Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Alone" Time: Healthy Or Stressful

I think I'm having attachment issues.

I've been in this weird place lately where I have been struggling to define myself outside of being Mommy to someone. "Struggling" is a bad word for what I'm feeling though. It's not a struggle, I am not unhappy per se, just a little lost. For the past almost 3 years, I have been either pregnant or nursing. My body has not been entirely my own, and everything I do to it, everything I put into it, every decision I make effects another human being in one way or another. In a lot of ways I stand in awe of myself because my body -- MY body -- sustained another human life entirely for quite some time, in the womb & outside. What I have been able to do is fantastic & I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

But because of those decisions, I haven't been away from my daughter for more than a few hours at a time. I'm actually kind of proud of that - I was there for all of her firsts. I watched them myself & didn't have to hear about them from someone else. I am there when she goes to sleep at night & I am there when she wakes up in the morning. She is my world. Of course, it is also healthy for both myself & K for me to go out and have some separate time from her. As mothers we need a mental break every now & then to gather ourselves & regroup, and our children need to experience their world without us right there beside them. And while I have taken advantage of some "alone" time in the past, it has usually just consisted of a few hours out in the evening, or an extra hour or two of sleep on a weekend morning. It never occurred to me to spend an entire night out somewhere, and it hasn't really been an option in the past because K was still nursing.

But she's not anymore. She's not nursing & I don't HAVE TO spend as much time with her. Realizing this & knowing that I won't have an opportunity like this again for at least another year or so, I made plans to visit my cousin in NYC for her birthday - My first overnight trip away from my daughter EVER, and an entire 24 hours to just be me, as an adult. Without having to worry about anyone else but me. I was really looking forward to the mental break.

Until I actually thought about it. I haven't spent an entire night away from my daughter since she has been born. Do I really want to do that now? I knew she would be fine, leaving her in the capable arms of Laura, my wife & K's Marmy. It wasn't her care I was worried about. But the thought of sleeping in a completely different building in a totally different state as K was making me very emotional & I didn't know why at first. But it's because she's becoming independent from me and a part of me feels like I am already about to lose her, so why spend any more time away from her than I have to? Since weaning, she has pushed me to the side in a way. She is reaching for Laura more & more and is not as dependent on me. So I am trying to cherish the little time that is left with just her & I at home before Baby #2 arrives. It won't be long before I can't give her 100% of my attention because there will be a new baby to care for. It won't be long before she doesn't want to nap with me anymore (and I don't know if I will be able to nap with her once a sibling comes into the mix). It won't be long before she starts preschool & starts learning things & spending a larger amount of time away from me. It won't be long before she grows up. Realizing all of that, do I really have to spend a night away from her now?

I kept hearing, "She'll be fine, just go & enjoy yourself" or "You need to do this for you, you won't have a chance to do this for a while". But the truth is, I didn't WANT to spend the night away. It was causing me more emotional stress than it was worth just thinking about being away from her for that long. I had a similar issue when she was much younger & still nursing. I would go out for a few hours in the evening, but my head would never really be where I was physically. I was constantly wondering how K was, is she hungry, is she taking a bottle, should I have pumped before I left, and sometimes it was more mentally & emotionally draining to be away from her than it was rewarding or healthy for me. It wasn't worth the effort or worry because I wasn't getting out of the night what I should have been. It wasn't really a break & I didn't feel any better for it.

Faced with the same dilemma regarding a sleepover, I decided against it. Yes, I wanted a break. Yes, I needed to get away on my own for some time to be just me. But I did not need to have a sleepover to achieve that. Just a long day would suffice. And if I'm not ready to do an overnight away from my daughter then I shouldn't do it, regardless of what others think is "good" for me. I know what's good for me and what I can handle, and I can't handle an overnight yet, and that's OK. There is plenty of time for that in the future.

As with all things, there has to be a balance. Alone time is great & healthy for everyone. But not if it causes stress. The reward must be greater than the sacrifice for it to be beneficial, otherwise it defeats the purpose. And for me, right now, it is worth it & healthy to spend a very long day & late night in NYC as me. But a sleepover would defeat the purpose.

Have you had a situation where you needed to re-evaluate what was beneficial and what was detrimental? How did you decide where that fine line was?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Great Wipe Debate

Apparently there is a big debate going on over whether or not to use cloth or disposable wipes. Is it worth it? Do they work as well? Is it something I should be doing? So I decided to weigh in on the issue.

The truth is that I am torn. As with anything, there are pros & cons to using cloth wipes. I think it ends up coming down to what is most important to you and what works best for your lifestyle.

The Pros:

1. Less waste. Anything that is reusable instead of disposable has this advantage, so this should be no surprise here. It also means less guilt about having to use several wipes in one change. If your spouse is like mine, they use one entire wipe per swipe of the tush, which can add up pretty quickly. So in the end, it's a financial saver as well.

2. No digging through icky mess to remove the disposable wipes before tossing into the diaper pail. When there is a big mess, it is much easier to be able to toss everything into the pail all together. With disposable wipes you really shouldn't be putting them through your washer/dryer, so you would have to remove them to toss into the trash before dumping the diaper. This can be quite a messy situation.

The Cons:
(I should preface this section by saying that I am not using actual flannel cloth wipes. I received a money saving tip that using baby washcloths works just as well & they are much, much cheaper than the wipes are. So I think that some of these "cons" might be reduced by using cloth wipes actually intended to be wipes.)

1. I feel that they are harsher on my baby's bum than disposable wipes. Not the solution I am using, but the material of the wipe itself. I feel that it is more abrasive than I would like. I have used the non-scrubbing side of the washcloths & I still feel it's not as gentle as it could be. I do plan on purchasing some flannel wipes with Baby #2, and I think that might help with this.

2. They stain fairly easily. Shouldn't be a big deal, but this makes me not want to use them for other messes, such as pasta sauce on my daughter's face. The cloth wipes should be versatile so that you can eliminate all disposable wipe use entirely. But I am not comfortable wiping my daughter's face with something that has a poop stain on it. Even though I know it's perfectly clean. So I still buy disposable wipes to handle the other messes, and I carry 2 wipe cases in the diaper bag when I'm going out. I have considered buying a set of wipes & designating it for "other" uses and not for diapers, but I think it would get confusing while out & about & everything would end up mixed-up together anyway, and it's not eliminating the need to carry around 2 wipes cases.

The Unclear:

1. They can get expensive initially, on average about $1 a wipe - the same cost as a prefold diaper. As I mentioned before, someone gave me a tip to use baby washcloths instead and it did save me a lot of money, about 1/4 of the cost. Instead of $12 for 12 wipes, I paid $3 for 12 washcloths. But I am not 100% satisfied with my wipes, so maybe it is worth it to break down & buy the flannel ones.

2. Many people claim that cloth wipes clean your baby's bottom better. I don't feel that either one cleans any better than the other. Some moms claim that they can clean up a big poopy mess with 1 cloth wipe as opposed to 4 or 5 disposable wipes. I don't agree with this. If it's a big mess, I am going to be using more than one wipe so that I feel that my child's bottom is clean enough, regardless of whether it's disposable or cloth. I think the clean-up difference is in the diapers; I think that some cloth diapers wipe the poop off the butt better than disposables, but it depends on the diaper & it depends on the poop. We all know that some poops are just explosive & it's a project to clean them up! However, I do enjoy that clean-up can be a mini bath on her bottom. I make our wipe solution at home out of mixture of water & very tiny amount of gentle soap. So if she's particularly dirty, I can get the wipe really wet & fight the urge to toss her in the tub for while!

3. I find that you can't let clean wet wipes sit for very long without them getting that milew-ey, wet sponge smell. As I have said previously, I am a smell person and bad smells make me crazy. So this was something I had to play with. I didn't like spraying the wipe or K's bum with a pre-mixed solution - I just didn't think it got clean enough. So wetting them before the change was the way to go for us. I find that you can have wet wipes around for about 2 days before they start to stink, and can usually push it to 3 days if I have to. So every morning I douse a number of wipes with water & that gentle soap and store them in the travel case. If I overestimate, I can just use them the next day before I wet any more, but I have to make sure I use them first. So another part of the CD routine to add. Not really a positive or a negative, just another thing to consider.

So overall, I am undecided on how I feel. I will continue to use my cloth wipes because I have them & they work fine enough. I do look forward to the softer wipes with Baby #2, but K is almost out of diapers so I am not investing any more money into CD-ing for her.

How about you? Do you use cloth wipes? If so, what do you like & dislike about them?