Balancing Life and Parenting

lifeI feel that due to all of the expenses and obligations in daily life a
lot of parents are not able to spend all of the time they would like
with their children. Having a child is a life-changing experience, and
supporting them is too. I have struggled daily with thoughts that I do
not spend enough time with my girls. Many times I feel ashamed of the
little time I spend with my daughters. Juggling work, school,
financial obligations, and just life in general has made it hard for
me to be with them at all times. Sometimes I feel like I am a bad
parent and I get emotional because I feel like I am missing so much
while at work. One of my fears was that they would forget about me, or
get closer to someone else and not want me. The most emotional thing
for me was that I did not get to see Genesis take her first steps when
she began walking. I wanted so bad to be there for that moment but it
wasn’t possible. I was very hard on myself about missing her “firsts”
but from that I have learned to better appreciate the time I can spend
with my girls.
I want Genesis and Samyrah to know that everything I do in my life is
for them and that I really do want to be a great mother to them. After
work I fly home and hug them tight. I miss them every day. I keep
pictures at my desk and it helps miss them a little less on some days.
Thinking negatively about me as a mother was not going to change the
time I spent with them, what I missed, or how they felt about me .I
may not be the perfect mother, but I strive to be the best mother I
can. Working and getting my college education is something I am hoping
they appreciate when they are old enough to understand. It is my way
of building a foundation for our future life.

How can I be a Leader when I’m not Even Ready to Parent?

Cam PhotoLeadership

Leadership is kind of a funny word.  Oxford describes it as “The action of leading a group of people or an organization.”  Well, that doesn’t sound so hard right?

Except for the bit about leading (what is leading anyway?)…oh and finding a group of people that believes in you…oh and the bit about actually being able to lead them, having the time to do it, being able to speak so that those people will listen to you, and even getting people to realize that you could be a leader.

So, other than all that, I could be a leader, or you could be, right?

Exactly!  From the moment your child is born, you’re a leader.  Parents are leaders.  Think about it, this is probably one of the only times in most of our lives that someone depends almost entirely on us…for everything.  Our kids literally couldn’t survive without us (No pressure, right??).  So if we’re leaders for our kiddos, why does it stop there?

Being a Young Parent Leader

Being a young parent provides an amazing opportunity to become a leader.  Parenthood teaches people a lot about themselves and about others.  Even though ‘leading’ a 3 year old kid in his day-to-day life might be a bit different from coaching a team or managing a department, I bet there’s more similarities than you think.  I mean, those little eyes look up to you whenever they need guidance, and they probably will for most of your life.  People always need guidance, but with kids, it’s especially important to provide guidance.  Sometimes people think parenthood defines a parent, without realizing that every parent defines their own path of parenthood.

Especially when you’re a ‘young’ parent, people seem to think the doors to your future start closing.  Some people think “young parent” and “successful” are totally incompatible things.  Personally I look for every single opportunity to prove those people wrong.  Hey, I may not be perfect, but I can sure be a decent dad and a successful guy.  I refuse to let someone else label my parenthood is a limiting factor in my life.  All other parts being equal, for some reason, when you’re a “young” parent, some people tend to forget about the good things parenthood does.  Why is it when we see young parents, the “Congratulations!” go out the window, and in comes the questions:

“Are you sure you’re ready?”

“Will you be able to finish school?”

“Do you have enough money for to raise a child?”

I’m not even sure if people expect answers, they just love to point out that parenthood is going to be difficult.  Thanks for the heads up random stranger on the street, I had no idea I looked “too young” to have a kid.  Is it hard?  Sure it is, but parenthood isn’t exactly easy, whether you’ve got a fresh high school diploma or you have a social security check in your hand.  But, if everything in life was easy, how would we grow?  How would we ever rise to the occasion?  Being a young parent sure is hard, but it can also be an amazing step toward a life that we, as individuals and parents, can be proud of.

So really, being a young parent is an amazing way to become a leader.  There is no single force in my life as strong as my son.  Through him, I have grown stronger, learned and accomplished more, and reached new highs in my life.  Stop worrying about all the doors people say get shut, and start looking for the open window.  Think outside the box.  I’ve had more opportunities to help people since becoming a father than I can count, and I’m very proud of what fatherhood has done for me.  Looking into my son’s eyes, I have found motivation, responsibility, determination, confidence, inspiration, and so much more.

I dare you to ask someone about some traits leaders have.

And I bet you $5 they’ll say one of those traits.

-Cam

Being a leader to my children.

melissa photoI believe that a leader is someone that people look up to. I feel like I am somewhat a silent leader. I’d like to think that sometime in the future I will be seen as a leader for others but for right now I am focused on being a leader for my daughters. Life changes when you have children as many people have experienced. There have been many challenges I have faced since becoming a mother, but I feel so blessed to have my children in my life. They are my inspiration to work harder, reach higher, and become a better person-possibly a known leader.

When I became a mother I realized that everything was no longer about me. Everything I do now is for my daughters and their future. I want to be the person they look up to and want to be like. I aim to have a great relationship with them and love them unconditionally. I want to give them all the things I never had as a child. I am their mother and their leader.

I have learned that even though the roads aren’t always plain and smooth, life teaches us things we can learn in the future. I am proud to parent because I feel like this experience gives me a chance at leadership. These experiences become part of us and we may touch others in our lives by sharing these experiences. Being a young parent I want to encourage others that are in the same situation and motivate them to push forward no matter what. Leaders aren’t always well known but when you do take that time to reach out to someone and be that voice for them-even if it is to that one person, you are a leader.

Not just about me

ashley photoWhen I knew I was going to have my son, Liam, everything changed. I stopped smoking and drinking – I made a commitment to eat really healthy. I also began to research everything I could find about pregnancy; pintrest became my best friend. However, I knew I also needed to change the environment I was around. This choice was the most difficult. Choosing to remove myself from dysfunction also meant loosing someone I love. He didn’t agree with what I wanted for our son. I wanted safety, I wanted love, I wanted happiness, I wanted a calm enviorment, I wanted to give my son the beginning I never had. I changed so quickly when I knew I was going to be a mom, I had no choice. I guess I shocked him, I can understand. I couldn’t wait though I needed to do what I had to.

I want to be the best me I can for Liam. With that comes giving up a lot of things I did before I had him. It also means walking away from whatever is unsafe and unhealthy. Its difficult sometimes when my friends ask me to come out and hang with them. Or ask me when I won’t be breastfeeding anymore so I can drink. My son is only 2 months old so me not being around is not really an option. I also do not have anyone that can really watch him at this point, he is always with me. With this however, I get to see him explore the world in a different way everyday. I have not missed one of his smiles. I love this, it will definitely be a struggle when I go back to work in a month.

Being a young mom, doing this pretty much on my own is so difficult. I can’t tell you how many times I have cried. I also cannot tell you how many times I have smiled. At this point I have also really started to look at my goals and priorities. Ones which I need to do not just for my son but also me. Looking at everything that I need to do can be really overwhelming, but it helps when I remind myself that I can accomplish them, and that it doesn’t have to happen over night.

My world is no longer about just me. It’s no longer about just living in the moment and doing whatever I want. My world is now about making my son’s world safe, healthy and beautiful. Everyday I probably do something wrong, but I also probably do something right!

Join the Proud 2 Parent Council!

Council Flyer - for social media

Knowledge is Power

My name is Grace Garcia and I’ve been a young parent ambassador for the past 16 months. As my time is up I have had a chance to reflect on my journey.

When I first started the program I believed that I knew exactly what all young parents were like and what they needed because I was a young parent. I believed I knew everything there was to know about the young parent community but over time I realized I was wrong. Not all parents were on food stamps and not all single parents were mothers and not everyone needed to go to college to be successful.

I also went into the program believing that I had made a mistake by becoming a mom and I thought my story would prevent teens from having babies. But my whole view on teen pregnancy was wrong. I associated unplanned and unwanted pregnancy to teen pregnancy and there is a difference that I have come to know.

Being part of the ambassadors program helped me to become aware of the issues my community faced and how these issues directly affect me. For example, racism was something I believed didn’t exist  anymore but now I know how greatly it has impacted me and how racism still exist not just between people but also in the schools systems and in government institutions. This has changed my perception of life and it is a constant reminder when I step outside my home in a “bad” neighborhood.

When I started this program I thought I had made a mistake when I had my child at 19 and even though he made my life better I felt a lot of pressure to say the opposite. I almost felt lucky because I wasn’t like the other teens that were made to think and say that having a child ruined their life. Before I associated unplanned and unwanted pregnancy to teen pregnancy and this was not necessarily true. I love being a mom and I learned that it’s ok!

I have to thank every person who I have come across on this program especially the ones who made me smile. Thank you to the people who supported me during my toughest times. And I have to thank the program for teaching me so much that school and my community failed to teach me after all “Knowledge is power” and I look forward to whatever great things life has next for me.

 

Breastfeeding is Empowering!

I breastfed my daughter for a year and six months (maybe a little more). I do not remember exactly when I stopped breastfeeding, even though it was a huge moment in both Lily’s life and mine. I tried to stop breastfeeding as soon as she became 11 months but breastfeeding was heaven for me. I gained an amazing connection with my daughter that I will forever be thankful for. I believe that our bond became stronger because my daughter felt safe, happy, and comfortable through this experience. After lily shots or when she was sick I would breastfeed her and that would calm her down in seconds. I never had to struggle to put my daughter to sleep as soon as she was on the breast she would drift away. My daughter and I were in our own bubble when I was breastfeeding her.

My daughter’s health is great and I believe breastfeeding was the cause of this. It is rare for my daughter to get sick; she does not get as sick as other children in the winter. So I am thrilled that she does not have health issues.

Breastfeeding was comforting to my daughter. I know that when I breastfeed lily she was more relaxed and happy. Everyone in my life supported my decision for breastfeeding. I would have my mother Spanish remedies to increasing my milk supply. I think that having this support made a difference in the connection that I had with my daughter. Having people cheer you on about breastfeeding is great and makes you want to continue and make the experience last a little bit longer.

I weighed 150 lbs. when I gave birth. After I stopped breastfeeding I weighed 98. Losing this weight was bittersweet. It was bad because I wanted to gain more weight after birth, but the good thing is that my body looked great afterwards. I could not believe that breastfeeding could cause such a weight change.

I stopped breastfeeding because I was becoming too skinny, my daughter used my boobs for comfort, and my schedule did not work with breastfeeding. My daughter would want to stay on the breast all day. She would pull my shirt and position herself for it, would play and watch TV while still being on the breast. It was weird to have her do this. But even with those negatives I wanted to continue breastfeeding.

It was empowering. I felt like any other mother out there. I did not feel just like a young mother, I felt like a powerful mom. Breastfeeding makes you feel powerful. That’s what I loved about it. I feel that my body was made to nurture a child. If I could go back in time, I would do it all over again to gain those emotions and awesome breastfeeding moments.

Tips on breastfeeding:

  • Always have that medical soothing for sore breast. It helps to apply it when the breast hurts. Helping to prevent sore breast.
  • Drink lots of fluid throughout the day. The more you drink the more your breast supply.
  • Remember what you eat and drink will influence what your child eats and drinks
  • Wear clothing that is easy to pull your breast out easily.
  • Turtle necks are a hassle when trying to breast feed
  • Breastfeeding bra are great but not necessarily needed.
  • Do not through away all your old bras, you may actually go back to the same cup.

Leave a comment below with your questions and tips!

And Then I Remember…

There are days when hiding in my closet is an option

There are days when pulling out my hair is an option

There are days when I can scream ’til my voice is no more

And then I remember I have the strength of two lions

That I’m not the same person I used to be

That bald may not be the look for me

That my closet doesn’t have a light and I really don’t like the dark

That I like talking

There are days when running is an option

There are days when crying is an option

And then I remember I have enough babies for that so turning into one may not be the best idea

That I’ll get one hell of a work out running and I’m sure I’ll get chased

Point is when the negative comes creeping just remember I do. 🙂

A Mother’s Fight

I realize that you feed off my energy, my fight, my love and for that… I fight.

I realize that feeding you, bathing you, dressing you is only half the battle.

I will fight because better me = better you.

I was told never to use the saying “Do as I say not as I do,” because when you see me do or say something, you are bound to do the sooner or later. I can’t fight you for what I have taught you and since I know you’re watching, watch mommy put up a fight for you, watch how mommy loves you, teaches you, supports you, always forgives you, and never let you go.

As you watch, pay close attention to the words I use to help you to help us to fight and make sure you choose those fighting words wisely. Know that along with a fight comes sacrifice and for you I will always do that, no matter what. So as I pave the way, you may see mommy cry but just know they are tears of joy and when I look at you, know that it’s because you make me so happy.

This fight ain’t easy sweetie and boy did mommy have to start young, but guess what… we got through it.

The Support I Needed to Help My Son

My son was born 9.14 oz when he was born! He was a giant baby and because of his weight I believe it made it so much easier for him to sit up and crawl and stand up at an earlier age. He was a really strong baby and because of that he even took his first steps at 9 months!

He was also was very good at exploring the world around him. He never really found interest in his toys but rather in simple things like a shoe box or a remote control. I loved watching him be so curious because I knew that in that little head there were many many new connections being made in that tiny little brain. But around the time he was 15 months I really began to worry about him.

My son was at the age where he should have had at least 4 words in his vocabulary and he didn’t . He didn’t say mama or papa. He would also still cry like a 9 month old baby who couldn’t express his wants. When I mentioned this to his doctor she recommended that he get tested to see if he would qualify for early intervention and it turned out that he actually did need early intervention for his speech delay.

photo

Although it’s normal for kids to have a delay in speech it made me a little sad. Would my son not speak until he was 3? Would he have the same learning disabilities as I did when I was a child? These were all questions that I had. After finding out that my son had a delay I worked a lot harder to make sure he was getting the stimulation he needed to speak. I would repeat words to him over and over making sure I said it slow enough for him to hear the pronunciation.

He started getting speech therapy and even then he said nothing. I became frustrated because after weeks of trying to get to speak he still didn’t say anything. But one day, I went to pick him up  day care and his teacher said that he had been calling me all day, “mommy” . I felt my heart warm up a little bit and I thought it was the cutest thing and he has not stopped repeating ” mommy” over 30 times.

Today at 18 months he knows how to say mas (more), car, chu chu (train), leche (milk), and of course mommy. Even though I’m still waiting in him to say more words I’m glad he has progressed. I believe that reading books to him and having conversations with him has really helped him to start speaking. I also turned everything into a pointing game where I point to something and then name it with a high pitch voice. I have no doubt in my mind that he will one day be able to speak just fine. Until then I will continue to work with his speech therapist to make sure I am doing all the right things.