Real Mama: Rebecca S.

Image by Amy Theilig Photography

Tell us a little about yourself...

I’m a full time working mom with a 2.5 year old boy and another little boy on the way who will be here in a few weeks. I’ve been married for 4.5 years. I breastfed my son for two years, we cosleep (wasn’t my intention, but oh well) and we use cloth diapers.

Where is home?

San Jose, California. Heart of the Silicon Valley, or what I refer to as Geeksville.

What are your secrets to balancing your life as a loving wife and a working mama?

I’m not a loving wife. Ha! Seriously though, I don’t think being a wife takes much time, if any at all. I do wish we had more date nights, but for some reason we have never hired a nanny to watch my son for a night. It is overwhelming thinking about all the things I have to tell the nanny and I worry that my son won’t sleep without me.

My husband and I just try to watch movies together when my son falls asleep. We did have fights here and there over chores, as most new parents do. I felt like I did way more chores than my husband did, and I learned to communicate calmly and list all the chores to point out the imbalance to him. After much nagging, some emails and a few fights, we are where we are both happy. I still do more than my husband does, but at least he does what he’s supposed to do timely, and whatever he can do is tremendously helpful to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have to go through that again after baby #2 is born, and hopefully our previous experience will help us re-balance the chores relatively smoothly.

Working full time and being a mom turns out to be not as challenging as I originally feared. I think my schedule will be much more hectic once my kids are old enough to play sports and have after school activities, but right now at the toddler/baby stage, the only challenge is to serve home cooked meals at night and have enough to pack lunch for the daycare.

On weeknights I only have 30-45 minutes to cook before my son gets impatient and hungry. Also, my son is a picky eater, just like most toddlers, and if he rejects dinner, that means that he probably wouldn’t eat it as lunch the next day. Needless to say I had been stressed out with when, how and what to cook.

I tried to plan meals on a weekly basis with some templates I found online, but failed miserably. I could never execute it right for some odd reason. I either didn’t have enough time to cook, forgot to thaw things, or didn’t have time to shop.

Finally I figured out the problem. Most weekly menu planning templates assume that what you cook tonight will be served tonight. That doesn’t work for me since most of the time I have to cook in advance or cook after my son goes to sleep. And I have to consider if the dinner is suitable for daycare the next day, or if I have to make something else as lunch. With so little free time on weeknights, some dishes require 2-3 days preparation in advance.

Eventually I designed my own template listing, by day, what I cook, what I serve, what I prepare, and what next-day lunch will be. This helped me to think clearly and have a good game plan to serve dinner nightly.

What has been the best advice you’ve received as a mama? 

“For picky toddlers, serve at least one thing that you know for sure they like, alongside other things you really want them to eat. This way if they don’t eat the ‘good’ food, you don’t have to worry about them going to bed hungry and give in on snacks.” This advice I read from the book, Happy Toddler Mealtimes, was a life saver. For a few weeks my son and I “fought” daily over dinner with both of us ended up bawling, because I wanted him to eat our table food so I didn’t have to cook separately for him. It was the most stressful time of my motherhood. The advice worked wonders!

I started playing his favorite CD at dinner and we hum, dance and have fun while eating, whether he eats the main dish or not.

Are you the kind of mama you thought you’d be?

No. I think I am doing a much better job than I anticipated. Being the youngest in the family, I never liked kids or even babies. I am also impatient and short tempered. But I love my son to death and (most of the time) am very patient and tender with him. A lot of my friends told me they were surprised to see how “mommy” I’ve become.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

I wish I didn’t have to sleep. I have so many hobbies and interests, even though I only sleep 5-6 hours at night I still feel like I don’t have time for myself.

Was your birth experience all that you hoped it would be? If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?

I didn’t have much expectations of my birth. The only thing on my “birth plan” was “Oh God, please don’t let me tear terribly.” Fortunately, I had a very smooth and fairly short labor with a 2nd degree tear that healed perfectly.

If I could have changed something, I’d have insisted the anesthesiologist lower the epidural dosage. My push time was unnecessarily long because he gave me a max dose and I couldn’t feel anything until the OB shut the machine down completely. Check out M’s birth story.

Image by Jessica Kay Photography

How has your mothering evolved since those early newborn days? Is there anything, thus far, in your approach to mothering that you swore “I’d never do…” and you are? 

I rarely have “I’d never do…” thoughts ever since I graduated from college, as I realized that I wasn’t better or smarter than anyone else, and believe reasonable people do most things for a solid reason. Obviously I’d never feed my baby alcohol or be physically violent. But within reasonable parenting methods, I’m open to whatever that works for our family. My approach to mothering hasn’t changed much, and I’ll do mostly the same things for baby #2.

Is there anything else you wish to share with the Mama Say What?! audience?

My son had been a horrible sleeper. I read many sleep training books and articles, and slept trained him monthly with different methods, each time lasting 3-7 nights. I failed miserably.

He didn’t night wean until he was 15 months old and it was a few more months before he could sleep through the night. He still woke up once a night around midnight until he was 27 months. How did I get him to eventually night wean and sleep through the night? Sleep training definitely helped, but it did not work at all until he was developmentally ready.

I remember at 15 months when I tried night-weaning again for the gazillionth time, and actually saw improvement from one night to the next for the first time, I thought to myself, “I think this is it!,” and I was right. Before that, there was little progress or improvement whatsoever between each night.

So if you wonder if sleep training works, I would say it depends on the situation. When the baby is ready, sleep training definitely works. There will still be tears, but you’ll see changes, albeit small changes, from one night to the next until you’re there. But if the baby is not ready, there is not much you can do unless you go for extreme CIO. So go ahead and try, but don’t beat yourself up if your baby doesn’t react the same as how books describe. Keep trying intermittently and there is light at the end of the tunnel!


One Response to Real Mama: Rebecca S.

  1. Love this article. Thank you for the tip on feeding. I will try that!

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