The Best Parenting Book Ever

Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline: The 7 Basic Skills for Turning Conflict into CooperationEasy to Love, Difficult to Discipline: The 7 Basic Skills for Turning Conflict into Cooperation by Becky A. Bailey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is seriously the best parenting book I’ve ever read. It has taken me almost a year to work through this relatively slim book, but I found I needed to take time with each chapter to fully absorb it. (I took notes and made flash cards for myself — I’m a nerd, I know). It also has taken me that amount of time to actually put into practice these parenting techniques.

I should also say that this is probably one of the best mental health/counseling books I’ve ever read too. Another reason I chose to read it slowly is because one of the very first quotes of the book is “You cannot teach what you do not know.” So if I don’t know how to deal with my feelings or accept disappointment in a healthy way, how can I expect my child to not throw a fit about leaving the park early?

Maybe everyone else already understands this, but it took this book for me to realize that children misbehave because they don’t know the appropriate way to deal with something, not because they are disrespectful. The first thing the author teaches is to accept the moment as it is and to look at this tantrum (or “bad” behavior or whining) as a moment to teach our children a better way. There are many times I whine or throw a tantrum as an adult, but we seem to expect children not to do these things and to be punished for them. Bialey has us focus less on punishment, and focus more on what we actually want our children to learn. Basically, this book is about changing our mindset about parenting, starting with changing our mindset about ourselves.

This might sound philosophical, but Bailey also has specific actions to take, to the point of “here are the words you could say” kind of thing. She gives tons of examples of what to do and compares that with what we might already be doing, which I appreciate. I think one of my biggest takeaways was from The Power of Attention: what you focus on, you will get more of. This might be obvious, but it is something I had never really practiced in a parenting context. I usually found myself saying, “Don’t do this,” “no, not that,” etc. Bailey suggests that we focus on what our kids are doing well and also giving a suggestion of what to do rather than what not to do. This is simply just reframing how we say things. For example, I should say, “Put your feet on the floor,” rather than “Don’t put your feet on the table.” Little things like this actually matter and make a difference.

I have become a more compassionate, centered parent because of this book. I still make mistakes, of course, but I have found this way of teaching rather than punishing helpful for my kids and me.

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A Day in the Life of a Stay-at-Home Mom (at least this one)

I always want to know what other stay-at-home moms are up to, so here’s what I did yesterday.

6am – Alarm goes off.  Realize that the baby did not cry out in the night at all, and I had a full night’s sleep.  But this does not stop me from promptly changing the alarm to 6:15…and then 6:30

6:30am – Pump 4 ounces of milk and stick in refrigerator.  Baby also wakes up, but he likes to chill out in bed for a while before we get him up for the day.

7am – Up for the day.  Nurse and read a morning book.

7:30 – Breakfast.  Banana and toast for the boy.  Sausage and toast for the mommy.

8am – Clean kitchen while baby plays drums with wooden spoon on the floor, the dog, and then mommy herself.

8:30am – Baby is fussy, so we decide to put him down for a nap.  Mommy finishes getting ready for the day.

8:45am – Baby is asleep

9:00am – Baby is awake.  Like for real awake and not going back down.  Works out anyway cause we need to leave for 9 month check-up appointment.  Change diaper, dress baby, and head out the door.  If it were a Monday or a Thursday, we’d be heading out to the gym for a workout.  And other days we might be out for a walk or off to the library.  Today, the destination is the doctor.

10:15am – Leave doctor’s office with half-silly, half-upset baby (shots ya know).

10:30am – Nurse and watch Upstairs, Downstairs (upstairs, actually.  It may not be Sesame Street, but he’s too busy with other things).  Baby plays with his upstairs toys, which he thinks includes the swivel chair, the stepping ladder, and a measuring tape.

11:30am – Lunch!  We both successfully eat lunch at the same time!  First time that has happened in a while. I usually eat an appetizer (something to eat with one hand), then wait to put him down for a nap so I can eat.

Noon – Throw a load of laundry in the washer.  Vacuum the kitchen and baby’s room while baby alternately wrestles cord and chases vacuum while yelling at it.

12:30pm – Play time in the kitchen and nursery.  I play a little with him and then get out my computer to start working on blogs while he plays quasi-independently.  So that’s what we do for a while.  He plays.  I type.  We play.  He plays. I type.  The cycle continues.

1pm – The baby seems tired (crawling over to me more frequently, the tell-tale rubbing of the eyes).  I put him down for a nap.

1:02pm – I realize that I have not turned on his sound machine and the Glass Doctor is coming to repair our windows from the hail damage in 20 minutes.

1:03pm – Sneak in room to turn on sound machine.  Baby’s eyes are droopy, but the floor boards are too and creak all over the place.  Sound machine on and baby wailing that I’ve disturbed his privacy.

1:05pm – Baby back asleep.  He was tired!  I continue to write, call the tax office to check on homestead exemption status, input receipts into budget software, exchange emails, and back to writing once again.  Keep vigilant eye on front door, so I can get to it before the Glass Doctor rings the door bell and wakes up the baby.

1:30pm – Baby coughs, and stands up in crib.  I think he’s up for good because 30 minutes is his average nap length, but he’s back down….for the count!

2:00pm – Baby wakes up for real.  Makes silly noises, so I know he can stay in there for a bit until I finish what I’m doing, and take the opportunity to pee without baby trying to move me out of the way so he can drum on the toilet lid.

2:15pm – Nurse baby and read a book.

2:30pm – Back to blogging/playing with baby.  Mostly reading books he brings me and smiling at him when he looks my way.  Just a side note: the V-tech Learning Walker is awesome.  We would probably go run an errand at this point, but Glass Doctor is still here and I need to stick around so I can pay him.

3pm – Fold laundry while baby plays with Hank-Dog and a trash-can lid.

3:10pm – Baby decides he wants to help with laundry – i.e. – he is upset about mommy doing something that does not involve him.  I put him on the bed with me where we do the laundry and he plays with plastic hangers.

3:20pm – I attempt to put the laundry away, but Henry screams when I leave.  Laundry to be continued later.  Wish Glass Doctor would finish so we could go somewhere for a change of scene.  Instead, we make our way to the nursery for more play time!  We run through the songs he likes to sing, read another book, and have some Baby crawling Mommy like a mountain time.

3:45pm – An impromptu call from the grandparents who want to come over for a quick visit.  Hooray!  Henry loves his grandparents.  They will be here soon.  Until then, more mountain climbing.

3:47pm – Wow, that was fast.  They’re here!  We play with his basketball hoop and sing songs and dance with grandparents.

4:30pm – They leave and baby seems tired (lying down on the ground), so I put him in the crib for a quick rest or nap (whichever happens) while I eat an afternoon snack.  I look at laundry pile and decide to chill out for a bit instead.

4:55pm – Baby is up and it’s time to nurse again.

5:20pm – Finish folding laundry and put away while baby plays in his room. At least that’s how it starts.  There is a reason women are multi-taskers — we have to be.  Baby “helps” me fold laundry while we sing songs, and I try to keep him from leaping off the edge of the bed.  Ultimately, we stop folding laundry because he wants to be held.  So I hold him as we dance to family folk music.

5:45pm – Dinner! Carrots and asparagus, which baby seems more interested in smashing with his hands than eating.  Ends up eating half a piece of toast and a string cheese.

6:00pm – Daddy’s home!

6:30pm – Mommy and Daddy eat while Henry plays in the kitchen.

6:45pm – Pack up the pack n’ play, the baby, and our Bibles for small group Bible Study.

7:15pm – Arrive and let Henry play for a bit with the other kids

7:55pm- Nurse and put Henry to bed in the pack n’ play in a spare bedroom

8:05pm – Henry awoken by unnamed deliriously screaming child.  I get him and try to keep him entertained for the rest of the evening.

9:00pm – Back home and put the baby and myself to bed.

10:30pm – Baby coughs and wakes himself up.  But he goes back to sleep in 5 minutes.  Wondering if I’m in for a long night but am consoled by the fact we had a good day.

And of course, throughout the day, I’m playing alternating soundtracks of Pandora stations on my phone because a girl needs her Wheels on the Bus, Adele, and Showtunes stations providing the music to live out the day.

What It Feels Like

My mind is in a fog, and I can’t find my way out.  I know there are words that will save me.  But I can’t form them in my mouth.  I can’t even picture the letters in my head.  Instead, I feel a weight on my chest, making it difficult to breathe. The night is oppressive.  It’s always the night.  I’m afraid, but I don’t know of what.  The feeling stays and stays until the morning comes.

The morning brings an end to the night.  And everything is not so bad.  But it will be.  The dark thoughts will come again.  The anxiety will turn my stomach to sand, sinking me lower and lower, covering me over until I can no longer breathe.

But the morning will come again.  But so will the night.

This describes a little of what postpartum depression and anxiety have felt like to me.  I debated whether or not to post this (the above portion was written about 3 months ago), but finally decided to just suck it up and put it out there.  I know other mothers struggle with this, but usually not in public.  They struggle in the dark of their homes. Of course, I was being secretive myself, searching only for these others on the internet.  I searched for blogs or websites, for real moms struggling with exactly this, not just medical sites that tell you warning signs and how to get help.  I wanted to know how someone else, someone real, got out.

At first, I just had the baby blues, crying every night, overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for something so small and so helpless.  Then it got a little better.  And then it got a little worse.  And then it got much worse.  It got to the point where I couldn’t even identify what I was crying about, what I was anxious about, or what I was sad about.  It just was.

The night I found myself on the bathroom floor, unable to catch my breath, wishing I hadn’t had my son, I knew I needed to do something about it.

I was hesitant to take medication because I’m breastfeeding and want to keep doing so.  It turned out that, in my case, no drugs were necessary.  (Update: Actually, they were.  I waited until I had weaned my son, started taking Lexapro and realized that I should have done that a LONG time ago).  I I told my friends.  Releasing the weight of what I had been feeling alone was spread out, diffused.  They helped me to bear what was unbearable.  I went to a therapist.  I didn’t particularly like her, but she did make me talk.  She made me form the words I was searching for, words I had forgotten.  Words like “control” and “no control” and learning the difference between them.  Words like “attitude,” words like “prayer” and “mercy” and “hope.”  Words like “others” and “kindness” and “goodness.”  Words like “creativity,” and “silliness,” and “lightness.” I had covered over these words, marked them out in black ink, writing over them with words like “worthless,” and “can’t” and “despair.” The fog had made these words sharp, polished to hideous perfection.  But I have and continue to claw my way back to the other words, scratching out, sometimes with ragged nails, the new words to get back to the old.

I realized that I was feasting on the anxiety and depression, allowing myself to gorge on the dark thoughts, starting with one that would create a domino effect for the others.  I had to say “no” to those words, to those thoughts.

It’s all a matter of getting the words back, those good and merciful words, seeing their shapes in my head, and fitting them in my mouth again.

Henry can stick his foot in his mouth…and so can I.

When I first became a mother, I had this idea I would be very laid-back, green, and anthropologically aware (the very first baby book I read was Our Babies, Ourselves about how different cultures parent).  I did not want to go with our culture and do things the way 21st century Americans did them.  I wanted to do things the way the nomadic Ache tribe in Paraguay did them.  It seemed more natural.  Of course, I am not a part of that tribe, so I saw myself being as “natural” as I could.

I saw myself nursing and encouraging napping whenever and wherever.  I saw me carrying him in a sling everywhere.  I saw me laundering cloth diapers.  I saw me not having lots of plastic chairs for him to sit in.  I saw me never letting my child cry.  I saw me NOT having a schedule because that’s not what !Kung San tribeswomen would have done.  I saw myself hunting and gathering with my baby strapped to my chest.  Not sure why I pictured that last one, but that is the kind of fantasy mindset I had.  Turns out — I’m not that kind of mom.  And for what it’s worth, Henry is not that kind of baby.

I’m talented!

I do for the most part nurse Henry wherever and whenever, but I discovered he doesn’t eat well in public places (too distracting), and prefers the comfort of the blue recliner at home. Plus I hate wearing a cover, but people look at me scandalously when I don’t.

Henry hates the baby carrier.  I’ve tried 3 different kinds and he screams in them all.  Loves to be held, but not in a hands-free kind of way.  So doing chores while snuggling with a baby was out.

So, then came the plastic chairs, of which I have many, and I plan to get more.  A girl does have to clean the kitchen on occasion and needs to set her cute bundle of joy in a safe place.

And I hate cloth diapers.  There are people who have loving relationships with their cloth diapers, but our only relationship was frustration.  The extra laundering was not a problem, but I didn’t realize how much extra laundry I would need to be doing because of leaks.  When I had to change my clothes, my kid’s clothes and sheets about 3 times a day, I had had enough.  I did troubleshoot for a while and when that didn’t work, I was just done. Sorry environment.

Henry started out taking naps wherever and whenever, and I thought, “Yes, I can hunt and gather and my child will get the sleep that he needs as I go about my business.”  He would nap in the car, the stroller, the crib and on me (sitting in a chair, not moving or talking).  But over time, it became everything but the crib, and mostly on me.  The naps were also more fitful and never more than half an hour.  The night he decided bedtime should also be on his mommy, my dream of never having my child cry for more than a few minutes flew out the window.

We did the Ferber method (progressive waiting) and it worked.  I was very torn about letting him cry before he settled himself down to sleep, but he now sleeps through the night and he sleeps better for naps.  We are now on a schedule.  That is something I didn’t want, and I’m still coming to terms with, but I actually think it is working out for both of us.

For those of my friends who have always done things this way, and who I exclaimed to that I will NOT be doing things that way, I want to apologize.  I thought I was doing things a “better,” more natural way, the way our ancestors would have done them.  And then I realized that I’m not an ancestor (or African or Asian or South American or any of the other places in the world that can raise a child without a swing and a breast pump).  I just don’t live in that culture and, being a new mom, I’m just not strong enough to fight this one. And this one isn’t all that bad.  I have access to sleep research.  I have access to grocery stores where hunting and gathering just isn’t really necessary.  I have access to disposable diapers that can CONTAIN lots of poop.  I have access to medicine for my baby if he needs it.

And I forgot that the point of Our Babies, Ourselves is not to show that there is one right way of doing things.  It’s to show that different societies have different priorities and different ways of parenting.  And that’s ok.  I’m not the mother I thought I would be, and that’s ok too.

So…how are you sleeping?

All wrapped up

As a new mother, this is the question I’m asked most often.  And I find it a little annoying. I know that sleep deprivation can be one of the most challenging parts of new parenthood, but this question bothers me because it implies that this is the part of parenthood we most focus on — how this little creature is wreaking havoc on our lives.  I wish I were asked, “What was your favorite thing Henry did today?” or “Where do you find the most joy in your new role of mother?”

Of course, these are not small talk questions.  They require real answers and real conversations.

But still, I wish people would quit asking me “the question,” mostly because I get angry glares from other parents.

I have a confession to make:  my child sleeps through the night (at least 6 hours) and has done since he was 5 weeks old.  He started sleeping 8 to 9 hours a night at 10 weeks old.

My sleeping boy

I am so thankful that he is a good sleeper.  I don’t do well with sleep deprivation (it is migraine-inducing for me), so I am blessed to have this sleepy boy.  And I’m going to quit feeling bad about answering that both Ted and I get a full night’s sleep.  I do have other parenting challenges, but sleep just doesn’t happen to be one of them.

Parenting is hard, so maybe “the question” is meant to stand in for commiserating with each other.  But I would rather focus on the joy.

So, here are the answers to the questions I wish people would ask me.

1. Henry stopped nursing just to smile and giggle at me before he continued to eat.

2. I find the most joy in the quiet, still moments, snuggling with my boy, imagining who he will be, but also taking in this moment, this day (even if that day is rough) because there will never be another like it.


When I think of mothers, I think of my mother.  She is a crafty person.  She practically made everything in Henry’s nursery from the curtains, to the quilt, and even my diaper bag.  She is also an amazing cook (no one would turn down an invite to dinner at her house).  And she is always (still) thinking about me first above herself.  When I felt poorly this past week, she dropped everything to come help me with Henry.

But I’m not really like this.  I’m not crafty.  I won’t be one of those moms who can make a jungle out of construction paper for VBS.  I once spent an entire summer sewing a highly unsuccessful skirt.  I hardly ever cook (my husband is the cook in our family).  And I’m not really used to putting anyone else’s needs above my own (something I need to work on in my marriage as well).

Most of my other friends who are mothers are crafty cooks, but I just don’t fit that mold.  They seemlike mothers to me.  They have those motherly qualities (something akin to an aura of Mary Poppins).  I am not the Poppins, though I do tend to sing silly songs.

The man of the hour, well, really, all the hours

I know that sewing or cooking do not a mother make, but I think I would feel more like a mother if I did those things, especially because I haven’t even begun to realize what it means to put Henry’s needs above my own.  So far, it has only surfaced in small ways: I wanted to watch a movie; Henry wanted to nurse for an hour and fuss.  I wanted to go to the store to buy bread and milk; Henry wanted to nurse for an hour and fuss.    I wanted to shower; Henry wanted to nurse for an hour and fuss.  I know that his needs will not always be like this; in fact, I think they will become harder to meet.  Right now, I know that my job is to feed him and keep him alive.  Pretty soon my job will be to not just keep him alive, but educate him in the ways that he should go, and I think this will require sacrifice on my part, sacrifice I’m not sure I realized I signed on for as soon as he made his debut in this world.  I will have to make hard decisions:  should we save for Henry’s college or save for a new car?  Should I go back to work or really focus all my energy and talents on Henry?  I don’t know what the right answers to these questions are.  I think either choice could be what’s best for him, but I know that one is more likely to be better for me as well.

Even though my entire day is consumed with caring for Henry, I still don’t feel like a mom.  I feel like he is just this really cute, needy roommate that is subletting one corner of our bedroom.  I know that right now, 6 weeks in, I may not feel like a mother, but I hope that day is near.  I also fear that day because I’m sure that is when I’ll be asked to make a greater sacrifice than I’ve ever imagined.