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The Weekend That Made Survival Mode More Survivable

My twins were 16 months old and my oldest daughter three when I had one of the best weekends ever. As a full-time stay-at-home mom, I’d been in pure survival mode for the past few years. Survival mode meant that I needed to keep the children alive, keep myself alive, and anything else just didn’t happen.

The house was a disaster, I only showered when absolutely necessary, and sleeping more than five hours straight was a fantasy. I mean, I actually fantasized about it. Life with my three little daughters was crazy. In the midst of the craziness, I had completely forgotten my former life as a regular person. I put my head down and just got through the day. Hour by hour at times.

Meanwhile, my husband was also having a busy year in a vastly different way. He’d been away for two bachelor party weekend trips and two guys’ ski getaways. He even used a few of his paid vacation days to go skiing and hunting – on weekdays. The idea of taking an entire day to go and do something fun baffled me.

I’ll admit I was extremely jealous and wanted to consult my stay-at-home mom employee handbook to see how many paid vacation days I got every year. Maybe I was bitter. Or maybe I was just exhausted. Either way, I spent many day dreams thinking about what I would do with an entire eight hours off.

My husband is a great guy. He’s very hands on and helps out a lot. He also wants to see me happy. I started telling him about my fantasies. I might have complained a little about his weekends away and days off. Sometimes I joked about them, sometimes not. He encouraged me to plan a girls’ trip and was game for a full weekend of kid duty.

I love my girlfriends, but the idea of planning a weekend for all of us, talking for hours, and consulting everyone on what they wanted to do just made me feel even more tired. After he’d brought it up a few times, I finally told him the truth.

What I really wanted was a weekend alone. By myself, with no one to talk to, empathize with, or plan around. No one asking my opinion, sharing a room with me, or even looking at me. He thought I was crazy.

I went for it and picked a weekend. My weekend. My husband was on board (with Grandma on stand-by) and I booked myself a two-night stay at a hotel 10 miles away from our house. As my weekend got closer, the guilt set in – classic mom guilt that told me there was no way the girls could go 48 hours without me.

I sheepishly mentioned my plans to a few mom friends and got the feeling that it did sound a little crazy. They all sort of half-laughed (this wasn’t a joke) and looked at me like they wanted to support this idea but thought I was insane. I pushed it all away and focused on how amazing it was going to be. This was happening.

I enjoyed every single second of packing my own suitcase. Just my suitcase. No one else’s. It took me about three minutes. The drive to the hotel took 15 minutes. I walked in with an air of someone important. I decided to pretend I was on some super serious business trip.

I checked in, and the person behind the counter asked me if I’d traveled far. “No, not too far!” I smiled and acted like checking into a hotel, alone, on a Friday night was something totally typical for me. I walked to my room, opened the door, and sat down.

Now what? This was the strangest feeling I’d had in months, maybe years. I could literally do whatever I wanted. Anything at all. The world was an open book. I sat in the silence and just took it all in.

The silence felt so good.

I decided to order room service. I found a chick flick on TV. I put on my PJs. When the meal came, I ate it slowly until I was completely full. I watched another movie. I fell asleep at 9pm and slept for 12 hours straight. This felt more amazing than any fantasy I’d had.

I felt slightly weird when I woke up. It was so quiet. I had the entire day ahead of me to do with as I wanted. This was an astounding thought.

I took advantage of the hotel spa and booked a massage. I took the longest shower I’d probably ever had. I sat outside on a lounge chair in the sunshine reading. For hours. I ate more food. I took a nap. I didn’t speak more than about 15 words out loud the entire day. Then I slept some more. I texted home a few times, but didn’t call. Everyone there was good, so I let them be. It was incredible, all of it.

On Sunday I woke up exhilarated. Another long shower and meal was followed by a much needed trip to Victoria’s Secret for a bra that actually fit. I spent time getting measured and talking to the salesgirl about all of my adventures in nursing twins. Finding a bra that actually fit was a true joy.

I felt fulfilled. I felt lighter. I felt rested. I was ready to hug my babies, soak up their smells, and delight in their little voices. I was ready to go home and smile at my husband and perhaps even show him my new bra. This mom was refreshed, renewed, reawakened.

I still fantasize about doing it again one day, but I don’t need it as much as I did in that moment. My children needed it, and my husband needed it, too.

Every mother should take a weekend, or even just one full day alone. Put the mom guilt aside and enjoy every second of it. Those seconds aren’t wasted. They are truly necessary, for everyone’s survival.

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Many parents begin looking into Montessori when their children reach preschool age, but there is so much you can do at home even with the youngest babies. Montessori is much more than a method of education or academic system. It is a philosophy and a certain way of approaching children, whether at school or in the home.

Here are five simple (and free!) ways you can begin using Montessori with your child from birth. And if your child is older, don't worry—all of these principles apply to older children as well.

1. Provide freedom of movement

From birth, we can give children the opportunity to move freely in their environment.

For a newborn, this simply means providing plenty of time when they are not being held or constrained in a carrier, stroller or other device.

You might spend time siting next to your child while they lay on a soft blanket, either inside or outdoors. They're clearly not able to move around the environment on their own at this point, but can practice moving their arms and legs and supporting their head, without their movements being limited.

For an older baby, freedom of movement might include letting them pull up on objects and edge their way around the room at their own pace, rather than putting them in a jumper or holding their hands while they walk.

Freedom of movement is excellent for gross motor development, but it is also a great confidence builder. It sends a clear message to your child that you believe they are capable of developing their muscles and abilities in their own timeframe.

Another aspect of freedom of movement is comfortable clothing that supports a baby's growing ability to move. Dressing your baby in a onesie or loose fitting pants and shirt maximizes their ability to move. Providing young babies plenty of time unswaddled and without mittens or shoes also helps them learn to use their muscles.

2. Use respectful communication

Respectful communication is a hallmark of Montessori for children at all ages, and this can certainly begin at birth. It may feel silly at first, but try telling your infant each time you're going to pick them up. Let them know when it's time to eat or time for a diaper. It will begin to feel more natural each time you do it.

You might try asking permission, such as, "May I pick you up for a diaper change now?"

While they, of course, won't be able to answer you in words yet, they will understand your tone and if you ask regularly, they might start to respond in other ways, such as reaching for you or smiling.

We can also show respect through our communication by always using real, precise language. For example, rather than telling a baby a picture is a "doggie," try telling them it's a "dog," or maybe even the type or name of the dog if you know.

This type of communication lays a wonderful foundation for a relationship of mutual respect, and also exposes your child to a rich vocabulary from the beginning.

3. See caregiving as bonding

Caregiving tasks, such as feeding and changing diapers, can seem endless and can be truly exhausting, especially in the first few months. In Montessori, we try to view these activities as a time for bonding and connecting, a time to give a child our undivided attention.

In a classroom with multiple babies, or a home with older siblings around, this can be an especially important time to take a few moments and be present with the baby you are caring for. It can be so tempting to scroll through social media while breastfeeding or rush through diaper changes to get to the more fun stuff, but these are truly opportunities to slow down, make eye contact with your child, and simply be with them.

Montessori also views these activities as collaborative. We always try to do things "with" children, rather than "to" them.

For the youngest infants, collaboration might just be talking them through what you're doing, or following their lead for when they need to eat and sleep.

For older babies, you can include them more through asking them to crawl to the diaper changing area or bring you a diaper, or offering them two shirts or two foods to choose from.

Reframing these caregiving activities not only makes them more enjoyable for us parents, it ensures that we have regular check-ins where we're fully present with our babies. It makes them feel cared for, and never like a burden.

4. Allow time for independence

How can a baby be independent? They rely on us for so much—warmth, nourishment, safety, love—but we can actually help infants develop independence from the very beginning.

We can look for times when our baby is calm and alert and let them "play," or lay on a blanket, without being held. We can give them time to look around the room and visually explore their new world without interacting with or distracting them.

We can respond to mild fussing first by talking to them, by gently touching them or holding their hand, rather than immediately swooping them up into our arms. Sometimes all they need is a little reassurance that we're there.

Every baby is different and every baby's tolerance for these moments is unique. Some babies might be content to lay on their own for quite a while, while others seem to want to be held constantly. Follow your own child's lead, but look for little opportunities to help them stretch their independence from the start.

5. Practice observation

Observation is one of the most important principles of Montessori for all ages.

Each child is on their own developmental path and the only way we can really know what they need, what challenges they're ready for, is through careful observation.

Naturally, you spend tons of time watching your new baby. Observation is just a slightly different mindset, watching with intention, to see what new skills your baby might be working on, what parts of the room they stare at with captivated interest.

This type of observation will help you know what toys to offer your baby better than any developmental timeline. It will also help you get to know them in a deeper way.

Montessori can seem a bit mysterious or even intimidating, but so much of it is really so simple. It is much more about how we view and interact with children than about academic achievement or beautiful materials.

No matter what type of school you plan to send your children to, incorporating these principles at home from the beginning can add so much to your parenting journey.

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There are so many firsts we get to experience with our baby in those precious 24 hours after birth, but experts suggest that a first bath should not be one of them as waiting could help mama and baby with breastfeeding.

This week a study published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing links delaying newborn baths with increased in-hospital exclusive breastfeeding rates.

The study's lead author, Heather Condo DiCioccio, is a nursing professional development specialist for the Mother/Baby Unit at Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. She told TODAY her research was promoted by patients, who have increasingly been asking staff to hold off that first bath in recent years.

Part of this is likely due to the World Health Organization's stance on newborn bathing. The WHO recommends babies should not get a bath for 24 hours, but the recommendations don't really explain why the organization suggests this.

DiCioccio's study involved almost 1000 mama-baby pairs. Around half of the babies were bathed within 2 hours of birth, as per the hospital's previous policy. The rest saw the first bath delayed for at least 12 hours. The researchers found a link between delaying a bath and exclusive breastfeeding, but they could not precisely answer why. DiCioccio thinks it might have something to do with baby's sense of smell.

"They've been swimming in the amniotic fluid for 38, 39, 40 weeks of their life and the mother's breast puts out a similar smell as that amniotic fluid," she told TODAY. "So the thought is maybe the two smells help that baby actually latch. It makes it easier for the baby to find something comfortable and normal and that they like."

For DiCioccio, anything that can help mamas with breastfeeding is a welcome intervention, but the nursing link is not the only benefit to delayed bathing. She notes that keeping the vernix (that white stuff) on the baby for longer allows the baby to benefit from its antimicrobial properties and can help with lung development.

However, sometimes babies do need a bath soon after birth. When mothers are dealing with health issues that can see babies exposed to blood-borne pathogens (like HIV, active herpes lesions or hepatitis B or C), a bath sooner after birth is still best, DiCioccio explained to TODAY.

Even when blood-borne pathogens are not a concern, cultural preferences might be. Not every parent wants to delay baby's first bath, and that's okay—during DiCioccio's study the wishes of parents who wanted their baby bathed shortly after birth were respected—but it's good to have all the knowledge we can get when it comes to postnatal best practices.

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Ayesha Curry has three kids, a husband with a super busy career and a super busy career herself. It would be so easy for her priority list to be: 1) kids, 2) career, then 3) Steph—but the TV host, chef, Honest Company ambassador and entrepreneurial #bossbabe says her partner still has the number one spot, even after all these years.

Speaking to HelloGiggles, Curry explains that she and her Golden State Warrior husband have seen how partners prioritizing each other can benefit a family as a whole. That's why she and Stef don't prioritize the kids above each other.

"Both of our parents are still married and have been married for 30-plus years, and the one thing that they both shared with us—some through learning it the hard way, some through just making sure that they do it—is just making sure that we put each other first, even before the kids, as tough as that sounds," she tells HelloGiggles.

For the Currys, that means making time in those very busy schedules for date nights where they don't have to be mom and dad, they can just connect as partners. Curry admits that it's not always easy to break her brain out of mama-mode and prioritize something other than time with her kids, but she recognizes that when she and Stef put each other first, the kids benefit.

"That's been very important, as hard as it is. Because when you become a parent, you want to put your kids first, and we do, but we do it second to our relationship. Because ultimately, when our relationship is good, the kids are happy and they're thriving and our family life is good. We have to put that into perspective and realize that it's not us being selfish, it's making sure we set a strong foundation."

Experts back Curry up

Family therapist Raffi Bilek, director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, tells Fatherly that while putting each other first may seem counterintuitive to parents, it's important. "I think that the question of when to prioritize your partner over your kid is best answered with 'always,'" Bilek says.

David Code is a therapist and the author of To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First. He wants parents to lean on each other more because when we don't our kids can end up shouldering some of our emotional needs, and that's not fair. It's also not fair for parents to put their relationship and themselves last every time. He believes the "greatest gift you can give your children is to have a fulfilling marriage yourself."

According to Code, "families centered on children create anxious, exhausted parents and demanding, entitled children. We parents today are too quick to sacrifice our lives and our marriages for our kids. Most of us have created child-centered families, where our children hold priority over our time, energy and attention."

Therapists like Code and Bilek are calling on parents to put their partners first, and stop buying into the myth that we don't have time for our spouses.

If the Currys can find time for each other in their crazy schedules, so too can the rest of us.

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This morning I left my 4-year-old sobbing in the arms of her Pre-K teacher. As I turned to leave, the sight of her little face crumbling, trying to be brave but not quite managing, tore right to my core. I walked away feeling like I was wading through treacle, my chest aching and my arms heavy and useless where my child should have been. It felt so very unnatural to leave when she was crying out my name.

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