can change your perspective too, and the fact of the matter is - diseases like eczema, polycystic ovarian syndrome, autism and the multitude of cancers we see were just not as prevalent before as they are today. I personally have suffered from PCOS for most of my life too, and know the reproductive and hormonal havoc it causes.So, if it's simply a matter of being safer with our children by changing our product preferences, then why not?




What is the difference between organic and natural?

There is a difference between organic products and natural products, and also natural actives. So, let's start with what that is and if and why it matters.

Natural actives - products with these have some natural elements to it but are not all natural, for example it may have oats or avocado, but then a ton of chemicals too. Most companies that claim to have naturals, natural ingredients, or natural sensations, particularly from age old brands, fall into this category. However, these are NOT natural or organic products. They basically have one or two natural ingredients, and can be filled with a ton of lathering chemicals, solvents, thickeners and chemical preservatives. Please avoid these, and check the label and ingredient list before you purchase these.


Natural products - a fully natural product can be herbal, organic or just natural - which means that it has plant and vegetables or herbs, it's important to check if it's with natural elements or ALL NATURAL. And also to keep in mind that this does not mean that it is organic.


Organic - 100% organic is almost a myth unless something has no preservatives and then the shelf life will be non existent (so that's very difficult to achieve and also not the safest to use over time as atleast natural preservatives are needed in skin care products to keep microbes from growing ). However, there are some natural preservatives that can be used in organic product, to get to a high % of organic, with the rest of the product being natural (which is the best and safest to use). 


What is organic? It is ingredients grown on an organic farm, where the water, the cleansers, and everything coming into contact with the ingredient is organic (and there are no chemicals or pesticides that touch the produce at all). While all natural is amazing, organic is a choice that's more expensive (as it's harder for brands to achieve) but is a worthwhile choice for our babies as it is purer in quality.


Organic labels for organic certified products include - made with Organics ingredients (where the rest are natural); and organic - which is a higher level of organic.



Ingredients to avoid in Baby Care products:

The most important thing is to read labels, though they sometimes look like greek, and even natural extracts have long names that make them seem like chemicals, while some harsh and even toxic chemicals have quick abbrevations that make you dismiss them completely. Truthinaging is a great great resource to quickly look up the toxicity of any ingredient you are unsure of. 

Below is a list though of ingredients to avoid in Baby Care Products (and of course, what they are and why).


10 things to avoid in baby care products:

1. Parabens:
Parabens are inexpensive and effective preservatives that were, until recently, used in 80% of cosmetic and personal care products. The most common being methylparaben and propylparaben. However, they have been found to mimic estrogen, which research has shown time and time again to be linked to the development and progression of breast cancer. Infact, studies have shown that 18 out of 20 breast cancer tumors have parabens in them (and more than half of all tumors appear in the portion closest to the underarm, where deodorant is used). So not only, are they dangerous, but they seem to stay in the body over time. 

2. SLS/SLES (more commonly known as sulphates): Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), are surfactants. They are put into products because of their cleaning properties and because they foam. Lather is often associated with being clean, and with a product's ability to clean,  even though the two things are unrelated! A product without lather can be just as effective a cleanser as a product that lathers a great amount. However, the one with less lather is likely to be a safer with chemicals that are not as harsh. 
             While SLS/ SLES's were investigated thoroughly as they were suspected to be carcinogenic (cancer causing), the jury on that is still out. However, it is known that they are harsh irritants, can cause skin allergies, and they also increase the ability of other products to stay in the skin. They have been found in the brain, lungs and heart - where you wouldn't want any chemicals to be! They have also been linked to causing fertility problems - in both men and women. 

3. PEGs, or polyethylene glycol:  is a mixture of compounds including plastic polymers that have been stuck together. These are great for making your creams and washes feel thicker (and emulsified). They often have a number attached which represents the weight of the plastic. If the fact that it's plastic is not alarming enough, please consider that anything with a PEG cannot be used on a cut, scrape or what many bottles will call "broken skin," this is because it's great at literally getting under your skin, and sometimes has a very dangerous impurity called 1,4 dioxine, that is cancer causing and can be given out as a bi-product. PEGs are famous for their penetration enhancing effect, which means that they help other ingredients too get directly into your system, so do you trust everything else that's in your product which already has PEGs? 

4. PPGs or proplyene glycol, absorbs water and is often used to make anti-freeze. It's also a solvent and penetration enhancer like PEG. Even though it absorbs water, it actually dries out the skin. It's used as an industrial cleaner to clean out machinery, due to it's harsh nature. Over time, it can cause skin issues like eczema and contact dermatitis.

5. Phenoxyethanol: Phenoxyethanol, began to be used as a paraben alternative, and now is very commonly used - as a preservative. Over time, it has proved to be just as deadly. Not only is it a culprit in contact dermatitis and skin conditions like eczema, but it has been linked to issues in the central nervous system, as it has toxic effects on the brain. In girls, use over time, can cause reproductive damage.

6. Sodium Benzoate: Sodium Benzoate is actually used in products - many many products, that claim to be natural and safe. However, sodium benzoate encourages the production of free radicals in the body, that actually destroy your DNA!! When mixed with other things like Vitamin C (which is great on it's own), it creates benzene, a common culprit in cancers. 

7. Acrylates: These are used in parlors to help bind your acrylic nails to your hands. So what are they doing in on your baby's skin? They help lotions appear thick and creamy. In concentrated form, they cause major skin issues, but even in a milder form, they seep into the skin and can cause harm in the long run.

8. Harsh Surfactants like CAPB: Surfactants are what causes our products to foam. There are mild surfactants that are safe and harsher ones like cocamilopropyl betine that cause more lather (even though they do not actually clean any better than the mild surfactants), and also cause more skin issues and toxicity. This is found in most bubble baths of chemical origin, and are known to react with other common chemicals in skin products to create nitrosamines, which are cancer causing. Its a very common trigger in eczema, rosacea and contact dermatitis too.

9. Mineral Oil: Once these were all the rage, but now we know better. We know that mineral oils are derived from petroleum, and they actually block the skin and do not let it breathe. They form a thick layer over the skin and stop air from going in and out. This causes skin to age prematurely, and produce acne, in addition to stopping the skin from giving out toxins, which is one of its primary functions.Mineral Oil is often contaminated with dangerous hydrocarbons too, which can cause havoc in your baby's body.

10. Silicones: Silicones are like polymers, they go under a multitude of different names (eg methicone, dimethicone, trimethicone, dimethiconol, cyclypentasyloxane). They are smoothening, water resistant, and cheap. However, they can dehydrate your skin, interfere with cell growth, and are very difficult to get off your skin. They also interfere with other ingredients, for example, if your mosturizer has silicone in it, it will not be as effective as a moisturizer. 

If everything is so unsafe what is safe?
There are an endless number of natural oils like olive, sweet almond, macademia, calendula and so on that are now being used in formulations at an increasing rate that are completely safe. Not only are they safe but they are great for the skin and the body. The cosmetic industry is well aware of these issues, but often choose less than safe ingredients due to the availability and pricing of them. However, as parents we need to know what we are using on our kids skin and no better. I am choosing not to mention any product names as the purpose of this is purely educational and not to push forward any brands. 

I hope this list gives you a good place to start with educating yourself on what to and what not to use on your babies and on yourselves too.

More to come!xx

TKV



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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

8 crazy things toddlers ask and how to (and how not to) respond:

         Toddlers ask a lot of questions, a lot of exhausting questions. Currently, my 4 year old wants to know all about the sun and the moon, and is fascinated that he can't see stars in the day. Their innocent curiosity, often displayed with the endless number of "Why??'s" is their way of learning about their world, and also of pushing us to teach them.
        Amongst these fascinating questions though are some really hilarious ones. Or at least hilarious to us since it's completely innocent on their part. Below are some of the many crazy questions toddlers ask, along with some diffusing replies (and I wouldn't help including what I want to say to these, but have to hold my tongue to quell the curiosity every time).

8 crazy things toddlers ask and how to (and how not to) respond:


1. "Mama, is there a baby in my stomach?"
The perks of being an older sibling is that your older toddler has seen a lot, and remembers all kinds of things. Including the baby in your tummy. My son often asks if there is a baby in his father's tummy, and on occasion if there is one in his own.
What I want to say, but don't: Why on earth would you want one there?
What to say instead: Only when they are grown up, responsible and married, then can women have babies in their tummies, so that they can become mamas.


2. "Why is your hair brown now?"
I coloured my first in the first half of last year, and my son to date, asks me why it's brown now. I doubt he remembers what it looked like before but the conversation has stayed with him and he likes to repeat it on occasion.
What I want to say, but don't: I was bored, felt like I was in a rut and wanted a change so I took it out on my hair.
What to say instead: I wanted my hair colour to be closer to yours (or someone else you know with the shades you got), because I love you so much. (You can also add in a line on how these things do not matter in the long run).


3. "Where do babies come out from?"
This is a common one, particularly for elder siblings.
What I want to say, but don't: You really do not want to know!! It's a watermelon through a donut hole. Though can you go back in so I can nap?
What to say instead: Mama's body is miraculous and is able to make room for the baby to come out from her tummy. (This leaves it a bit open to interpretation - and you can get into more details depending on the age of your child).


4. "When will I get hair down there?"
Kids love to be in our space, it makes them feel connected, which makes it difficult (particularly for moms) to keep our kids out of the bathrooms. Now that my son is 4 and I know he has a good memory, I am trying more firmly to put my foot down on letting him in when I am changing (bathing has been a no for a bit longer), which at times literally means throwing something somewhere to make him go get it, and then running in and locking the door to screams and banging - then hurrying as much as you can (I'm not kidding).  Invariably though at some point, they are likely to get curious about what they see, and we don't always know when that point is.
What I want to say, but don't: When  you have it you will be going through all kinds of pain to get of it.
What to say instead: When you are older, and become an adult, changes in your body are a natural part of growing up. 


5. "Can I have a/another brother/sister?" 
I'm not sure why my son wants more siblings, maybe it's a sign of how well he's adjusted to the one. However, I know an increasingly number of people who don't want second kids (seems to be a logical outcome of the increase of women in the workforce), let alone a third or more. This is not just an understanding that both parents need to sure but something that, once decided, needs to be communicated to our babies to.
What I want to say, but don't: So many choices have me biting my tongue, from "Yup, as soon as your dad can get pregnant and start lactating," to "as soon as we win the lottery!"
What to say instead: You two have each other, and are already best friends, and will get even closer once your sister gets older, she will play, talk, run and keep you on your toes - you really won't want for anything when it comes to companionship. (You can use examples, I always tell him how close I am to my brother and how we used to live together. In case of an only child, tell them how you are there for them and are their best friend). 


6. "Why are you putting a leaf in your underwear?"
Literally what my son said when he barged into the bathroom last summer on vacation and saw a tampon for the first time. This was really not fun and I stammered for a few minutes before I could say anything.
What I want to say, but don't: My monthly penance is due, and let's just be grateful that it's here. 
What to say instead: Girls and boys have different bodies and when girls grow up there bodies are capable of growing babies, this is a part of the process. (You can simplify it more if you don't want questions about more babies, but that's the gist of what worked even on my 3 year old).   


7. "Will you marry me when I grow up, mama?"
Kids are so beautifully innocent and naive, and this question touches my heart as it is simply their expression of their love for us and not wanting to be apart.
What I want to say, but don't:  Don't worry honey, I'm going to make your potential significant others so miserable (to prove they are worthy of my baby) you may not feel like you have a choice. Though, if you still feel this way in 20 years, we can have this conversation again (with a shrink).
What to say instead: You will never be far away from me my baby, I love you to the moon and back. (And if you feel they need more indulging, go for it! You can even tell them that you are always there for them).  

8. So mama, are you a cow?
Yes, my son actually asked me this in as many words, at the age of 3 and a half. He has an amazing sense of humor, and after discussing what I used to feed him and his sister when I used to be nursing, he asked me this and actually moo'ed at me!
What I want to say, but don't: I sure as hell have felt like one, thanks to you two!
What to say instead: Mama's body is amazing, in every species. And after carrying a baby in our tummies, we are able to make milk to feed out little ones. All mammals/ animals that carry their young, are able to feed their little ones themselves.  This stops when our babies are a little older (which also quells the - Can I feed from your chest question).


Hope you got some giggles out of this one mama, along with some answers for your tots too!
More to come,
-TKV



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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Older versus younger toddler behaviour (and what to expect):


Toddlerhood, particularly the dreaded twos and threes often leave parents wondering what to expect, and when their children will become more sane and rational (and less likely to throw a tantrum on demand).

As my son approaches 4, I see a number of changes and shades of maturity setting in (and not just with him, but amongst this friends too). Quite a stark difference from a year ago. Below are some of the major changes you can see as they become "older toddlers," as compared to the terrific twos and ones.

What to expect from your older toddler: 

1. Mind of their own: Almost every toddler today has a mind of their own, frankly I am yet to meet one that doesn't - however, they are quite righteous and stubborn about what they want by the time they get to 4. To the point where it is difficult to convince them that their way is not the right way. Unlike 2, where bribery worked better.
            My son went through a phase at his music class where he was insistent that the neighbor was going to come get him (wasn't totally illogical because he had overreacted to something in a story), and I have spent months as the only parent in class, until he settled again post Christmas break, because there was nothing I could do to get him to change his mind (post which he goes on only as long as my handbag is in class or cell phone cover is in his pocket, as proof that I am not moving from the door). What worked was slowly displaying and proving to him over a period of months that is safe, and I am standing right outside for the entire duration of the class. But bribery, distraction and quick fixes no longer work.

2. Less tantrums more refusals: While my two year old would scream like a banshee (just like my one year old currently does), if he didn't get his way, my almost 4 year old just refuses to do what he doesn't want to do. If you try to force them however, heavy shrieking and tears are likely to follow. No definitely means no, with a few exceptions.

3. Manipulation and how: They are now more acutely aware of cause and effect and have a good understanding of how it works. I get comments like "Mama, if you don't let me play right now, I will cry," and from this morning - "if you don't get ready and drop me to school yourself (as opposed to in his carpool), I won't go" (followed of course by him taking off his school bag and kicking off his shoes).

4. They got the smarts: If I tell him I'm calling in someone to help me - help is always needed at bedtime - (like his father when he's driving me nuts at bedtime), he will wait and say "But I know you didn't dial." I thought I was a genius, but now I feel outsmarted in every way by this little three year old who knows me just way too well. 

5. More phases (and ones that take longer to go away): because their reasoning and logic behind their "phases" is sound (atleast in their minds), and is not something that they can easily swayed from, and they take time and persuasion to get over the phases they go through at this age. For example, my son has decided that he will no longer go for classes unless I drop him, initially he wanted me in the classes, but with time and persuasion, I am now on drop and pick up duty (I am trying to wean one at a time, though I honestly do not mind as I get time with him, but there's less I get done in the office and I am exhausted trying to make up the time at work and with my little one who often gets dragged along). I understand that his demand comes from fear, and from an insecurity, and it takes time persuade him otherwise. However, by being there for him, pampering him (with time and affection not material things) and making him realise how important he is to me, I can see a huge improvement and he's much less clingy.
Likewise, he went through a hitting phase recently, that too was something he felt he was right to do as he would say that the other child "took his things," or "hit him first/ in the past," or said something that hurt him. However, with a lot of repeated explaining that he will not have his friends around if he hits, that they will not want to play with him and that he is hurting other people with his actions, this phase ended too (it did take about a month though).

6. Logic works: So clearly, what works when them when they are being stubborn, over smart, or going through a phase - is logic. Sometimes it clicks with them immediately, other times it takes a lot of repetition and proving your point again and again. However, it does usually work and sink in - so stick to your guns too and keep going (on the big things please - don't make an issue on the little things where they are often just pushing their boundaries to see what they can get from you).

7. More independent: There are shades of little teenager - stubborn, sometimes argumentative, and insistent, but there are also shades of being a grown up. They want to start going to the loo on their own, trying to wear their own clothes, don't always want to hold your hand, feed themselves, and even pour their own water (from a glass). That doesn't mean that they don't need you when they are hurt or want to cuddle you when they need it - it just may not always be when you want it.

8. Stories, stories and stories: Most love books (specially if you have made it a habit from early on), but it's the "talking stories" (as my son calls it), that can really teach them what you want to. These were the most effective tool when I was expecting, as it was my way of conveying to my son how truly special he is to me, and how he is really my first baby. It was always my way of making sure that he knows what to expect when the new baby comes and that he doesn't feel insecure in the process. And they worked. Now that he is older, I see him telling me talking stories about his day, and  also asking me about mine and wanting to hear every detail in story form. Use these moments to teach them valuable lessons - here is your chance to help them shape up to be the men and women you want them to be, and inculcate the values you want them to have.
      We often touch on stories of empathy, compassion, and kindness, along with equality and empowerment - not in as many words, but through the stories I tell him about the things I have seen.

9. More afraid: I find my toddler, as he grows older, being more afraid of real world things. Not necessarily monsters, and gruffalo's but of animals in the jungle and why they behave the way they do (which I often explain to him is not really scary, and that they are far away, I have even told him stories of being on safari and how I am safe), of the big bad wolf (which I keep reinforcing is an "imaginary/ story book creature"), and of death and old age (what little they can understand of it).
      I am a strong believer that if they grow up knowing something - it is less of a shock to them when they actual find it out. So I do not shy away from answering big looming questions - like death and the like, instead I soften the blow and explain the realities of it (without going into "if we drive fast etc,  accidents happen", but rather "when someone is really old then...").

10. Remember everything: It's a sudden transition - when they go from forgetting everything to suddenly telling you about something that happened a few months ago. Or at least it feels sudden. However, their memories are more lasting - my son remembers a lot about his third birthday (which makes me think I should have done something smaller, since he wants it replicated exactly the same way!). It is also a good reminder for me to be careful about what all I expose him to, I can no longer jump into the shower with him post a swim because it is more convenient and I don't want to be shivering in my swim suit, it's not a long lasting memory I want him to have. So keep this in mind when you are interacting with your children.

All this and more on Instagram!
Hope this gives you a better idea of what to expect as your toddler gets older!
More to come!xx
-TKV

P.S. Enjoying the images? They are from Mommy Diaries on Instagram, a community that is now 40K followers strong. Do follow along!

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Friday, December 29, 2017

10 ways to bond with your younger child:

        This is my last blog post of the year, and before I go into what it's all about, I want to start by saying a big THANK YOU, to each and every one of you - whether your reading my page for the first time, or the 100th, because this blog, really started as notes on my phone while nursing, and I cannot believe what a community it has become. Not just on here with the 140,000 readers now, but the 60,000 + of you, on social media too, and while you get information, love and lots of humor (I hope) from me, I get a lot of strength, positivity and empowerment from each one of you that shares, likes, comments, sends feedback or even reads my posts - so really, thank you! Tons more to come in the New Year, and some hopefully incredible updates that I have been working hard on - so stay tuned for that! xx

When it comes to babies, it’s not always love at first sight, and that is really okay. Parents often pressurise themselves to feel as strongly as they believe they should right from the get-go. Understanding your child, and their personality takes time, and similarly the bond will develop and keep getting stronger. Post-delivery, we are dealing with stress, exhaustion, hormonal changes and a host of other physical changes that we are just starting to get a grasp on, try not to pressurize yourself even more.



There is even more stress the second time around as we worry about how our elder ones will adjust, we miss them while we are in the hospital and we are coming to terms with our new family dynamic. Some find it even harder to feel bonded the second time around and I often get questions not only about integrating your younger child into the family dynamic but also about feeling as bonded to the baby the second time around when we are already so busy with the first.

While I feel equally close to both, I do constantly feel the struggle to make sure that I spend as much time with my little one and not get too consumed by the demands of my elder one. Specially since my elder one is now at the age when he wants to play board games and needs my attention more to sit down and do things with him. While the shuffle can be stressful, it is also normal for your elder one to need more of your time right now specially since they are likely able to express their demands and scream for them. However, your younger one will eventually catch up too and learn to demand the attention they need.

We may all say that are children are equal to us, and to many they are, but if you are not feeling as bonded with your second (or subsequent) baby as you did with your first, or if you just need some ideas of things to do with your little one while juggling, here are some pointers.

(For tips on building sibling bonds or how to build relationships between your children, click here.)
My loves (photo credit: Ruchita Jain photography)


10 ways to bond with your younger baby:

1. Nurse: for as long as you are able to. Nursing is a lot more of a commitment when you have a toddler or an elder child impatiently waiting for you to be done. However, the most dedicated time I was able to give my daughter was while I was feeding her. She was a cluster feeder who would need to be attached up to 8/9 hours a day! And in hindsight, it was her way of getting her fill of me. Because, I haven't been able to sit down in the day, since she stopped nursing, I'm so caught up juggling the two, what they want to do and my work commitments. 
         Learn to inculcate your elder child into this routine, have easy things he can do while you are nursing - lacing, drawing, sticker books, reading, story telling - so that he can sit next to you, chat with you, be engaged and a part of the process, while you nurse. You will feel less divided, and you are still bonding with your younger one in the way they find the most essential - while cutting out on any guilt.



2. Take them along: My daughter has spent her first year doing my son's carpool pick up and drop off (something I didn't do before I had two but now I do it as a way to bond with both of them in the mornings),  going to several 3rd and 4th birthdays, play dates, play areas and garden time - kind of like a mini 3 year old who you have to carry everywhere (and yes, initially be comfortable nursing or giving a bottle of pumped milk anywhere). And as a result, I find that she's grown up faster  - bitter sweet but great too because at 16 months she's talking in full sentences, singing entire songs, counting till 10... all of which she has learned from her brother. 



3. Make them part of more than the conversation: I would find that most of my conversations would still revolve around my son, just because he did more, said more and I had to plan more things for him. However, make your little one a part of it too - try to remember that she didn't just roll over - she actually rolled over!! (and you were likely extremely excited about this the first time around). 
         However, making them a part of more than the conversation is about more than just talking about them - it's about engaging with them too!

4. One on one time with your little one:  As your little grows, beyond that tiny infant, make sure to take them on outings alone, even if it's to the grocery store, or your dragging them along to lunches with friends. My daughter has been on girl's nights and out for dinner with us to friend's houses - half asleep in her car seat. Just because - it was the one time I got with her. 
         Closer to 1, I enrolled in a mother toddler program, so that I would get dedicated one on one time with her multiple times a week. It really is a great way to get to see their budding personality emerge.

5. Start your day with your little one: Maybe not the first thing in the morning, but once your elder child is off to school, or busy with something, get  a few one on one minutes with your younger one every morning. Make it a habit. Even if it's literally a few moments to sing them a song, tickle them, play pat-a-cake, or cuddle. 
       A little goes a long way in telling them that they are important to you, and telling your elder child too, that the younger one is an important member of the family (this becomes important as they grow up too). 

6. Sing to them together: We started with singing, while I was nursing, or while we were playing. Little rhymes and things that I would sing, and now, my son sings them to her all the time, and repeats the rhymes like " this little piggy" while playing with his baby sister. I have also realised that they put on the music and dance together when I am not home. Music - something that's always helped keep me sane - has not only helped me bond with my little one, but ties my two babies together too even more strongly. 

7. Make them laugh: This may seem obvious, but it's something that in the midst of all the other chaos in our lives we sometimes forget to take time to make our babies laugh. And I mean - specifically - take time to make your younger one laugh. It will endure you two to each other more, hormonally, through the endorphins too , and because how can you help but fall in love with a baby's laughter? 
         As they grow, you will also get to know them better through this - as you will see that it will get more difficult to do so, however, you will also come to understand appreciate - as I have - the intellect of the child, once they start to understand more complex jokes and situations, while we discover how to humour them.
This one is so appropriate for me and my brother!

8. Try to feed them a meal in the day: Particularly once they stop nursing, try and dedicate at least one meal, where you feed them (particularly for working moms like me, or those who have help at home).  You could feed both (or all) your babies together yourself, but make time to do this. 
       It amazes me how fast my daughter has learned to feed herself certain foods - another thing she has picked up from being a younger child I assume. However, this feeding relationship is short lived so enjoy it while you can. 

9. Dedicated activities that only you will do: Keep a dedicated activity that only you will do with your child. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. For example - no one else bathes my children but me. It's been a rule since they were born. They sometimes ask for my mom or husband to help, or watch but bedtime and bath rime is mama's territory which they well know. Now that both my babies sleep at the same time, I put my son to bed while my husband walks my daughter (as it is no longer possible for me to put both to bed as I was doing so before). However, one of these activities, or any other, should be reserved just for you.


10. Let them be little: Not that we really have much of a say in this, but the younger one grows up just so much faster - they speak sooner in many cases, are in more of a hurry to do everything their elder one wants to do, (my daughter for instance only wants his toys, so I cannot get her to sit down and really play with baby toys, unless I pretend like I bought them for her brother), they drop their naps sooner and in a blink of an eye they are walking, talking little toddlers.
       If I could freeze time, I would, and trust me - like everything else, I would share my secrets with you too. However, all I can say is - let them grow at their own pace and not rush them to grow up any faster than they already do... it's gone in a blink of an eye as it is.



Happy New Year Mamas and Papas! Hope you all have healthy, happy, and successful 2018s! 

MUCH more to come in the New Year!xx
-TKV





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