Category Archives: Family

Traveling with a Baby/Toddler

We have done long and short trips with our daughter at most ages/stages since she was 8 weeks old.  We took her to Cozumel last week and as I was stressing out about the babysitting at our hotel, my coworker said to me, “I can’t believe you’re not more stressed about about traveling with her. That is all I would be worrying about.” And I kinda shrugged and was like…well, I pretty much know how it’s going to go.  Which is and isn’t true, because every time we have traveled with our child we have traveled with a different child than the last time.  But my parents are also extremely high maintenance people who moved to Germany with my sister when she was a baby and traveled all over the world with two small children and I refuse to admit that they were somehow more capable than I am.  Plus, getting used to travel with my child is the only way I get to go anywhere.  And so, we go.

A friend asked me recently about traveling with her daughter at nine months or at a year. They both present their own challenges. So I thought I would sort of round up how traveling went with different ages and what trips we did.

8 Weeks: I will never travel with an 8 week old again. This was, I think, the worst vacation I have been on. We went to Florida, we were all getting over the flu, we didn’t know ourselves as parents or our daughter well enough and had no routine.  We packed too much and too little stuff, and she basically cried the entire time unless we managed to get her to sleep, which was a huge challenge.  Plus, we forgot the sunshade for the stroller, she kept getting really hot, she was too little for most sunscreens, she couldn’t sit in a high chair, it was just a disaster.  I would avoid a huge temperature shift for a baby this young, for a lot of reasons. We brought our stability ball for this trip, which felt ridiculous but also totally necessary, and it was totally necessary.

5 Months: This was mostly a good age to travel except I was overly stressed about napping.  Look, your kid may not nap well on vacation and if they nap in the stroller or carrier, just lean into it for the trip and worry about their nap schedule when you get home.  She decided she hated her carseat halfway through the first 2 hour drive and then screamed in it for the entire rest of the trip which included a 4 hour drive.  This was the first trip where we splurged and bought her her own seat, since we were going to England on an overnight flight and wanted some hope of sleeping on the plane. It turned out to not be necessary, and she slept better when I was holding her and nursing her anyway. We spent a lot of time at people’s houses on this trip, but we didn’t want to haul a ton of toys for her. I think if we had been willing to spend a bit of money on new/appropriate toys, this trip would have gone better. At this age, she loved hanging out in her bouncer and her baby gym. We thought she would be willing to hang out in her carseat with some Lamaze toys clipped to it but she was not interested.  I can’t remember if we owned our GoPod at this age, but we should have brought it because it would have been handy. I wish we had just brought something foldable like this because she was very close to sitting up and liked sitting up and looking around at that age. Plus, having a place where she could hang out and look around quietly would have been so nice at my grandmother-in-law’s houses.  Jet lag wound up not being an issue at all on this trip because she had been having such a hard time sleeping anyway.  We also brought the Merlin suit on this trip, since we were using it at this time.  I would recommend maybe weaning off the Merlin suit before a big trip to England because washing those things in the UK and then hanging them to dry is a lengthy process.  We also brought less clothing on this trip generally because we would have the ability to do laundry, but I wish we had brought more because we wound up with a lot of clothes being still slightly damp from drying in the airing cupboard in England in March.  We did just bring footed sleepers on this trip and that wound up being great except that in all the pictures she’s wearing footed sleepers and she’s at an age where those are a bit goofy on her. But we didn’t have to bring socks, so it was still the right choice.

8 Months: We did a group house in the Poconos with some friends at 8 months and a family trip to Lancaster, then stayed at my cousin’s beach house at 9 months. This was a challenging age because she was crawling and so the houses needed to be babyproofed, but she wasn’t super mobile yet so could be relatively easily contained.  The one house with a lot of breakables was pretty much a nightmare, particularly for the day I was there solo.  This was a great age for our Summer Infant Pop and Play, which I highly recommend to anyone traveling with a mobile infant.  (In Lancaster, I made my Dad go buy one from the local Babies R Us because my daughter kept trying to pull up on glass vases.)  We were on a 2 nap schedule at 8 months, and she wouldn’t just stay asleep in the carseat, which made planning things a little hard, but often with group trips we would be up at 7 and she would nap at 9, and nobody else was really ready to get going before 10 or 11 and then we would do the second nap in the car or carrier, so it was manageable.

9 Months: At 9 months, she was fully cruising and close to walking.  This was the most difficult age to travel with.  Partly because we went to Seneca Falls to go wine tasting and hiking in gorges and going to wineries with a cruising/crawling baby who wants to pull all the wine bottles and displays down on herself is kind of the worst.  She also was at an age where she needed to be really physically tired to nap but couldn’t safely run around a playground, so it was definitely a struggle.  This is the age for which a trip to an indoor playspace or a kids museum is kind of perfect and a little bit necessary.  She also went through a phase of hating high chairs, which made going out to dinner pretty challenging. She also refused to eat most food.  I think we realized later she was getting a couple of teeth. We also realized eventually, after getting some good advice, that most children eat poorly on trips. We’ve leaned into this a bit and just pack a ton of extra pouches and assume she will eat mostly junk when we travel.

14 Months: At 14 months, we went to Florida again.  This was when traveling actually started to get easier again – she was walking, she was signing so we knew when she wanted milk or food, she had consolidated to one nap, she could entertain herself with toys for a decent amount of time, and she was really interested in anything new. Our flight got delayed 5 hours, which was extremely challenging but we just let her run around the airport and followed her around. We were traveling with a lot of family, so there were tons of people around to help keep her active and happy.  I actually weaned on this trip and it wound up being okay because we were spending so much time together that she didn’t lose her mind every time I walked into the room and ask to nurse.  This was the first trip where she was taking cow’s milk and it was partly very convenient because I didn’t have to pump at all, but we also routinely would leave our house without bottles because we had never needed to be that organized/prepared before.  I came down with severe food poisoning right before we traveled and so the whole flight home was me feeling like I might die and my daughter refusing to sit with nobody else but me because she sensed I was sick and needed to be comforted.

15 Months: At 15 months, we went to California. This was the longest flight we were going to do with a very awake baby, since neither time we were flying was naptime.  We drove to the airport that was an hour from our house and she threw up on the way there. She was getting over a respiratory virus and a stomach bug was going around, so we wound up renting a hotel room for a day and postponing our flight to that evening. It was actually perfect – our flight took off right around bedtime and I wore her in the carrier and paced up and down until she fell asleep.  We got super lucky and had an empty seat next to us so when she fell asleep we just draped her across the middle of the plane and she slept the whole rest of the flight.  This was the first trip where we hired a babysitter and it made a huge difference in how much we enjoyed the trip – we went wine tasting without a toddler, and we went to the San Jose Tech museum which is great for older kids but not with a tiny kid.  Otherwise, we tried to focus mostly on kid-friendly activities like Happy Hollow and the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. Fortunately our friends that we were visiting are fellow museum and animal lovers, so they really enjoyed some of our kid-friendly plans. The flight home was a little rough – she napped for maybe an hour of the 4 hour flight – and the rest of the time we needed to entertain her and we just hadn’t brought enough toys. We ended up breaking out the iPad for the last hour of the trip and playing a game called “baby bubbles” in which you tap bubbles and they pop. For some reason I feel better about this type of screen time than watching TV?

19 Months – We went to Cozumel at 19 months. We flew into Cancun and took the ADO bus and the ferry to get to Cozumel. I think that while flying direct is usually my preference, I would rather change planes and fly directly into Cozumel because schlepping to a public bus and then a ferry is a giant PITA.  We brought dive gear so we were bringing two huge bags.  We could have paid for a private transfer, but for some reason that seemed harder to me.  We didn’t bring a carseat on this trip, since we weren’t renting a car.  We did end up taking a few taxis, and just held her on our laps. I know there are a lot of parents who refuse to do this because it is extremely unsafe, but we decided the number of times we were taking cabs was minimal and hauling a carseat was just really unimaginable.  We hired a hotel babysitter so we could go diving. We also hired a woman I found a recommendation for on TripAdvisor and in the future we will hire her because she was fantastic.  This was actually a great age to travel with, other than we were going through some separation anxiety and some sleep regression.  But she’s talking and able to express preferences and you can use things like, “do you want to go to the pool? Then put on your swim suit.” in order to get them out of the house.  A lot of places didn’t have high chairs, which was hard, but fortunately 18/19 months with a very tall baby is sort of the age where you can sit them on a regular chair and feed them food.  The flights there and back were also not at all at naptime, so she was completely wired, which was pretty tough, but I was much better prepared this time and had picked up a bunch of fun dollar section toys to entertain her with.  Gel window clings will give you many tens of minutes of fun on a plane.  We also used regular stickers and some coloring toys and then just some new toys she hadn’t played with before. Again, we broke out the iPad for the last hour of the flight.  She was perfectly happy to play with the bubbles game, watch videos of herself, and play the “create a scene” sticker app that I had downloaded awhile ago.  I hadn’t had a chance to download any actual shows to the iPad before we left, but that wound up being fine. She also entertained herself with my kindle for a long time and seemed very into trying to change the font size? I told myself this wasn’t screentime.

So those are my thoughts on flying/traveling with a child of various ages.  I think everyone’s experience varies a ton, and it’s really hard to plan for whether your child will be crawling or walking at 11 or 12 months, but I also think travel is a lot more doable than some people think it is. It’s more a matter of knowing how to roll with the age you are traveling with. My 8 week old was completely uninterested in an aquarium, my 19 month old loves it.  I’m excited now that she is at an age where she enjoys doing things, because while it means that there are sometimes things we can’t do because they won’t be interesting to her or age-appropriate, unlike when she was tiny and portable, it is so much fun watching her discover the world and experience new things.  Plus, I finally have an excuse to do things that would be totally weird if we were childfree, like going to ride miniature trains.

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How to go Back to Work at 6 Weeks

First of all, do everything you can to avoid going back to work at 6 weeks. If you have the option of unpaid leave, take it. Whether it’s not buying a bigger family friendly car or not ordering takeout or not doing anything fun during your pregnancy, do it. But, if like me, it’s not a matter of money, but because your job will not give you more time off because they don’t have to, and you are stuck with six weeks, here are what has helped us.
1. Save your PTO. My company let me take 6 weeks unpaid, then use my PTO to come back part time. This also helped a lot when we got the flu. A lot of companies make you drain your paid leave to take unpaid leave, but if, like me, you aren’t covered by FMLA, you may be able to get around this.
2. Enlist help. We cobbled together caretakers to keep the baby out of daycare. It was exhausting and stressful but we felt so much better leaving our teeny baby and going back to work with her aunt or grandma watching her.
3. Cosleep or at least learn to side-lying nurse. At six weeks, you are getting a few 4 hour stretches and a few 2 hour stretches. I think if we had just coslept from 5-8 weeks, it would have been easier than me getting up in the middle of the night.
4. Be prepared. Learn when growth spurts and wonder weeks are. The period from 9-10 weeks was really hard for us but was over a 4 day weekend over New Year’s. I highly recommend the Wonder Weeks app which warns about these periods. If you can adjust your work schedule accordingly, do it.
5. Study sleep. Start learning about good sleep habits before your kiddo shows up. Watch the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD. Read at least one book about baby sleep habits, whether it’s Babywise or Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child or Ferber’s book or whatever. I really liked Baby 411 for laying out and reviewing sleep theory. We swaddled from day 1, we started using white noise early, we rock/bounce/nurse to sleep. We started a bedtime of 8ish early on because it gave us a couple hours to get things done (or I slept and my spouse got things done.)
6. Shop. Going back at 6 weeks sucks, among other reasons, because none of your clothes fit. If you can, only buy maternity/nursing shirts. This will help you be prepared. Otherwise, look for loose, v or cowl neck tops. The test is, can you pull the neckline down over both boobs at once? Buy 1-2 sizes up. I wear a small normally and I’m wearing a large right now. Order nursing bras in advance. Order at least two one size up and one two sizes up. I wear the sleep bras for daytime activity as well. You will need a new suit jacket. Buy pull on pants (love NY&Co for this) or demi panel maternity pants. Wearing full panel pants post partum sucks.
7. Take a breastfeeding class before you give birth. We did a free one at Babies R Us, otherwise the hospital one would have been $40 and so worth it. I knew the positions, latch techniques and whatnot before I delivered, which meant we got the hang of nursing sooner. This made all the difference for us.
8. Introduce bottles at 3-4 weeks. Hopefully you will have the hang of breastfeeding by then. This means you will learn to pump, and also you will get a break. Go to a bar, get a drink, go for a walk, get a haircut, go shopping, let your partner feed the baby. After you introduce bottles, make sure the baby is getting one every day to practice.
9. Walk. Start getting back into shape. This is especially important if your job is physically demanding.
10. Get a therapist. This transition sucks. I am so happy I made my mental health a priority, and it helps a lot on tough days.
11. Vitamin C. I got sick because I was burning the candle at both ends and my immune system basically collapsed. Try to sleep if you can, when you can. Do whatever else you can to stay healthy.

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Filed under Breastfeeding, Family, pregnancy

Good Things About 2011 (And Better Things To Come in 2012)

2011 was, for the most part, for me, clouded by one thing, and one thing only – the loss of a very dear friend.  As my parents health starts to fail and they get older, that pain is compounded by the fact that we no longer have our dear friend, the one my sister and I could always turn to and who we thought would be there for us as our own parents aged, is no longer here.  Instead, we struggle with being there for his family as they need us, and we struggle to accept his death as anything more than a completely senseless tragedy that did not need to happen.

So that was the downside of 2011.  But, in keeping with the spirit of Petite Chablis and her post, I’m now going to say the things that happened in 2011 that didn’t completely suck.  In 2011, I:

-Got a job!!! Two, actually.  I got my first attorney job, where I learned how to be an attorney, and then I got my law clerk job, where I have learned to be a private-practice attorney.  I’ve been very lucky to have wonderfully supportive bosses in both cases who are committed to helping me be the best attorney I can be.

-Ran a ten miler and a half marathon!  I didn’t meet my time goals for either race, but I’m happy that I’m not injured and I’m doing really well with my marathon training.

-Lost 14lbs!  I finally shed the pesky post-wedding weight and the five pounds that showed up my third year of law school and wouldn’t leave.

-Decided to keep my name!  I am really proud that I finally came to a decision, and also really happy that it’s the decision that involved the least amount of work.

-Went on a bike trip through Wales!  Without fighting with my husband AT ALL.  It was really amazing.  We also did several long bike rides leading up to it, which was awesome.

-Went camping, twice.  Goal is to go 4 times in 2012.

-Read a LOT of books.  Thinking about it, I think I read somewhere between 15 and 20 books in 2011.  Thank goodness for libraries and library lending on Kindle!

-Made new friends.  I made new friends on the internet, in the city where I live, and within the legal community.  I also kept in touch with old friends in a meaningful way, which takes a lot of totally-worth-it effort.

2012 will hopefully bring me a finished marathon, a finished half-ironman (or at least Olympic Distance triathlon!), a PR for my half-marathon, a permanent, salaried, lawyer job, and a solid relationship with my spouse, my family, and my friends.

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Adult Fiction

I generally think my parents did an okay job of raising me.  They showed me a lot of respect and were very non-judgmental about certain aspects of my life, like my loser exboyfriend I knew they didn’t like.  But I still resent the way my Dad, one Sunday on our weekly bookstore shopping trip*, said to me, “No.  I’m not buying you any more kids books.  You can read at an adult level, start reading adult books.” 

I swear, I thought I was going to cry.  I can’t remember if the book in question was an American Girl book, a Little House on the Prarie book, a Dear America book, or a Babysitters Club/Sweet Valley High book.  It could have been an innocuous book by Louis Sacher, I honestly don’t remember.  But I remember the tone in my father’s voice as he told me to grow up and start reading grownup books.  I should probably point out that I was 11 or so at this point, which is, frankly, far too young for most of the adult books out there. 

As I stared into the Adult Fiction section, I felt nothing but confused.  How was I supposed to know what books were good or not?  Karen Cushman and E.L. Konigsburg didn’t write grown-up books.  My dad read books about ships and the navy.  I didn’t want to read those.  My mom read scary-sounding non-fiction with titles like, “Mad Cow, USA!” and then wouldn’t let us eat hamburgers anymore.  Being told to find Adult books without any kind of guidance was difficult, and I retreated into the kids section to read until it was time to go home, which I did without any books. 

I think part of my Dad’s logic at this time was that I was tearing through books made for kids, and it was starting to become expensive.  I think he also thought a lot of the books I was reading were the book equivalent of cartoons.  (Apparently he’d never heard of comic books.)  But I do think that he thought I read at an adult enough level that I should be reading adult books, even if adult books weren’t the right books for me at the time.  (Not only could I not handle adult themes, I thought they were dreadfully dull and didn’t get half the book.) 

This did prompt my switch to the Young Adult section, for awhile, and also fed my obsession with historical fiction.  Because even though I didn’t want to read books about boats, or mad cow disease, or anything else grown-uppy, I was always happy to read books about the Civil War and the American Revolution.  So my parents encouraged that, and I eventually discovered Ann Rinaldi and Margaret George and other works of historical fiction.  By the time I was about halfway through high school, I was better able to navigate the Adult Fiction section, although even now, sometimes, I still stare at it and think, “how am I supposed to know what’s good?” 

I worry enough about how to encourage reading in kids (I think family reading time is going to be the answer) that I don’t stress about how to make sure they read “appropriate” books.  I also know that I’m not any worse off for having read all of the Babysitter’s Club books and the Sweet Valley books.  I turned out just fine, thank you. 

*It’s not like my parents were really wealthy, but they were messy and lazy enough for it to be financially worth it for them to buy books instead of  checking them out of the library.  In my lifetime, I have paid probably over $200 in late fees and lost book expenses.

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Work-Life Balance

I could talk about Justin Bieber saying that rape is sad, but everything happens for a reason (I’m vehemently pro-choice but annoyed that people are fixating on him being anti-choice rather than ambivalent about rape); but instead I’m going to talk about the conversation that a few awesome women I know had today at my law school.  I helped organize a panel on family planning and the work-life balance and got some really great insights into how to plan my own career and family, which is something I’ve been obsessing over since I took the bar exam.  Because once you’re married, you actually have to face the question of, “when do I want to have children?” rather than saying, “we’ll talk about kids after we’re married.” 

I have been turning over two schools of thought when it comes to reproducing:
1. The economy sucks, and I won’t be able to afford childcare, so I should just have kids now.
2. I should get a job and work there for at least a year so I have an income and some benefits accrued. 

Sidenote:  I will also point out, that for me personally, infertility runs in my family so the option of waiting until after I’m in my thirties to have children is really not an option for me.  My parents are also older and their health is starting to decline rapidly.  They lean a lot on my sister and I, so I don’t want to risk being in a position where I have to both care for young children and aging parents.  I also would like to be able to use my parents as babysitters, but this will require me to have children younger (again, before 30).  I am currently 25.  And a half.  And unemployed.   

So it was really nice to finally get some much-needed advice on how to manage career and a family.  To which my career counselor says, “you can do it, but you can’t do everything the best all the time.”  She also added, “You’re gonna have to let stuff go.  Like the dishes.  I want to exercise and hang out with my kids.  So I don’t always do the dishes.”  This isn’t surprising to me, because it’s pretty much how to combine law school & family. 

The most helpful advice was things like:

  • Work someplace for a few years so that they know you and will make maternity leave/flextime/parttime work happen for you
  • Working part time (hourly) or 3 days a week is ideal
  • You probably won’t make partner unless it’s something you want really badly and your spouse at home is supersupportive
  • Public interest salaries don’t pay enough to make childcare for two kids worth it
  • If you are going to take time off, consider spacing your kids closer together so that you speed up the timeline for getting back into work
  • If you do take time off, make sure you have an on-ramp when you want to get back on – continue to have networking lunches with former co-workers and drop by the office to stay in touch. 
  • Consider getting an au pair. It sounds weird, but is supposedly great and helps a lot if you are going to have evening commitments.  It also means you don’t have the hustle associated with packing kids up and getting everybody out the door in the morning.  This works best when you have a walk-out basement or some other separate part of the house (something to think about when house hunting). 
  • Wait until after you have a job offer to start asking around about family-friendly work policies and figuring out whether the environment is supportive. 
  • Consider pursuing a non-litigation job – it is much harder to be a litigator and take time off if the nanny gets sick/daycare closes/schools close.  A job where meetings, etc. can easily be rescheduled would be ideal – a problem with public interest jobs is often that your client doesn’t have a phone number and you can’t reschedule. 

Anyone else struggling with trying to figure out when to reproduce and how to get a career off the ground?

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Filed under Family, Job Search, Life List, Marriage, Unemployed