Daisy Q & A: Balancing Parenthood Between 2 Working Parents

Ok, so next up in the reader questions, Natalie asks: I’m interested in how you and your husband share parenting duties, especially with his weekend commitments.  

The short answer: very carefully and with lots of teamwork.

The real answer is much longer of course. B and I both work, and both of our offices are in the suburbs. I go into the office twice a week, B goes into the office most days but has plenty of days that start or end in a courthouse, deposition or other meeting not in his office. Daycare is South of our house, our offices are North. B sails pretty regularly in the summer and my girlfriends are pretty good at regular “lets get together for dinner/a glass of wine”. So between it all…..

B has morning duty 95% of the time. On the days I go into the office it is all him, on the days I work from home it is mostly him. I set outfits and daycare “necessities” (back up outfits, a new nap blanket, a signed form, etc) every evening, and B is mostly the one responsible for getting up with her and getting her out the door. On the days I work from home I chip in where I can, and I try to set up as much of her breakfast as I can before I hit the road or start working. On the odd day that B has to leave the house really early (typically for court in a county far, far away) he tries to give me as much advance notice as possible so I can shift my work schedule around to accommodate doing the drop off.

I have afternoon duty 95% of the time. I pick up from daycare, get her home and bathed (first thing first, immediately, goodby germs), get her dinner made and get her fed. On a “usual” night, B comes home shortly after she has finished eating (she eats at 6, he gets home between 6:30 and 6:45). We all play, read stories, I try to prep as much of the adult dinner as I can, and after Gracie goes down at 7:30, we make and eat our dinner.

On nights that one of us has a “thing” (work, social or otherwise) we put it on the shared Google calendar, make sure the other person can leave work in enough time to pick her up/get home with enough time for the other person to get out the door. On the weekends we share duties as much as we can- one of us gets up with her while the other makes breakfast. One of us stays home with her while the other runs to the grocery. We take turns bathing her, we eat meals as a family (so we both feed her) and we trade off as much as we can.  When B sails, Gracie and I do our thing solo. I try to make the days fun- a trip to the zoo, splash park, playground, farmers market, brunch with friends, you name it.

There are weeks that I tackle a lot more of the parenting duties, there are weeks that B does. We try really hard to be respectful of each other’s work calendars- for instance, I have to go into the office on Thursdays barring natural disaster or the flu. I try not to ask B to leave the office “early” (they don’t have set office hours, but you know what I mean) more than once a week, which means sometimes I say no to an event if I had something else earlier in the week. It isn’t always even. Sometimes after 7 or 8 nights of bath duty I get snippy “come on, you can handle the bath tonight” and sometimes B asks for a little more help in the morning so he can get out the door. With communication and a shared calendar though, we seem to make it work!

For Myself

Right around the time I found out I was pregnant, a good chunk of my everyday wardrobe was in major need of overhauling. During law school most of my investments went to suits and “business formal” clothes, then I found myself in a job where things are decidedly casual (I wear jeans to work nine times out of ten) and quickly my “everyday” was wearing out. Then I was pregnant so everything got boxed up or pushed to the side and I had brand new clothes to wear! After Gracie was born I lived in that post-partum yoga pant/nursing tank phase, and then when I went back to work I found myself pulling things from an even older section of my closet, everyday wear from when I was more slender (thanks to nine months of throwing up on the regular), and besides, everything was in transition body-wise so it was no time to invest.

Which brings us to now. And the tragic state of affairs. Over the past two months I’ve been making myself pull the tired, the downtrodden, the fraying hems and spotty neckline (what did I spill there?) out of my closet. A few pieces at a time. Yes, Daisy, it is time to let go of the sad, stretched, off-color Gap “favorite t” that you would be mortified if anyone saw you in. When you do it slowly it feels less painful, and finally this past weekend I pulled some final plugs. That Target cardigan that doesn’t really fit anymore? Goodbye. That old tank top with the tiny tear “no one will notice” is in the rubbish bin (I’m not insulting a second hand store with things not fit for wearing out of the house).

My closet has a lot more room, and I pulled out every random hanger, moving them all to the front. Now begins the process of rebuilding. I’ve been working on that slowly- some extra room in the budget, a good Gap coupon, a younger cousin with a good eye for fashion, slowly but surely I’m adding back. This week Target has many of their tank tops on sale for $5 each, which was the kick in the pants I needed to replace some old white tank tops that had seen much better days. New riding boots are on the list (my last pair is worn through thanks to the great Winter of 2013), I have my eye on some Breton tops from Boden (not affiliate links) and I’m on the lookout for a great pair of courderoy pants. These things are all for me, and sometimes I struggle with feeling selfish (I could use this money on house stuff/Gracie/B/family fun) but I think I know that sometimes doing something for yourself is important to. Even if it is just a little shopping.

It is amazing how much better I feel in the morning when I open my closet, and rather than seeing it stuffed with things I don’t want/can’t/will not wear, it is trimmed down but has items that make me happy, that fit, that don’t make me feel the need to change five times before walking out the door. Sometimes it really is the little things, and that clean closet has inspired me to clean out a few junk drawers, a cluttered corner, a cupboard of towels put away without any thought. I pulled out shoes that need to go to the cobbler and found some that just needed to go in the rubbish bin. Lets just mark this whole thing down as a grand experiment in “yup, sometimes you gotta take care of yourself” and call it good, eh?

Daisy Q &A: Traveling with Babies

First up in the questions from readers…..a reader  (hi KT!) asked if I could talk about traveling with Gracie and what has worked for us, as she has some travel in her future with her new baby. To that I say: sure! I know there are a lot of resources out there, but here are some things that have worked for us! (Amazon links affiliate, heads up).

Overall: organization! I make packing lists, try to do the math on diapers on wipes (I usually fail) and if we have a machine-wash item that we use daily (sleep sack, small bedtime blanket, pajamas, bibs) I make sure to pack 2 – so if a middle of the night diaper explosion (or similar situation) happens, I know I have a back up at the ready while I wash whatever was destroyed. More specifically….

  • If I’m traveling somewhere with no changing table, I toss an extra foldable changing mat in the suitcase so I can set up a little diaper station wherever we are. That way my diaper bag one can stay in the diaper bag and I don’t risk leaving it behind wherever we are staying.
  • If I’m staying for more than a few days, I sometimes pack enough diapers for 2-3 days and plan on ordering/buying a small box of diapers while I’m there. This is a good solution for a trip home for the holidays when you are staying put for a week.
  • When we travel to see family, they often graciously help out by buying a few kid-food essentials, at least until we can get there and buy the remainder ourselves. Typically this means some Cheerios, a small container of whole milk, and some fresh fruit. This is nice but not necessary!
  • I pack my diaper bag with enough items for a full 24 hours so I can be separated from my larger suitcase (even if it is just in the trunk of the car) without worry.
  • I always have a gallon sized zip lock bag for food-stuffs in my suitcase. When G was younger it had a bottle brush, a small travel bottle of dish soap and some clean dish cloths from home (if we were staying in a hotel). Now it has a few utensils and kid plates for when we are staying in someone’s home  and they don’t have little ones.
  • Packing….if I’m traveling on a plane, I bring 2 extra outfits (footie jammies for wee ones, comfy top/bottoms for older ones) for Gracie and B and I each roll up an extra top/bottom for ourselves in our carry ons. You don’t want to be the parent wearing vomit on a long flight.
  • For plane travel we organized the following way. After checking our suitcases and the baby sleeping device we brought the stroller, a baby carrier (Ergo/Tula), the car seat, the diaper bag, and ONE adult carry-on on board. If I was alone it was my purse, if I wasn’t, B and I shared a back pack. If your child is older and your stroller is strong enough, consider a Mommy Hook to clip their convertible seat to the stroller handlebars via the chest straps for easy maneuvering through the concourse. If younger, use your clip in infant seat/stroller frame. You can gate check (for free) your stroller & car seat if your child doesn’t have their own seat on board. UppaBaby sells nice stroller bags for their full size and umbrella strollers, and as a bonus, if you register them + your UppaBaby stroller, if your stroller is damaged they will fix or replace it for free. Insurance! Woo!
  • Side note: I really recommend getting your kid their own seat if you can. This is both for safety and enjoyability. If you are a gambling type, on Southwest if the flight has available seats, even if you didn’t buy an extra seat, they will let you use your car seat on board. If you get clearance from the gate agent, just tell the flight attendant “I have a lap infant but was told there was room for the car seat” and they’ll be cool, pinky swear. If the flight fills up for some reason (last minute standby passenger) they’ll come let you know and help you gate check the seat.

Activities for entertainment

  • Screens. If you are ok with screen time under 2 (or your child is over 2) don’t hesitate to stock up on apps/videos/etc. Because the AAP recommends no screen time before age 2, we are pretty strict on Gracie’s use of technology, but we have a few apps that have been helpful on plane rides. More specifically we have a drawing app that she likes, and we downloaded a few of Sandra Boynton’s books in app version (they are interactive!) so we can read them to her and play with the various interactive parts. If you are going to use anything with sound, don’t forget a pair of kid’s headphones.
  • Sticky stuff. We travel with a roll of washi tape (which isn’t overly sticky and comes in fun patterns), a few pages of Target dollar spot stickers, and a package of Post-It notes. As it turns out, you can entertain an older infant/young toddler with this stuff for hours. Highly recommend and bonus: it isn’t terribly messy, at least not like Cheerios.
  • Dollar bin/store items. A few new novelty items can really help the time go by.
  • Travel magna doodle. Definitely buying this before our next trip!!
  • Books – Indestructibles are nice since they are so thin & light.
  • Music! For older kids you can put it on an iPod/like-device, for car travel, a CD works fine for little ones.

Food on the go

  • Snacks. Two OXO Tot snack cups and at least 2 quart sized bags of small snacks are in my diaper bag, along with a sippy cup. When traveling I care zero bits about snacking too much (hey, one Cheerio at a time can make a long plane ride much shorter), and I don’t want to run out. Depending on your child’s age, dried fruit, yogurt covered raisins, animal crackers, and small cereal can be a total life saver. Now that Gracie is older I typically have a few granola bars on hand in case we can’t eat at her usual lunch time. I  don’t travel with squeeze pouches, which I know some people love, but my kid thinks they make excellent volcanoes. No thanks.
  • Milk. When Gracie was a baby I traveled with bottled already filled with breastmilk (fine at room temp for 8 hours), and a Dr. Brown’s formula caddy with enough formula for exclusive formula drinking for 24 hours (that formula caddy is my favorite due to the shape/easy pour). Sometimes this means I had an extra formula caddy in my own carry on/bag, but dang it, I was not getting on a plane without enough to get us through a terrible gate-wait. Now that she drinks cow’s milk, if I’m worried about availability (long car ride, etc.) I use a small thermos to bring some cold milk with us. Heads up, most fast food restaurants & Starbucks carry milk. Back in the day I typically traveled with 2 bottles and a package of Medela breast pump wipes (that will kill the germs) so I could re-use bottles in flight/on the road. Don’t use the tap water on a plane to rinse bottles, it isn’t potable. I always had a clean burp cloth in the diaper bag to use to wipe bottles out as needed as well.
  • Cups. I’ve started just bringing Take n Toss cups when I travel – then I don’t have to worry about losing one of our expensive straw cups, and I can leave them at Grandmas/toss them at the end of the trip if necessary.
  • A note on food on the go…our last car trip, we had 3 adults and I was riding in the back with Gracie. I’d given her a cup of animal crackers to snack on and she ended up shoving 2 in her mouth and choking. It was terrifying and I’m really glad I was in the back with her. So that is always something to keep in mind, particularly on car rides where there isn’t an adult in the back. (We are sticking to Cheerios in the car for awhile, which she doesn’t shove in like it is her last meal.)

Sleeping on vacation

  • When G was really little we just brought our Rock n Play along. It folds flat, you can check it on an airplane if you want (Southwest Airlines sells reusable carseat/stroller bags for $15 at the check in counter, just put it in there if you are worried about it getting dirty) and it took up very little space. Now that she is older we either bring a Pack n Play or our Baby Bjorn travel crib + a travel sheet. We were given both as gifts….I like how small/light the Bjorn is and how dang easy it is to set up, but the mattress is so soft I didn’t use it until Gracie was over a year old. To each their own! The Pack n Play is a standby workhorse, although putting it together is always a task.
  • We bring her monitor  (unless we are in a hotel) and my old iPhone with her white noise app on it but we leave her crib sound machine/Twilight Turtle at home. We do our best to keep her routine going, although sometimes on vacation we’ve been known to throw caution to the wind.

Other “big stuff” that you might need

  • High chairs can sometimes pose a challenge when you travel. If you are going on and honest to goodness vacation and staying in a hotel I probably wouldn’t worry about it too much. If you are renting an apartment/condo for a week then depending on your space availablity I’d consider packing a clip high chair (we don’t have one but I hear great things about this one) or the Fisher Price booster, which we have, and it packs down fairly well (although not flat). These are great options for Grandma’s house as well, or they can consider the Ikea high chair which gets pretty good reviews and is an inexpensive investment (if you are going to visit often).
  • Car seats. We always travel with our own car seat. Rental car agencies offer seats but I don’t trust them to replace them after accidents/wash them properly/inspect them for wear and tear. I know how to install our seats and I know Gracie is safe and has a seat that will let her rear face (we hope to rear face until at least age 3). We bought the Combi Coccoro seat as our 2nd convertible seat based on how small and lightweight it is, with the idea it would be great for using in taxi cabs & on planes.

Whew. I think that covers it. Happy travels!


Questions? Comments? Concerns?

I always enjoy when bloggers I read do Q&A posts- letting their readers ask questions that they answer in a follow-up post or posts. I realized it had been years since I’d done that, so I figured I would toss it out there: questions? comments? concerns? Ask away and I’ll do my best to answer. I’ll start with a question I got last week about traveling with a baby and tips I have for that, and if I get any more questions, I’ll go from there!

In other non-pressing news, I thought I’d toss together some of my favorite recipe resources (i.e. where all our good eats come from):

  • Kate (Elefantitas Alegres) Menu Monday /in the kitchen posts
  • Cooking Light…get yourself a subscription, buy a cookbook of theirs that is on point for you, use their website…their recipes are golden!
  • Smitten Kitchen…both her website and cookbook are staples in our house.
  • Pioneer Woman….her cinnamon rolls, chicken spaghetti and pot roast are all favorites. Her fig jam, proscuitto and arugula pizza is a must.

I also have some food blogs I love to peruse but have yet to use any of their recipes (which speaks to my organization, not their food)

And in final recipe news, I partnered up with Blendtec to try one of their blenders and create some recipes for their website. You can check out my recipes for roasted garlic spread and apple-sweet potato baby food!

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