Solo Parenting

I’m incredibly thankful that I have an amazing partner to help me survive all the crazy. I’m also so lucky that he has an amazing job that keeps him home with us most of the time. He also does just as much around the house and takes just as much of a part in raising our kids as I do. So when he does have occasional travel, it’s rough.  Its four against one alllllll day long.

I have an immense amount of respect for those moms that have partners that travel regularly or have military spouses. They’re better women than me. I honestly don’t think I could do it. Even now when I know that Mark has travel coming I dread it. Everything in our daily lives is set up for a two-parent household. We divide and conquer a lot. One of us will make dinner while the other is taking Oliver to Baseball. Mark takes Zoe early to chorus one day a week so I don’t have 45 minutes to kill between drop-offs. It’s what works for us.

Survival Mode

Currently, I’m on day one two three (that’s how long it took me to write this post) of a seven-day trip to Seattle for Mark. When the kids went to bed tonight I started looking at my calendar for the week and instantly felt totally and completely overwhelmed. It’s not that this week is any busier than any other week, it’s pretty normal, but looking at it as the one person responsible is a lot. That’s actually how I describe much of my life. A lot. A lot of kids, a lot of commitments, a lot of expectations.

Since this trip wasn’t a surprise, I’ll tell you how I’ve prepared for it. My secret is lower expectations. It’s saying, “that’s just not going to happen” and being ok with that. (Read here how I learned to say no to balance my life.) It’s being realistic about what I’m actually going to be able to get done.

For example, mid last week I got a notice that it’s conference week at the kids’ school. Surprise! (That’s a whole different rant.) I just can’t. I can not take four kids, especially the feral two-year-old, to conferences for three kids by myself, that’s a minimum of three hours. Nope. Just not happening. There is a phone conference option, but unless their teachers want to hear me yelling at the kids the whole time or they want to call after 8:30pm it’s not going to work. So, I said no. My two kids that don’t need it, I checked in via email, and the one I feel needs more support we will have a conference next week. When I have backup.

We meal plan, which I swear I’m going to post about one of these days. When I was planning out this week, I aimed low. That meant planning Dino nuggets, breakfast for dinner, and rotisserie chicken from Kroger rather than the usual, more involved meals. I also planned my more complicated meals toward the beginning of the week and knowing from experience that my “fuck it” level would be high by Thursday. It’s also knowing that I’ll probably switch it up a few times through the week just because life happens.

It’s also no secret that I tend to be a type A personality, planner. Last week I tried to get all the extra “stuff” done that I could. This meant going to the grocery store before Mark left. Making sure I was caught up on laundry. (Don’t worry, I didn’t fold it, it’s festering in baskets in the hall.) Doing any big cleaning projects ahead of time. Truth is, there’s pretty much zero chance I’m cleaning a toilet this week or vacuuming unless a glitter bomb explodes in my living room. My goal is to keep the house standing and the garbage from overflowing. And you know what? That’s OK. I’m giving myself permission to “slack off”.

Expect a Little More

As I pulled away from the airport I said to the kids “Alright. We’re going to have a good week, as long as we can all hold it together. I know you’re going to miss your Dad, but we can do this.” The big two know that they are going to be expected to help more than normal. That may mean watching Bits while I take a shower or be more on top of picking up after themselves.

And typically the big kids will step up to the plate. For example, this morning Zoe got up, got herself ready and once she was done with breakfast and when I wasn’t down with the boys and Bits, she had started making lunches. If she had made the coffee it would have been a perfect morning. Oliver took the initiative this morning to get all his baseball stuff together for tonight. I’m a firm believer, that if you set up the expectations they’ll rise to the occasion. For the most part, that’s how it’s worked for us.

Remember to Breathe

It’s easy to get super caught up in all the things that everyone else needs and forget about you. If you read this post, you know that I’m trying to be better about self-care. My goal for this week while Mark is gone is to not totally lose myself. I’m not talking about my nightly glass of wine as self-care. I am going to try to make sure that I actually stop and do some things for ME this week. I am not exactly sure what that is yet, I’ll try to update as I get through the week. Maybe a girls night in? Maybe I’ll wonder Target with Bits while the big three are in school. Mostly, just try not to lose my shit while I count down the minutes until Mark is home.

When You Get a Case of Mom Burnout

We’ve all been there. The kids are making us crazy, we’re short tempered, we’re exhausted, the house is a disaster but it’s just not getting picked up. Everything and everyone is on our last nerve. It’s not any one things that contribute to us getting to that point, but what can we do to keep from getting Mom Burnout? I’ve never planned on being a Stay At Home Mom. I honestly feel like I’m not very good at it. I am not a domestic goddess by any means. I don’t particularly enjoy play dates or mommy and me classes. I like having my own “thing” that gives me a purpose. Previously that was my job or volunteering with Safe Kids as a CPST. Currently, I’m working with FARE to coordinate the Triangle NC Food Allergy Heroes Walk (Learn more about why here). But I still feel like I get that Mom Burnout feeling from the daily grind.

A lot of the time, it sneaks up on me. I’ll notice that I’m snapping a little more at the kids or Mark. Or I’ll find myself irritated with little things, like the tiny socks I seem to find all over the house. Or it’s just a general feeling of the “can’t evens”.

How do you keep from getting to the breaking point? I’ve found that it’s important for me to try to head it off at the pass. Life with four kids (or any kids for that matter) gets crazy. It’s easy to let the week fly by in survival mode as we coordinate baseball schedules with chorus practice, make sure homework is done and everyone eats at least one meal a day with vegetables. Often when I look at the schedule on Saturday as I’m meal planning I think it’s going to be a long week but in reality it flys by.

Self-care

Self-care is a big buzz word in the mom community right now, but you know what? It’s important. When we’re rushing through the week and I’m trying to take care of everything and everyone else it’s easy for my needs to fall by the wayside. You can’t fill from an empty cup and I can bet if you asked 10 moms, 8 of those would admit to Mom Burnout and the other two are probably lying.

How do I do self-care? Sometimes it’s little things like watching trash TV during nap time instead of folding laundry or retreating to take a long hot shower with Pandora on loud while Mark does bedtime. Or maybe it’s saying “fuck it” to making that pan roasted pork loin for dinner and popping in a big old tray of Dino Nuggets because vegetables are overrated.

Sometimes I need to get out of the house alone. Grocery shopping, coffee (alone or with another mom), or getting my nails done, running some errands where I don’t have to buckle and unbuckle the car seat 37 times. Heck, even going to get an oil change on my Swagger Wagon can help. Sometimes it feels good to just have a little space to breathe without someone trying to climb back into your body (Eli and Bits are the most guilty of this) for an hour or two or four.

Date night is another way I do self-care. That seems sort of weird right? Being on a date is not by yourself, but being connected to my spouse helps keep me grounded. We need time when we’re Mark and Crystal instead of Mom and Where is Mom. We are better parents and better partners when we take that time for us. (Read more about how we stay connected here)

Have a Moms Night Out. Sometimes you need to get out with your “tribe” and relax a little. Have some drinks, talk about all the absurd stories about the shit your kids pulled this week. These are the people that get it because they’re in the trenches too. Remember 8 of your 10 friends need it because they’re suffering from Mom Burnout too.

Just Say No

There was once a time when I was absolutely over-committed. I was the master of taking on too much. Make cupcakes for school? SURE! Go on that field trip? ABSOLUTELY! Volunteer for that school committee? WHY THE HELL NOT? I’ll tell you why….. Mom Burnout.

Something I have learned in my old age is that it’s ok to say no. When someone asks you and you don’t want to do it, don’t. There is no need to feel guilty that you just can’t make 75 SunButter sandwiches cut into triangles for the preschool picnic. Three kids with school conferences in one week? It’s ok to skip conferences for the kid that is doing great in school and to check in by email instead. It’s ok to skip that play date because, for the love of God, you just need the baby to take a nap today. Protect your time, it’s ok.

There is no reason that you should feel guilty for being realistic. There is only so much you can take on and it’s ok because you’re human. Stretching yourself too thin is a disservice to yourself and your family. Everyone already has enough stress in their lives. Don’t add to it because you feel obligated to do all the things. So what if Jimmy’s mom is on the PTA?

Next time you look at your calendar and you have 5 things scheduled for Tuesday night, I want you to say no to at least 3 of those things. Practice saying “That’s just not going to work for us.” It feels good, I promise. And next time you start feeling that hint of Mom Burnout, as soon as your partner gets home, take that glass (bottle) of wine up to your bathroom, close and lock the door, blast your own Pandora station (with swears!), fill the tub and take a second to breathe and center yourself again.  You’ve got this!

Food Allergies – When Take Out Is Anything But Easy

There are sometimes when I want to phone it in as a mom. This week for example, Sunday we were in the ER with one sick kid who was home from school until Wednesday. (He’s fine, weird virus that mimicked appendicitis) I’ve been battling a cold since late last week, by Monday it hit me full on and I couldn’t deny I was sick anymore. Tuesday night, I didn’t want to feed anyone dinner. I was just drained. What’s a mom to do? Order carry out!

But it’s not that simple. Pizza you say? Well, we’d have to find something gluten (this is currently a dietary choice more than allergy, but a consideration for now), dairy, soy, nut and tomato free. How about boxed mac n cheese? That’s three kinds to meet everyones needs. Dairy free Daiya, gluten free Annie’s, and regular Annie’s. Frozen chicken tenders and fries? One kid has a potato allergy, so we have to make regular and sweet potato fries, plus gluten free and regular chicken tenders. At that point is it really easier??

Eating out presents the same challenges. We have a handful of safe places and we tend to stick with those. Those options are often not cheap either, ever feed a family of six at Chipotle? That’s a $40 affair, easy. Especially as the kids get older, the bigger two are at the weird in between stage, where a kids meal isn’t enough and the adult meal is too big.

I have people ask me a lot how we manage with our food allergies. I never really have a great awe inspiring answer. We manage because we have to, it’s our life. We cook from scratch most of the time, not because I’m a super awesome amazing mom, but because finding safe convenience foods is not an easy task. We tend to make healthier choices because of it. I’m grateful for that, but damn, sometimes I just want to pop a frozen pizza in the oven.

Raising Boys

I often say that I don’t care what my kids do when they grow up as long as they’re good people. This is mostly true, but I will confess that I worry more about my boys in this respect than I do my girls. I want to raise good husbands, amazing fathers, respectful men. You’d think this would be easy, but I’m finding as they get older it’s not at all.

Pressure from Society

Recently I was shopping for some t-shirts for Eli. I had some time to kill while I was sitting at a therapy appointment (#momlife). The poor kid never gets anything new, part of the hazards of being the little brother just a few years behind your older brother.

I wandered over to The Children’s Place, one of my go tos for cheap clothes that I don’t care if they ruin with paint at school. I get about 4 emails a day from them about sales and coupon codes, did I mention they were cheap? As I was scrolling through the usual sports shirts, tv characters my kids don’t know because we don’t have cable, etc. I saw one that caught my eye. It said, “I never finish anything”.

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It bothered me. A lot. I kept scrolling through the clearance adding some matchable shorts and plain color Ts to my cart as I went. Fine, whatever, don’t like it, don’t buy it. Then, I came across this one….

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I started to get annoyed. What terrible messages we are sending our boys. They don’t have to clean up after themselves? Oh right, that’s women’s work. I kept scrolling, but I was grumbling the whole time. Until I got to these……

 

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That was the straw. I emptied my cart. Absolutely not. I will not be shopping there anymore. I sent pictures to Mark, with a rant about how we are setting our boys up for failure. I stewed about it on the drive home, and through dinner. Then I took to my Facebook page after bedtime because I was still stewing.  I was just going to post on my personal page, but after some encouragement (it didn’t take much, honestly) I decided I was going to post on The Children’s Place’s Facebook page and Twitter. I’m still waiting for a response, by the way. It’s been weeks.

When we dress our boys (or any kid, really) in a shirt that says “I don’t care” we’re sending them a message that says “you don’t have to care”. I see it all the time in the media, little boys being portrayed as lazy, video game playing freeloaders. Fathers being portrayed as someone to be waited on by their wife with no responsibility for their own children. I will not stand for that with my boys.

This is just one example of a way we’re failing!  And I know what people are thinking, girls, get it just as bad. And I totally agree that we’re also stereo typing our girls to be princesses and housewives. I’ll talk about that another time.

Same Standards

We hold those boys to the same standards we do Zoe (and eventually Bits). They’re responsible for cleaning up their own messes. Starting in Kindergarten they are folding and putting away their own laundry. (which eventually evolves to washing it) Oliver does dishes, cleans the bathroom when he pees all over it, they fix their own breakfasts, they sweep. We don’t limit the boy’s chores to stereotypical “man’s work”. They live here too, just because they have a penis doesn’t mean they can’t operate our vacuum.

I’ve said it before, it’s important to me that all of my kids are able to self-sufficient humans when they’re adults. I will not have a child that doesn’t know how to clean their house when they get older because mom did it for them. It’s absurd that right now, in 2017, there are moms doing laundry for their college aged boys. This needs to stop. Right now.

It Teaches Respect

I’m fairly certain that my boys have a lot more respect for “what I do all day” when they have to help out. They know that dinner doesn’t magically appear. They know that it takes work to have clean floors and it’s annoying when someone makes a mess.  They also see their father taking his fair share of household duties.  Mark does dishes, vacuums, and cooks, just like I do.  There is no delusion for them that men “don’t have to” help around the house.

They also respect our space more when they are made to help maintain it. I love it when Bits comes barreling through a room and one of them yells “I just cleaned that up!” It’s vindication for all the times they’ve done it. They know how much work it takes.  They also respect others peoples spaces, when they go to friends houses they help pickup no questions because it’s not optional here.

I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot of work.  I get a lot of pushback, especially from the almost 8-year-old.  And this is just one of the things that I worry about when it comes to the boys.  As they grow I feel the need to pound certain things into their head, respect for women, consent, and that because they are middle-class white boys they are in no way better than ANY of their peers.  Right now, with everything going on in the world, this is a hard job, and I worry all the time that we’re not doing a good enough.

In Defense of the Early Bedtime

Every day, I can’t wait for my kids to go to bed.  I’m sure that most parents would sympathize with this, it’s not that I don’t love my children, but they require me to be “on” all day long.  Toddler’s and Preschooler’s don’t typically accept “phoning it in”. By about 5 pm, I’ve answered all the questions I can muster and I just need a minute to myself so that I can think about something other than where the “cool car” is, which transformer is the strongest, where the poop goes when you flush the toilet….. and and and….. There are days when I am counting down until they are in bed.

Our kids go to bed early by most peoples standards.   All of our Tiny Humans are in bed, lights out, between 7 pm and 8 pm.  Weekends, school nights, summer breaks, it doesn’t matter.  Bedtime is pretty strictly enforced.  Frankly, we’ve caught some flack for this, but it works for our family.

It’s not something that we set out to do, honestly, when Zoe was little she fell into her own schedule and it happened to be that she was ready for bed by about 8 pm.  Part of this was because she wasn’t a napper past a year old, she was just exhausted by that time.  She played hard all day and was so busy she was ready.  As it turned out, we came to really enjoy that time together after she went to bed.

Despite Mark’s early work schedule, he was still (and still is to some extent) a night owl, and I worked retail hours so I was up late anyway. We found this was a great time for us to hang out, watch a show, talk about our days, and connect with fewer distractions (read here about ways we stay connected).  It was nice to have that time together, just the two of us.

It seems that all our kids have gotten the Early Riser Gene ™ from Mark.  When they’re up before the sun they tend to be ready for bed pretty early.  By about 7 pm they’re starting to meltdown.  Keeping them up later leads to them being overtired and then they don’t sleep well.  Thus, tired the next day, which shows in their behavior.  It’s a pretty vicious cycle.   So, we have to anticipate their needs, because as kids, they can’t always tell us what their bodies are telling them, and enforce that early bedtime.  I know how I feel when I’m totally exhausted, imagine how that feels when you are young and can’t identify the feelings. I personally enjoy being around well-rested kids, as opposed to overtired heathens.

As we’ve had more kids, that early bedtime is even more important to us and to our relationship.  During the day even if we are both at home, the kids want our attention.  And honestly, we want to give it to them.  When we are all together, no work, no school, we try to make that time family time.  I’ve come to realize that it’s important because soon enough, they’re not going to want to hang out with us.  I want to squeeze out every bit of this time that we can.

But that time ends promptly at 7:30 pm.  Because I want to have that glass of wine without someone asking me what it tastes like, and we’re going to watch a movie that’s not animated and has swears.

UPDATE:  As I was writing this blog post, Zoe came downstairs and asked if we would consider a later bedtime for her.  She is almost eleven and in 5th grade, she is currently in bed by 8 pm, which is the same time as her sister who is two. We asked what she proposed, she said 9:30 pm.  After encountering my raised eyebrow, she walked that back,  and we compromised with 8:30 pm and we would start trying that on the weekends before trying on school nights.  We also decided that we still didn’t want to see her smiling face after 8 pm, so she had to be upstairs working on something quiet.  She said, “I know, Mom.  After we go to bed you drink wine and watch your favorite shows.” So true, Zoe. So true.

Everything Changes

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This is what I always thought I would be doing when I grew up (not really)

People say everything changes after you have kids. “Oh you’ll find out.” they’ll say. They’ll tell you that you won’t get to go out with friends anymore. They’ll tell you that you have to give up your hobbies. They’ll tell you that you just can’t have fun anymore. They’ll tell you your life is over.

This is mostly bullshit.

As long as you can let go of the idea that nothing in your life will ever change, you should be just fine.

I’m not going to lie to you here, you won’t have as much free time after you have kids. Crystal and I had worked full time most of our lives, but we always had plenty of free time. We had time to read, watch movies, and in my case, work on nerdy side projects. After we had kids, this time started to disappear. Kids are a lot of work, and they take up a lot of your time, but that just means you need to change your priorities.

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Over time my kids became one of my highest priorities, but I didn’t realize that while it was happening. Suddenly I didn’t have time to think about learning to play the guitar, writing the next great American novel, or developing the next killer mobile app. It was frustrating. I had all of these big ideas but no time (or energy) to do anything about it.

Crystal’s ThoughtsMark has always been full of big ideas.  I don’t want to say kids have stifled those, but they have changed over time.  Instead of writing that novel (true story, he was working on it.) His ideas are more centered around backyard forts and home remodels)

Then I realized that all of these “important” ideas and goals weren’t really important to me, if they were I would have made the time to work on them. Since then I have worked to try to get rid of any side projects or hobbies that suck up a lot of time but don’t really bring me any joy. I have “decluttered” my free time. I can’t tell you how to do this for yourself. But next time you go to do something “fun”, ask yourself if it’s really something you want to spend your time on.

Time with friends, or just time outside of the house, can be tricky after you have kids. I think this is a time when you find out who your friends are. You will probably find a core group of friends that still want to spend time with you, and then rest will fade away. That’s not to say your time out with friends is gone. It’s just something else you need to make time for.

Crystal’s Thoughts You will find that as you grow and change you will find friends that either grow with you or you drift apart.  Some friends will not be willing to come hang out and have a night in while your kids sleep and want to go out to a swanky bar instead.  I’m a firm believer that there are relationships you just outgrow over time.

Don’t feel guilty getting a babysitter so you can have an adult night out. Also don’t feel like you have to get a babysitter to have a meal out of the house. If you start taking your kids out when they are young, they will know how to behave in public. Sure you might want to start at Red Robin or some other family friendly (read: screaming and crying friendly) restaurant, but after they know how to behave there are few places you can’t take them.

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Having less time can also affect your relationship with your partner. Maintaining a relationship is hard work, having kids is hard work, and maintaining a relationship after you have kids is even harder work. With that said, our marriage is stronger now than it has ever been. I know it doesn’t work out that way for everyone. I know some couples don’t last after they have kids. But we did, and it comes down to communication.

When we first got married we were terrible at communicating. We rarely told each other how we felt about anything. We loved each other, without a doubt, but I don’t know how much we really knew each other. That kind of stuff takes time, and like I mentioned, hard work. Having kids has a way of speeding things up though, it’s a trial by fire.

After we had kids we had to operate as a team or nobody was going to be happy, and the only way we could get there is if we started talking more. For us it happened naturally, it wasn’t like we had a moment where we sat down and talked about our feelings and then everything was amazing. It’s an ongoing process, it’s not something that’s ever “done”, and something we still work on (read more about how we stay connected here).

Crystal’s ThoughtsI feel like we say this over and over again. COMMUNICATION. It’s imperative. Neither of us are mind readers, it is not productive for either of us to get upset when we can’t anticipate the others wants/needs.  You need to communicate with your team to be able to run smoothly. 

We’ve talked about keeping your relationship with your partner strong, but what about keeping you strong? As a new parent, it’s easy to take the role of “parent” and make that your entire identity. Your life revolves around your children. You volunteer for all the school events, go to all the birthday parties, and spend every waking hour trying to make sure your kids are safe and happy. Somewhere in the middle of this, you start to lose yourself.

It’s different for everyone I’m sure, but I stopped doing much of anything. I took up running, which I really enjoyed, but I still didn’t have much of an identity. For me, I really found myself the first time I went to the local SQL Server user group in Detroit. I found “my people” there. That was the big difference when compared to running. Running was something I did alone, this was something I could do with other people.

I think it was my second meeting when I heard about a free full-day training event coming up, and they needed speakers. I had never spoken in front a group of people before, but I thought I would submit a talk and see what happened. To my surprise, I was chosen to speak and it changed my life. If it weren’t for this opportunity I wouldn’t have found how much I like to teach. I also wouldn’t have gotten my current job. My employer was impressed with the fact that I spent my spare time teaching and writing about database administration.

Crystal’s ThoughtsOne of the big phrases in the mom circles right now is “self-care” and as much as I usually hate to jump on the band wagon, it is really important.   As parents, we often lose ourselves and become drained.  You can’t pour from an empty cup.  You need to find that thing that fills your cup, for Mark it’s teaching in the SQL community.  For me, it’s doing things like getting a massage, getting a manicure, reconnecting with other mom friends who are just as drained as I am. I am a better mom and wife when I get that time.  It’s not selfish, it is addressing my needs as a human.

When you have kids it’s important to remember that you are still a person with needs. It’s also important that you don’t think of taking time for yourself as “selfish”. If you aren’t happy there is no way you’ll be able to keep up a relationship or provide any sort of role model for your children.  Of course, things are going to change, life would be pretty boring and stagnant if it didn’t.  The important thing is to embrace that change and go with it.

Pink Expectations

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Something that having kids has taught me is that I need to let go a little (lot).  When it was just Mark and I, we could plan things and they would mostly turn out how they were supposed to.  With kids?  They don't care that you have a plan. They are small people, but they still have their own agenda.  I needed to adjust my expectations and celebrate the successes.  Maybe some of that comes with getting older, but I feel like its one of the big things that our kids have taught me.  There are a lot of things in life that you just can't plan for.

When I was pregnant with Zoe, we found out the sex at the 20 week ultrasound and we were thrilled to find out we were having a girl.  We bought all the pink things and girly stuff, made all the plans. She was born and she was for sure a Daddy's Girl. They were buddies, and if Mark was around I was clearly the second choice. I'm not going to lie, it hurt a little (lot), I grew her inside of my body for nine months, and there were times that she wouldn't give me the time of day.

Her and Mark were just bonded in a way that she and I weren't.  I faulted myself for that. Maybe he was just a better mom than me?  Reality is that she's every bit opinionated and stubborn as I am and those two things don't mix well.  She also takes after Mark, shes a big dork, loves Science and learning. So they bond over those things, while her and I butt heads about our similarities.

Being that Zoe was our first baby we didn't really have any expectations or wants in regards to her sex. By the time we were expecting our second child, I really wanted to have another girl.  That seems weird right? I already had one that didn't particularly seem to like me. But, I wanted Zoe to have the sister that I never had. (Sorry, Aaron.) I wanted her to have that sister to sister relationship, someone to play dolls with, have tea parties with.  We were only planning on having two kids (HA!) so this was her only chance in my mind to get that.

Mark's Thoughts: Being a man that never really played sports, I was hoping for a girl when Zoe was born, I had no idea what to do with a boy.  I've never felt like a "manly-man". My definition of what a "man" is has changed a lot since then, but at the time I thought a man was the typical "play sports" "watch football" image of the great American Dad. I didn't tell Crystal this, which kind of illustrates how poorly we communicated in the beginning of our marriage (like most people).

I'm going to talk about something that no one talks about, because it needs to be talked about. When we found out we were having a boy I was disappointed, upset, and scared.  I feel absolutely terrible about that to this day.  How can you be upset when you have a healthy baby? I was, and it was totally selfish and terrible.  But in the end, those feelings are valid and I shouldn't have felt I needed to hide the fact that I felt that way.  As parents, no one talks about these experiences. If only for the fact that we can validate for other parents that its OK.

Why was I so disappointed? I was disappointed that Zoe wouldn't get that "sister" experience.  Scared, because I had a girl and knew what to expect.  What was I going to do with a boy?  They smell, and like gross things.  Sports? Yeah… no, totally not my thing. I was upset that my expectations weren't being met, because I had already built up the picture of how it was going to be in my head. I was also upset at myself for having these feelings.

Oliver was born and he was a typical Mama's Boy.  I got to see first hand the special "thing" that Mark and Zoe had.  He was (is) so sweet and loving.  He didn't have nearly the amount of "sass" that Zoe had.  Of course the Mom Guilt kicks in and I feel even worse that I was disappointed that he was him. Come to find out having a boy wasn't so bad. Sure, they do smell bad, but they also love their Mama's so fiercely and their sisters almost as much. They're always up for a snuggle. Come to find out, I really like watching them play sports.

Mark's Thoughts: I was worried when Oliver was born because, again, I didn't think I would be able to do "manly" Dad stuff with him. Afterward I realized it didn't matter even a little bit. For reasons I don't understand, Dad's are cool in their kids eyes for at least the first few years, regardless of their athletic prowess. Oliver also grew to love sports, and in the process I did too to a point. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be cheering and shouting at the top of my lungs at a little league baseball game, but it happens now.

When we were pregnant with Elijah, we decided not to find out the sex until birth.  We already had one of each.  We were planning to do his whole pregnancy/birth much differently than the other two, so why not wait unlike the previous two kids.  Plus we had had a miscarriage a few months before, so it made me really thankful that we were even getting a chance to have a third child.  Some, people don't get a chance at all.

What I didn't tell (most) people is that I didn't want to be disappointed again.  No expectations = no chance for disappointment.  I still wanted that sister experience for Zoe, but also thought it would be pretty cool to have two boys to dote on me and that brother experience for Oliver.  Not knowing until birth meant that I didn't have time to have a let down.

Mark's Thoughts: Not to go off on a tangent, but this is really how you get through parenting. You just enjoy whats happening, and try to drop any expectations you might have. Oliver started playing baseball 3 years ago, which is amazing, but next season he might want to try ballet, or basketball, or golf; I have no idea. Whatever it is though, I'll be there cheering. Same with the rest of the kids. I have no idea what they will want to do, but I'll be there discovering it with them.

Turns out, you can't be upset about something silly like a penis or vagina when you've just worked your ass off to birth a baby.  Once you look into that little persons face, it doesn't matter for one second whats between their legs.  Plus, mother nature makes sure you have all that Oxytocin rushing through your body.  That moment, after holding him in my arms for a while, finally looking to see who he was, was just amazing.

So amazing, that the fourth time we also didn't find out the sex, and I wish that I could go back and not find out with the first two.  By the time we were pregnant for the fourth time, I had pretty much resigned myself that Zoe was never going to get a sister.  Come to find out matchbox cars, dirt, and robots weren't so bad. We talked about if we would prefer one or the other and we didn't really care.  It would have been neat to have three boys in a row.  After all, Zoe was going to be nine years older than the youngest baby.  What could they possibly have in common at that point?

I had never had a feeling that our kids were one sex or the other before, but I was pretty sure that we were having a girl the fourth time around.  I didn't verbalize it though, because I didn't want to be disappointed by the image that I built up in my head. Remember, no expectation, no disappointment.  Turned out I was right and we got that second girl.  Obviously we were just thrilled to have that healthy baby, but the girl bookends was a nice way to complete our family.