by Borderstan.com August 28, 2012 at 10:00 am 1,014 0

From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWB Poo (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @ThereWillBePoo.

A guide to dining out and conflict resolution.

"Baby"

Baby dinning. (Leslie Jones)

I love going to restaurants. I like to try new places and I keep a close eye on the Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants. I also worked as a sever in a busy upscale restaurant in NYC, in another life when I was pursing an acting career. And now I’m a mom.

I dealt with some unbelievable people and situations working in the restaurant industry. People, with and without children, feel free to really let their crazy hang out when dealing with waiters. I’ve also been surprised, since becoming a mom, how much unsolicited parenting advice comes my way; and I’ve even written about it!  A recent discussion thread on DC Urban Moms and Dads made me think that perhaps some guidelines for dining out were in order.

Guide to Dining Out with Baby

1. Don’t leave a mess.

Kids are messy and Baby loves to throw food on the floor. So I do something really novel. I pick it up. I’m not suggesting that you crawl under the table and make a scene, but you can give your child foods less likely to cause a mess and pick up what you can. When I was a server, it used to drive me crazy when families would create a disaster zone around their tables and just pretend it wasn’t there. If you’ve got your hands full with your child and you can’t address the mess, at least apologize for it and leave a big tip.

2. If your child is being disruptive, do something about it.

Please don’t just continue your conversation as if nothing is happening. You may have developed a super human ability to ignore the noise, but other restaurant patrons have not. It doesn’t matter where you are, the Diner or Cork, a screaming kid in a restaurant is not appropriate. Do what you have to do*, bribe her with food and toys, and when all else fails, take the child outside until he calms down, or get the check and leave. Any noise above the volume of a normal conversational tone isn’t appropriate. If it’s a loud family restaurant, the acceptable volume will be a little higher; if it’s an upscale restaurant, it will be a little lower.

*Banging silverware on the table is not an appropriate distraction activity

3. Choose an appropriate destination and/or time. 

We took Baby to Bourbon Steak for my mom’s birthday back in March. However, we went at 5:30pm, right when they started serving dinner, when we knew the restaurant would be pretty empty and the “serious” diners wouldn’t have arrived yet. I knew that Baby could stay calm and quiet for about an hour, and Husband and I were both prepared to leave when necessary. Baby was very accommodating, but she started getting restless after the second course. We skipped dessert.

I met a friend for lunch at Commissary earlier this summer. Baby has become less cool with dining out as she’s gotten older. I brought lots of snacks and toys, and it was a quick lunch. I wasn’t as concerned about baby chatter because it was lunchtime at a casual restaurant, but I handed the waitress my credit card at the first sign of trouble.

Choose a casual restaurant and/or an early dinnertime, or go for brunch or lunch. Be realistic about your child’s ability to sit still and eat quietly. Bring lots of supplies. And just accept the fact that you may have to leave abruptly. If you can’t resign yourself to a doggy bag, get a sitter.

4. Teach older children to say please and thank you.

“I wanna ‘nother coke!” is not the appropriate way to make a request to your server, no matter your age.

Guide to Dining Out Near Baby

1. You are not the parenting/etiquette police.

The discussion thread on the DC Urban Moms and Dads forum addressed the issue of dining out with kids. The original poster described being verbally assaulted by another patron while having breakfast with her self-described “spirited” toddler who she said was being relatively well behaved, but somewhat vocal. Confronting another diner is NEVER appropriate. I don’t care if the child is screaming, while banging silverware on the table, and throwing food on the floor. If you have a problem, appeal to the management. And maybe give the offending party the “stink-eye” as one forum poster mentioned.

Most parents are pretty horrified that their child is acting up. And just because I’m bribing my kid with food to stay quiet at the moment a) doesn’t mean that’s my standard practice, I’m just trying to make it through this meal, and b) doesn’t mean you have any right to critique my parenting. If someone is abusing a child, call CFSA; otherwise, feel free to think all kinds of snarky thoughts, but keep your mouth shut.

Another poster on the same forum thread recommended the McSweeny’s article, “Hello Stranger on the Street”, by Wendy Molyneux. Super funny and perhaps helps people put their parenting advice in perspective. It made me giggle.

When you head out to dinner with your little one, just be realistic about the situation and acknowledge the fact that not everyone finds your baby as adorable as you do when she shrieks with delight. And if you’re on the receiving end of baby noise in a restaurant, try to remember or imagine what it’s like to be a parent and cut the offending parties a little slack. I’ve been on all three sides of the dining out experience, childless patron, server, and patron with child. And these are the rules according to… well, me.

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by Borderstan.com July 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm 0

From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWB Poo (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com.

"Borderstan Stay at Home Moms"

Baby dinning as moms and dads clean. (Leslie Jones)

I’m having trouble writing this week. I’m tired and Baby is teething. And the cat threw up three times last night and woke Baby up each time. I was supposed to take the cat to the vet today, but I was exhausted and getting Baby’s passport this morning messed up her morning nap — and pretty much just ruined the rest of the day.

I’ve had people tell me that being a stay-at home-mom “is the hardest job in the world.” I wouldn’t go that far. I imagine that digging ditches in sweltering heat all day is hard, being a pediatric oncologist has got to be pretty darn difficult and working overtime to meet unrealistic deadlines for a difficult boss is not fun, either.

I don’t feel the need to compete for the title. Maybe some moms (and dads) find being a stay-at-home parent easy and not like a “job” at all (though I have yet to actually meet one), but I feel like I work my butt off most days, and nights for that matter.

There have been several articles in the news in recent months that have gotten people talking, and taking sides, about motherhood and work. Is being a stay at home mom, or SAHM, a job?  And let’s not forget about those SAHDs out there.

How Do You Define a Job?

So define “job.” According to Dictionary.com a job is:

  1. a piece of work, especially a specific task done as part of the routine of one’s occupation or for an agreed price
  2. anything a person is expected or obliged to do; duty; responsibility.

Raising my daughter is a piece of work, it is a specific task that I do as part of my routine and occupation. It is something I am expected and obliged to do. It is my duty and responsibility. I don’t get a paycheck, but my family saves the cost of having to pay a babysitter or for daycare, which in the District of Columbia can run about $22,000 a year.

I’m glad to have the option to stay home with Baby (some days more than others), but it’s not just the financially well off who decide to have a parent stay at home with the kids. It can cost more for childcare than one parent would make going back to work, especially if you have more than one child. And again, it isn’t always the moms; there are such things as stay at home dads.

I resent the insinuation that I sit at home and relax all day. Do I sometimes what tv during the day? Sure. Do people sometimes make personal phone calls or watch youtube at the office? But most jobs allow employees to pee pretty much whenever they need to, and they don’t have to keep someone from dumpster diving in the bathroom trashcan while they do it.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but try doing it EVERY TIME YOU HAVE TO PEE for a year and get back to me. It takes its toll, and sometimes that toll is the Today Show.

According to my very scientific calculations, it takes approximately three times as long to do the dishes while caring for an infant, five times as long to do the laundry, and eight times as long to take a shower. But I don’t have eight times longer, so I often just skip the whole thing. Kidding! I mean, I totally shower every day. Absolutely.

The Laughing Stork blog recently posted a list of the ten things never to say to a stay at home mom. It makes me giggle; here are some highlights:

  • Oh, so you don’t work?
  • Since you have extra time on your hands, could you whip up a few dozen brownies for the bake sale tomorrow?
  • Weird. I assumed your house would be super clean.

I don’t want or need anyone to pat me on the back for staying at home with my daughter. I just don’t want to be held responsible for the current backlash against women and women’s rights, or to be called anti-feminist, as one recent article basically did. I know I’m fortunate to have the choice to stay at home with my daughter. I also respect parents who work outside the home, and I know they have a tough job too. The only thing I ask is that society not stereotype me.

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by Borderstan.com May 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm 0

"Borderstan""Baby"

Are you mom or dad enough? (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWB Poo (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com

Two weeks ago was my first Mother’s Day as a mom. We went to visit my parents for the weekend and I sat down to do some writing Saturday night.  Mother’s Day and my role as new mom were on my mind, and I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t help thinking about the recent Time magazine cover and the related article.

What does it mean to be “mom enough”? The article “The Man Who Remade Motherhood” isn’t nearly as sensational as the cover might lead one to believe. It’s almost a little disappointing; it’s so rational.

But it did get me started thinking about what it means to be a parent.

The article poses questions about parenting styles, but the title grabs your attention. “Are you mom enough?” What about dad enough, or parent enough? Nope, mom enough — because that is what our culture is obsessed with: breastfeeding and cloth diapers, and parenting styles, and even how moms give birth. The title and the cover photo were calculated to get people to buy the magazine, by any means necessary, which I find irritating. But I suppose that if it starts a conversation too, that’s a good thing.

Parenting is not easy and most parents do the best they can. We don’t need sensational media pitting us against each other. It’s one thing to disseminate information about the health benefits of breastfeeding. I love awareness, but this doesn’t feel like that, it isn’t that; it’s divisive and unnecessary.

Breastfeeding is a hot button topic. It’s also a very personal choice for all moms. A blogger I follow, “The Laughing Stork“, said that when she was asked if she was “pro-breastfeeding or pro-formula”, she replied that she was “pro-feeding my child”. I really like that response.  Not that it matters to anyone, but I breastfeed my daughter and I intend to until she is a year old, maybe more, depending on how things go. But it’s been easy for me and things have worked out. And — gasp — we occasionally supplement with formula. It’s not always so easy. You just don’t know what is going on in someone’s life, so it’s not really any of your business. I love breastfeeding, but it isn’t all butterflies and unicorns for everyone all the time.

My best friend in the world would love to breastfeed, but her premature baby was having trouble, and after months of struggling, she had to switch to formula. Is she “mom enough”? You don’t even know the meaning of the word “mom”; she is a super-hero mom-azon who makes me proud to call her my friend. She has been through things that would be considered torture outside a hospital. Trust me, she’s mom enough.

I had the pleasure of knowing a wonderful woman, Anne, back when we were young girls, at summer camp. She recently shared a video that was made about her family for the Amara adoption agency in Washington State. She and her wife, Amanda, are the incredible mothers of seven, yes you heard me right, seven adopted children. And if you don’t cry when you watch this video, well . . . you totally should. They are moms in the extreme, doing their best to create a loving home for their children. And again, their superlative parenting isn’t dependent on breastfeeding.

So breasts are not really what the Time article is about, but they are at the heart of the issue. And don’t get me wrong… I love breasts and their intended purpose. But the people who decided what the Time cover would be knew that it would rile people up. Let it… but not in the way they intended. Let it encourage us to stick together, in this great crazy endeavor called parenting, and not divide us.

Sit back and think about what it means to really be a mom, or a dad – a good one, anyway. For me, it has so much more to do with love and sacrifice, intelligence and morals, than anything so straightforward as a breast. Happy belated mothers day and forthcoming fathers day.

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