Rookie Mom snapshot: Sarah in Boston

Sarah Whitten was my college roommate who now lives in the Boston area with her husband and daughter. She is a voice and yoga instructor. She works as the Director of Operations for Stretch What Matters and is currently expecting her second child. We live cross-country and haven’t seen each other for five years, so I have never had the pleasure of meeting little Ella. 

How old is Ella and what’s her most recent accomplishment?

Ella is 2 years, 10 months. This summer has been a real growth time for her. She potty trained in the last few weeks. I had her pick out a baby doll that drinks and uses the potty. We bought it and it sits on a shelf awaiting her when she finally decides to abandon pooping in diapers. We’ll see about that one.

She’s also known for monkey-like behavior – climbing the outside of the stairs and jumping from the 4th or 5th step up, vaulting herself off her bed over the side rail, by accident etc. I’ve tried to channel it into good physical activity – we watched the Olympics and I then set up my yoga mat with blankets for her to jump over as though she’s on the balance beam.

What’s your favorite outing with Ella that’s not necessarily Ella-centric?

I love going to the YMCA where there’s free childcare. I can swim while she plays. Each time we go there’s always a moment of “I don’t want to go to the Y”, and she pouts mightily when we walk in, but as soon as she’s in the room she’s fine and has a good time. I admit I fight feeling guilty each time when she gets pouty, but I try not to let her see it because I know that will just up the level of pouting/fussing about going.

What’s your most frequent way to spend the last hours before Ben gets home?

This kind of varies depending on how I’m feeling (I’m 8 months pregnant right now). On a good day I pick her up from daycare, we arrive home, count how many tomatoes are on our plants, inspect the herbs, sit and have a popsicle on the patio and then play red light/green light or hide and seek (she stands in place and covers her eyes, tells me to count to ten and ‘find her’) until it is time to go in and make dinner.

I try to entice her to play at her table in the kitchen while I cook, but she usually prefers to watch Sesame Street. On the super hot and humid days though I make her just go straight inside and plunk her down in front of the tv so I can sit in front of the fan. I’ll sit with her until I need to make dinner and sometimes pull a book out if I can’t take another minute of Elmo….

What do you and Ben like to do with Ella on the weekend?

We try to have one family adventure each weekend. Recently we went to the beach for the day. We belong to a lot of area attractions like museums/zoos/aquariums so we’ll rotate through going to those. Or, if I ‘ve seen an event on a local kids calendar, like a concert or fair, we’ll go to that. The rest of the weekend seems to get eaten up with projects around the house, laundry, groceries, gym trips. Ben really tries to be involved on the weekends so they have little rituals like making pancakes together one morning.

Do you have any tips for moms of newborns in your neighborhood?

I think my best advice would be get to know your neighbors. We have lots of families with young (elementary and younger) kids, but since people tend to play in backyards and there’s a good deal of space around houses, you don’t necessarily see people out all the time. There is also the town recreation center which is an easy to walk to place in our neighborhood (the Cole Center). They have a playground that is great for little kids and also lots of classes and playgroups.

Have any veteran moms taken you under their wings? What did they show you?
My former sister-in-law is probably at the top of the list. Her kids are now 10 and 12, but she has a mind like a steel trap so she remembers what infants and toddlers are like. She has a great ability to sympathize with whatever I’ve got going on and then offer up how she handled things without me feeling like I’m being preached to. We have similar parenting styles so most of what she has done is something I would feel comfortable doing.

Mostly, I think I’ve realized there are moms who are going to be honest with you about how hard parenting is, but that it also carries rewards (and sometimes you have to hunt for those rewards) and there are moms who aren’t willing to admit things can be tough. I don’t do well with those kind of moms so I tend to stay away from them. I find that if I ignore the stuff that I’m feeling about the tough things, it just builds up until I’m miserable. So I’d rather name it, work through it and move on!

What else have you got for us, Sarah?

One of the things that has helped me most with becoming a mom is yoga. For a long, long stretch of time Ella was a melty, scream-y disaster at dinner time (from about 12 months to 27 months). I felt like I came close to losing my mind in those months. We were just a bad combination. I was so tired at the end of the day and she was fried from daycare. She would scream cry while I made dinner unless I was holding her, but that was impossible.

I tried EVERYTHING to make it better, from craft activities, to reading her a story and then stopping to chop something up, read another story, to television, to threats and time outs. I even left her at daycare for an extra 45 minutes for a while so I could at least start dinner before picking her up, but then she was even more tired and hungry when I’d get her. Many nights I would end up so frustrated that I would speak to her in at tone that made me cringe at myself.

Towards the end of that time I re-committed to my yoga practice (I practiced for about a decade before having her and became certified to teach in 2008) and returned to daily yoga and meditation. Within the first week her behavior at the end of the day completely changed. It was not lost on me that perhaps my own state of being tired and stressed had a huge impact on her mood and ability to cope. So, I get up an hour before anyone else in the house is awake, do yoga and then sit for a meditation.

Thanks, Sarah! Wishing you a safe and healthy delivery! This probably seems cruel, but now I am going to share a picture from the first day of college in which your eyes are closed.  Two months later, I let you, cut off all my hair. Three-to-a-room, FTW! Love ya Lisa and Sarah!