NWI Parent

Join newly married Julia, former single mom, as she and her daughter transition into the nuclear-family life.

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Nag, nag, nag

November 8th, 2011 - By Julia Huisman

I hate admitting this, but the older Isabella gets, the more of a nag I become. Every waking moment, it seems, I’m reminding her to do this or that: “Brush your teeth… make your lunch… stop doing handstands on the couch… wake up NOW… why haven’t you brushed your teeth yet?!” It feels like I spend more time nagging her than I do in any other kind of conversation with her. Even I’m annoyed by my voice.

I know I’m not alone. It is simply the nature of a parent, particularly mothers, to nag at their kids. I know this because my mother nagged me, which I said I’d never do. Now that I’m a mom, I feel horrible that I put my own mother through such torture. Sorry, Mom!

What is the alternative? How do we get our children to do what they should without having to yip in their ear every 30 seconds? How do kids become self-sufficient enough to not need their mothers’ incessant nagging? Do we let them learn the hard way? That works sometimes, I’m sure, but not others.

For example, I’m so tempted to not prompt Isabella to do anything for one morning so that she misses her bus (because she totally would), but then what? She would love for her “punishment” to be that I have to take her to school, or that she has to stay home from school. These are luxuries, not penalties! And she’s too young to walk to school. So somehow I need to come up with a more suitable alternative.

While I’m a big proponent for discipline and firm parenting when it’s called for, I also feel that positive reinforcement is more impactful than the negative kind. My nagging is not fun for anyone involved, and oftentimes Isabella and I end up getting into arguments because of it. Perhaps if I keep my cool and speak in a more positive light, she’ll listen better and be more inclined to obey the first time around? I shall try and see…

Filed under: parent.

On being a teenage mother

October 10th, 2011 - By Julia Huisman

I finally watched the MTV show Teen Mom for the first time. I have a lot of conflicting thoughts about that show. On the one hand, I think it’s great that it reveals the unglamorous reality of raising a child at such a young age. But on the other, I don’t like that it’s celebritizing these young girls. They and their children have enough to deal with already, and now they’re also subjected to the grueling pressures that so many reality stars face.

Plus, what’s going to happen when they’re no longer “teen” moms? Once they enter their twenties, their celebrity status will likely fade away and the world will forget about them. For someone like Catelynn Lowell, one of the teen moms who had a large feature story in US Weekly last week (right alongside Jessica Simpson and Kate Middleton), I imagine that such a drastic rise and fall of public attention could cause quite an identity crisis.

But maybe I’m just being dramatic. I hope so.

I wasn’t a teenage mother but I was a single mother in my early twenties, at a time when the rest of my peers were exploring the young adult world with a freedom and sense of possibility that I would never fully know. What I went through is only a fraction of what teenage mothers go through—the social isolation, the burden of being an adult before you’re mentally prepared to be, the relationship struggles, the difficulty of handling your education and career at the same time you’re handling dirty diapers and sick toddlers… I could go on and on.

While watching Teen Mom that night, I just wanted to run up to each girl and give them a hug, tell them to keep their head on straight and assure them that everything will be okay.  I wanted to tell them that they don’t need to be on a TV show to feel important, that what they’re doing in their own home already makes them brave and courageous. I wanted to encourage them to keep their children first; that their kids care more about being loved than being famous.

Because this is such a strong passion of mine, I help out with a group called Teen MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) at Faith Church in Dyer. I don’t normally plug anything on this blog, but I feel very strongly about this group, so here goes… If you or someone you know is a teenage mother (up to age 21) living in Northwest Indiana, I strongly encourage you/her to attend Teen MOPS. It’s every other Wednesday, 5:30-7:30 pm. Dinner and childcare are provided, and you’ll meet other moms like you, learn more about parenting and also have a chance to earn household items for you and your little one. Click here for more information.

I don’t know if Teen Mom is helping to increase or decrease the teenage pregnancy rate, but at the very least I hope we parents can use that show as an educational tool for our young daughters, so that they might choose youth and innocence over premature adulthood.

Filed under: parent.

Tell the truth?

September 27th, 2011 - By Julia Huisman

The other night we were watching the movie Liar Liar. In the film, Jim Carrey’s character Fletcher lies often to his family and co-workers, and his 5-year-old son Max made a birthday wish that for one day, his dad wouldn’t lie. The wish comes true, and when Fletcher learns this, he tries to convince Max to reverse the wish. Max is reluctant to do so because he doesn’t want his dad to lie to him again.

Here’s how Fletcher justifies occasional lying:

“You see, Max, sometimes grownups need to lie. It’s hard to explain, but… Look, here’s a good example. When your mommy was pregnant with you, she gained 40 pounds; there was nothing she wouldn’t eat. And Daddy was scared. But when she’d ask me, “How do I look?” I’d say, “Honey, you look great. You’re glowing. “ If I had told Mommy she looked like a cow, it would have hurt her feelings. Understand? …Max, no one can survive in the adult world if they have to stick to the truth.”

After this convo, you could see Max really struggling with his father’s words. He simply couldn’t fathom that lying is ever a good thing, because all it did was cause pain and heartache in his own life.

I had seen this movie a few times before but this time around, the scene above really struck a chord with me. Why DO adults lie? Why is it okay—encouraged, even—to lie at some times but not others? And how do we justify this to our children?

I suppose it all comes down to whether or not someone gets hurt. If lying hurts someone, you should tell the truth instead, and if telling the truth hurts someone, you should lie instead. But even that seems wrong. Sometimes the truth hurts but is necessary to help a person grow. Other times, the truth really does cause more destruction than it’s worth.

I don’t have an answer, only that I’m going to be much more aware of how I approach honesty from now on. I don’t want my daughter to ever view me as deceitful. And in return I hope I can adequately teach her the delicate balance between honesty and courtesy.

Filed under: parent.

No more scaredy-cats

September 20th, 2011 - By Julia Huisman

One of my favorite parts of being married, after having been a single mom for so long, is that my husband helps me recognize when I’m being ridiculous as a parent.

The other day, Isabella asked if she could start reading the Harry Potter series. I said yes, excited that she was eager to read at a more advanced level. But later on I began second guessing my decision. There are some scary parts in those books and I was worried they’ll frighten her.

I expressed that concern to Justin later and his response was: “Well, at some point she has to learn these things on her own.” He pointed out that he watched a couple of scary movies when he was her age and yes, they terrified him, but those experiences helped him learn how to cope with fear. And that was an important lesson for him, and for anyone, to learn in order to survive at life.

This conversation opened my eyes to the fact that I still baby Isabella sometimes. I still view her as a little girl but she’s almost 9 years old… she’s nearing adolescent age. And there are certain experiences that she needs to go through in order to prepare her for adulthood. I can’t keep sheltering her from everything.

This situation is just one of the many reminders of how important it is to have a partner in the parenting process. Many times Justin has helped me to see things from a different perspective, and I’ve done the same for him. If I were still on my own, I probably wouldn’t have let Isabella read the Harry Potter books, I wouldn’t let her do a lot of things that would help prepare her for life, and she would be the one who suffers because of it.

Filed under: parent.

Beggars can’t be choosers

August 11th, 2011 - By Julia Huisman

I’ve been kind of a spoiled brat lately.

I’m four months pregnant now, and the reality of having a newborn soon is hitting me. I’m scared, to be honest. I haven’t had a newborn in nine years. So not only am I afraid that I won’t remember how to take care of one, but I’m also sad that a little part of my freedom is being taken away.

Isabella is so independent now. She takes her own showers, cleans up after herself (for the most part), dresses herself, can brush her teeth and hair… the list goes on. So the thought of going back to having to do all of those things for someone else is a little daunting.

I also think about how my social life will change. Right now, Isabella goes to her dad’s two to three nights a week. And on some of those nights, Justin and I hang out with other couples or we’ll have a date night. But when this new baby comes along, he/she won’t have another parent to go to. We’ll have him/her ALL THE TIME. So in my head I picture that Justin and I won’t ever be able to go on a date again, and especially not with other couples. Surely they wouldn’t want a baby hanging around with us! I feel like my social life is over.

So basically, I’m being incredibly selfish.

But it ends now. I’ve come to realize that I’m taking my blessings for granted. This is what I’ve been wanting for so long: to have a child with a man I love within the covenant of marriage. It’s also what so many other people want but can’t have. Yes, I’ll be sacrificing more of myself than I am now and yes, it’s okay to be scared about that, but it’s not okay to dwell on it and complain about it.

Plus, I should know from my experience last time that once the baby comes, I will in no way feel like my life is worse. When Isabella was born, I was surprised to see that life with her in the world was exponentially better than life without her. And I know the same will be true of my next child, and any others we may have after that. So from now on, I’m going to look to the future with happiness, excitement, a little bit of nervousness, and a lot of gratitude. I’m finally going to get what I’ve been wanting, and I’m no longer going to take that for granted.

Filed under: parent.

Why Snooki should not win a Teen Choice Award

August 3rd, 2011 - By Julia Huisman

This morning I saw that Snooki, of the reality show Jersey Shore, is nominated for a Teen Choice Award. This bothered me for a few reasons:

1) Her name is Snooki. Must I go on, really?

2) I actually kind of like Jersey Shore, I’m ashamed to admit, but I wouldn’t want my teenager watching it!

3) All Snooki does in that show is get drunk, sleep with men, make funny noises and eat pickles. And we’re giving her an award because…

I decided to go onto the Teen Choice Award website to see what, exactly, Snooki was nominated for. (Female Variety Star.) Turns out, the only way you can see the nominees is if you register. *rolls eyes* I almost didn’t go through with it, but as is my motivation behind watching Jersey Shore in the first place, I just couldn’t turn back at that point. It asked for my email address and birth date. When I clicked “Submit,” I received the following message:

“Sorry, you don’t fit the age requirements for voting.”

Ouch. I am officially too old to vote for the Teen Choice Awards. If that’s not a wakeup call, I don’t know what is. I wouldn’t let that defeat me, though. To spite the system, I went back and used a fake birth date. (I hope the Teen Choice authorities don’t read this and arrest me.)

I finally got in, expecting to see the Twilight series dominating the list of choices. It didn’t. In fact, I was disheartened by many of the nominees. There are several categories—movies, music, TV, summer, other—and they were littered with choices that I wouldn’t consider appropriate for teens. Movies like No Strings Attached (story about friends who sleep together just for the fun of it) and Something Borrowed (girl has an affair with best friend’s fiancé). Shows like Gossip Girl (so filled with licentiousness I don’t even know where to start) and comedians like Daniel Tosh (who takes inappropriate to a whole new level). And Snooki isn’t the only Jersey Shore representative there. Her cohorts DJ Pauly D and The Situation are nominated for Best Male Variety Star, and the show itself is up for Best Reality Show.

For the first time in my life, I actually WISHED that Twilight were nominated for every award.

I know I sound like a total prude, but I’m just sad that these are the values our teens are encouraged to honor, and with awards, no less. I didn’t even know teens were watching this stuff; I thought it was only young adults who watched, to be reminded of how stupid they were when they were that age doing those things. Two things I learned today: I’m old AND I’m naive.

My daughter isn’t a teenager yet, but those years will be here before I know it. I can’t even imagine what kind of movies and TV shows she’ll be exposed to by then. And I don’t know how I’m going to handle her inevitable desire to watch them. It’s my hope that, whether she watches them or not, she’ll know the kinds of behavior that should and should not be glorified, that she’ll look at the Snookis of the world and laugh. After all, a parent’s job is not to keep kids away from garbage but to teach them that it is, in fact, garbage. This is my new mission as a mother. Wish me luck.

Filed under: parent.

Seeing Green

July 26th, 2011 - By Julia Huisman

I have a confession to make…

Lately I have been extremely jealous of stay-at-home moms. I work in an office 40 hours a week and, while I enjoy my job, there are many days when I daydream about what it must be like to actually spend the summer with my child as so many other women get to do.

On my lunch break at work I check Facebook on my phone and see status after status from moms proclaiming things like:
“Headed to the Munster pool!”
“Going to the zoo today!”
“Let’s see how my kids do at the beach this time.”

When I read these things—sitting in my windowless, fluorescent-lit office—I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of jealousy and just sadness that I can’t do those kinds of things with my daughter. In fact, almost every day of the year, Isabella and I are separated more hours than not, and on top of that, she goes to her dad’s at least two days a week. I just feel like, compared to other moms, I’m missing out on her childhood.

I KNOW that doing recreational activities with small children is no easy feat, sometimes more work than it’s worth, and I’m sure that many moms are jealous of ME for being able to step away from parenting for a while and be my own person. There are definitely pros and cons to both sides of the working/non-working debate. But I would think that spending lots of quality time with your children, difficult as they may be at times, beats success in the workplace any day.

I’m not itching to quit my job because we need the income and it is fulfilling for many other reasons. I guess I just want to encourage all of you stay-at-home moms who may sometimes wish for a different life. The fact that you don’t have to work outside of the home is a blessing. The time that you spend with your children while they’re young is precious. They will remember these years forever and will be grateful for the time they had with you. And they’ll probably be better people because of it.

Now, go have fun at the pool.

Filed under: parent.

Expansion

July 12th, 2011 - By Julia Huisman

For the longest time, my “party of two” was just that: two people. Me and Isabella. Then, last August, we upped that number to three when I married Justin.

I’m happy to announce that we will now have a party of four.

I’m 14 weeks pregnant with my second child, though it feels like the first time all over again. After all, my first rodeo was nine years ago! That’s almost a decade! I’ve forgotten a lot about what pregnancy is like, and yet some aspects are very familiar. I assume that raising a newborn will be similar. And of course, this time around, I have a loving husband and an exuberant daughter to experience this roller coaster ride with me.

Isabella has been asking me for years, “Mom, when are you going to have another baby? I need a brother or sister!!” I would always tell her that I needed to be married first. So her next mission was to find me a husband. She tried desperately to convince me to sign up for The Bachelor so that I could get married and have babies. (Yes, I’m ashamed that she knows what The Bachelor is.) And as soon as Justin and I told her we were engaged, she said, “Yes! Now I get to have  a brother or sister!” As if a baby comes automatically with a marriage. “I now pronounce you husband and wife… and we’ll throw in a baby for ya, too!”

When we first told Isabella that her wish finally came true, she knocked me over because she hugged me so hard. Ever since then, she’s talked frequently about all of the things she wants to do with her new little sibling. (She’s hoping for a brother so that she can hit him in the head with a pillow when he’s five years old. She dreams in specifics, that one.) And I just know that she’s going to be a huge help to us. She’s already started practicing changing diapers on her stuffed animals. Plus, she loves kids. She has two cousins under the age of three whom she adores and has no problem playing with at family functions. That comforts me and makes me proud all at the same time.

Oh, and the baby’s due on Isabella’s birthday.

In just a year and a half, our little party of two will have doubled. We have been so blessed.

Filed under: parent.

The Project

June 1st, 2011 - By Julia Huisman

For the past few days, I have been obsessing about my daughter’s school project. She and a few other kids in her class were selected to do a semester-long project where they pick a topic and write reports on it, plus give a final presentation, which is this week. Isabella chose baseball as her topic, which is convenient because Justin is a former professional baseball player and current baseball coach. However, the person who has done the bulk of the work on this project is not Justin and certainly not Isabella. It’s me.

How did I not realize growing up that my parents were the ones who did all the work on my projects, science fair experiments, etc.? I look back now and see that it’s so obvious. I’d like to go on the record and thank my wonderful parents, Dan and Colleen, for putting in long hours to make sure my projects were A-worthy, and for letting me take all the credit for it. Sorry I was so selfish.

Isabella actually has been very engaged in this project since day one, and I can tell that she’s learned a lot in the way of study habits, work ethic and self-confidence. It was fun to teach her how to do research at the library. But writing the reports were challenging because a second grader simply is not cognitively prepared to write a report, so I had to tell her what to write while making it sound like something a second grader would write! I’m a writer and a perfectionist, so this was no easy task for me. I felt I was really dumbing myself down, yet maybe not enough.

The past few days we’ve been working on the actual presentation part of the project. She has to speak for 3 to 4 minutes in front of all of the second graders and their parents. And, true to form, Isabella is so caught up in the performance part of it that she’s forgetting about the formal part. No, Isabella, you can’t give the audience high fives when you say that the White Sox won the World Series in 2005… Okay, Isabella, you’ve practiced those hand motions 20 times now. Let’s get back to writing your speech. She will be incorporating some fun elements into the presentation, which will make it enjoyable to watch, but I still had to corral her over-active imagination a bit and bring her down to earth. I don’t want her teacher thinking she’s not taking this seriously.

The hard part is not to be too controlling and to let her have her voice in this, while also teaching her the appropriate way to go about these kinds of projects. I suppose she and I both have a lot to learn, and we have at least ten more years to do so! It’s been fun, though, I’ll admit, and while I’m anxious for this project to be over, I’m also looking forward to the next time Isabella and I can share the common goal of accomplishing a hefty task… even if I’m the one who does most of the work.


Filed under: parent.

Married with Children

April 12th, 2011 - By Julia Huisman

Justin and I are in an unusual situation. We’re newlyweds, but we have an 8-year-old daughter. When we hang out with other newlywed couples, our stories are a little different from theirs because we have a kid. And when we hang out with couples that have been married for a while and have kids, our stories are different from theirs because we’re newlyweds. We fit into both groups, but not completely.

It’s always awkward when our newlywed friends want to hang out and we have to say, “Can we bring Isabella?” They’re very gracious about it but we know it’s not ideal to have a kid hanging around all the time. And when I’m with other moms and they talk about their husbands—good or bad—I feel I don’t have a right to pitch in about mine, because we’ve only been married for a few months. It’s not uncommon for me to hear the phrase, “Just wait.”

Although this dichotomy is somewhat challenging, I truly feel that Justin and I have the best of both worlds—a child AND a flourishing marriage. It makes me sad that so many people think you can’t have both.

I know a handful of couples that have never had kids, and I will say they all appear to have an amazing marriage. And it makes sense. When you don’t have children nipping at your knees all the time, you can devote all of your attention onto your spouse. Giving your spouse undivided time and attention is certainly a recipe for a good marriage.

But I also know couples (not a lot, but some) that have kids and are just as happily married as the ones who are childless. The reason is that these couples deliberately make time for each other first, THEN they tend to the children. (Unless one of the children is bleeding out of the eyes or something. That child gets first priority!) A friend once pointed out that non-working women used to be called “housewives.” Now they’re called “stay-at-home moms.” The emphasis has switched from wife to mom, and many marriages are failing because of it.

I know that I’m just an amateur when it comes to the whole marriage thing, and I only have one kid as opposed to three or four. But I also know what it’s like to have a child without a husband, and that’s no walk in the park either. That Justin has even agreed to be a father to Isabella in and of itself makes me swoon, let alone the fact that he’s a good one. I fall more and more in love with him every time he pours her a glass of juice, or helps her with her homework. I hope I never take that for granted. And I hope the same for other married couples . . . with or without children.

Filed under: parent.

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