Life With Littles

Parenting Challenges – My Top 5

Photo of the shoes of a growing family with a pair waiting for their infant.

This post about my toughest five parenting challenges to date. And how I got through them.

Spoiler alert – everything is get-through-able. Everything is a phase, some longer than we would like, and some too quick.  

If you are in the middle of a difficult time, reach out to someone for support. Sometimes something as simple as a hug or an ear to listen, helps us recharge and stay sane.

There are a couple of honorable mentions that I’m listing but haven’t detailed out here. (But happy to do so if there is any interest – let me know in the comments).

The list is as follows: 

  1. Not Being Able to Breastfeed my Firstborn
  2. Newborn (and beyond) Sleep Struggles
  3. Parenting Differences with Hubby
  4. The Introduction of Daycare
  5. Potty Training
  6. Honorable Mention: Having Gestational Diabetes
  7. Honorable Mention: NICU Stay with My Second Born – in hindsight, this might even top the list, but I’m not sure I can write about this yet, it’s still pretty raw.

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My Parenting Style

I don’t necessarily like labeling it. I think I fit into a lot of parenting buckets, but I’d sum it up as respectfully laid back most of the time and in survival mode the remainder.

I’m a reasonably patient person, which makes for a pretty easy-going parent.  

Sure, I get annoyed every once in a while. I sometimes put my stern voice on, usually after 2 hours of trying to get Vinnie (2-year-old) to go to sleep.  

But far more often then not, I’m able to channel patience and see things from their perspective. If Vinnie is mid-tantrum, I know that he is having a hard time, not giving me a hard time. If Vinnie is pushing limits, I know he is exploring his world and appreciate his sense of self over needing him to fall in line.  

From the outside, one might think I have my shit in order, but let me tell you…

This parenting journey is not always relaxed. Some things have rattled me to the core. I hope that my sharing helps you if you happen to be in a similar situation. And that you will know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

These are my toughest parenting challenges.

1. Not Being Able to Breastfeed my Firstborn.

Vinnie was born in a midwifery unit in the UK. While I’m incredibly grateful for the care we received, in hindsight, I was not impressed with the breastfeeding support. We had trouble latching, they were quick to “top him up” with a bottle, and I was afraid my baby would starve.  

I wish I were more prepared and patient and had a lactation crew half the size as I did when Theo was born, but I wasn’t, and I didn’t.  

We took Vinnie home and continued to struggle, with loads of tears, and weekly consultants. I would try to breastfeed until both of us got too upset.  Then Erwin would feed Vinnie a bottle and I would pump.

I remember being broken and sending Erwin to the store at 2 am to get some formula because Vinnie wouldn’t latch, and we didn’t have enough expressed milk for him. It was after this that I started googling Exclusive Pumping and never turned back.

It took a while to ‘heal’ the wound that this left. I felt inadequate and feared that Vinnie would not be as attached to me as a baby should be to their mother. But then I became proud. I poured all of that frustration into dedication. Pumping all day, twice every night, in the car, on airplanes, and through many social visits and gatherings.

I built up a pretty decent milk supply that lasted just under a year. And also got to donate a fair amount to a baby with a feeding tube, which was a fantastic feeling.

In the end, Vinnie was, and is, just as attached to me as all babies are to their mothers. And I still got to feed my baby while looking into his eyes and running my hand across his soft skin. 

Theo has been able to breastfeed, which I am beyond grateful for. The most significant difference being the knowledge and support I had when we started our journey. I plan to elaborate much more on this topic in a future post in hopes of helping others at such a difficult time.

2. Sleep Struggles

Infant, I don’t know what I was expecting, but it hit us hard, especially going back to work where I needed to be functional. Sleep deprivation was one thing, but the longer it went, the more stressed I became.

What stressed me out was the (false) belief that for Vinnie to learn to sleep, we would have to sleep train him. 

This did not sit well with me as it would have required putting him in his own room, knowing he would be upset. I get it. Not all sleep training requires a baby to cry it out, but sometimes the in and out can seem even more torturous. 

My tummy started knotting up with the looming lesson I wasn’t ready to teach my son. I was googling “do you have to sleep train?” and eventually stumbled upon some fantastic resources and moms groups of others who were, or had previously been, in the same boat.

Here’s the thing. You do what works best for your family. For some, that is a relatively pain-free sleep train, and for others, it’s a sidecar crib. As long as your baby isn’t in danger or distress, do what sits well for you. 

We never trained Vinnie to sleep and some phases of life he sleeps through, and others he still needs a cuddle. One day he won’t need us at all, which makes me sad.  

This time around with Theo, we are both more relaxed. We were also more prepared and went with a Snoo for help during those exhausting infant months. Check out my Snoo review if you are curious about how a $1200 piece of baby tech brings peace of mind and a little more sleep for everyone.

3. Parenting Differences

The toughest parenthood challenge as a couple, for us, was by far when Vinnie started to get a bit mischievous.

While I lean heavily toward positive attachment parenting, Erwin (hubby) is a bit more mainstream. We started to clash when it came to redirecting (or disciplining) Vinnie. We didn’t have the conversation, but rather, passively annoyed each other about it until it came to breaking point.

Erwin felt I was too soft with Vinnie, and I always redirected Erwin’s attempt at disciplining him. 

I genuinely felt that we should not try for more kids with such a difference in parenting methods. While that killed me inside, what I hated, even more, was the thought that I would need to give up ground and go against my childrearing instincts to save our marriage

It took a while to sort through my feelings. But in the end, I thought, why can’t we just have two different parenting styles. I consulted google (again), and she agreed, you can have two separate approaches, and kids will manage just fine. After all, every teacher or authority figure has their own spin as well, to which kids adapt to regularly. 

Breath of fresh air.

So we talked about it on a walk while my mom watched the kids. We talked about our hard limits, mine being:

  • Hitting
  • Sleep training
  • Chastising for displays of emotion

And to be honest, his only request is that I not make him feel judged at his every move. I then realized that he is learning just as much as I am. 

We’ve now met somewhere in the middle. Erwin takes my example and uses it in most circumstances, and I back him up with support in situations where we need to draw a line.

4. Daycare

This is an ongoing parenting challenge. I am taking steps to improve the situation, but I’m not there yet.

We were very privileged that Vinnie didn’t have to start daycare until he was 18 months old, even though we both work full time. At first, that was a nanny (love you, Sammie and Tilly!). Then around Vinnie’s one-year-old birthday, we moved home to live with my mom (pro multigenerational living). 

Erwin took a break in his career for six months. And I consulted for the company I had just left, but on UK hours and only part-time. That means I worked from 5 am to 9 am, and then I was done for the day. It was amazing, although understandably temporary.

Anyways, all that to say that until we got full-time jobs in the US, Vinnie was home with us. 

I was dreading leaving him at daycare for the same reason I dislike the idea of having to sleep train. This, however, I couldn’t avoid if I wanted to earn a living.

We chose a daycare closest to mom’s school (she’s a teacher), so she could do drop off and pick up. I know I know I’m spoilt.  

While this meant I never had to leave Vinnie at the daycare door, it has also left me feeling disconnected from his school experience.

So how am I getting past this? Well, with Theo, we’ve decided on a school closer to us. From day one, I will be dropping him off, and if I can, picking him up. Not only that, but we decided to move Vinnie as well. This will enable me to be more connected to the place that he spends so much time during the week.

We’ll see how it all goes when schools open back up!

5. Potty Training

This shit almost broke me. Oh my gosh. I read two equally amazing books: 

  • Sarah Ockwell-Smith’s – Ready, Set, Go!: A Gentle Parenting Guide to Calmer, Quicker Potty Training (Amazon Link)
  • Jamie Glowacki’s – Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right (Amazon Link)

While differing intentions, both are relatively similar and super helpful. The problem was I took it too literally. 

“Okay. Step one for this many days, then we should move on to step 2.”  

My tolerance was nonexistent. We were on a strict schedule for no reason, other than my fear that if we didn’t follow the plan, it wouldn’t work.

And even though both books tell you not to annoy the crap out of your child by regularly asking them if they have to pee, my anxiety was always on edge, and I couldn’t help it.

At some point, I took a step back and had a chat with myself.

This kid will do what he is going to do, and I just need to be there to support him. If that meant having some accidents, well, then we were going to have some accidents.

In actuality, we didn’t follow step 1 → step 2 → step 3. We went step 1 → step 2 → step 2 during the day but step 1 in the evenings → step 3 and back to step 2 for a while.  

Eventually, I lost track, and now I’m pretty sure I can say he’s potty trained. Does he still have accidents? Yup, sometimes. But most times, those accidents happen while trying to get his pants down from waiting too long. This, in itself, will take continual practice. 

To Conclude My Parenting Challenges

So there you have it. My five toughest parenting challenges to date and how I moved past each. And all this before seeing Vinnie’s third birthday! Just think of all the fun we have in front of us.

If you are wondering, I can say hands down that even in the midst of any one of these, having kids has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. They have given me a new purpose. A purpose that helps motivate and drive me to be the best person that I can be. 

I hope in reading this, you gain something, whether it is solidarity, a coping mechanism, or even just further insight into what makes me me.

I’d love to hear about your toughest parenting challenges to date. Drop a comment below for all to benefit from or send me an email or Instagram DM (platform of choice) if you prefer a more private conversation. Thanks so much for stopping by and I hope to hear from you soon.

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