Welcome

I’m glad you found The Trip Clip® blog! I’ll post here about new activities and clipart, fun ways to use The Trip Clip products, and about life as a Tech Mom.  I love to hear from others, so leave a comment any time!

 

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Dads & Nighttime Feedings

Every family does this differently and like everything else about parenting, each family needs to figure out what works best for them. But I’m going to make the case here for dads doing half of the nighttime feedings.

Every family does this differently and like everything else about parenting, each family needs to figure out what works best for their family. But in this blog post I make the case for dads doing half of the nighttime feedings.

The most common argument I hear against this is that dads have to go to work, so they need to be awake and rested.

This implies moms don’t work. Which is false. Ask any mom of a newborn. They may not work outside the home, which means they don’t get paid for the work they do, but they work. They do exhausting, critical work, being solely responsible for the life of a tiny creature that would literally die if mom didn’t watch it, keep it safe, change its diaper, and feed it. Unless your husband is a doctor, or firefighter, or maybe an air traffic controller, they probably don’t have the same responsibility to keep another human being alive all day long.  For most men, no one’s going to die if dad is tired at work.  If mom falls asleep driving to the grocery store because she hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in months, that’s a problem. New studies like this one are drawing a solid link between sleep deprivation and an increase in accidents.  Of course we don’t want dads falling asleep on their drive to work either, but sharing the nighttime feedings in a smart way can help everyone get more solid sleep.

Some people argue that moms can nap during the day and dads can’t. That may be true (though it wasn’t for me), but it’s still not enough. Napping and short bursts of sleep are not enough to combat the sleep deprivation caused by getting up with the baby multiple times a night for months on end.

And of course, if mom is already back at work, the argument for dads getting up half the time just gets stronger. Maybe you think dad’s job is more important than mom’s even when mom works outside the home, or you think his work is more important because he makes more money. Or maybe you simply think feeding babies is woman’s work (breastfeeding or not). If that’s the case, I ask that you take a second to think about why we tend to value men’s work more than women’s, and ask yourself if it’s possible women are slotted into less “important” work because so many of them take a step back when it’s time to raise children. I’m convinced there is a chicken and egg problem here that can be addressed by men stepping up to do things like half the nighttime feedings, and giving their wives a leg up on being able to do “important” work too.

To combat sleep deprivation, my husband and I found that 4 hours was the magic number. We needed at least one 4-hour stretch of uninterrupted sleep in order to not be a total zombie, so we arranged our schedules with that goal in mind for each of us.

When our kids were first born, they woke up many times during the night, so we took shifts. My husband is a night owl so he took the first shift, and often just waited to go to bed until after that first feeding was done so that his sleep wasn’t interrupted. I would go to bed early (9pm if possible) knowing I wasn’t on duty until around 2 am. When the nighttime feedings decreased I got to sleep longer and longer, and eventually the feedings went down to one a night. At that point we took turns – so every other night one of us got a full night’s sleep. Glorious.

We ran our schedule this way while I was on maternity leave and my husband was at work, and continued to do this when I returned to work and he took paternity leave. I got to experience what it felt like to be up in the middle of the night with a hungry baby and still have to get up and “go to work” the next day. Whether my job was taking care of my baby all day, or going to meetings at Microsoft, my ability to get up during the night to feed the baby didn’t change just because my daytime job did.

There were many benefits to this arrangement beyond both of us getting some solid stretches of sleep. My husband still talks fondly of the bonding he did with our sons during those late night feedings. I know I have incredibly fond memories of my feeding time with both kids, and I’m glad he has those too. He liked to watch scary movies in nightly installments in the dark in the middle of the night and freak himself out. And just like with paternity leave, it allowed him to feel competent in his ability to feed our sons, change them, and rock them back to sleep all on his own.

Another reason some families have mom do all the nighttime feedings is because she’s breastfeeding. This doesn’t have to be a barrier. We started our sons on bottles as soon as breastfeeding was well established, about a week after each of our kids were born. This gave us lots of time to sort out a pumping routine and learn how to store/use frozen breast milk before I went back to work. Matt remembers feeling great relief when we got this all sorted out because it meant that he had the power to care for our sons on his own without being dependent on me, including during those nighttime feedings so I could get some rest too. And it gave me freedom to be away for more than a couple of hours at a time during the day as well. It was liberating for both of us, and something that all breastfeeding families should think about even if mom isn’t returning to work.

Because of this pumping/bottle feeding routine, by the time our sons went to daycare when they were around 6 months old they were well established bottle users so there was no added difficulty during the daycare transition. By then I was also an experienced pumper so there wasn’t a learning curve for me when I returned to work, either. Taking the step early on to allow people other than me to care for our infants opened up more ways for me to get help and support along the way and through my transition back to work.

I think some moms also take on all the nighttime feedings because they don’t want to give up a portion of motherhood that they feel is their responsibility, or even their right.  I understand this, I truly do. Whether it’s nature or nurture, I did feel like there was an expectation from others and from within me for me to do these feeding because it’s the mom’s job, and I was letting my husband take away something that was rightly mine, or worse, I was shirking a duty. I got over it. Parenting is big, and hard, and exhausting, and I didn’t have to prove I was superwoman. Getting help – getting sleep(!) – made me a better mom. And my husband getting that time to take care of his sons in such a basic way made him a better dad.

I also believe that men taking on jobs that are traditionally considered “women’s work” is the only way women will eventually gain true equality. If women are going to move into the “male arena” in the business world, it’s a mistake to assume they can do that on equal footing and still also do all of the traditionally “female” jobs at home at the same time. If you believe women should stay home and take care of family and men should work outside the home, this blog may not be for you. But if you think the world will be a better place if both men and women hold jobs equally outside the home, then it’s only fair that men take on some “women’s work” while women take on some “men’s work”. Many studies right now show that although many more women hold jobs outside the home than 40 years ago, or are even the primary breadwinner now, women still do the majority of the housework and childcare (Japan, Britain, Canada, USA). This is not a path to success for women. Women can’t have it all because right now that seems to mean women have to do it all. If you believe women can do “men’s work” then you’re doing a huge disservice to men to think that they can’t do traditionally female jobs. Men need to Lean In at home to give the women they love the chance to find equal footing in our larger society.

 

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Healthy Snack Ideas

We are trying to eat healthier at our house (who isn’t, right?) which means some of my kids’ standard snacks aren’t meeting the bar. One of my kids likes Cheez-its, goldfish, or saltines as his snack. The other likes a frozen waffle with lots of Nutella on it. Since these are all basically solid carbs, I’m aiming to get them to make some healthier choices.  This has resulted in them standing in front of the refrigerator, flummoxed, waiting for me to shout ideas from the next room until I finally come up with something that meets the healthy bar that also doesn’t sound completely terrible to them.

For working moms whose kids are often on their own at home after school, it can be especially hard to make sure they don’t eat Doritos and Coke every day (that’s what I always had as a kid when my mom was at work – those were the days!).

Here’s what we’re trying at my house.  I made a list of healthy snack options that each of us truly likes – including some to help ME to remember to choose something better too.

Try posting a list of your family’s favorite healthy snack choices on the fridge. It’s an ‘in the moment’ reminder to choose something healthy, replaces mom shouting out ideas from the next room (perfect for working moms!), and reminds you to keep these healthy choices on hand when you’re making the grocery list.

One of my kids has gotten super into smoothies, and will add a handful of fresh spinach to almost any smoothie he makes (we got him this individual smoothie maker for Christmas and he really likes it). We avoid recipes that require juice and stick to milk, yogurt, and whole fruits, which is an improvement over Cheez-Its. He also likes black bean burritos, but needs to be reminded it’s an option.

My other son is pretty good about eating fresh fruit if it’s prepped and ready to grab, so I use this chart to remind him (and me!) of the options that should be on hand. He also likes yogurt and peanut butter, as well as nuts and popcorn (it’s pretty healthy and easy if you pop it yourself), all of which are an improvement over the Nutella waffle.

The hummus and apple/peanut butter options are for me!  I pretty much never choose straight fruits or veggies, but with the right dip it turns into a snack choice I’ll actually make, and this chart helps remind me to keep the right things on hand when I do the shopping.

And the best part is that once I made the list, I printed it and stuck it on the fridge so it’s right there when anyone is heading for a snack. Even if I’m not home to shout out suggestions, my kids have a reminder that they should aim for something healthy, and a suggestion of something that ought to be in the fridge!

My kids’ eating choices go in waves, or circles, so I know in a month or so this will be out of date.  But that’s ok – The Trip Clip makes it super easy to edit this and re-print it next month.  I used the Grocery List to make this and it worked great.

Try posting a list of your family’s favorite healthy snack choices on the fridge. It’s an ‘in the moment’ reminder to choose something healthy, replaces mom shouting out ideas from the next room (perfect for working moms!), and reminds you to keep these healthy choices on hand when you’re making the grocery list.

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NEW Grocery Shopping Clipart

So many good suggestions from customers! Here are 40 new pictures that I’ve added to the Grocery List Activity to help make your trip to the grocery store with kids easier (and maybe even fun!).

So many good suggestions from customers! Here are 40 new pictures that I've added to the Grocery List Activity to help make your trip to the grocery store with kids easier (and maybe even fun!).

 

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Set Up a Joint Email Address

One super important lesson we learned (too late!) was that parents should set up a shared email address right when their babies are born, and then use that address as the primary address for every kid-related activity. You can easily do this with a google email address and have the email do nothing other than forward every email to both of your individual addresses. We didn’t do this early enough, and 15 years later are still paying the price.

New Parent Tip: Set up a joint email address and use it as Parent 1 on school forms and for kid-related website accounts. This ensures both parents have all the information and can be more effective parents!

We discovered that many kid-related organizations (school, sports programs, medical portals), have a tendency to have one primary email address for parents. They may record a secondary email address, but sometimes they don’t use the secondary email, and you can’t predict ahead of time when that will happen. Which means that when my email address is the first one, or the primary one, my husband may be left out of the loop.

Our oldest son is 15, and we STILL have this problem with his soccer program which we first registered him for at age 5. The first time I created an account on the website, I entered my email address, and that became our login name. Despite many attempts to change it, I was unable to do so without losing our family history with the website because I would have to sign up for a new account with a new address. By the time I’d internalized the problem, both of our kids had played on multiple teams, and there is contact information for previous coaches and previous teams , and even some pictures, stored with our old email address. And we didn’t want to walk away from that history. So now, whenever a game is canceled, or a practice is moved, only I get the email, and I have to forward it to my husband. Even if he is the one standing with our son on the wrong soccer field and I’m off doing something else, he doesn’t get the information until it passes through me. Sometimes we get a coach who understands our request to have emails sent to both parents and they manually address the team’s distribution list, but sometimes they just continue to use the default emails in the system.

We had the same problem initially at school. During kindergarten orientation, the teacher passed around a paper for us to sign.  It said “Child’s Name” and “Email address”. My husband and I were both there, and the sign up sheet came to him first.  He put our child’s name on the form, and then his email address, and we passed it to the next family without thinking about it. What followed was me getting a taste of what it’s like to be the secondary parent.  It was a few weeks of me feeling like I was seriously out of the loop before we realized what had happened and asked for my email address to be added too. Another time when this happened and we asked for a 2nd email address to be added, the person handled it by removing the first email address in favor the new one. Again, it took us a while to figure out what happened, and get it fixed.

Similarly, most of the school forms we filled out when we registered our son for school (why do they ask for the same information over and over?) asked for Parent 1 and Parent 2 contact information, and our default in those cases was to put my email address as Parent 1 (the fact that even we think of me as the default parent is an issue for another blog post). Sometimes the person who processed the form would use both email addresses, but sometimes they used only the first one. As a result, some (thought not all) of the communication from school would come to just me, causing confusion about why Matt knew some but not all of the things happening at school.

We had this happen to us many times before we realized that if Matt was going to be as involved a parent as me, we needed one joint email address that we used as Parent 1 on every form, and every website signup, so that we didn’t have to rely on any organization to deal with our family having 2 equally important email addresses.  So now even if Parent 1 has my name, the email address for me is always our joint email address.

This tip is good even for couples that aren’t aiming to parent as equally as Matt and I do. There is no better way to ensure that your husband is out of the loop, unfamiliar with the school, and unable to step in for you when you need him to, if he only gets the subset of the emails that you forward to him. People like to tell stories about clueless dads, but that cluelessness can be hard for them to overcome when they are so naturally left out of the communication loop.

And for the dad who doesn’t want want to be inundated with so much email, or who considers school woman’s domain, pause for a second and consider one of your most important jobs as a parent – educating your child. Be a part of that process.  You have so much to offer. You and your child will both be richer for it.

This seems like a relatively minor issue, and in the grand scheme of things it probably is. But it is one of many ways that dads get marked as secondary, and it’s the kind of thing we have had to work to fight against in making sure Matt is not secondary, but equal. Sometimes it’s surprising how seemingly tiny issues can chip away at our goal to parent equally.

Read more tips for leveling the parenting playing field.

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Exercise Tracker

I suffer from migraines – lots of them, unfortunately.  10-12 a month. I talked to my doctor about medications, and while I was researching her suggestion, I read a study that showed exercising for 40 minutes 3 times/week was as effective as the recommended medication, with fewer side effects. I’m also at high risk for breast cancer, and my surgeon has made it clear that keeping my weight down was the most important thing I could do to take care of myself. So in addition to eating better (more on that later), I’m trying hard to make sure I exercise regularly. And I’ve learned from experience that tracking my behavior is the most effective way to change it. So I made a chart with The Trip Clip!

exercise-tracker-weekly

I actually made them for our whole family because I figure it’s good for all of us.  So far my 15-year-old has not participated, but the rest of us are using our charts to keep track of our activity over the course of each week.  We each chose activities we enjoy, and set our own personal goals for how many times a week we want to be exercising.  Mine is 5 days/week, Micah’s is 3 times/week, for now Matt is just tracking his activity to get a feel for what his starting point is. Lest you think I forced him into this, he seems to be the most excited about this of the 4 of us and is the one most likely to remind me to print the next week’s charts.

We put these on the inside of a cabinet door near the dining room table but may move them someplace more visible to help us remember to mark them. We haven’t tried using a Trip Clip chart in this way before, so I’m curious to see how it works!

I also realized I really need to make the “Custom Checklist” activity have a weekly option.  I had to use the After School Checklist to get all of the clipart I wanted along with the weekly format.  So I added this to my (very long) to do list for The Trip Clip.

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Why Dads Should Take Paternity Leave – Alone

I think all dads should take paternity leave (even unpaid if necessary), and stagger it with their wife. Doing this meant our sons were more than 6 months old when they went to daycare. It also meant I had a the support of a full-time spouse at home while I was navigating my return to work (this turned out to be HUGE). And my husband had a wonderful opportunity to bond with each of our infant sons as a full-time parent – an opportunity that dads should absolutely get in addition to moms.

I think all dads should take paternity leave (even unpaid if necessary), and stagger it with their wife.

Many dads don’t take paternity leave at all. Those that do often take a few weeks or a month off right when the baby is born to bond with the baby and help their wife learn how to do this crazy new parenting job. It is overwhelming, and many women will really appreciate having her spouse at home in those first few weeks.

Here’s what my husband and I did, though. My husband took a week or so of vacation  right when each of our kids were born to help us all settle in and get through those early feeding issues and sleepless nights and increased laundry loads. But then he went back to work during the rest of my maternity leave. It wasn’t until my maternity leave ended and I returned to work that he took 3 months of paternity leave (his company allowed for 1 paid month, and 2 unpaid, which is what he did).  This meant each of our sons was more than 6 months old when they went to daycare. It also meant I had the support of a full-time spouse at home while I was navigating my return to work (this turned out to be HUGE). And my husband had a wonderful opportunity to bond with each of our infant sons as a full-time parent – an opportunity that dads should absolutely get in addition to moms.

Neither of us can even begin to measure the value of that time he had as the full-time stay-at-home parent. He gained a gut-level appreciation for how much work it takes to care for an infant. Many men give lip service to understanding this, but they don’t really know. After doing it for 3 months, my husband truly knew. Every parent I know says “people tried to tell me what it would be like to be a parent, but you just can’t understand until you do it yourself”. The same is true for being a stay at home parent. You can intellectually understand that it would be hard, boring at times, exhausting, rewarding, etc. But you won’t viscerally understand that intense mix of emotions (and exhaustion) until you’ve done it yourself.

My husband has never forgotten what it felt like to be desperate for me to get home from work at the end of the day so he could hand off the baby. Having lived it, he doesn’t make the mistake of assuming he is more tired than I am because he worked and I stayed home. Yes, he worked all day. But so did I. We are both tired and in need of a break. And neither of us will get one until the kids go to bed.

He understands how intense it is to be 100% responsible for another human being’s life, taking care of all the feeding, sleeping, burping, dressing, and playing needs for 8 hours straight, often putting his own need to eat, or go to the bathroom, or shower, aside. Having done that all day himself, he understands how ludicrous it would be for him to come home from a day at work and expect me to feed him, too.  Just because I was home all day does not mean that dinner should be solely my job – we all need to eat, we can all contribute to the work to make that happen.

One important distinction we learned to make was the difference between childcare and housework. It’s easy to mentally group these together, but they are not the same job. When you hire a babysitter or a nanny, you are paying them to take care of your child.  There are also some expectations that they might also do the child’s laundry, fix some of the child’s meals, and keep the play room and the child’s room tidy. But the whole family’s laundry, family dinner, grocery shopping, scrubbing toilets and cleaning the rest of the house, are not part of a nanny’s responsibilities.  You would need to hire a chef and a housekeeper (and other professionals as well) to get all of these jobs done. By staying home, my husband learned how easy it was for all housework to fall to him simply because he was at home all day, even though taking care of the baby was often a full time job already. We both learned to internalize that childcare was the responsibility of the parent at home with the baby, but housework was still both of our jobs.

By staying home for 3 months, my husband learned how isolating it is to be home with a baby. All day.  For 8+ hours. With no human interaction unless you count the checkout lady at the grocery store. And he understands how much work it is to counteract that by finding groups, going to classes, planning play dates, and then making the huge effort to get out the door with everything you’ll need so that you can have a few hours of companionship. These lessons are ones every parent, men and women, should learn.

He also learned how unbelievably rewarding it can be to spend so much time with your child, and experience all of those tiny moments that make your heart melt. Most dads miss those moments. My husband feels incredibly lucky to have had so many of them.

My husband proved that my xx chromosomes are not the magic key to taking care of a child. He was physically and mentally able to do all of the tasks that needed doing, and he did them well. We were both brand new at it when our baby was born, we both learned and practiced and got better at it. It’s not inherently easier for a woman to do this work, women just get better at it because they do it more. My husband learned to be great at all of these jobs too. He takes great pride in knowing that he is a competent parent, and my equal as a parent, not just my sidekick. And by learning to do all of the childcare tasks himself, he understands and appreciates all of the work that is required to care for an infant, and never underestimates the job due to lack of understanding.

We also both learned something that we’ve had to re-learn and remember again and again. There is no one right way to parent. Just because he does something differently than how I would do it does not make my way right and his way wrong – being the mom does not make my way the only way or the right way. One example is from when our kids were older and had become picky eaters. There were a number of foods I just wouldn’t bother to fix because I knew the kids wouldn’t eat them. My husband is less likely to remember who will eat what on any given day, so he often fixes things that make me shake my head wondering why he’s setting us up for a dinner battle over foods there’s no way the kids will eat. And shockingly often when he does this, the kids eat the food I would have sworn they wouldn’t touch. His way wasn’t my way.  And in this case it was better. Sometimes my way is better, sometimes his is, sometimes it doesn’t matter whose is better, the job just needs doing. But being jointly responsible for all of the childcare and home care tasks has helped us learn from each other, see more ways to do things, and be better parents.

Another great benefit of having my husband take his paternity leave alone was that we doubled the amount of time our kids were at home with a parent before entering daycare. Although I loved our daycare and am an advocate of daycare in general, I was glad that both of my kids didn’t need to start at daycare until they were 6 months old.

For me, having my husband at home for my first 3 months back at work made a huge difference in how smooth my return to work was. When men return to work after having a baby, they have the comfort of knowing that their baby is 100% cared for by a loving parent at home. I had that same luxury. We did the transition to daycare 3 months later, and that was another set of hurdles to get through so I know how hard that can be, and I am very glad I didn’t have to tackle my return to work and our baby’s entry into daycare all at the same time.  Having my husband at home meant that I was the only one who had to get out the door on time in the morning, not all 3 of us. It also meant that our son’s transition to bottles during the day happened with my husband instead of a daycare worker. The information we had about how much milk our son needed each day was much higher bandwidth than what we got later from the daycare. As I adjusted to pumping at work, and had the inevitable milk supply issues, my husband was able to help by coming to meet me for lunch occasionally so that I could skip a pumping session and help keep my milk supply up. Our son’s nap schedule also wasn’t interrupted, so we didn’t have nighttime sleep disruption right when I was returning to work. Our son was able to stay on his same schedule during this critical transition for me.

Taking a long paternity leave also let my husband experience firsthand what it felt like to step back from work for 3 months to take care of family. He had to make arrangements for his work to be covered by co-workers while he was away. He had to accept any consequences for appearing to be not as dedicated to his job when he prioritized family in order to take such a long paternity leave. He understands better how hard it is for women to take this step away from work every time they have a baby. He is much more likely to support a female co-worker who is taking maternity leave and help her exit and return successfully now that he’s lived the other side of it.  He knows she’s not slacking off, or turning away from her career. She’s just doing different work that needs doing right then.

Another benefit is that by taking that step away himself, he set an example for ALL parents doing this, not just women, and that helps normalize maternity leave for women, too. Right now, only women take this long break from work, and only women are penalized for this. If men do it too, hopefully making a choice to focus on family when necessary won’t be a gendered thing, it will be a parent thing.

Not all companies offer paternity leave, so you may have some work to do to figure out what your company’s policies are.  Here’s a great article about paternity leave that will help you with this.

If your company does offer paternity leave, I recommend taking the maximum amount they will allow, even unpaid if you can afford it. If your company doesn’t offer paternity leave, ask for it. For yourself, and for all the men and women coming after you who are trying to find better balance. Changes like this happen over time, and they happen because individuals ask about, raise awareness, and help move the needle as far as they can.

 

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New After School Clipart

I continue to get lots of requests from my customers for clipart they’d like to have, so here are 60(!!!) new additions to the After School Checklist Activity. Give them a try, and let me know what else you’d like to see on the list!

new-after-school-clipart

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