February favorites

  1. Water filters – We installed this one in the shower and this one on my bathroom sink. My skin has been noticeably less dry. Maybe it’s the chlorine filter? Whatever it is, I’m loving it. The pressure in the shower head is also excellent.
  2. All things ski related – I wasn’t planning on buying a one-piece ski suit, but then they went on sale…and I bought 2. This one is loud and colorful. It’s so much fun (though not my typical style). This blush number is totally my color, and I can’t wait to twin with my BFF, who has a red one from Goldbergh. Both suits are definitely lacking in one or more technical features (e.g., storm hood, boot gaiters, pass pocket, etc.) – they are more for looks than function. I would not recommend either as a first (or only) ski outfit for people who ski more than a couple of days on a holiday. Montec is the best wallet friendly option, in my opinion, that combines style and functionality. Early season (fall) is probably the best time to shop as many of their styles will sell out of sizes quickly. I’m also excited to try out new helmet and goggles this weekend. Will report back with details.
  3. European sunscreen – Because they are better (and sometimes cheaper) than American ones. I have been wearing this one daily, and bringing this one with while skiing.
  4. Face oils – I have been using one from Biossance in the AM, and one from Drunk Elephant in the PM. The extra glow is amazing especially for the dry winter months.
  5. Children’s books – Some recent favorites include “The Rabbit Listened“, “Hug Me“, “My Heart“, “Trying“, “Tofu Takes Time“, and “What feelings do when no one is looking

The Terrific Twos

I never liked the “terrible two” phrase. It always sounds like such a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. I would bristle at its unfairness – pronouncing judgment on an entire age group, without giving the toddler a fair shot, a blank slate. If the expectation is that the child will be “terrible”, what chance do they have at being anything else?

In any case, I adore the toddler stage. The blossoming language skills, the expressiveness coupled with endless excitement and curiosity about everything and anything – it is utterly breathtaking and achingly endearing. Compared to the newborn stage, or even the entire first year, I enjoy the toddler stage so much more. Maybe it’s because we are finally emerging from the global pandemic, maybe it’s our daughter’s growing independence, or maybe I’m just more tolerant of tantrums than the physical demands of caring for a baby.

Like many other endeavors, parenting has a way of exposing our greatest strengths and weaknesses. What I discovered, to no one’s surprise, was sleep deprivation was not my thing (is it anyone’s?). Ultimately, I found caring for a baby to be the most physically demanding and exhausting thing I had ever done. My body ached constantly from the lack of sleep, around the clock breastfeeding and pumping, and hours spent spoon feeding a baby that would not put *anything* in her mouth. And it sucked even more that I couldn’t go to (or hire) a masseuse (or any other kind of help for that matter), because of the pandemic.

Fast forward a year, I love the rhythm we have found with our toddler and her recently retired grandparents. Navigating the family dynamic across multiple generations can definitely be challenging, but the special bond our daughter has with her grandparents is priceless, and I am grateful to deepen my own relationship with my mom as well. When I get asked about toddler tantrums, I like to speculate that I find it easy to empathize with them because of my own proclivity for tantrums. I’m only half-joking, because there is a grain of truth there as well.

I have spent the better part of the last decade exploring the questions of “who I am” and “who I want to be”. A large part of that process involved digging up the not so pretty parts of myself, my past, and my childhood. It meant recognizing past traumas, understanding how they still affect me today, and finding ways to heal and ultimately coming to peace and letting go.

Having faced my own demons repeatedly, toddler tantrums seem like a piece of cake. Research has shown that toddler brains are far from fully developed. They have full-size feelings, but no tools to manage them. Their feelings are too big (and often too scary) for their little bodies to handle. In those emotionally charged moments, often inconvenient and even stressful for us parents, I like to remind myself, They are not giving me a hard time, they are having a hard time.

Like many parents, my approach to parenting is influenced by my own experiences. I focus a great deal on understanding and connecting with my daughter, though I am far from perfect. There are definitely moments when I am disappointed with my own behavior, and that is also when I strive to demonstrate how to apologize and make amends. After all, repair is critical in any relationship.

Parenting is a very, very hard thing, and we all need (and deserve) so much grace. It has been incredible to witness how my best and worst parts have guided me on this journey of raising a human being. I cherish every moment of this magical phase, which I know is only possible because of the love and support from my family. You are my everything.

Daily Trade-Offs

While the baby is sleeping, pick 1: sleep, pump, exercise, cook (if it can be done quietly), eat, write, errands (if dad is not in a meeting), make phone calls, catch up on life in general (jk – that’s impossible).

While the baby is awake, pick 1: eat, get dressed, go to the bathroom, put the dishes away, cook (only if the baby is in a good mood)

Weekends, pick 2 (3, if we get lucky): walk to the park, exercise, assemble baby’s newest toy, put away stuff baby has outgrown, laundry, meal prep, clean / organize the house.

How Parenting is (Kind Of) Like Any Other Job

Parenting is by far the best, and hardest, job I have ever had. While there is nothing quite like it, I couldn’t help but notice some parallels between parenting and the more familiar professional arenas:

Investment banking: The hours are insane and the sleep deprivation is real. You are sleeping 4-5 hours, maybe. The rest of the time you are feeding, changing a diaper, or trying to calm down your fussing baby. It comes out to be like 130 hour week. Take that Wall Street. Money Parents Never Sleep.

Consulting: Consulting people always like to say that “everyday is different”, consulting “keeps you on your toes”, because “you are constantly learning”. It’s the same with a baby. No two days are the same. Today she might sleep like an angel, and tomorrow she will go on a sleep strike. One day she refuses to eat and the next she will eat nonstop. Just when you think you have a routine nailed down, there will be a growth spurt, or sleep regression, or teething, or cold, or something. There will always be something new to figure out. Something to keep you on your toes.

Healthcare: Tending to all and any discomforts. Regularly coming in contact, and becoming very unfazed and familiar, with all kinds of bodily fluids. Unlike a doctor, you are never not on call.  

Law: There are few black and white rules, but exceptions abound. You try your best to avoid those slippery slopes, while following the spirit of your parenting principals as much as possible. Some will try to strictly follow the letter of each rule, while others will heed more to the changing times and circumstances. Most decisions are made based on facts and circumstances, and “it depends” is almost always the right answer.

Tech: The initial rewards are not insignificant, but full amount only realizes when your child steps out of your private nest and into the big public world. You pour your heart and soul into your baby, hoping one day everyone else will value her as much as you. And despite the statistics, you fervently believe your baby is a unicorn. Meanwhile, you live in sweats and PJs, and snack 24/7 because proper meals, like real clothes, are a thing of the past.

Education: You are nurturing and inspiring little minds, and it is extremely rewarding and meaningful. You are making a world of difference and humanity literally can’t go on without you. Yet support, appreciation, and recognition are painfully lacking. You regularly pay for both necessities and extras out of you own pocket, even if you can scarcely afford to, but you do it because you love them.

Like all jobs, there’s a fair amount of Zoom calls, because it’s only way to introduce your baby to friends and family these days.

Unlike any other job, there’s no vacation or PTO. Ever.

P.S. My husband astutely pointed out that these disproportionately highlight the downside of having kids, and who would after reading this? Here’s what convinced me: FOMO.

What pregnancy has taught me

Many people have expressed fear and anxiety regarding pregnancy during a pandemic, but I would like to offer a different perspective: How pregnancy has helped me with living through the pandemic. 

Accepting a new reality

The hardest part of my first trimester was accepting all the changes that my body was going through. The major symptoms I experienced were bloating, food aversion with some nausea, and fatigue. Because of the bloating I could not fit into any of my clothes by the second month of pregnancy. While I have always gone to bed relatively early (around 10-11PM), I started becoming extremely fatigued by as early as 7 and would struggle to even stay awake past 9 on many days. My diet also became mostly fruits, vegetables, and yogurt, and mostly carbs. The food aversion coupled with the overwhelming fatigue made cooking almost impossible on most days, but delivery from restaurants was even less appealing than usual.

While I had heard of much worse experiences suffered by other women (and I was grateful for the relatively mild symptoms I had), it was nevertheless difficult adjusting to these changes initially. I remember feeling incredibly useless and barely functional; the guilt and frustration of feeling so uncomfortable, physically limited, and generally unproductive was overwhelming. It took me weeks, maybe months, to mentally adjust and accept that life was going to be different whether I liked it or not. Once I accepted this new reality, it was like a fog suddenly lifted, and I found a new capacity to find joy and the grace to deal with whatever challenges came next. 

Managing uncertainty

The second trimester is typically considered the “honeymoon” period of a pregnancy with the least amount of discomfort, and it would have been for us except for the results we received during the anatomy scan. We were told that our baby showed signs of a rare birth defect. We had many questions and got very few answers, and the outcome ranged from no observable symptoms to life-threatening disabilities. In addition to processing this news, we had to make some difficult decisions based on very limited information. After series of tests and additional follow-ups, we were finally given the good news that everything looked good and normal for our baby.

The months between receiving the initial news and ultimately being in the clear were scary and laden with difficult moments, especially in the beginning. Having emerged on the other side, I have found myself with more courage in the face of uncertainty, tolerance for the unexpected, and confidence in managing risks — all of which have been invaluable in helping me cope with living through this pandemic.

Like most pregnant women, I had a plan and a vision for labor and delivery. However, I also took to heart that the only thing more important than having a plan is accepting that things rarely go according to plan. Having a vision can be helpful, but accepting that surprises and changes are inevitable is critical. A month ago I thought I could not possibly be more prepared, having thought about and put in place every imaginable support system for labor and delivery and postpartum recovery and childcare. In a matter of weeks, my perinatal therapist switched jobs (I had started seeing a therapist early during my pregnancy with the specific intention of building a strong relationship with a therapist that would hopefully provide additional protection against any potential mental health challenges during or after pregnancy, should they arrive.), our postpartum plans changed a handful of times, and we still don’t know if our doula will be allowed in the hospital with us. All of these changes and the continuing uncertainty of what tomorrow might bring are challenging to deal with, but that is also a facet of pregnancy. Even without a pandemic, pregnancy is fraught with risks and uncertainties. So instead of feeling more anxious and afraid because of the pandemic, I have chosen to leverage the strengths I have gained from my pregnancy to help me through this pandemic.

Prioritizing health and family

I have always been a fairly health-conscious person, but being pregnant definitely motivated me to be even more conscientious about protecting and improving both physical and mental well being. Many of the risks faced by pregnant women are due to the weakened immune system, and I imagine this is one of the causes of increased anxiety for many pregnant women right now. Boosting my immune system is something I have been working on for almost the entirety of my pregnancy now, and I will admit that it’s not always easy. Dragging myself to the gym has never been easy, and it’s especially challenging when I feel tired or uncomfortable half the time. I go through a lot of internal dialogue and usually end up convincing myself to go by reminding myself that I have never regretted going afterwards. Stress and general emotional management can also be challenging, but I made progress with the help of my therapist and continue to do so with self-guided learning and reading. Even sleep, which I have never had problems with, has become difficult during these last couple of months. Luckily I have been able to stay clear of under-eye circles with the help of body pillows and naps. While nothing can fully protect us from the Coronavirus, or any other illness, I try to do what I can to give myself and the baby the best chance at staying healthy.

My mom has been staying with us for almost three months now and will probably be here for at least another month (I hope anyway). This is by far the longest time we have spent together since before I left for college, and it was entirely unexpected (but pleasantly so!). What was initially planned as a 10 day stay quickly turned much longer as the result of the pandemic. If someone had asked me last year how I would feel about having my mom live with us for several months at a time, I would have felt ambivalent. While my mom and I have always been close, we have also had our fair share of difficult times over the last decade or so. Like many others’, my twenties was a tumultuous time filled with lots of ups and downs and incredible growths in many areas, but it also meant my mom and I grew apart in some ways and struggled at times to bridge our differences. I didn’t really believe in the cliche that motherhood can bring mothers and daughters closer, but I can attest that in many unexpected ways, my pregnancy definitely has done so for me and my mom.

The social isolation as a result of this pandemic can be challenging for anyone, but it has also made me even more grateful for the ability to be safe and together with the two individuals I am closest with. After my mom’s return trip to China got cancelled due to the pandemic, she debated whether to take an unpaid leave and stay here with us for longer. I will always remember the remark she made: what is the point of making all that money, if not to spend it with the people we care about the most? Financial independence has always meant a great deal to my mom, so I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for her to take an unpaid leave during such uncertain times. This is not the first time my mom has made significant sacrifice for my sake, and it probably won’t be the last. As I stand at the brink of motherhood myself, the poignancy of this lesson in love is felt more keenly than ever. The pandemic has impacted countless families all over the world. Many have suffered heartbreaking losses, still more are separated for an unknown amount of time, and some of us are lucky enough to be with at least some of our family members. As we weather through this pandemic, I hope we can all hold our loved ones a little more, a little tighter, if not in our arms, at least in our hearts.