A Gift of Mommy Time

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I don’t think any first time mother quite knows what she’s in for, regardless of how much childcare or research she has done before her children come along. All mothers are thrown in the deep end of motherhood. The pool into which I was thrown was a little colder and deeper than some others.

Like most of our readers, I had the twin thing to contend with. Two babies are no small challenge. I worked full time. I exhausted my maternity leave and returned to work when the babies were 11 weeks old. I worked forty hours a week. Add in a required lunch break and an hour or more of commuting in each direction. I was committed to spending the remaining 113 hours of my week with my babies and maximizing our chances of breastfeeding success. The Iraq War didn’t help. My husband deployed when the babies were 5 months old. We didn’t have any family nearby, although our neighbours became practically family.

My husband knew me well enough to realize that I would never willingly take any time for myself outside work. He came up with a truly inspired gift. The perfect gift. My husband bought me a pair of premium season tickets to Broadway in Austin, the local series of touring musicals.

I’m something of a musical theatre geek. Name a song in Rent, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Singin’ in the Rain, or Mary Poppins, and I can sing it for you, likely the melody line and a few harmony parts for good measure. By giving me pairs of tickets, my (now ex) husband ensured that about once a month, I would have to hire a babysitter and schedule a night out with a girlfriend.

I came back from these evenings out re-energized and feeling loved. I went to each show with a different friend, ranging from choir buddies to coworkers, and once even my mother-in-law. My daughters were no worse for wear after an evening with a babysitter, an evening I wouldn’t have taken were it not for the tickets burning a hold in my pocket.

I recently gave a dear friend two gifts at her baby shower: a Boppy pillow and an offer of 12 date nights worth of babysitting, one night a month for Baby’s first year. Her son is now 5 months old and she cashed in her first couple time this past weekend. I’m hoping that my attempt to give her the gift of me-time is as effective as my husband’s.

Have you ever received a gift of me-time?

Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Ask the Moms: Multiples and Birthday Party Etiquette

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Categories Ask the Moms, Birthdays, Multiple SolutionsTags , , 14 Comments

For party throwers | For party goers

Mother of triplets Jenn reached out us with this question:

My triplets are turning 5 and would like to have a party inviting their classroom friends.  They are in the same class.  I cannot expect every guest to bring 3 gifts. I know you mentioned NO presents as an option but at 5 they are really looking forward to having their first birthday party with not just family but friends too and being able to open their classmates’ gifts!

I’m sure that this cannot be an uncommon problem for mothers of multiples!

Jenn, we’re so glad you asked about this. It’s not just a quandary for the parents throwing the party for multiples, but a common question for the parents of singleton guests too! There’s also the matter of attending a singleton’s party with your multiples. Are you expected to give a separate gift from each child, or is it okay to give one from the family?

When You’re Throwing a Party for Your Birthday Children

Above all, be considerate of your guests as Jenn is being. If you know that every guest you have invited has the resources to give extravagant gifts to each child and that is your community expectation, good for you. For most of us, that’s not the case.

Talk to your children ahead of time and explain to them that the real gift is their friends’ presence. They shouldn’t express disappointment at gifts, even if they feel it, and they should be certain to say “Thank you.” You may need to explain that this is one of the challenges of being a multiple. Sharing a birthday means sharing gifts. Or sharing a birthday means not sharing gifts. Set the expectation that works for your family.

Some possible variations include:

  • One gift per guest family per set of multiples.
  • One gift per guest family per birthday child.
  • One gift per guest child per set of multiples.
  • One gift per guest child per birthday child.

We generally discourage that last option. Imagine that you have triplets and you’ve invited triplets to their party. Nine gifts from one family to another is unnecessary, expensive, and will likely go under-appreciated by the overwhelmed recipient children.

Take your multiples’ relationship into account

Do your twins or triplets share all their toys? They would probably enjoy shared gifts.

Do they have a strong independent streak and enjoy keeping their possessions separate? They would appreciate less elaborate individualized gifts.

Do your multiples insist that everything always be fair and equal? It may be simplest to keep gift-giving within the family and invite guests not to bring gifts or to bring donations for the local library or food pantry instead.

Mention gifts in the invitation

This invitation demonstrates twin birthday party etiquette, with the multiples specifying that a single gift is appropriate.Eliminate discomfort on the part of your guests by specifying your gift expectations in the invitation. It can feel tacky to ask for gifts, but it’s better than leaving guests wondering if they need to bring a gift per child or not.

Consider wording your invitation with something like, “We request only your presence, but if you must bring presents, limit your family to one gift for the birthday girls to share!” You’re not asking for things, but you are setting a one-gift expectation for guest families. Then, your triplets can go round robin on opening the gifts to keep things fair!

If your kids have separate friends, perhaps because they’re in different classes, you could write something like “You are being invited to Twin A and Twin B’s party as Twin B’s honoured guest. Twin A is not expecting a gift from you!”

Creative solutions

There are several ways to provide guidance to party guests on what to give as a gift to keep things easy and equal.

Jenna did a “5 and 5 party” for her son. Each friend brought $10. $5 went to charity, specifically the local children’s hospital. He used his $5 to choose a toy and picked a new train for his train set after the party. Most kids also brought a card or picture for him.

Beth and Sadia have been to or thrown book exchange parties. Each child comes to the party with one age appropriate, gender neutral, wrapped book. The birthday girls’ parents brought a few extras, just in case someone forgot.  Everyone, including the birthday girls, leaves with one wrapped book. This approach has the perk of avoiding the need for pesky goodie bags!

Build an activity center. In your invitation, let your guests know that you’re building an art center, kitchen center, or dress up center and that you’d appreciate contributions towards it. As we suggested above, have the kids take turns opening gifts. Mom and dad can open any remainder to ensure that each kid gets to open the same number of gifts.

Dana often suggests family presents for her twins’ birthdays. These are things like be board games, a collection of books, or art supplies.

Sadia’s daughters have requested canned goods for the food pantry instead of gifts, after discovering the hard way that many people feel uncomfortable arriving at birthday parties completely empty-handed. MandyE always adds a “no gifts, please” note at the bottom of her invitations. Her daughters have gotten some really great cards over the years instead of gifts and love opening them!

When You’re Attending a Party with Your Multiples

Within the multiples community

If you’re part of a close-knit multiples community, as MandyE and Jen Wood are, you’ll probably notice that there are norms in place regarding birthday gifts from twins to twins or higher order multiples. Just ask one of the other moms.

Jen Wood is a playgroup with 7 sets of twins within a year of her kids. They’ve always brought one gift per birthday kid. They also received one gift per birthday kid from each other “set” of friends. If they didn’t share a birthday they wouldn’t be expected to share a gift.

When MandyE goes to parties for multiples, she usually has her girls make a handmade card for each kid and does a larger family gift.

Sadia’s daughters usually give a gift to each birthday multiple unless they know that the multiples in question like to share their clothes and toys. In that case, they will do a more elaborate gift to all the birthday kids. Her twins’ great aunt, who has triplets, always gets the twins coordinating but non-identical pajamas from her whole family.

Gifts for singletons

There’s no hard and fast rule here. Take the size of your family and your financial and time resources into account. This isn’t just an issue for multiples. We don’t imagine that large families should feel obligated to bring a gift from each child who attends a party when siblings are invited.

When MandyE and her daughters go to singleton parties, she lets each of her girls choose a gift. Sadia tends to bring a single gift to singleton birthday kids from the whole family.

On the one occasion that her daughters brought separate gifts, the birthday girl’s mom noticed and mentioned her surprise. In this case, Sadia’s daughters felt that they had individual relationships with the birthday girl rather than being her “twin friends.” They felt very strongly that they wanted to give gifts as individuals.

Twin birthday party etiquette

The truth is that there is no universal standard on how many gifts twins should give or receive. It falls on the multiples’ parents to set expectations for their own family and their guests. Take into consideration the relationships between the children involved, whether they function more as individuals or as a set. Remember that being there to celebrate the birthday child or children is more important than the gift you bring. It really is the thought that counts.

How do you navigate the murky waters of birthday parties with multiples?

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Help the Preemie Community – Shop the Celebrate Carter Fundraiser

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Prematurity Awareness Week 2013: How Do You Do It?

World Prematurity Day November 17In the United States, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely, 1 in 10 in Canada. Worldwide, over 15 million babies are born too soon each year. While not all multiples are born prematurely, a multiple birth increases the probability of an early delivery. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, are at a higher risk for health complications in infancy, some of which can have long-term effects. Full-term infants are not all free from their own health complications, of course.

In honor of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month, led by the March of Dimes, How Do You Do It? is focusing this week’s posts on The Moms’ experiences with premature deliveries, NICU stays, health complications, special needs, and how we’ve dealt with these complex issues.

Want to help the preemie community and get some holiday shopping done? The Celebrate Carter fundraiser is here! This year, it’s a shopping catalog of various vendors who are donating a percentage of their sales to the fundraiser, which benefits two deserving preemie/loss related charities.

ABOUT: Carter Bickford is the first-born son of Craig and Angela Bickford of Cypress, Texas. He was born on December 9, 2011, along with his triplet brother and sister, Braden and Tenley. They were born very sick at 28 weeks. Sadly, Carter passed away at 49 days old from complications of prematurity. The Bickford’s first time holding him was also their last, but they are grateful for every day they had with him. He was a true fighter and his story has reached thousands. His parents hope that by doing these fundraisers annually, they can raise money in his honor to help other organizations reach even more people.

Home page banner

BENEFITING: This year, the beneficiaries were chosen for their involvement in both the preemie community and the loss community. Celebrate Carter is proud to be partnering with Graham’s Foundation and the Zoe Rose Memorial Foundation.

GsF New Logo   ZR logo 2012

WHEN: Shop between 11/15 and 12/1 at www.celebratecarter.com – over 70 vendors!

You can find more info about the fundraiser on the website, the Facebook page, or in the flyer below. You can also share this flyer with friends and family so they can participate too!

Final Celebrate Carter Flyer

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Mothers' Day After Divorce

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I was divorced in June of last year after 8 years of marriage. I never saw it coming. Mothers’ Day in the US is 2 Sundays from now on May 12. It will be my first since our family was completely restructured and the ground ripped out from under me.

My mother-in-law was my best friend and confidante, and the best grandmother I could have ever desired for my children. She is loving, yet firm. She spoils the girls as only grandparents can, but has always respected my rules and boundaries. Sadly, my former in-laws have chosen to cut me out of their lives, despite my ex-husband’s very clear indication that he didn’t desire that and wanted the children’s well-being to come first. I won’t be sending my former mother-in-law a Mothers’ Day gift this year after 9 years of cards, flowers, and gifts. The running list I had of perfect gifts for her needs to be put away permanently. The reality that this surrogate mother is forever lost to me is really hitting home. Rejection hurts.

Things with my ex-husband were as polite as divorce can be. We didn’t involve lawyers, except to spend our tax refund to hire a single lawyer to draft a divorce decree incorporating the terms we agreed to on our own. I sent my ex a note a list of things that I’d taken care of for his family that he would now need to own on behalf of our daughters: thank you cards, Christmas and  birthday presents, summer visits and, yes, Mothers’ Day cards.

I’m pretty sure that Daddy’s going to forget about the girls’ Mothers’ Day cards for Auntie and Grammy, but I need to accept that it’s no longer my place to remind him. I can still teach my daughters about honouring those who love them. I can make sure that my ex’s new wife gets a card from our daughters. After all, this is her first Mothers’ Day as a stepmom. If picking up cards for her inspires the girls to ask to get cards from Grammy and Auntie, I won’t say no. It’s not my place to tell them to do so, though. This post-divorce co-parenting thing doesn’t come with demarcations of what duties are his and which ones mine… and that’s not even the hardest part.

Who do you honour on Mothers’ Day? Do your kids send cards to their grandmothers, aunts, and godmothers? Who in your family keeps track of card- and gift-giving occasions?

Sadia is mother of nearly 7-year-old identical twin daughters, M and J. After 8 years as an army wife, she made the surprisingly minor transition to single motherhood. In August 2013, she moved back to Central Texas from El Paso, where she had moved a year earlier on orders from Uncle Sam.

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Making A List, Checking it Twice

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Hard to believe, but the holidays are just around the corner.  Being the organized twin mother I am, (aka: OCD), I have begun making a Christmas wish list for my duo.  This will be our second Christmas as a family of four, and I am hoping to make Christmas shopping easier and more enjoyable for my family. I am so blessed to have the family that I do, and please believe me that they are not at all offeneded by the idea of a wish list.  In my family, each gift-giver truely wants to give Faith and Jonathan a special gift that isn’t the same as a gift given by the other side of the family. And as F and J’s mom, I am quickly becoming skilled in spotting a dud from a gem, in terms of toys and activities.

With all that said, would you please help me with my list? Please keep all suggestions under $50, and bear in mind that we are facing a long, cold, boring Pennsylvania weather. My kids will be 19 months old at Chrismas. Your creative suggestions are so welcommed!

Jonathan testing out the sled.
Jonathan testing out the sled.
Faith hanging out under the tree-Christmas '07
Faith hanging out under the Christmas tree.

Here is my “thinking outside of the box” list so far:

  • Smocks for art projects
  • Aprons for cooking and baking
  • An IOU for a trip to the Aviary (hopefully with that relative!)
  • Any Crayola ColorWonder Art Supplies
  • A Trip to the Children’s Museaum
  • Beanbags
  • Dress-up clothes (consignment store )
  • CD’s of dancing music
  • DVD’s (30 minutes)

As you can see, my creativity is limited! 

I honestly don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking my kids should have “everything.” As fun as it is to buy them new things, I don’t think it is always good for them. I want my kids to learn to be creative, resourceful and thankful. They adore their family, and their best days are when someone comes over to visit. I would say we certainly value people over things, but I do want to give the aunts and grandparents some ideas… Please help!

[polldaddy poll=1004677]

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A word about baby clothes

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As anyone with a new baby can attest, people love buying baby clothes.  The new grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even just random family friends can barely resist.  They come to visit with a little box in hand, from Macy’s, Target, BabyGap, or wherever. Thoughtful, sweet, generous. And when it comes to clothes, who can blame them for the impulse buy?  Somehow, a t-shirt is just plain cuter when it’s that small.  And when it’s a gift for twins?  Oh. My. God.  Smaller may be cuter, but nothing beats a matched set.  We all have our collections of matching outfits in the dresser, and whether or not you’re into dressing your kids alike on a regular basis, sometimes you just can’t help it.  (Hopefully they’ll forgive thank us later.)

But I have learned several important lessons about baby clothes, and in particular baby clothes as gifts, from my experience over the last 8+ months as a mother of two (very differently-sized) babies. (Forgive me if this all sounds ungrateful. I have actually taken it all as lessons for myself as to how to buy for other babies.)  So, courtesy of Daniel & Rebecca, here is what I have learned about how to buy gifts for other babies:

First, whenever possible, find out what sizes the babies in question are actually wearing.  I don’t expect people to automatically know that, at nearly nine months old, my daughter still wears size 3-6 months. My son, on the other hand, seems to be the rare child who actually wears his actual age range (at exactly 6 months, he switched to the 6-9 month clothing, etc.).  Obviously, people who don’t get my kids dressed every day would not know this, but there are easy ways to find out. Grandparents make good spies.

Second, look at the size of the outfit you just chose before you buy it.  I know that, if you haven’t spent a lot of time with baby clothes recently, they all just look small and cute.  Impossibly small, in fact, so you get the bigger size, because no real baby could possibly wear the 3-month size.  I can’t tell you how many people have lovingly presented us with gifts and, while looking at my kids, exclaim that they should have gotten the bigger size.  But I assure you, my kids have not outgrown the size 18-month shirts at age 6 months.  Really.

Third, now that you’ve learned what size they wear and have actually inspected the labels while in the store, don’t buy too far ahead.  If you want to buy for the next season or two, if you want to buy a size up from what they wear now, that makes good sense.  Buy summer clothes in early spring, in the next size.  Great.  But did you really have to buy the size 2T fleece jackets for my 4-month-olds? (I can’t make this stuff up, people.)  I mean, yes, the jackets are adorable.  I can see how you were drawn to them. Especially the fluorescent pink animal print.  But I have no idea when my kids will wear size 2T, and whether or not that will even be at a time of year when fleece is appropriate outerwear.  Plus, I have to store it somewhere for the next 1-3 years.

Fourth, think for just one moment about the practicality of the outfit in question. I’m not saying all baby clothes have to be practical.  Dresses on baby girls are super cute, even if they make no practical sense at all.  But really… baby cashmere?  Just because they make it doesn’t mean you should spend your money on it.  Take the $60 you were going to spend on that sweater (that my child will wear once, vomit all over, and outgrow), and buy three outfits from Old Navy. You can splurge from time to time, after all, that’s what gifts are for. But be reasonable.

Lastly, and I think this is a good rule for any gifts, please please please include the gift receipt.  We love that you were thoughtful and generous and got us an adorable outfit from BabyGap.  The trouble is that both Aunt Sally and Aunt Kathy walked past BabyGap during the same week, and they both fell in love with the monkey shirt (it’s just so perfect for little Jimmy!).  And while the shirt is, in fact, perfect for little Jimmy, he doesn’t need two.  Plus, I’d rather exchange that 12-month sized sleeveless outfit for something my daughter can actually fit into this summer, instead of wistfully staring at it all season long, until she can finally wear it. In November.

I know, I know.  People are just being sweet and thoughtful and generous.  And I love that someone was thinking of my kids and wanted to get them something nice.  I also know that I’m preaching to the choir, here. But after getting two sets of very strangely-sized off-season outfits this weekend (blessedly inclusive of gift receipts), I felt compelled to put my lessons into words.

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