The "perfect family" doesn't have to be a boy and a girl

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BabyCenter Guest Blogger

posted: October 3, 2015, 6:06 am

 

By Jamie Lincow, Ph.D.

 

For each of my three pregnancies, my husband and I didn’t want to know the sex of the baby. Each time I gave birth to another baby boy, we were surprised.

After my first two sons were born, I knew that my family was not complete- not because I felt like I was missing a daughter, but because I knew that someone was missing.

Like many families with children of the same sex, I fielded many questions about “going for the third” and “trying for that girl.” I had always wanted a big family, and having another baby (boy or girl) was a given. As soon as I got pregnant with baby number three I was bombarded with the awkward question:

“Are you hoping for a girl?”

I didn’t know how to answer. On one hand, a little girl would be a new and exciting change from the boy clothes and toys that dominated my home. But on the other hand, another healthy, little boy would be a blessing.

I always put a smile on my face and answered with the same response: “We are hoping for a healthy baby- and we will keep whatever we get!”

After a few months of pregnancy I grew tired of strangers, friends, and family members congratulating me with one breath and then telling me how they hoped I was carrying a girl in the next. A few people even asked what I would do if this third baby were to come out male.

What would I do? I would love it!

The comments and questions made me anxious. My baby’s gender was totally out of my control. I knew in my heart that, whatever the gender, I was hoping for a healthy child, yet the unsolicited comments kept me full of doubt and despair. I started to wonder if the birth of a third baby boy would be a letdown to everyone. I wondered if people would see me as a failure. I knew better, but I played and replayed in my head how people would react to the news of the birth of another boy.

All the while I remained confident I would love any baby that came out of me.

When I gave birth for the third time, it was I who shouted “it’s a boy!” I was so proud. I didn’t care how anyone would react upon hearing the news- I was over the moon with my newest, perfect little gift. But, after the initial “congratulations” and “best wishes,” the comments came back, full force. One comment came in while I was still in the delivery room:

“Are you going to have a fourth and try for that girl?”

I couldn’t believe that someone was already questioning my future when I had a miraculous little boy right here in my present. Weeks later, I was still shocked as the comments rolled in. Friends and family members questioned one another about my state of mind, my reaction to a third boy, and speculated about my reproductive future. Why were people were so concerned about the gender of my children, and about my future choices, when I was trying to enjoy and settle in with my new (huge) family?

Even total strangers had their say.  A woman at Costco saw the two big brothers in front of the stroller, peeked in and said “I sure hope that’s a girl!” When I responded with “it’s a healthy baby boy,” she realized her blunder and crept through the aisle sheepishly. Why did she think that a baby girl in the stroller would have been better than my beautiful little son?

Why did strangers care about the gender of my children?

How could I continue to respond to these ignorant, insensitive comments without using obscenities? Mindless comments have continued to haunt me over the past months, and I’ve come to realize people just don’t think before they talk.

When I think about it, I realize people are projecting their own insecurities about stereotypical gender roles upon me and my children. They place too much stock in the gender of the child and how that child is supposed to act rather than the child’s health or individual characteristics.We need to know that each child is an individual (regardless of gender) and each family is different. Having a family with children of both genders does not equal perfection.

I have three beautiful, little men that continue to amaze me each day. Will we try for a fourth child? Maybe. Maybe not. Until then, I’ll just let the smiles from my three little princes shield me from the insensitive comments, and brighten my path each day.

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The family secret I won't be keeping

BabyCenter Guest Blogger

posted: February 16, 2016, 9:00 am

By Jamie Lincow

When my mom was a child, her mother instructed her to never reveal what she knew about her grandfather — that he was not her biological relative. In fact, he was her grandmother’s second husband, but she loved him like she would any other blood relative. According to my mom, her Zeida was her real grandfather.

I always loved hearing my mom retell this story from her childhood, but I never imagined that my children would be in her same position many decades later.

My father passed away when I was 22 years old, and, at the time, I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the future moments and celebrations that he would miss: walking me down the wedding aisle, coming over to my home for family dinners, and ultimately the birth of my future children. I wanted to name my firstborn in honor of my father, and when that day arrived seven years later, I cried tears of joy when I held my son for the first time and tears of sorrow because I wished my dad could be there with me.

At the time of my first son’s birth, my mom was dating a wonderful man that we all loved, but I was not sure how to involve him in the baby’s life. We are Jewish, so on the eighth day after my son’s birth, we all gathered for his bris and I remember asking the mohel (the one who performs the ritual) if we should include my mom’s boyfriend in the ceremony. Should we refer to him as a grandfather even though he is not a biological relative?

The mohel gave me sage advice that I try to pass on to any of my friends that have lost a parent:

“If you want this person to feel like a grandparent, then you must treat him in that way right from the beginning. Include him in the ceremony, allow your kids to call him Poppie, and you will see that a bond will grow between him and the children.”

We took his advice, and eventually the boyfriend became the fiancé, and the name Poppie is lovingly called out by my three children on a regular basis. Do I still wish that my dad was here to teach my kids how to play golf or to read them a book? Of course. I miss him every day, but my heart finds solace in knowing that my children do have a caring, devoted grandfather who loves them and treats them like his own. Poppie is their real grandfather.

Unlike my mom, who had to hold onto a secret for her entire life, my children are aware that there is another grandfather up in the sky. We talk about him constantly and he lives on in my memory and in the stories that I tell my three boys. And every so often I see my father’s resemblance in them and it makes me smile.

Have you ever discovered a family secret? Do you have any happy step-parent or grandparent stories in your family?

Spanish isn't my mother tongue but I speak it to my kids

BabyCenter Guest Blogger

posted: July 2, 2016, 5:41 am

By Jamie Lincow

I’m not a native Spanish speaker. I consider myself to be a Spanish speaking enthusiast, and my lifelong passion for speaking the language and fostering bilingualism in my household rivals that of any truly native hispanohablante. I first fell in love with the Spanish language at the age of 13 while listening to Gloria Estefan’s Mi tierra album, and I continued studying the foreign language in high school and beyond, until ultimately earning my Ph.D. in Spanish Language and Literature. I studied in Madrid and have traveled extensively through Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries, always with the intention of enhancing my level of fluency and becoming bilingual.

Although no other family member or friend spoke Spanish in my home or neighborhood, I had a burning desire to speak, read, and write in the foreign language, always immersing myself with the information about the rich cultures and traditions of the Spanish-speaking world.

There was never a doubt in my mind that I would raise my children in a bilingual home. My family knew of my intentions, and eventually I shared them with my boyfriend, who ultimately became my husband.  My husband was and always has been very supportive of the idea, and after investigating different methods about how to create a bilingual environment, we adopted the “one-parent-one-language” approach when my son was born.

This plan allowed for our child (and future children) to learn Spanish through my input and English through my husband and other family members/ caregivers. At first this setup seemed perfect, but with each passing month different family members and friends began questioning my motives until my self-assurance turned into self-doubt. I searched for help, and while there are extensive guides and how-to books about raising a bilingual family, there is no support for the language enthusiast who wants to create a bilingual home.

Despite the naysayers, I carried on in Spanish. The first few years were an eye-opening experience for me. My dream of immersing myself and my growing family in a foreign language was becoming a reality, and I while I began speaking to my baby in Spanish right from birth, I realized that I didn’t have the sufficient vocabulary in Spanish to produce the intimate dialogues that a mother longs to have with her newborn. I couldn’t find the appropriate words to express myself intimately, since I never learned this type of dialogue in school or abroad. When I talked to my son about items in the house, read him books, touched his hands and feet, I always used Spanish, but when it was time to cuddle and sing nursery rhymes, I was devoid of the Spanish equivalents, and I reluctantly reverted back to English.


In public and around other English speakers, I was faced with a separate dilemma: which language should I use? I decided to continue exclusively with Spanish, and most people were immediately intrigued. Questions and concerns quickly developed alongside their curiosity. Most people questioned how much the baby could understand and if I was confusing him. By his toddler years, I could silence the skeptics by giving him simple commands in Spanish that he would perform seamlessly. Eventually my son was identifying colors, animals, and objects in Spanish just as quickly (if not more precisely) as in English. By his second year, his identification of those nouns became a verbalization, and he began interjecting the Spanish words into his English sentences.

Now, at 6 ½ years old and with two little brothers (ages 4 and 2), my sons are budding Spanish enthusiasts. It’s like I have created a secret club with my 3 little boys, and Spanish is our private language. It serves us extremely well when we are out in public, especially when we are around family members who do not speak Spanish. I can quickly and discreetly reprimand my kids and even remind them to say please and thank you without anyone else knowing what I just said! When I converse with the butcher at our local supermarket in Spanish, they are always eager to say hi to him and remind him that they know Spanish as well. The only times that I revert to English with them is when I cannot find a Spanish equivalent, or when I want to express an emotion. I find that both anger and love do not have the same significance for me in a foreign language.

With the birth of each additional son, I gained more confidence, and I have noticed an incredible ease in my expression in Spanish. In fact, it no longer seems like a foreign language to me; Spanish has become our bond, a special language that I share with my sons.

Will my boys grow up to be bilingual speakers like me? Only time will tell. For now they tend to respond in English, a typical reaction for children being raised in a bilingual home. But their vocabulary skills are unparalleled.  It’s my goal that my sons will continue to flourish and develop these language skills once they receive formal training in school.

We certainly are not the only family to embark on this endeavor, as there must be other enthusiasts that also desire to create this type of environment for their growing families. While it takes a strong backbone to pursue, it’s a worthwhile endeavor and the results will make you extremely proud of your intentions. Hopefully my boys can become young men who not only appreciate their own belief system, but global citizens who are aware and respectful of other cultures as well.

Have you ever considered raising a bilingual child?

Yes you can be a good friend and raise your kids too

BabyCenter Guest Blogger

posted: October 22, 2016, 8:06 am

By Jamie Lincow

I recently read an article written by a stay-at-home mom who explains why she doesn’t have time for friends now that she has two daughters under the age of 6. She has happily bid farewell to any phone conversations with friends and plans to reignite those relationships in about five years, when her topsy-turvy lifestyle of raising little kids has concluded and the little ones are more self-sufficient. Until then, her friendships are reduced to texts and the occasional email, and she favorably concludes that this lifestyle is fulfilling enough for her. She hopes her friends will understand.

I am one of those friends who has been put on hold by moms who decided not to nurture their kids and their friendships at the same time. I can’t understand these moms.

I am a mom of three who works full time, and I still want to make time in my life for my friendships. While I don’t find fault in the author’s choice to stay home and raise her two little ones, I have trouble sympathizing with her decision to alienate herself from her former self as a friend. Why would a mom have to give up her former self completely in order to be a good mom?

We all change our priorities after we are thrown into a world of sleepless nights, diaper changes, and the craziness that the birth of a new child brings, but this new mom-self has chosen to neglect and even forget her former self– the one who took refuge in phone conversations with friends and the occasional Girls Night Out.

I also find fault with the philosophy, presented in the article, of not talking over your kids when they want to play an activity. While I cherish my time with my kids, I sometimes need to and WANT to talk on the phone with my girlfriends.  In addition to working full time, running my household, and raising my kids, I need to gossip, divulge, and vent about life to someone (other than my husband).

I love playing with my kids, don’t misunderstand me, but there are times when they are immersed in their own world of make-believe or even watching a show, and I pick up the phone and have my own conversation. Admittedly, there are times when the kids are being too wild, and I have occasionally pressed the mute button to reprimand them.  I have even asked them to “hold on” while I’m finishing up a conversation with a friend. My kids are my life and they will always have my attention (even when they are more self-sufficient), but I refuse to completely relinquish my phone conversations and put my friendships (or my Girls Night Out) on hold until those little ones are grown.

I have some friends who have forgotten their former self and, as a result, our relationships are reduced to the occasional text and the random email.  Unfortunately, those relationships have dwindled over time, as I have found more and more moms like myself who actually want to and need to converse.  Maybe we have just learned to multitask better than others.  We have found a way to make everything work harmoniously in life, finding a balance between raising kids and making time for ourselves, including phone conversations and personal relationships with others.

I miss those former friends who are lost, and I hope that they understand that a mom can raise her kids and be a friend at the same time.

What’s your take on motherhood and friendship?

What makes a boy and a girl a rich man's family?

BabyCenter Guest Blogger

posted: March 17, 2017, 4:09 am

By Jamie Lincow

https://www.babycenter.com/609_what-makes-one-boy-and-one-girl-a-rich-mans-family_20001766.bc

The other day I was contributing to a long list of congratulatory responses for a friend who posted a picture of her new family of four. The proud big sister was holding her baby brother, and I was in awe of how happy and well-rested everyone looked just a few days after the new arrival. After I posted my comment, I skimmed some of the other congratulatory remarks until I came upon one that I still can’t stop thinking about. It read: “Congratulations. A rich man’s family!”

The other posts commented on how cute the baby is, how adorable the big sister looks, and how a new baby is a blessing, but this comment focused solely on the baby’s gender. Since a baby boy was born, and now the family has a child from each gender, they are deemed rich.

For a moment after reading the comment, I had to stop myself from riding the rollercoaster of thoughts  tumbling through my head. I began to wonder why a family with a boy and a girl is seen to be richer than a family with children of the same gender, or even families with more than two children.

Regardless of its original intent, the saying does create a type of competition between families, leading you to feel that you are not as rich as those that have a son and a daughter. As a competitive person by nature, this notion lights a fire in me.  I had heard the saying before, but those words were never said to me after any of the births of my three sons.

Each one came out happy, healthy, and loveable, but nobody ever used the adjective “rich” when describing my ever-growing family. In fact, it was quite the opposite; friends and family constantly commented on the high cost of having children and that we would never be rich after paying for clothes, sports, college, etc!

Days after reading that initial remark, I can’t stop wondering what makes a family with a boy and a girl “rich?” The internet gives many different explanations for the saying, including the idea that in an agrarian society the boy would happily take over his father’s land and inheritance while the daughter would eventually provide grandchildren and help the family prosper. Therefore, the stereotypical gender roles are equally balanced, with the son taking control of the finances and the daughter continuing to provide in the home.

When I asked my mom for her interpretation, she gave a very practical answer. She seems to think the saying comes from the idea that only a wealthy family could provide new clothes for both the son and the daughter, since they will not be able to share clothes between siblings. There may be some validity in this interpretation, since passing down clothes within my boy tribe definitely has its perks!

Nevertheless, the saying is outdated and certainly doesn’t relate to today’s modern family that constantly defies any traditional, antiquated set of values.

Just because my family does not fit the stereotypical mold we aren’t are any less rich in tradition, spirit, and love.  At the end of the day, there’s no competition when it comes to gender in the family, especially since each child is a blessing and gender is not something we can choose.

When your little one (or your many children) gives you an unsolicited kiss, takes your hand in his, or just nuzzles up next to you, the gender lines blur and the individual miracle that you created and helped to bring into this world is all that you need to enrich your soul.

Back to school can be bittersweet when mom's a teacher

BabyCenter Guest Blogger

posted: July 21, 2017, 5:33 am

By Jamie Lincow

As a school teacher with back-to-school season swiftly approaching, my glimpse into the life of a stay-at-home-mom ebbs away. What I love most about summer is the ability to recharge my batteries. But I also love being available to tend to my kids’ needs at a moment’s notice without having to find coverage at work.

When my middle son had a stomachache the other day at camp, I dropped everything and picked him up within 15 minutes. He was so appreciative and even asked how I was able to get there so quickly. I could never get there in 15 minutes during a workday.

Once we return to work after any type of break, working mothers are always trying to find a balance between the wish to stay home and care for our kids, and the personal longing to succeed in our own individual careers. After I went back to work for the first time as a fledgling mother, I worried about being disconnected from my child. Maybe too much.

That intense need for an emotional connection is a leftover from my own childhood. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, or Domestic Engineer in her words, and she was always available to come to every assembly and activity, drop off forgotten homework or lunch, or pick me up if I felt sick. Having my mom on-call gave me a sense of security while growing up — like there was a safety net to catch me and support me when I was out of the house.

Fast-forward 25 years and now I’m a mom of three young boys. But I’m a working mother. Having a job outside of the house with requirements and responsibilities prevents me from attending every school program and event. Even though I don’t have the same physical availability as my mom once did, I still want my boys to grow and mature with that same level of comfort and sense of security.

So when I returned to work after the birth of my sons, I began looking for little ways to stay emotionally connected with them even though we were physically separated during the day. In the beginning it was simple things, like making their baby food. I took charge of picking the fruit and vegetables, cooking them, storing the finished produce, and deciding what my baby would eat at each meal, even though I wasn’t necessarily the one feeding him. Even though I couldn’t actually be there, I felt I still had partial control over my baby’s well-being.

Each night when I tuck my kids in we discuss tomorrow’s “plan,” going over the schedule for the next day. This gives my kids time to anticipate what’s next. When it’s a school day, we go over their electives, upcoming assessments, and assemblies, or even what I packed for lunch. On the weekend we typically discuss future playdates or sporting events, or which babysitter may be coming over if my husband and I go out. Even though I can’t accompany them throughout each part of their day, I want them to feel loved and supported while they are developing their own independence.

When my oldest reached elementary school age, I began sporadically packing little notes in his lunch box. I have fond memories of my mom’s notes on napkins (which eventually ended up smeared on my face after lunch). Once I wrote to my son “I hope you are having a great day! Go buy yourself an ice cream in the cafeteria.” My kids know they can buy snacks on occasion, so this was the green light for him to treat himself that very afternoon. He ran over to me immediately after walking off the bus, and buried his head in my chest. At first he didn’t say anything, but from that intense hug, I already knew how he felt.

He even brought home the note and the ice cream wrapper to show me what he had picked. I knew that little love note stuck with him all day and he has since asked me to write him a note every day!

I still remember little the gestures of love and support my own mom made, and I’m hoping that I can create the same kind of memories for my sons. Even if I can’t be home with them, it’s little things like this that keep our connection strong — and give us all something nice to remember.

Whether you’re a working mom or stay at home, what rituals do you practice with your kids that come from your childhood?

How do you know when you're done having babies?


BabyCenter Guest Blogger
posted: October 19, 2017, 5:21 am
By Jamie Lincow

https://www.babycenter.com/609_how-do-you-know-when-youre-done-having-babies_20003798.bc

The other day, as I was moving burp clothes, receiving blankets, and crib sheets to make room for the big boy clothes that my youngest will be wearing this winter, I found myself again wrestling with the family size question that has often been posed to me: “are we done?”  I nuzzled my nose into one of the sleep blankets my youngest has long since outgrown, and I tried to take in a long, deep breath. Tears overwhelmed my eyes.

The baby clothes and accessories have always stayed in our nursery, waiting to be used by each new baby that we brought home.  Now the nursery is our youngest son’s room and there is no logical reason to let these items take up all the space in his closet.  But,on an emotional level, I cannot bring myself to store them in the basement with the rest of the bulky baby items.  It seems like such a definitive move, as if I’m accepting that we may never have another child who will use them.

It’s not that I’m struggling with the fact that my babies are becoming big boys or longing to have another baby right now; in fact, I’m completely happy that all 3 are out of diapers and my husband and I have some freedom to go out for dinner and even travel.  Life has become easier with each passing year, and I truly enjoy watching my boys grow, taking them on field trips, and watching them play sports.  But, in the next breath, I reminisce about how much I loved being pregnant, the joy of nursing each baby, and the moments I relished as they were infants.  I find myself having these conflicting moments quite often, especially since my youngest just turned 3 and I continue to field the question: “So, are you done?”

Most of my friends had their second or third baby and knew halfway through their pregnancy that their family would be complete after the birth of that child.  Some of them even posted pics on social media of their family in the birthing suite with the caption “and now we are complete.”  I envy their certainty and I wish I could be definitive about my future reproductive plans.  Instead, I find myself sobbing as my husband dismantles the crib to make room for a toddler bed.

Vacillating between these conflicting feelings of satisfaction and longing, I recognize that on a deeper level, I’m also mourning my youth.  Each passing year brings me closer to the end of my 30’s and eventually closer to the end of my reproductive years.  Little girls wait for years to be able to carry a baby and become a mom, but when our reproductive era comes to a close, we need to refocus on future milestones that our children will make as they grow and mature.  While some women cross that threshold with a definitive stride, I stand hesitant, unsure about which side I belong on.

For now, I’m comfortable saying that “I’m on the fence.”  I’m giving myself some more time before making that final decision about crossing the threshold and posting pictures of our “complete” family.  In my heart, I know I may be someone who always yearns to feel a baby kick in my womb or to nurse a baby to his content.  Those experiences were so incredible that even if I were to carry 50 babies, I still may dream of having one more.

Until then, I will take my time moving the baby accessories out of my youngest son’s closet and I’ll take an extra moment to really smell those baby blankets before storing them away.

How did you know when your family was complete? Are you still “on the fence” like me?

I get it! This is why everyone keeps telling me to enjoy my kids now

BabyCenter Guest Blogger
posted: February 15, 2018, 9:12 am
By Jamie Lincow

Whenever a mom of older kids sees me with my tribe of 3 little men (ages 8, 6, and 3), she usually offers the same advice: Enjoy this time.

At first I didn’t understand why someone would feel the need to remind me to do what I’m already doing. I do enjoy spending time with my boys: watching them play sports, testing out new baking recipes together in the kitchen, seeing movies, etc. But a few recent events have encouraged me to take those words literally and to really live in the moment.

As a working mom, I want to maximize my enjoyable time with my kids as much as possible during the weekdays and spend less time on the mundane activities– like packing lunches, picking out clothes, and giving baths.

Until recently, I dreaded the assembly line of lunch boxes that I had to fill and the daily trip into each son’s bedroom to pick out tomorrow’s outfit.  But then it clicked for me- the sage advice that those older, more experienced moms have been giving me- and my entire thought process has been forever changed.

Maybe it’s that I like to be in control or that I’m overly conscious about the way my kids look and what they eat, but I continue to pack their lunches and pick out their wardrobe despite the daily time commitment.  So I’ve made the conscious decision to stop looking at those mundane events as chores. Instead, they are activities that allow me to live in the moment and fully enjoy the young family that my husband and I have created.

I like making sure that my boys have a nutritious lunch that will keep their bellies full throughout the day, and I also enjoy making sure that they look put-together each morning. I relish in their outfits and love matching their wardrobe to their personalities.  I also know there will come a day when they want to make their own sandwich and pick their own snacks, or close the bedroom door and choose their own outfits.  I recognize that eventually my boys will not want me washing their hair and drying them off after a bath.

Last night, when I came upstairs to go to bed, I saw my oldest son sleeping in the threshold of his bedroom.  He was nuzzled up in a little cove that he had constructed for himself with his sleeping bag and pillows, and he had even tucked in his blankies next to him.  At first glance I groaned, thinking that my husband and I would now need to remake his bed and put away the toys he had taken out, but then it dawned on me that this 8-year-old will not be making forts on his floor and tucking in his blankets when he’s 18.  I saw how tranquil and innocent he looked, and I stared at him for just a few extra minutes to really take in this memory and store it forever.

When I choose to appreciate the moment and recognize that my daily activities today will not be the same in five or ten years from now, I find more happiness in each day and I catch myself smiling more.  I want to echo the wisdom that the moms of older kids have given to me, because it forces us to live in the moment at each stage of motherhood.  The routine bottle feedings, diaper changes, or even nail clippings may seem like a chore today, but let’s remind ourselves to take an extra minute to engrave those activities in our memories.

Eventually my little boys will grow into men and hopefully the sacrifices and continual devotion that I have given them will guide them to make the right choices in their adult lives.