Tough Decisions | Life As A Working Mom

I try my hardest not to see things so black and white and to realize that each choice is unique from the next. It is something I have to constantly be present about because my natural instinct is to prejudge situations based on previous experiences. To add fuel to this fire, motherhood and parenting has become increasingly difficult over the past year – probably because we have 3 young children who are all in the age of discovering what they like to do. Which means, too many activities to manage PLUS two full-time working parents. I think this has led me to have a heightened sensitivity about my current season of life as well as increased amount of “Mom Guilt”.

Geez – I could write a novel about “Mom Guilt”. About how it is unavoidable, unpreventable, and untreatable. But, I won’t. Because who likes to read negative ramblings anyway?

Recently, I started investigating alternatives for the twins daycare/schooling.  They are currently at the same school my older daughter attended for the first 6 years of her life. It is a great school that happens to be going through a bit of transition. Unfortunately, the transition hit hard for the twins’ age group. There have been a lot of teaching transitions, schedule transitions, etc. While I have been going through this, I felt like my world and the twins’ world was falling apart. I found myself thinking “how are they ever going to survive? They need stability in 3k”. Then the dreaded “Mom Guilt” kicked in… “This would have never happened if we were in a better place where I did not have to work.”

Y’all. I was considering turning our lives upside down to move them to a school that could not keep them for a full work day and hiring a sitter to pick up my 3 children and drop my 3 children EVERY DAY just because I wanted to protect my children from hardship. THEN I would come to work and complain to my boss about the millennial I have working under me – She is too entitled. She has too high of expectations – someone failed her along the way because they never let her experience anything tough.

So it didn’t hit me that I was a living hypocrite until I was driving to work this morning – sans kid drop offs because of a teacher in-service. I would have never thought I would be causing my children potential harm by trying to create the most perfect external environment possible.

SIDENOTE – – I need to work on my control issues.

I guess my purpose of this rambling is to provide some sort of “I’m going through this too” content instead of writing about the roses and glory moments that DO exist in my life. Parenting is tough. Choosing when to push and when to pull back is not black and white. And I don’t know everything. And my children will be fine – and WHEN they survive this transition it only means that they now have a solid life experience to help them with the next change that happens down the road. They have that experience because they overcame it on their own, while i sat on the sidelines prepared to hug them when it was at its toughest.

On a brighter note… we had a lovely time last night at their book fair. Both of my 3-year-olds sang and danced and smiled alongside their buddies. This great school that is going through a tough transition made my kids smile. And I am eternally grateful. Here are some snapshots of those smiles:

Have You Heard? | #mothermanifesto

#mothermanifesto cissyromano.com

I was on the phone with a friend of mine from college this morning. Our sorority house is being demolished this weekend in order to make room for a larger and fancier house on campus. I don’t know the history of the house and how long it has stood – I should know, but my days of pledgeship are over, so just take my word that it is old. My friend mentioned that I will probably be the only sister not there this weekend, which makes me sad. Sad, because I know the reason I am saying no is because I’m having to make very tough choices these days in order to manage how stretched thin I am. I am sad because I know that I am missing out on yet another event with friends who were once a priority of mine. Sad. Sad. Sad. I miss them. And I miss that part of my life.

Motherhood is hard. Ok, you are thinking this is going to be a complaint post. No, not a complaint post. More like a PSA for all of you mothers that are living day-to-day right now. So I get to my point. A friend of mine from high school has co-created an initiative called the #mothermanifesto. She charges all women from all walks of life to band together in support of being a #mother. While I know that a simple pledge is not going to be life-altering or grant me more sleep at night, I do find encouragement in a band of sisters lifting each other up in support. Sometimes, you just need to reinforcement that you are not alone. There are other #mothers out there who have to flake out on their college buddies for important events. Because, you know, you have kids. And no babysitter to be found. And you are renovating your kitchen. And those weekend hours are spent at the library picking up site-word books for your kid that is starting school in the fall. Or making Costco runs and freezer meals for the upcoming week.

So, here I am – very transparent. Letting you know that I am riding this ride with you sweet mother. I feel your struggle and I know the way your brain is rationalizing decisions. I signed the manifesto because I want others to feel my digital embrace and to know that they are not along. If you feel the need to encourage, you can sign the manifesto here, and order the cool #mother shirt here.

Back To The Basics | Less Toys = Life With More

So, it’s been a little over two months since the lightbulb went off. That is about 10 weeks of increased sanity, increased time, and increased love of my home. I’ve tackled several areas of my home thus far, but my happiest is our toy collection. It is my belief that no matter if you have one or 10 children, you loathe toys. Am I right? They are everywhere. No matter if you are diligent about picking up said toys, they seems to appear in every spot besides the spots that you designated: sock drawers, your bag for work, the fridge… I was ready to declutter this part of our lives. R.E.A.D.Y.

I should set the stage. We have a very small home compared the American average. Please don’t ask me the square footage, because I have never been able to understand why we talk in square footage when it comes to homes. But, either way, trust me – it’s pretty compact for a family of five. I love that it is small. Small house payment. Small surface area to clean. We are on top of each other – and I like for my family to always be in my line of sight or within an earshot. – sorry for the tangent – OK, so our toys lived in every part of our house: the kids rooms, our rooms, the bathrooms, the kitchen, the dining room, the living room, the den, and even outside! Seriously. Every room.

I decided I was going to confine the toys to three areas: my oldest daughter’s room, the twins’ room and our den. Then, I used the KonMari method and dumped everything into the floor of my den and started sorting. I found the easiest to get rid of where all the miscellaneous piecy kind of toys that had missing parts or were bound to have missing parts in the near future. DONE. The hardest to get rid of were books. We have been given so many beautiful children’s books over the years that I found the memories of people giving them to us made it difficult to part with them. I then resorted to a max number of books allowed and reminded myself of our fantastic library and the experiences we have had going to the library to pick books out. DStorage Container for decluttering toysONE. I purchased a clear box with a handle similar to this for a small collection of toys for the twins room. I also left a toy castle in their room between their cribs. Because my oldest daughter is at the age that she is able to play by herself, we allowed a few more toy options for her room. She houses all of the children’s books in the house as well as most of the stuffed animals. The stuffed animals now live in a pop up tent/castle that does an excellent job at concealing the large collection of stuffed animals that she was not able to part with. She also had a small(er) collection of Barbie and Barbie accessories in her room. All toys are now contained in similar clear boxes in her storage unit from target. The third place that houses toys is in our den. We have another cube storage unit that we store the following in: music toys, puzzles, blocks, plastic toy animals, and dress up accessories. We also have a basket with our balls and then a small kids table for the girls to sit at and play. The toy kitchen and kitchen accessories are also down there. Our arts and crafts are housed in a small fabric box on top of our tv and the games are right next to it in a plastic storage bin.

So, we no longer have toys in our line of sight no matter where we walk in our home. It takes me – MAYBE – 15 minutes to pick up the worst tornado that is possible. Yes, 15 minutes. I have control back. My kids are starting to play in concentrated areas instead of at my feet while I cook. I am happy. My husband is happy. And my kids hardly miss the HUGE AMOUNT that we donated to the Salvation Army.

If you are struggling to find a place to start in your home – try the toys. Everyone is happy to see those go!

How to Survive a Beach Trip With Babies

emma backYes, a beach trip with babies and toddlers is completely doable. When my parents approached me a year ago about my thoughts on “spending a week at the beach” next summer, my only response (in thought of course) was “Are you flipping crazy?”.

Here is why:

1. I only get ONE PAID WEEK of vacation a year – and you want me to spend it all at one time?

2. Three kids ages 4 and under?

3. No pool?

4. A FULL WEEK? What will happen to my desk at work? It will take me 3 weeks to recover!

Ok. Ok. Once the automatic “No.” was decided upon, my husband sat me down and made me think about it. How often will we get the opportunity to spend the week at the beach? AND paid for?

So… we decided to go. And because it was not last minute (nothing with my family is unplanned), we had the chance to prepare the Dave Ramsey way. We saved a little each week for a year so that we wouldn’t have to worry about spending money while we were down there.

We are notorious for believing we are millionaires while on vacation.

So, my point here is to show those scared mothers and fathers that a beach trip is totally doable. AND, with proper planning, it should not break your piggy bank either.

SOME TIPS:
  • Plan to cook your meals at the beach. Not only is this a piggy bank saver, but a trip saver. We turned into so-called “beachbums” that week. We woke up bright and early for those inspiring sunrises (and because we usually had a kid screaming), ate our breakfast, then headed to the beach. We did not leave the sand until it was time to head in for supper. Cooking our meals allowed us to savor each moment in the beach breeze.
  • Don’t stay at a place with a pool. I was downright frightened about this lack ofbeachbums amenity. Our daughter has been on sand before (not during the summer) but we had never spent anytime at the beach in our 4-year parenthood journey. I have always heard horror stories about kids hating the sand / afraid of the ocean / stung by a jellyfish… what was I going to do with three young kids at the beach for an entire week if they hated the ocean and sand? So – my answer to this is to not give them the option to hate it! My oldest now looks like she is of a south-of-the-border ethnicity (I guess she already is a 1/4 Italian though) and could be a certified beachbum for the rest of her life.
  • Don’t overpack. Wow – you should have seen our van. I am now regretting not having a photo to hang in my house to remind me never to overpack again! Because I didn’t realize my family would turn into beachbums, we had enough clothing and toiletries to dad and twinslast us at least a month in our normal lives in Birmingham. If we were not in swimsuits, we were in swimsuits with coverups. The fancy outfits I brought to clothe my children in for the quintessential beach photo opps remained in our Vera Bradley bags for the entire week. I only remembered I packed them when I was repacking everyone on the last day. Geez. I can be very silly sometimes. I guess the saying down at the beach is true, “No shoes. No shirt. No problem.”.In that same vein – you don’t need $100 worth of toys and beach accessories to keep the kids happy. My four-year-old literally spent an entire day sitting on the edge of the water while scooping and pouring sand over her legs. The buckets and nets and frisbees and kites and sand tools all remained under our ez up with the adults and babes.
  • Don’t overplan. I know. I know. I just finished saying how important “proper planning” was… What I mean here is that you don’t have to have a slue of activities planned to occupy your crew. I mean, it costs a small fortune to head to the coast anyway. Jet-skiing, parasailing, deep sea fishing, etc. will not make the trip any better if you are hopping from one activity to another. My best takeaway from our trip is that my brain went to Jell-O for 7 days. Thank you Jesus for such a great blessing!
  • Swimsuits not required! haha… no, I am not an aspiring nudist. BUT, my babies – thetwins real babies (14 months) – did not, I repeat, did not need the 5 sets of swimsuits I bought and brought with me for this trip. They also did not, I repeat, did not need the swim diapers. They wore regular old Pampers for the duration of the trip. I did put them in a t-shirt at bedtime, but they were semi-nudist for a week. And they loved it. And the pictures are adorable because of it.

All in all, the trip was better than I could have ever imagined it. For a woman who works full-time, I was slightly frightened at how my system would react to being around all three of my kids 24/7. I did MUCH better than how I imagined myself – not that I don’t believe myself to be a good Mom, but I am definitely not accustomed to hearing my name five million times in a day. 😉

sandcastlessand hillemma sandcastle

So, if you are on the fence about a beach vacation with your youngin’s, I am here to witness that a parent can survive and make memories. Best of luck to all of you parents, grandparents and guardians out there. Summer of 2015: I am looking at you with eyes wide open. You better be ready for the Romano crew!

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Tips From A Professional, Pumping, Working Mother of Three

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 10.43.24 AMJust like any other professional, pumping, working mother – I have an interesting relationship with my Medela pump. You see, I’ve spent the 21 months of my life attached to my pump. I love this machine because it allows me to provide nourishment for my children, while also earning a living to help provide for the best opportunities for said children.

I guess I should have started first with the details of why I need to work. Put aside the obvious financial reasons why a good number of households are dual-income. I work to keep the Romano house at peace. I wish I had the patience of the Ree Drummond, where I could spend 24/7 with my three lovelies. I wish I had the creativity to provide unending entertainment for my children so we wouldn’t constantly find ourselves gravitating towards the T.V. and Disney Junior.

So, my husband and I work incredibly hard – full-time – and our children attend a Catholic daycare here in Birmingham with some of the finest women teaching and leading our children. We are blessed – beyond measure – to have the resources available to provide our children with this opportunity. My three-year-old counted out 10 straws at breakfast the other morning and shocked and impressed all present with her mad skills.

photoAlright, onto the focus of this post – the joy of pumping. So, if you were to ask anyone close to me why I pump they may roll their eyes. I don’t step up on my soapbox often (often enough at least ;)), but in my opinion, I don’t understand why women would not milk if they are capable. I’m sure that previous sentence will stir up quite a discussion – as it has before. You can read a plethora of literature regarding the health benefits of breastfeeding, so I will not attempt at preaching on that subject matter in this post. If you are interested, kellymom.com is an awesome resource to research and read up on anything breast-feeding related.

Lemme tell you that kids are expensive – super-expensive. Breastmilk is cheap – super-cheap. And, thanks to Obamacare (no matter your thoughts on the man or the plan), mamas in the U-S-of-A can get a complimentary breast pump (or a relatively cheap one – I had to pay a $40 copay). If you are pregnant or a mom of a new-born, call your insurance provider – NOW – and ask them how to get a breast pump through your insurance policy.

If you are pregnant and you are debating the breastfeeding feature of motherhood, just do it. Its the most selfless thing I have ever done in my entire life – and I tend to be naturally selfish (I’m working on that flaw). I am proud of my accomplishment. It also helped with the guilt when I returned to work after each of my deliveries.

So, I pump exclusively for my 9-month-old twin girls right now. That totals up to about 60 ounces a day with about 6-7 pumps day and night. I would consider myself a professional-pumper. And I were looking for tips and advice on this subject, I would totally take a mother like myself seriously. Not much else I can speak on with such assurance, but pumping is definitely something I am very familiar with.

Here are my tips to help a mother thinking of pumping, starting to pump, or already knee-deep in pumping.

  1. TAKE YOUR PUMP TO THE HOSPITAL. If you are a mother who’s child latched right away and was a pro-nurser right off the bat – GO YOU! Those first moments of nursing can be so trying. The mother is learning to nurse – the baby is learning to suck and eat… so many variables can affect those first nursing sessions. I did not have pro-nursers. I had one child in the NICU for the first 48 hours of life. I had c-section births. I had GINORMOUS breasts and nipples for my teeny-tiny babies. SO – you have no clue how you will do or how your children will do. So bring your pump to the hospital and expect to start using it as soon as you are able. I started using mine soon after the first nursing session with each of my children. I pumped for 10 minutes after each session. NOTE: you will not get anything out of these pumping sessions. You are simply triggering stimulation. Do not do more than 10 minutes, or else you will cause an over-supply.
  2. DO NOT ALLOW VISITORS FOR AT LEAST A HALF OF A DAY.  I’m the pot calling the kettle black here. I had my family and my husband’s family visit as soon as possible after each of my deliveries. I was excited for everyone to meet the newest little additions to our family. Its a great thought at first, but it causes so much added stress and anxiety during those initial eating and learning hours. Go ahead and let others know that you are excited for them to meet the new additions, but it will probably be awhile after birth. Get your partner on board so that when you are feeling elated and you start to have a weak moment to invite everyone in, they can step in and put a stop to it. They have an entire lifetime to bond with these little ones – they can wait a few more hours.
  3. BUY A BIG WATER VESSEL.  I recommend the Nalgene Water bottle. I like itnalgene bottle because it has a wide mouth and measurements on the side. And it comes in pretty color choices – always a bonus. You will need to hydrate CONSTANTLY. If you think you have a ton of water, you probably need to drink more. Drinking water helps with your supply, keeps your energy levels up and helps keep feeling you 100% when you should be feeling 60%. Your friends, family and coworkers will start to think your water bottle is new appendage you’ve grown.
  4. DON’T BUY FANCY NURSING TOPS.  Its tempting, I know. But, in my opinion, those nursing tops are not necessary. I mean, you are covered up anyway… what good is a quadruple layered tank top that allows your nipple to pop out going to do for you? All you need for nursing is a good nursing cover and 2-3 nursing bras. There are a ton of brands on the market for both of these items. I recommend the Bravado Bliss Nursing Bra if you have GINORMOUS breasts. It took a lot of searching to find a supportive nursing bra that did not have underwire. The Bravado is “bliss”ful ;). Do not go cheap here people. You will spend long days/nights with these two items – invest wisely. Save the money you would spend on a nursing wardrobe.
  5. BUY A HANDSFREE PUMPING BRA.  I feel this is pretty self-explanatory. Who wants to hold pump parts to their boobs for 15-20 minutes several times a day. I have a strange relationship with my pump bras too. I’m weird. And I pump a lot. Also – you need more than one. TMI ALERT – your pump bras will become crunchy if you don’t have a few to rotate through. No matter how careful you are, you will get milk on your bra. I have two pump bras that I rotate through. Pumpease makes the ones I use. Again, I’ve tried several of these. The pumpease bras are my favorite. Plus, they come in super-fun colors.
  6. BUY AT LEAST ONE ADDITIONAL SET OF PUMP PARTS. Your partner will thank you. You will thank yourself. Washing pump parts get super-old super-fast. That is all – just have at least two sets. I have three sets.
  7. BUY THE MEDELA STEAMBAGS.  I use the Medela steambags to clean my pump parts at work. This also allows me to leave the parts there during the week so I don’t have to tote them home every day.
  8. BUY A CAR CONVERTER FOR PUMPING ON THE GO.  You will find yourself tied to your pump for the next year or so. Being able to pump on the go is so liberating.
  9. SUPPLY ISSUES?  There are so many home-remedies for supply issues. Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 11.58.12 AMDifferent things work for different people. Some of the things that have helped me through supply issues are: lemon-lime gatorade (full-sugar stuff people), homemade oatmeal cookies, steel-cut oatmeal, Newcastle beer, a lot of water, mothers milk supplement. Really, at the end of the day, a consistent pump schedule, a well-rounded diet and lots-o-water are KEY to maintaining a milk supply.

There are my tips. This is what I would say to any new mother – whether they wanted to know or not – ha! This is something I believe in 100%. There are some women out there that really have a lot working against them when it comes to trying to nurse/breastfeed. I understand that – I do. Being a mom is tough in general. And adding the long hours and hard work that goes into breastfeeding your child can add so much unnecessary stress to a woman. But, for those that can and want to, breastfeeding is something you will never regret and it is such a worthwhile investment of your time and resources. I do hope this helps.

If you are nursing/pumping mama and you have more questions, please feel free to reach out! You can email me at cissyromano@gmail.com or just comment below!

Best of luck to you and your partners!

xo, Cissy

Real Life Mom | Gwyenth Paltrow Has A Tough Life

I mean, Gwyneth Paltrow has it rough. And for a minute, I was wondering how I was going to survive the day. Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 9.29.22 AM

Recently, Ms. Paltrow sat down with E! News and discussed taking a break from her demanding job so she could go back to being a mommy. I definitely pat her on the back for getting her priorities in line. However, I never realized that all of the stress I experience as a full-time working mom is NOTHING compared to the stress she experiences from being on set 2 weeks out of the year. Gosh, I bet those 12 consecutive 14-hour days are hell!

See, I thought I had it hard. Waking up to screaming babies at 2 am. Taking an hour to put them back to bed just to turn around and wake up two hours later to start my day at 5. Then dropping my kids off at daycare when the doors open at 7am so I can make it downtown to sit at my easy office job for a mere 9 hours – head back to pick my three cranky, lovelies up – make dinner for my family of five – clean bottles and dishes and pump parts – make bottles for the next day – somewhat “clean” the damage from the tornado that hit the inside of my house – bathe all 3 children – feed babies – read stories – fight with three year old about going to bed – put babies to bed – then…. look at the clock, it’s 9pm. Time to do it all over again. I have it soooo easy compared to Ms. Paltrow.

Maybe her marriage failed because her life is so demanding. I’m sure Ms. Paltrow doesn’t have any help with the cooking and cleaning and butt-wiping and temper tantrums. I’m sure she never gets any alone time to recover from being needed 110% of the time. It must be terrible to have to miss school-events and the carpool pick-up. I wouldn’t know anything about that.

I have a boss who thinks its totally cool to miss half a day on Valentines Day so that I can make it to the preschool Valentine’s Day party – NOT. And I probably would think less of him if he was cool with it. He would also probably laugh in my face if I told him I needed to cut out 3 hours early every day to make the carpool pick-up line at school. Most businesses operate in 6-hour day, right?

I bet it is hard to have so much flexibility with your job that you can cram all of your year’s work into two weeks so that you can free up the remaining 50 weeks of the year to dedicate to your children. I bet thats why it is so hard to appreciate those gruling 14-hour work days.

Ms. Paltrow, you should definitely quit your career and pick up an office job. You are right – it is so much easier working a 9-5er (more like 7:30-5:30er). Thank you for bringing it to my attention of how ungrateful I am.

Mamas Know Best. It only took me 30 years to understand that.

32056_815193803195_1880974_n“You’ll understand when you have your own kids.” Man, I must have heard those words spit from my mother’s mouth a billion times when I was growing up. I say “spit”, because I she was in a constant state of being pissed at me because I was ALWAYS in trouble – for my mouth. I never got into normal teen-trouble growing up because I was constantly grounded for the way I fought and talked back to my mother. How she manages to love me today is beyond me because I was terrible!

So, the day before her 57th birthday, I am reflecting on how appreciative I am of the Mother I have been so blessed with. She is a quiet woman who has an inner strength capable of moving mountains. Although, she does not believe this. She is gorgeous – the kind of gorgeous that will never fade. She is not materialistic because she never had the liberty of learning what it would be like to be materialistic. She raised three kids with only a mere year31998_805085829655_6648410_n spread in age between them each. She worked hard for a very long time so that we were able to have the very best opportunity at education. She is only just now learning how to take time for herself and indulge in small luxuries – like reading a book in peace and quiet.

She spent countless months away from her life, her husband, and her family to be with me and my brother’s family for the birth and the few months after with each of my children and my brother’s children. Stepping in to help when we needed her the most.

Did I mention how terrible I was growing up?

For me, she is the best example of a woman.